Two-day fiesta Manila Zoo returns to Chicago to celebrate Filipino food, music, and culture
When Filipinos hear the words “Manila Zoo,” what comes to mind is educational tours to the capital’s famed zoo—which recently had a facelift and now looks somewhat like the Changi Airport.
For Filipino-Americans—thanks to an initiative by the US-based community-led organization Project Barkada—Manila Zoo has come to mean a celebration of Filipino culture through food, art, and music.
First held in Queens, New York in 2021, Manila Zoo attracted some 5,000 attendees through a diverse lineup of Asian- and Filipino-owned food businesses, art, and music. Last year in Illinois, it drew nearly double the crowd from 2021 for a two-day “modern fiesta.”
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This year as it returns to Chicago, its organizer Project Barkada is expecting even more Filipino-Americans to join in the festivities as it enlists the help of over 40 food and market vendors and live music and entertainment from local talents.
“Manila Zoo: Chicagoland is more than a celebration,” said its organizer Mike Williams II. “It’s a vibrant Filipino-American cultural renaissance. We’re inspired to create a space where we can joyfully relive cherished memories, unite our communities, and bask in the nostalgia of the Philippines.”
Not just entertainment and food
Williams II also shared that alongside this year’s array of food and entertainment, Project Barkada is also bringing a Filipino-style jeepney to Chicago.
Earlier in August, the organization called for donations to restore a chrome silver jeep decorated with blue and yellow decals dubbed “The JeepNY.” The goal was to make it street-legal and drivable in the city and beyond to serve as a literal vehicle for Project Barkada’s mission to take Filipino culture to various communities across America.
Manila Zoo: Chicagoland is happening at 4200 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago, Illinois. Tickets are priced at $5. Proceeds from the two-day festivities will be used to further initiatives including the preservation of JeepNY, Tubig Project which aims to bring clean water to underserved communities in the Philippines, and Medici Surgical Mission in partnership with Manila Central University in Caloocan whose goal is to provide free healthcare access to underprivileged communities.