Philippine Independence Celebrated With Style And Substance In New York

by Contessa Rita Bourbon

NEW YORK — Authentic tribe from the mountains of the Philippines, dressed in brilliant colors, wildly gyrated on Madison street Sunday, June 2, as tens of thousands rejoiced to salute the 115th Philippine Independence.

Amid pompous parade and live concert, ethnic pride mixed with cultural entertainment and was amazingly flaunted at the celebrations. It was the biggest independence day celebrations outside Metro Manila.

“We want to showcase our culture, rich history and our contributions to the U.S. as immigrants,” said Fe Martinez,  a business-owner and President of Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc (PIDCI).  We want our children to be part of this celebration to continue remember our past,” she said.

Star-struck Filipinos enthusiastically welcomed Gary Valenciano, and his son-dancer Gabriel. Valenciano , with his pure energy and sang pop songs in a concert at the celebration.  “I dedicate every song and every performance to my Dad, who I know is proudly watching me again from above,” Valenciano said whose father died this month. Sharon Cuneta also rendered songs that made the Filipinos nostalgic.

The parade started at noon on  39th St Madison Ave.,  to 27 th st., as members of New York Police District (NYPD), on horse-back riding marched on the parade.  U.S. and Philippine flags were brandished as thousands cheered.

Cultural, religious, professional and cause-oriented groups joined the parade with 200 groups that marched on,  colorful floats and open cars plied the route.  Music was provided by  New York Pipes and Drums called Emerald Society , as well as Crimson Kings band and other bands who played patriotic songs like “America ,” and ‘Single Gifts.”

“I like to preserve our roots and culture . I am learning about my ancestors, the Spanish and American colonization ,” said Malaika Queano, 21, a dancer and musician from cultural dancing group Kinding Sindaw.

The group danced on the street in colorful green, red and blue native gowns,  with their leader brandished shield and sword to re-enact a welcome procession for the royal leaders of their tribe called “ Sultanes of Southern Philippines.”  It was a celebratory dance to applaud life and their unique heritage.
Association of Filipino American teachers, doctors, engineers, business people, nurses, accountants, among othes, also joined the parade to display the dignity and contributions to America’s socio-economic life. The religious nature of Filipinos, which was a legacy of Spain,  was also displayed, as Filipino Pastoral ministry helping compatriots and Couples for Christ joined the march.

“We have to take pride in Philippine sovereignty as first Asian to break colonization and win freedom,” said Philippine Consul General Mario De Leon. “ We assert our own identity,”  De Leon said.

June 12 is the actual Philippine Independence from Spain which colonized it for more than three centuries, that ended in 1898. The Philippines was a colony of the U.S. for almost 50 years. It was Emilio Aguinaldo, the first Filipino president who declared the Philippine Independence.
As crowds swelled at tens of thousands, at the parade and concert, it radiated with pageantry, picnic and cultural shows amid a warm, summer-like weather.
The event was so potent with political meaning.

During the parade, Damayan (helping one another) grassroots association of Filipino migrant worker joined the parade to issue political statements. It waved flags and chanted slogans to push for immigration reform and protest against modern-day slavery and stop human trafficking.

“Our pride is an assertion of the dignity and human rights of all in our community, especially the most marginalized. It enables us to demand dignity, life and livelihood,” Damayan Migrant Workers said.

The parade burst with colors as Dinagyang (merry-making) tribe danced on the street. They wore pink, violet and orange headdresses and ebulliently swayed their hips amid music of gongs and drums. The group showed impressive choreography and striking , authentic tribe attires which reflected the ingenuity and artistry of the Ilonngos native tribe in the Philippines.

One colorful float showcased the ancient, Banaue Rice Terraces, one of the wonders of the world, to feature the Philippine Department of Tourism promotion of its campaign, “ It’s more Fun in the Philippines.”

Anchored on the theme “Celebrating the Renaissance of Filipino Price: Our Values, Our Faith , Our Culture, the festival affirmed the strength of Filipino Americans ethnic minority with increasing population of 300,000 to 400,000 in the tri-state area.

“I’ve been in the U.S. for 12 years, we like to get-together and enjoy this festivity, everyone feels here they are in the Philippines,” said Filipina Tess Pierce of Central Park West, NY.

Madison Ave. was turned into a virtual Philippine market with barbecue and fish balls smelled on the air. Filipino American services sold their services from cable, movies, phone cards, to clothes and fruity ice cream and cuisines.

Native dancers in red and brown native clothes danced another tribal dance called “Ati-Atihan.” Most Filipinos who joined the parade were dressed in native Barong gowns and shirts. Local beauty queens with silver crowns, rode the floats and waved to the crowds.

“ When other ethnic minorities make their own noise and gestures to attract attention, we can also seize the occasion to bring home a point about our community and strength,” Mr. Seguritan said as the Chinese, the Koreans, Indians and Latinos have asserted themselves as vocal and strong minorities.

Filipinos applauded the live concert on 23rd St., Madison where movie stars from Philippines like  actor Aga Muhlach also sang songs. Movie Spanish-Filipino actress Marianne Rivera also graced the occasion, Heart Evangelista, Senator Ramon Revilla among others. Placid band of New York played pop music that energized the crowds.

Broadway talents composed of Filipino Americans also sang on the stage. Cultural dances were also performed.

“It’s my honor to be here on this meaningful occasion.  Filipinos should continue their struggle to fight poverty and corruption,” said Philippine Senator Francis Escudero who flew from Manila and spoke at the Philippine Consulate.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Meanwhile, the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) announced the winners of the competitions during the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue commemorating the 115th anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence.

The Grand Prize was won by the Bacolod City Masskara Festival New York Edition.

First runner-up honors went to BIBAK and the second runner-up was the Kinding Sindaw Melayu Heritage.

In the floats category, the Filipino Social Club of New York romped away with the Grand Prize.

The Kapampagan Foundation took first runner-up and second runner-up was the Philippine Fiesta U.S.A., Inc. float.

The Dinagyang Festival Street Dancers from Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines was given a “Special Participation Award” by the parade competition judges.
Competition judging was based on four criteria:  creativity, theme, impact, and detail.

The Panel of Judges was composed of Eddelaine Lim, Bert Olimpo, Dr. Emilio Quines, Dr. Fely Quines, Grace Rustia and Jerry Sibal.

Coordinating the judges were Romainne Luis and Andrew Luis, while the tabulators/auditors were Larry de la Cruz and Zultan Bermudez.

This year’s Independence Day Parade was chaired by PIDCI Board member Antero “Ner” Martinez and co-chaired by another PIDCI Board member Aristides Uy.

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