Chicago’s PIWC Hosts PH Freedom Day Celebration

by Joseph G. Lariosa

ROSEMONT, Illinois (JGL) – It was hard enough to invite a seating Illinois governor during an election year to a community event. But it was harder still to put the governor and his opponent in one room.

But this year’s Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC), one of the three or so groups that sponsor Philippine national freedom day celebrations in Chicago area, managed to ask Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, and his Republican rival, millionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, to speak at the well-attended Gala Night of the 116th Philippine Independence celebration last Saturday, June 7, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare at Chicago’s suburban Rosemont, Illinois.

Whoever becomes the 42nd Illinois governor come Nov. 14, 2014 general elections would look back to last Saturday’s mammoth 750 Filipino Americans and guests as a venue where they were able to shake hands with prospective captive voters.


For journalists, it would have a good photo-op if Governor Quinn and Rauner were seen dining side by side. But one of the program organizers said that Governor Quinn declined to have a dinner at the presidential table alongside Rauner.

“Governor Quinn just wanted to speak but demurred when asked to have a dinner,” the organizer said. As Quinn was delivering his brief remarks as a “Guest of Honor,” Rauner was working the crowd and shaking the hands of those listening to the governor’s speech. “Isn’t it odd,” another organizer remarked, “instead of listening to the governor, Rauner was campaigning?”


The PIWC this year headed by overall chair Anita Belisario Rosa could not be faulted either for “politicking” because the event became non-partisan affair when the two contending politicians accepted her invitations. Although not registered as a non-profit organization, PIWC, like other similar groups, gives the impression that it is run as a non-profit organization that should be politics neutral.

Introduced by a registered Republican, Lourdes Gagui Mon, host and producer of a Chicago-area cable TV Asian Chronicle, as “Keynote Speaker,”  Rauner delivered his under two-minute address by greeting the audience with Mabuhay (long live) that engaged the crowd. Mon told the crowd that Rauner learned the value of hard work by “flipping burgers” and “parking cars” as a second job. But Rauner attended Dartmouth College, where he graduated with top honors, and then earned an M.B.A. from Harvard.

In his remarks, Rauner said when his parents immigrated to the U.S., they did not “speak English. But they worked hard as farmers, raising cattle. They also raised their children. I am not a politician. I never ran for office.” He added that even one of his children discouraged him not to run so he will not end up in jail, a reference to disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving sentence for attempting to sell the senate seat of then Sen. Barack Obama after Obama’s election to the presidency.

It was then Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who would assume the empty seat of Governor Blagojevich in 2009. By 2010, Quinn won a full-term as Illinois governor and he is seeking his second term in November.

Rauner said, “As you celebrate your independence from Spain, it is what America is all about. Freedom, opportunity for everybody. It is an honor to celebrate with you tonight. Here in Illinois, it is also about freedom and opportunity. I am very proud of Illinois; of my children. This is our home. We have jobs here for everyone; great schools. I want to restore social services so we can have prosperous future. I am excited to be here with you tonight. Mabuhay.”


First woman PIWC Overall Chairman Dely Villalon, R.N., introduced Gov. Quinn as “guest of honor” by detailing the highlights of his accomplishments. She said Quinn’s first order of business as governor was to restore integrity to the government following the prosecution of Gov. Blagojevich with his first official act as governor, signing an executive order establishing the Illinois Reform Commission to examine government’s ethics rules and practices, and creating a comprehensive plan for much-needed reforms.

Quinn led passage of legislation to allow Illinois residents to vote on a constitutional amendment for the power to remove a corrupt governor from office. The amendment was strongly approved by voters, making Illinois the 19th state to give voters the power to recall their governor.

Quinn also enacted a stronger Freedom of Information Act, developed stricter boards and commissions requirements, and increased governmental ethics; pushed for job creation and economic growth and education as priority with funding of $43-B capital construction that will provide 436,000 jobs, including fiscal stability, workers compensation, employment insurance and Medicaid system.

In his remarks, Quinn invoked the name of Carlos Benitez, a Filipino American high school classmate, whom he played baseball growing up in Illinois. Saying, “this Independence Day or Week is very important that we gather together in our state, where nobody is left out, as we bring forth immigration reform. With PESO (Philippine Engineers and Scientists Organization), we have to improve licensing so that more engineers will come to Illinois from the Philippines. With 13-million population, Illinois understands how Filipino Americans have shared values in education, patriotism, helping the neighbors, fundamental values we believe in. And as the first sitting governor to speak before you, Salamat. (Thank you.)”


The event was highlighted by presentations of PIWC Beauty Queens 2014 led by Yoly Zoleta as Mrs. Philippines 2014; Leyanor Gonzales, Miss Philippines 2014; Myrna A. Cordero, Mrs. Philippine Independence 2014; Erika Villalon, Miss Philippine Independence 2014; Tina Pumarada-Cardana, Mrs. Illinois 2014; Gaude Hope C. Lopez, Mrs. Chicago 2014; Neriza Miranda, Miss Chicago 2014; and Ella Louise Songco, Little Miss Philippines 2014.

Essay contest Chairperson Joe Wee Sit gave away the essay contest first prize $250 cash donated by Lourdes C. Livas to Pauline Camacho Almeda, mother of Francine Almeda, who could not make it to accept the award because she was attending a prom event; second prize $150 cash donated by Letecia B. Freihaut to Junina Furigay; third prize $100 cash donated by Johnny & Jean Tablizo to Christian Luciano; fourth prize $50 donated by Tony & Susan Silvano to Illor Aves; and fifth prize $40 donated by Vishnu & Myrna Mahant to Juliana Furigay. The topic of the essay contest revolves around the contestants’ reflections about the Philippines.

One of the supporters of PIWC, Anong Santos, publisher of Chicago’s monthly Pinoy, said many community leaders among them, Dr. Ramon G. Lopez, the great grandnephew of national hero Jose Rizal, was among those who signed up to a petition to stop the killings of journalists in the Philippines during the PIWC event.

Anita Rosa said she invited both Gov. Quinn and Rauner at the same time but it was Rauner, who accepted first. Another Illinois government official, Dan Rutherford, Illinois state treasurer, had been twice invited previously and had been speaker of PIWC. Rutherford finished last in a four-cornered GOP primary elections for governor last spring.

A community dance presentation replaced the traditional Rigodon de Honor for the first time this year.

Motorcade will end up at the parade ground at Grove #4 at Labagh Woods cor. Cicero and Foster Avenues on Picnic Sunday, June 22.

Rosa reminded motorcade participants to attend Sunday mass first before attending Picnic since there is no longer mass during the Picnic.

There will be a parade of beauty queens, Sinulog and Ati-atihan marches at the picnic ground open to the public.

A flag-raising was led by the Philippine Consulate General on Thursday, June 12, at the Daley Plaza at the corner of Washington and Randolph in Chicago’s Loop at 9 a.m., followed by a cultural and fashion show at 12 noon.


Photo captions:

(Photo 1) PRESENTING BOUQUET: Dr. Ramon G. Lopez (left), great grandnephew of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, and his wife, Marylyn Lopez, stand after presenting a bouquet to Erika Villalon, Miss Philippine Independence 2014 during the presentation of beauties at the Gala Night of the 116th Philippine Independence celebration. Photo also shows her escort, Ryan Kretak. At right is Miss Chicago Neriza Miranda Miss Chicago 2014 with her escort Kenneth Corcelles. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

(Photo 2) – FLASHES THUMBS UP SIGN: Re-electionist Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn flashes the thumbs-up sign shortly before delivering his remarks last Saturday, June 7, at the Gala Night of the 116th Philippine Independence celebration hosted by Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC) headed by overall chair Anita Belisario Rosa at Hyatt Regency O’Hare at Chicago’s suburban Rosemont, Illinois. Photo shows one of the emcees of the evening community TV anchor and businesswoman Maria “Girlie” Pascual. (JGLPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

(Photo 3) CHALLENGER: A political neophyte, Bruce Rauner, greets Filipino Americans and their guests Mabuhay! (long live) when he opened his keynote address last Saturday, June 7, at the Gala Night of the 116th Philippine Independence celebration. A Republican, Rauner is opposing incumbent re-electionist Illinois Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn during the Nov. 4, 2014 general elections.  (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

(Photo 4) ESSAY WINNER: Essay contest chair Jo Wee Sit (right) hands the $40 cash donated by Vishnu and Myrna Mahant to fifth prize winner Juliana Furigay (third from left) during the Gala Night of the 116th Philippine Independence celebration. Looking on from left are Christian Luciano, recipient of $100 cash donated by Johnny and Jean Tablizo for third prize; Junina Furigay, recipient of $150 cash donated by Letecia B. Freihaut for second prize; and Pauline Camacho Almeda, mother of Francine Almeda, recipient of $250 cash donated by Lourdes C. Livas for first prize. Francine Almeda could not make it as she had a conflict of her schedule with her school prom event. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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