Solar eclipse sparks awe, wonder among Fil-Ams
The Fil-Am Connection

Solar eclipse sparks awe among Fil-Ams

Filipino Americans, including Assembly Member Steven Raga, share thoughts on the science and spectacle of the solar eclipse
/ 11:30 PM April 08, 2024

Elton Lugay column IDNEW YORK—Monday’s solar eclipse, a historic celestial event, captivated Filipino Americans in New York, bringing communities together and sparking reflections on the profound nature of such occurrences. Though the city witnessed only a partial eclipse, the phenomenon still provided a significant moment for New Yorkers to pause and marvel at the spectacle.

As the moon’s shadow swept across the state, the eclipse offered a unique opportunity for everyone to come together in parks, on rooftops and in the streets to share the communal experience of witnessing this rare astronomical event. The last time a solar eclipse was visible in New York was nearly a century ago, making today’s event a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for many.

The rarity of a solar eclipse has imbued it with significant economic implications. Projections suggest the event could contribute as much as $6 billion to the economy—rivaling major events like Taylor Swift‘s tour and the Super Bowl in terms of impact.

For a few precious minutes, we are united, looking up in wonder at the skies, reminded that there are greater forces at work than those that occupy our daily lives.

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The Fil-Am Connection asked some community members for their thoughts on the celestial event. They remind us that astronomical events are not just about the science behind them but also about the memories they create and the legacy they leave.

Solar eclipse

The Noble family of Staten Island watches the eclipse from their neighborhood park (clockwise from top): Baby nurse Myra Diaz traveled from Pennsylvania to view the spectacle in New York; and Brooklyn high schooler Isabella Baes Abayev rushed home from school to share the special moment of watching the eclipse with her mom. PHOTOS BY GEORGIO DANO AND ELTON LUGAY

“The total solar eclipse is a rare celestial event. It’s been decades since I’ve seen one,” said Nestor Enriquez, a former US Navy chief from Jersey City. “I vividly remember the eclipse I experienced in the Philippines during the mid-1950s. It was a magical moment that has stayed with me, and now, to witness such a remarkable event here in New York is truly special. Even though we are not in the path of totality here in the city, the upstate regions are experiencing a total eclipse, which is quite rare. It’s almost like this eclipse was made in the USA, with its path crossing from coast to coast. It’s fascinating, and I’m already looking forward to the next one in 2040.”

Reflecting on the deeper implications of the eclipse, Emil Guillermo, a veteran journalist and broadcaster, said the solar eclipse is more than just an astronomical event. “It’s a powerful metaphor. In life, there are events and histories that become eclipsed, much like the moon obscures the sun. These eclipses can be moments of obscured truths or forgotten narratives. Today, as we witness the eclipse with our glasses, it’s an opportunity to reflect on these metaphorical eclipses and consider what might be overshadowed in our own lives,” said Guillermo, who is in town for a series of shows “Emil Amok” this month at The Fringe NY.


Assemblymember Steven Raga of District 30 spoke to the unity that the eclipse fosters. “The rare shadow the solar eclipse casts over New York today is a reminder of our shared existence and the universal experiences that connect us as a community. It’s an event that transcends the ordinary, placing us within the grand tapestry of the cosmos,” he said.

Solar eclipse

The Dano family of Staten Island (top) and spectators (bottom) eagerly anticipate the solar eclipse in downtown Manhattan. PHOTOS BY GEORGIO DANO AND ELTON LUGAY

According to NYU biology professor Michael Purugganan, there’s something extraordinary about the communal aspect of today’s eclipse. “In 2017, we had a partial eclipse in New York City, but this time, it’s an even more significant event,” the Fil-Am scientist said. “I love seeing people come together to observe the eclipse, gathering in public spaces with a sense of camaraderie and wonder. It’s a live demonstration of how an astronomical event can unite us.” Prof. Purugganan’s reflections remind us that these celestial events are not just for scientists or enthusiasts; they are for everyone.

Community icon and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis, standing among fellow New Yorkers, felt nostalgic about the experience. “As I hold the dark glasses provided by the library and gaze at the eclipse, I’m thrilled to see the sun transform into a slender crescent,” she said. “The last time I saw a total eclipse was in 1955 in the Philippines, where the natural world seemed to pause and transform around me. It’s a spectacle of nature’s beauty that remains etched in my memory.”


Lewis’s comparison of the eclipse to a dance between the sun and the moon resonates with the spiritual insights shared by Chelle Lhuillier.

Solar eclipse

Albany residents witness the historic eclipse from the heart of New York’s State Capitol. PHOTO BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER STEVEN RAGA

Lhuillier, a psychic from Elmhurst, elaborated on the spiritual dimension of the eclipse. “In moments like this, when light and dark intersect, we are reminded of the dual nature of our existence. The solar eclipse represents the convergence of opposites, the masculine and feminine, light and dark. It is a time of inner transformation and introspection, an opportunity to set intentions for personal growth. However, we must also be aware that during the eclipse, the amplification of darker energies can occur, making it a complex, yet potent time for setting positive intentions.”

Lhuillier’s description of the eclipse as a moment of duality and transformation echoes across various cultures and traditions that have long attributed deep meaning to eclipses. It’s a time when many believe the veil between the mundane and the spiritual worlds is thinnest, allowing for profound introspection and intention setting.

Meanwhile, retired medtech George Dano from NYU Lutheran Medical Center, originally from Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, recalled, “It’s been 45 years since my high school days, and now at 66, I am blessed to witness a 90 percent solar eclipse here in New York City.”

Similarly, his wife, Georgina Alfeche, expressed her joy. “To be with my family during this spectacular moment, holding my first grandson, Gabriel, as we watch the eclipse, is an experience that fills me with pride,” she said. “It’s truly a historical and magnificent event that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”

Solar eclipse

Filipino Americans share thoughts on the science and spectacle of the solar eclipse: Insights from community leader Loida Nicolas Lewis (clockwise from top left); NPR host and comedian Emil Guillermo; scientist and NYU professor Michael Purugganan; psychic and trans rights advocate Chelle Lhuillier; former US Navy Chief Nestor Enriquez and Assembly Member Steven Raga from District 30. CONTRIBUTED

As New Yorkers reflect on the day’s events, the solar eclipse remains a testament to the awe-inspiring nature of our universe and the profound impact such moments can have on individuals and society. With the next solar eclipse not due until August 23, 2044, Monday’s event will undoubtedly be cherished as a significant memory for many years to come.

The economic impact of the eclipse is also notable, akin to major cultural and sporting events, with Americans treating it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Isabella Baes Abayev, a high school student from Staten Island, prioritized the eclipse over school, a sentiment echoed by librarian Lauren Capdevielle Dano, who prepared for her baby’s first eclipse. Anja Noble, their neighbor, shared the moment with her family, connecting the event to her own childhood memories.

While New York will not see another eclipse of this magnitude until 20 years from now, the memory of today’s event will linger. The solar eclipse serves as a powerful symbol of renewal and reflection, as noted by TOFA singer Rasmin Diaz. “It offers a moment to pause, to consider our individual and collective journeys, and to embrace the transformative potential of such cosmic events.”

As New York returns to normalcy after the solar eclipse, the shared experience of looking up at the sky will remain a unifying moment for many. It serves as a reminder of our small place in the universe and the fleeting, yet powerful, events that can bring us together in wonder and contemplation.

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TAGS: Fil-Am, solar eclipse
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