Fil Ams In Illinois Celebrate Philippine Independence

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – The weather was unseasonably in the forties (40 degree Fahrenheit, 4.4 degree Centigrade) on Sunday (June 2) but Filipinos in Chicago, Illinois area turned in full force to kick off the 115th Philippine Independence celebration this month (June 12).

The Filipino American community has again come together attending a fiesta, religious, picnic, trade and health fairs rolled into one.

But unlike past celebrations, this year’s celebration in Chicagoland will be hosted by three, not four, Filipino American groups – Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC), Philippine Week Committee (PWC) and Cagayan Valley Chicago.

Dr. Manny M. Escalona, Jr. chairs the PIWC while Lisa Vasich chairs the PWC.

Two other groups – Kasarinlan and Kalayaan – dropped out of sight this year. Kasarinlan used to celebrate the independence activities under the aegis of the Filipino American of Greater Chicago (FACC), which bowed out a few years ago. It is lights out this year for Kalayaan, a Kasarinlan’s breakaway group, led by Councils of Presidents.

But another club – Cagayan Valley Chicago – which appears to be an offshoot of one of Kalayaan’s club members came forward to observe Philippine Independence this year.

Atty. Arcadio Joaquin, Jr., one of the key supporters of Kalayaan, by force of habit,  hosted an Independence Day picnic in his palatial home in Plainfield, Illinois Saturday (June 8) that drew several dozens of celebrators.

Attorney Joaquin agrees with the editorial of Pinoy, a Chicago-based news magazine that the declining numbers of groups hosting Philippine Independence celebrations are due to the disappearing members of the “old guards” in the community. “Younger people do not relate much to how things are done. Some find activities divisive and comical,” Pinoy said.

Pinoy added, “Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons why there are only two left is the reality that it is a big task to put up the kind of event that groups have been accustomed to. For sometime now members of the community have complained about being hustled with costly dinner tickets and advertising money for souvenir programs. There are other solicitation for raffle tickets, donation for the picnics and other stuff.”

While PIWC’s overall chair Dr. Manny M. Escalona, Jr., led a motorcade from Montrose Harbor last June 2 that ended up at the Picnic Site at Labagh Woods near the corner of Cicero and Foster avenues in Chicago’s north side, the Cagayan Valley Chicago will retrace the same route during its picnic on July 14, a Sunday, that will also feature a Feast Day of Our Lady of Piat, a novena/holy mass and annual community picnic.

For the June 2 community picnic, Pinoy’s editor-in-chief and publisher, Mariano “Anong” Santos, a big supporter of Gawad Kalinga, invited this reporter to observe GK’s second-year participation in PIWC activities by holding its annual GK Walk during the picnic to raise funds to help impoverished Filipino families in the Philippines.

Each participant registered for $25 ($15 for students), which was good for a free lunch, a T-shirt, a certificate of participation and a raffle ticket.

Proceeds for this year’s GK Walk will pay for the health insurance premium of about $300 per family per year for families living in GK villages in the Philippines donated by Chicago-area partners.

Last year’s GK Walk at the PIWC Picnic raised $4,500, which was donated to Typhoon Sendong victims in Mindanao.

Some long-running community organizations, like The Filipinos of St. Gregory, headed this year by Gina Ibardaloza, R.N., that have largely stayed in the background, have established their presence by putting up a booth at the picnic site and coordinating the holding of holy mass at the picnic site.

Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo, President of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest and an officer of the Juzz Danz club, is this year’s Tony Payoyo’s co-chair of the PWIC’s picnic, whose theme is “Kapit Bisig Para sa Kaunlaran ng Pilipinas” (Arm-in-arm for the progress of our homeland).

The Philippine-based Equilibrium, maker of “Urban Survival Gear,” a designer of high-end backpack ideal as laptop bag, had created some buzz at the picnic when it attracted sales and inquiries.

Also called “Lego of Bag” that can attach and detach accessories for different gadgets and equipment, the product of Equilibrium owned by San Juan, Metro Manila-native Morris Jamlang, could inspire the resurgence of the moribund Philippine textile industry.

“If we take off in the U.S. market,” Jamlang said, “we will be the role model that can let the textile industry rise on its feet by coming up with
export-quality products.” Jamlang said. Jamlang was introduced to this reporter by Angie Lariosa, whose son, Neil, is one of those vending his products at 5023 Oakton St., Skokie, Illinois.

Another feature of the picnic was free foot screening conducted by podiatrist, a foot specialist, Dr. Catherine J. Minnick, D.P.M., who was introduced to this reporter by her staff, Ting Joven-Giovanelli, a former community TV host and columnist. Jean Tablizo, R.N., in charge of the health fair, also conducted free blood pressure screening, sugar tests and other health services during the picnic.

The atmosphere took the form of a fiesta as visitors were invited to sample the food prepared by different organizations. Like any fiesta, there were singing and dancing sessions led by Juzz Danz club headed by Ed Cabanayan.

Last Saturday, June 8, Philippine-native, Attorney Aurora Abella-Austriaco, president of the 23,000-member Chicago Bar Association, delivered a keynote address during the dinner at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom in suburban Rosemont, Illinois sponsored by PWIC. While at the same time, Vice Consul Ricarte B. Abejuela, III, was the main speaker at a separate gala night of PWC at Hilton O’Hare hotel.

The PIWC’s dinner also featured the crowning of various beauty queens, who won the contest chaired by former Mrs. Philippines PIWC Lourdes Livas. Crowned were Marianne Bennett, Mrs. Philippines PWIC; Neriza Pineda, Mrs. PIWC; Eris Buendia, Mrs. Illinois PIWC; Eva de Leon, Mrs. Chicago PIWC; Fiona Cajigal, Miss Philippines PIWC; Alessandra Mendoza (Miss Little Philippines PIWC) and Kinjal Mahant, Miss PIWC 2013.

On June 12, PIWC led by Brenda Stevens will join the flag raising coordinated by the Philippine Consulate General at the Daley Plaza in Chicago. It will be followed by a cultural presentation at the Daley Center.

During the PIWC dinner, awards were given away to essay-writing contest youth winners. The awardees were Ilor Aves, first prize, 97%, $250; second prize, Francin Almeda, 95%, $150; Christian Luciano, third prize, 91%, $100; Gabrielle Torralba, fourth prize, 90%, $50; and Jasmine Hart, honorable mention, 87%, $30.

Meanwhile, Cagayan Valley Chicago will be holding a gala night on Saturday, June 15, at Hyatt Regency O’Hare Grand Ballroom in Rosemont, Illinois. Highlight of the gala will be the coronation of Mrs. Philippines Chicago, Leticia Birao Freihaut, Miss Philippines Chicago, Mia Perez; Miss Teen Philippines Chicago, Cassandra Saulog; Miss Cagayan Valley, Vanessa Evaristo; Miss Teen Cagayan Valley, Jullianne Alonzo; and Mutya ng Maynila Chicago, Amanda Ruiz-Sarangay.

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PHOTO CAPTIONS

EVERYBODY MARCHES, NOBODY WATCHES: Dr. Manuel M. Escalona, Jr. (second from left), Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC), leads staff, volunteers and supporters of Gawad Kalinga in the GK Walk around the vicinity of the picnic area in Labagh Woods on North Cicero near corner West Foster avenues in Chicago’s north side last Sunday, June 2, as part of the month-long celebration of the 115th Philippine Independence under a frigid weather.  At extreme left is Mariano “Anong” Santos, publisher-editor of Pinoy monthly newsmagazine, a GK supporter.  (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

THE FILIPINOS OF ST. GREGORY: Gina Ibardaloza (fifth from left), R.N., president of The Filipinos of St. Gregory Church in Chicago, Illinois, chair of the community mass committee, is shown with officers and members of the lay organization in front of the TFSG booth during the picnic of the 115th Philippine Independence month-long celebration.  Among those in photo are (from left) Nancy Walber (third), Aida Cruz (fourth, now Las Vegas, Nevada resident), Alexia Belandres, Ray and Angie Lariosa (second and third from right) and Susan Silvano (extreme right). (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

LINE DANCING: Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo (second from left), officer of Chicago Juzz Danz and president of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest, may appear at the back row but she is actually the leader of this line dancing number performed by the Danz club members and guests last Sunday, June 2, to kick off the 115th Philippine Independence month-long celebration at Labagh Woods at North Cicero near West Foster avenues in Chicago’s north side. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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