NEW YORK – The 114th anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence celebrations in the Northeastern United States came to its culmination last Saturday when the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) held its Philippine Independence Ball, the last of its commemorative events, at the Hilton New York Hotel.The annual celebration led by the area’s Filipino and Filipino-American community is now on its 23rd year and has become in 2011 the largest outdoor gathering of Filipinos and their friends in the world, attracting some 100,000 participants and attendees.
This year’s Independence Ball featured the Children of Mother Earth or Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig (MAID) from the Philippines who are currently on a 15-day (June 1-15) tour of Filipino population center cities in the United States. The children performed two stirring suites of indigenous Philippine dances that proved to be cultural eye-openers to the mostly Filipino audience.
Attended by about 350 guests led by the Philippine Consul General in New York, Ambassador Mario L. de Leon, Jr. and his amiable wife Eleanor, they were treated to a traditional Presidential Inaugural Ball-style Rigodon de Honor, choreographed and directed by well-known fashion and performance artist guru Nick Libramonte.
Others present at the Ball were Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Libran Cabactulan and his wife Fe; PIDCI President Fe Martinez and many other dignitaries. Well-known local TV personalities Katherine Creag of NBC-TV Channel 4 and Nina Pineda of ABC-TV Channel 7 Eyewitness News served as emcees.
As its opening number, Rigodon de Honor was performed by 19 pairs of dancers led by Consul General Mario de Leon and his wife Eleanor. Others who joined in the Rigodon were PIDCI President Fe Martinez and her partner Roland David, Independence Day Parade Grand Marshal Dr. Prospero Lim and his partner Ollie David.
PIDCI’s 2011 President Joji Jalandoni and her partner Erno Hormillosa; past Grand Marshal Rev. Msgr. Oscar Aquino with partner Sofie Abad, 1994 Overall Chair of the Philippine Independence Day Committee (PIDC), precursor of PIDCI; PIDC past Overall Chair (1999) Cora Reyes with her partner (and husband) Dr. Francisco “Kits” Reyes; current PIDCI Vice President Art Diongon who paired with newly-appointed PIDCI Board member Violeta McGough; and another newly-appointed Board member, Joyce Castillo, whose pair is husband Arnold Castillo; and dance partners Rey Flores and Angelita Molina, who are also PIDCI Board members.
The Rigodon is described as an elegant dance introduced in the Philippines during the Spanish era by Filipinos returning from their travels from foreign lands. It is traditionally danced as an opening presentation in very formal affairs, such as Presidential Inaugural balls.
It is further described as an aristocratic dance in the form of a quadrille, made up of four or six parts performed by as few as four couples and as many as 20 couples in a square formation. Rigodon is a dance of ceremony that relates an elaborate story of romance.
The other Rigodon de Honor dancing pairs were: Michael Castillo and Kimberly Mende Itskov, George Pring and Ruth Medina, Tony Abellar and Margie Wisotsky, Michael Esguerra and Dr. Eleanor Parico, Amor Baclig and Joy Aligarbes, Edgar and Beth Manalo, Michael Balingit and Chelle Lhuillier, Dr. Ned and Menchie Pulido, Virgie Rafael and Marissa de Guzman, and Aniano Rabe and Josephine Neri.
Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig (MAID) is an environmental performing arts group of young people and children who were born and raised in Smokey Mountain, in Tondo, Manila, Philippines. The group was organized with a vision of a clean and green planet, with peace and justice for all.
The touring group is composed of 19 dancers, four musicians and five staff members headed by its Executive Director, Rev. Fr. Benigno Beltran, SVD, who is currently the parish priest of the Parish of the Risen Christ, in Smokey Mountain, Tondo.
Since its debut performance in 1994 at the Philippine International Convention Center in the Philippines, MAID has been designated as Ambassadors for Peace and Environment by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
To celebrate its tenth year of incorporation, PIDCI introduced this year the Mrs. Kalayaan (Mrs. Independence) Search, Selection and Coronation Pageant and Gala as part of its annual commemorative events.
The other events are the Grand Marshal Gala, the Diwa ng Kalayaan (Spirit of Independence) Pageant and Gala, Independence Day (first Sunday in June) with its lineup of major programs such as the Street Fair, the Cultural Festival, and the Independence Day Parade; and the Independence Ball. In the past, there was also an annual Consul General’s Night, which was revived this year with “An Evening with the Consul General,” held at the official residence of Ambassador Mario L. de Leon, Jr.
The commemorations were organized in the years 1990 to 2002 by the Philippine Independence Day Committee (PIDC), under the auspices of the Consulate General of the Philippine, with the Consul General as Honorary Adviser. PIDC was an ad hoc organization that elected an Overall Chairman each year who appointed the chairmen of the various committees to plan, organize and execute the commemoration. From 2003 to the present, planning and organization of the commemoration was taken over by the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI).
After each year’s commemoration, PIDCI holds elections of officers and board members for the following year. This year’s PIDCI officers and Board of Directors are: Fe Martinez, President; Art Diongon, Vice President; Ner Martinez, Secretary; Albert Diala, Treasurer; Jesse Arteche, Internal Auditor.
The Board of Directors (with terms up to 2013) are: Albert Diala, Rey Flores, Angie Molina, Romy Somodio, Joyce Castillo (appointed), and Violeta McGough (appointed). Those on the Board whose terms expire this year are: Art Diongon, Raul Estrellado, Tess Lobo, Ner Martinez, Elvira Reyes, and Dr. Benjie Santos, Jr.