Avante! Anita Mansell



She arrived in Upper Hutt in the region of Wellington from Toledo City, Cebu, Philippines in 1983. That was a time when there were only about 250 Filipinos in the Wellington area. She remembers that year fondly for that is when she claimed New Zealand as her new home and became the brand new Mrs. Kenneth Doug-las Mansell.


Three years earlier, in the Philippines and on a whim, Anita and nine of her classmates at the University of Visayas had their names published in a Cebuano news-paper seeking pen pals. There was no Internet then, no email or instant messaging. Snail mail was just about how everyone else sent their ‘messages’ to one another.


Then, a young man from New Zealand responded to the ad a couple of years later which makes you won-der how that newspaper got around all the way down under. He wrote her lots of letters for the next 18-months until he felt confident enough to ask her if she was amenable to having a first meeting. The answer must have been yes because sooner than he could learn how to properly utter ‘maraming salamat po’ (or, thank you very much m’am) off he went on a ‘holiday’ to visit her home town. While there, Kenneth wasted no time. He asked for her hand in marriage.




These days, the Mansells live in the flatter parts of Lower Hutt having  resided  there for the last twenty-five years. In that time they’ve raised a beautiful daughter, Melissa – a martial arts enthusiast who plays soc-cer, snowboards in Mt. Ruapehu and who’s learned how to build baches from her father since she was ten.


While attending Hutt Valley High School, Melissa volunteered with the Salvation Ar-my and was a Church Camp and Youth Leader as well. Volunteer work seems to be a way of life for Melissa but we believe it all has to do something with her genes.


Anita’s volunteerism has certainly rubbed off on her daughter. Yes, she’s hur-dled the quarter century mark quite gracefully. But at the onset, there were some things that Anita had to sort out being new to the country at the time – the right-hand wheel steering stay-on-the-left-lane car driving system; the give-way rule especially around the roundabouts; eating meals with just a fork and knife, no spoon; and, learning to substitute new words such as ‘loo’ for ‘toilet’; ‘lift’ instead of ‘elevator and ‘torch’ for ‘flashlight’, to name just a few of those ad-justments.


Looking back at those years, she glosses over her incidental ‘bafflements’ because the real challenge she faced was that of feeling utterly isolated. She was amongst strangers with new ways in a far off land separated by some 8,296-kilometers from her family. She had no other means of social support from relatives and close friends on which she depended upon. And even as Kenneth and his mother made it a point to introduce her to their few Filipino ac-quaintances, Anita still felt homesick. Yet, life has been good for the Mansells and their daughter. Living in New Zealand has given Anita opportunities for overcoming her personal challenges. It is because of those experiences that she has given back abundantly to society at large.




Determined to shake off her loneliness, she joined a Filipino support group, served as officer in several civic, social and charitable organisations, and later devoted her efforts to education and immigration causes. Amidst the whirl of workshops and fora, she has organised main events such as the Race Unity Day now held around the third week of March of each year since 2002; and, the Filipino Festival Filifest in February of 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2009, she took on the task of putting together the 2009 Filipino Labour Weekend celebrations held in Wellington and the Fiesta sa Wellington 2009 event which featured market stalls offering Philippine-made products, sports competitions, and a full cultural programme that showcasing the diversity, colour and beauty of the Philippines.


The list of voluntary and charita-ble based work which Anita has put in for her community in Wel-lington, where she has been an active leader in both Filipino-Kiwi and multi-ethnic community cir-cles, is too long to enumerate here but long enough to catch the at-tention of those who want to say ‘muchas gracias’.


So in June 2011, Anita was awarded the Queens Service Medal (QSM) for ser-vices to the Filipino Community in New Zealand. As tradition dictates, she can now officially call herself a “Companion of the Queen’s Service Order” or simply – Anita Mansell QSO.




Since 1847, New Zealanders were eligible to be recommended for various traditional Royal (sometimes called “British” or “Imperial”) ho-nours recognising that monarchs of the British Empire were also the Kings and Queens of New Zealand.


In 1975, a distinctive new honour was blended into the system. It was called The Queen’s Ser-vice Order (QSO) with an associated Queen’s Service Medal (QSM). A second honour, The Order of New Zealand (ONZ), was instituted in 1987. Since 1976, a variety of other distinctive medals for award to the community and to military, police, fire and prison services personnel have been instituted.


Since the late 1840s, the Royal Honours System in New Zealand has evolved along with changes in the country’s constitution, from Crown Colony to Dom-inion, and from Dominion to a fully-independent monarchy or realm.


Today, the New Zealand Royal Honours System is comprised of:


The Order of New Zealand – New Zealand’s highest honour that recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity;


The New Zealand Order of Merit – which is awarded to those “who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, con-tributions, or other merits;


The Queen’s Service Order and Medal – an honour bestowed to recognise voluntary service to the community and service through elected and ap-pointed office sub-divided into two divisions: “For Community Service” and “For Public Services”;


A series of gallantry and bravery awards – which recognise those military, and certain other categories of support personnel, who perform acts of gallantry while involved in war and warlike operational service (including peacekeeping);


The New Zealand Antarctic Medal – which replaces the (British) Polar Medal instituted in 1904 and awarded to those who had made notable contributions to the exploration and knowledge of Polar Regions and who, in doing so, had undergone the hazards and rigours imposed by the Polar environment to life and movement, whether by land, sea or air; and,


The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration – which recognise distinguished military service, by regular, territorial and reserve members of the New Zealand Defence Force, including command and leadership and service in an operational environment, or in support of operations.


Our honours system is a way for New Zealand to say ‘thank you and well done’ to those who have served and those who have achieved. Even if the country enjoys its independence from Great Britain such recognition is consistent with the egalitarian character of New Zealand society. It both enlivens and enriches it.


NOTE: Anita Mansell is the third person of Filipino descent in New Zealand to be awarded with a prestigious award from Queen Elizabeth II. The two other Filipino-Kiwis who were given such honours are Dr. Antonio Noblejas (Auckland) and Silvia Zonoobi (Wellington), who was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit, an Order of Chivalry instituted by Royal Warrant for service to refugees and migrant commu-nities in 2003.




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