Thousands attend Philippine Parade

Special to the Filipino Reporter

Balmy with a few silvery rays of the sun streaking through dense grayish clouds lent a magnificent backdrop to the grand parade along Madison Avenue. The sun may not have smiled, but the joyous Filipinos who painted the streets (41st to 27th) with their colorful costumes, chants, music and dances were enough to trigger fun, excitement, jubilation and euphoria in a full day's celebration.

One may surmise that brother Filipinos may have felt the same sentiments when independence was declared 100 years ago in Kawit, Cavite during the presidency of General Emilio Aguinaldo.

The chilly breeze did not, in any way, hamper the June 7 parade nor dampen the spirit of those 150 organizations which participated. Instead, the cool weather was overcome by the warmth of Filipino's camaraderie and friendliness, by their unfettered solidarity, unity and brotherhood, and by taking pride in the richness of Filipino history.

In fact, Consul General Willy Gaa confirms that the parade was, "an unprecedented show of solidarity and unity of the Filipinos." The activity, as he puts it, "rekindled the Filipino spirit...galvanizing the Filipinos to turn out for the festivities the way they did, in sheer never-before-seen numbers."

This year's parade once again showcased our countrymen's ingenuity and artistry in presenting myriad, well-thought of concepts of history in lavishly decorated floats. Over 30 floats grinded through the 14-block route, each depicting an event which led to the making of our own history. Thousands of barong-clad marchers and other participants in baro't saya, katipunero, Ram boys, camiza de chino, patadyong, Maria Clara, mestiza dresses enjoyed every step of their way to the culminating point.

Gaa added that the New York City celebration of the 100 years of Philippine independence proved to be the "celebration of a lifetime," as it was called for by President Fidel V. Ramos. Young and old alike, whether born in the Philippines or reared in the United States, bonded together as one unique, solid race. All proud in the heritage and culture of the Philippines.

The consul general also expressed his gratitude to Filipinos in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsyl-vania, Delaware, Virginia, Massachusetts, and as far as California, Leyte and Manila who made this affair a truly memorable one. "Thank you a hundred times," he wittingly says.

As overall chairman of the celebration, he is also equally grateful for his co-chairpersons who chaired the Philippine Indepen-dence Committee (PIDC) for the past eight years of celebration: Nelia Ferrette (1997), Luz Micabalo (1996), Lynn Matriano (1995), Maria Andrada (1994), Nilda Jaynal (1993), Sofia Abad (1992), Luis San Pascual (1991) and Honesto Quijano (1990).

"These eight, along with the Philippine Centennial Celebra-tion Working Committee, composed of community leaders, officers and members of the local Filipino community organizations, toiled long, hard and with unquestioning dedication, to hammer out the master plans of the events, refining the details, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for a successful celebration. My gratitude goes to them most especially," he adds.

Grand Marshal Loida N. Lewis headed the marchers from 39th Street together with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; the guest of honor, Senator Loren Legarda-Levista; Permanent Representative to the United Nations Felipe Mabilangan; consulate officers and staff; and other Centennial Celebration committee heads. However, before the march begun, Gaa, Legarda, Lewis and Mabilangan took turns singing familiar Filipino folk songs. Former grand marshals Lilia Clemente, Dr. E. Gary Villanueva, Manuel Aldana, Dr. Alice N. Francisco and Bert Pelayo also marched.

This year's Centennial Parade differed from the eight previous parades. This year had a huge turnout of participants and spectators estimated from 60,000 to a high of 100,000 spectators and participants. At least 12 marching bands added up to the rhythm of screaming public and chanting marchers. All of the organizations and marchers who joined the activity, did a marvelous job in churning out a wonderfully woven tapestry of past memories - from katipunan era, to invasions, to street parliament, to Edsa revolution.

At the parade reviewing stage between 27th and 28th Street, Mayor Giuliani read his proclamation. He then handed it personally over to Consul General Gaa. Believing that the Philippine Centennial Indepen-dence is an important milestone for the Philippines, the proclamation in part says, "New York welcomes the opportunity to learn about the heritage of the Philippines and to celebrate this friendly nation's glorious past." Giuliani proclaimed that Sunday, June 7, 1998 in New York City, as the "Philippine Centennial Independence Day."

The efforts of the various committees, organizations and individuals who made the centennial parade possible, paid off. Participation for the celebration was tremendous. Preparation was excellent.

Those participating organizations whose efforts were rewarded during the parade were: Ati-Atihan of Aklan Association Eastern USA who won the Best Costume Award; the Philippine American Veterans Organiza-tion, Inc. made it to the Best Senior Citizen/Veteran Repre-sentation recognition; the Best Float went to the float depicting the execution of Dr. Jose Rizal by the Federation of Filipino American Association in Connecticut; Leyte National University Dance Theater was the farthest participating group which coincidentally won for the Farthest Participant; Best Youth Participation went to Stuyvesant High School Filipino Club; the group with the Best Attendance went to Philippine American Medical Technologist (PAMET) of New York instead of PAMET USA, as what was announced by the judges during the awarding ceremony. The chairman of the board of jurors for the awards apologized for the mistake committed during the ceremony.

It was past noon when the parade started and ended up way past 3 p.m. Throngs of Filipinos and non-Filipinos packed 27th down to 23rd Street, making all the products in each of the booth less visible. Crowds were estimated to be ten feet deep.

There were, at the makeshift cultural stage, people eager to see and witness the various cultural groups, entertainers like Paolo Montalban, Bimbo Cerrudo, Pinay and a score of local talents show their crafts. For others, the waiting was worth it to see all those performers perform right at their very eyes. While Montalban crooned the awed audience with his rendition of "Only You," the clouds gave way and sent showers of blessings. The frisky series of Filipino dances by the Philippine Dance Company thrilled the audience and learned the culture of the Philippines through the dances of Kinding Sindaw.

East Coast Filipino Americans appreciated the beauty and talent bestowed to the upcoming Pinay girls from the West Coast. However, it took another artist, in the person of Cerrudo to give way to the sun to shine back. His sprightly version of "O ang babae pag minamahal, may kursunada ay aayaw-ayaw," elicited a thunderous applause from the audience.