Filipinos visit the New York State Capitol to commemorate Philippine Independence Day

by Troi Santos

For the second year in a row, Filipinos pose for posterity at the State Capitol’s Well | Contributed Photo

ALBANY, NY—The Filipino community in Albany, upstate New York, had their version of celebrating the 126th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day on June 4, 2024—two days after hundreds of people joined the traditional Independence Day parade and celebration in downstate Madison Avenue in New York City

Organized by the office of Assemblymember Steven Raga and the Philippine Consulate General New York, Filipinos from the area and neighboring towns, including a large contingent from New York City, came for the second annual commemoration of Independence Day at the New York State Capitol, led by Consul General Senen Mangalile and Mayor Eric G. Canosa of Gingoog and his staff, from Misamis Oriental province. Performers from the Kuyamis Festival were also with the group. The festival is the biggest event in the province and features a week-long calendar of activities in Cagayan de Oro City, the capital, and Gingoog City.

“This event highlights the enduring and strong bonds between New York State and the Filipino community,” said Raga’s Communications Director, John Bahia.

Raga, the first Filipino and Southeast Asian elected to office in the New York State legislature introduced the visiting officials and the Filipino American community at the Assembly Chamber to the applause of legislators during their morning session.

At the Capitol Red Room with Consul General Senen Mangalile (far left, front row), officials and staff from Gingoog, Misamis Oriental, and Assemblymember Steven Raga were seated at the back in a blue suit. | Contributed Photo

Deputy Speaker Philip Ramos met with some members and leaders of the Filipino community at the Capitol’s Red Room. Ramos shared his affinity for and admiration for the Filipino community and said he wanted to send a state legislature delegation to the Philippines to explore mutual opportunities.

Ramos also proposed a task force to address labor market opportunities between the Philippines and New York. Mangalile, in response, welcomed the formation of a task force and expressed his willingness to collaborate on the proposal.

Following their meeting, a vibrant cultural program commenced featuring performances by several Filipino American organizations in Albany. Azia Sky Barao, Carla Mongado, Raffy Tragico of Brown Sugar, and Luz Sanchez took the floor and rendered memorable songs to the audience’s delight at the Office Building’s Well.

The cultural program finale was the performance of Kuyamis Festival dancers, who, with their vibrant and colorful outfits, represented their Indigenous cultural heritage as they showcased their province’s rich history, traditions, and agricultural prosperity.

“It is an honor to serve in the state legislature and (be able) to celebrate the rich heritage and vibrant culture of the Filipino community in New York State. This celebration is not just a commemoration of our history but also a testament to the enduring spirit and contributions of Filipinos in New York,” Raga said. “I am immensely proud to represent such a dynamic and resilient community, not only in Assembly District 30 but throughout the state. Together, we will continue to build bridges of understanding and collaboration, ensuring that everywhere we go–our voices are heard, and our presence is felt.”

Kuyamis Festival performers at the gallery of the New York State Assembly Chamber | Contributed Photo

State legislators, including Deputy Speaker Philip Ramos, Asian Pacific American Task Force Co-Chair Zohran Mamdani, Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein, Emily Gallagher, and Jenifer Rajkumar, delivered greeting messages, emphasizing the significance of the celebration.

Sol Kapunan, president of the Kalayaan 1521 Council, Inc., based in Albany, noted the celebration held in New York City two days earlier. He considered it a testament to the Filipino people’s indefatigable spirit. “Today,” he said, “Filipinos are bring[ing] it inside the halls of the New York State legislature. It’s a different venue, but nonetheless, the same spirit.”

Added Kapunan: “Words might not be enough to show how important this event is, but today we are sending a clear message that our celebration of the 126 years of the Declaration of Philippine Independence is our determined efforts to keep the ‘Filipino Voice’ alive and kicking in these halls and beyond. … [A]s we continue to show the world that we can unite and rally behind a common cause to support each other, then it becomes evident that Filipinos have the ability to align and make each other stronger.”

In his remarks, the consul general referenced the strong bonds between the Filipino community and the great state of New York. “We celebrate under the theme “Kalayaan. Kinabukasan. Kasaysayan –- ‘Freedom. Future. History.’ – … echoes the spirit of the Katipunan, whose bravery and patriotism laid the foundation for the freedom the Philippines now enjoys,” he said.

He challenged the Filipino community “to draw inspiration from the Katipunan’s courage as we work together to build a prosperous and united future for a Bagong Pilipinas (New Philippines).”

The Kalayaan 1521 Council, Inc. and Cecille Castilloon-Weinstein will host the annual Filipino Day Grand Parade in Albany on Saturday, June 29, 2024, at Washington Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event mirrors the Philippine Independence Day celebration in New York City and will feature a parade, food booths, cultural performances, and live music.

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