Filipinos party in heart of SF on PH independence anniversary | Inquirer

Filipinos party in heart of SF on PH independence anniversary

/ 02:49 AM June 22, 2018

The jampacked crowd brave the heat and wind to watch their favorite entertainers onstage. RADI CALALANG

SAN FRANCISCO — Despite downtown weather that alternated between hot and windy-cold, thousands of festive Filipinos and their guests whooped it up at KalayaanSF’s 120th Philippine Independence Day celebration in Union Square on Saturday, June 16.

They enjoyed the cultural dances, martial arts demonstrations, Filipino dishes, and shopped for souvenir items, books and T-shirts.


Kalayaan 2018 Festival Chair Radi Calalang exciteldly described the celebration as a great success, with more than 50 exhibitors and vendors, 20-plus performers, and a packed Union Square for the free evening concert.

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“Almost 2,000 of our promotional bandanas were given out in just a few hours after the event started. Each year, we get more and more participation, not just from the Fil-Am community, but also from non-Filipinos who are increasingly interested in joining our events,” beamed Calalang.

Kalayaan 2018 Chair Radi Calalang at an earlier press conference with (left to right) ConGen Henry Bensurto, ABS-CBN talents Jaya and JR, who were the top performers for the concert. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

“I am happy to see this wonderful validation of our efforts: one, to increase the visibility of the Filipino community in the Bay Area, and second, to raise awareness of the community’s positive contributions to-date and the potential for even greater impact going forward.”

In his brief message onstage to the predominantly Filipino crowd, Consul General in San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr.  gave a pep talk to further boost the morale of the crowd, reiterating that “it is not just Independence Day that we are celebrating but also about Filipino identity and it is good that we are able to celebrate this day right here in the center of San Francisco. By doing that, we are able to show how it is and how good it is to be a Filipino.”

A local cultural dance group entertains the audience with southern Philippines cultural dances before the formal program onstage starts. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

Eager Filipinos cheered the much-awaited entertainment prepared by ABS-CBN The Filipino Channel talents Jaya and JR, who both performed song and dance numbers with much gusto.  They performed cover versions of more recently famous songs and their much-applauded original numbers that showcased their extraordinary talents

In an earlier press conference, JR said they are going to bring Filipino culture to their audience through their music.

“That is why we are making this campaign. We have a bigger purpose not just for us to perform but for Filipinos starting here at San Francisco and around the world to spread awareness of our culture. We really are proud to be here and do our best to represent Filipinos and spread awareness,” JR said. “This kind of show makes me feel proud. I have been preparing my whole life for this to be here.”


The bandanna distributed during the annual Kalayaan festivity participants is a subtle way of teaching Filipinos of their culture. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

Jaya echoed JR, saying that they prepared to be included in big gatherings and important events like this year’s Kalayaan for years.“It is very important to be a part of this and when we found out what we are supposed to be doing, we got all the more excited.

Calalang also explained that the Kalayaan bandannas they gave out every Kalayaan celebration has its subtle way of teaching history in keeping with the belief that by knowing history one also knows himself.

“A lot of people don’t know the symbolism behind the bandanna that we give out. If you unfurl and look at it, you would see the white on a red background. This is not just symbolic. This is actually what our flag looked like back in the 1890 during the struggle for Independence against the Spaniards,” Calalang stated. “

Models in a fashion show for autism awareness, garbed in dresses partly created by people with autism. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

On the possibility that the venue of future Kalayaan celebrations will be moved to a larger  place in the Bay Area, Calalang chair said Union Square is preferable because it is a very recognizable and attractive venue.

“We resisted the idea of moving because Union Square is iconi. What better venue to do it than something that’s right at the center which is the Union Square? It is time for us to come out of the shadows,” Calalang argued.

The TFC early evening entertainment fare was preceded by a fashion show with mostly Filipino models who wore dresses created partly by people with autism.

“The fashion show is to create more awareness about autism,” model Michiko Wagner stated. “We want everyone to be aware and conscious about the genetic disorder and make sure that everyone is enlightened through the beautiful dresses that we have on were partly created by talented people with autism proving that they are not limited by their disease.”

Wagner was joined onstage by other models Katrina Congson, Jasmin Morales, Hillary Hincock and Trina Soledad.

The 2018 Kalayaan awardees Bayani ng Bayan were presented by Kalayaan Chair Radi Calalang (extreme left) and ConGen Henry Bensurto Jr. (fifth from left) before an appreciative crowd INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

The nine 2018 Kalayaan heroes or Bayani ng Bayan were presented onstage by Calalang and Bensurto.

They are:

Atty Melba Cawit, Bayani ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Gawaing Pampubliko;

Nellie Hizon Bayan ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Pagpapaunlad ng Kulturang Pilipino;

Jesus Antonio Vizcocho, Bayani ng Bayansa Larangan ng Serbisyo sa Komunidad at Gawaing Pampubliko;

Mona Pasquil, Bayani ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Gawaing Pampubliko;

Julieta Gabiola, MD Bayani ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Pampublikong Kalusugan;

Norma Fulinara Placido, Bayani ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Serbisyo sa Komunidad;

Rosario Benipayo, Bayani ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Serbisyo sa Komunidad;

George Garcia Gange, Bayani ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Musika; and

Polly Santiago Cortes, Bayani ng Bayan sa Larangan ng Serbisyo sa Komunidad.

Hizon regard the award as a wonderful recognition on what the Filipinos collectively do in promoting the significance of our practice of Simbang Gabi.

“Simbang Gabi is now gaining prominence not just with Filipinos, but non-Filipinos as well. Now half (45 out of 90) of the churches in the Archdiocese of San Francisco from the counties of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo are now holding Simbang Gabi. Other than the Mexicans no other ethnic group has a sustained liturgical celebration similar to Simbang Gabi,” Hizon noted.

The Easterwoods Jasmin and Richard had an enjoyable romantic date at the Union Square while celebrating Philippine Independence Day. INQUIRER/Jun Nucum

Cortes felt honored to be a part of the community and for being recognized for all the things she has done for the Filipino community in the 47 years she has been in the U.S.

“The best contribution I did was the centennial celebration art exhibit by a national artist at Thatcher Gallery of University of San Francisco under the leadership of then ConGen Tessie Marzan. Then another national artist had a book launch in 2010 under ConGen Marciano Paynor,” Cortes claimed. “I am now busy working on a sister city relationship between South San Francisco and Pasig City. I am currently also the Vice Chairman of Friends of the University of the Philippines Foundation in America.”

William Easterwood came with Filipina wife, Jasmin, and learned more about the Filipino culture aside from what he already learned from his wife.

“I saw a lot of Filipino cultural dances and tasted a lot of Filipino foods too. I love it. The Filipino food and culture are amazing the people are very nice, so kind and welcoming. I am very thankful that we have a very good alliance. I love the Philippines just as I love the United States of America, both of which are great countries,” Easterwood shared.

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TAGS: autism, Filipino dance, JUn Nucum, KalayaanSF, Philippine Independence Day, Union Square San Francisco
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