Filipinos ‘occupy’ key NY avenue for 7 hours


By Federico D. Pascual Jr. – While Britons feted their 86-year-old Queen with a fluvial pageant on the Thames and the New York Yankees dealt the Detroit Tigers a 5-1 defeat last Sunday, Filipinos spilled out on midtown Manhattan for an advance “Araw ng Kalayaan” parade.

As they number only 270,000, Filipinos in Metropolitan New York are assigned an 11-block stretch of Madison Ave. for their yearly parade and cultural bash. Fifth Ave., a grander route, is only for the big boys, such as the Irish and Puerto Ricans.

Filipinos from the city’s five boroughs and others in neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut flocked to the Big Apple for the Sunday fiesta. New Yorkers used to celebrations of national communities generally ignored the temporary bother.

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‘DINAGYANG’ MISSED: A drizzle did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd of almost 100,000 that jammed Madison, the stage on 27th Street and the food-souvenir stalls on the sidewalk from 26th to 24rd Streets.

Enjoying brisk sale were such distinctly Filipino items as barbecue, other skewered stuff, and halu-halo. Sago-gulaman sold for $3 (P135!) in one plastic cup.

On the west side of the avenue, straddling Madison Square Park, was a two-block display of merchandise, services and corporate offerings. Stalls were festooned with small Philippine flags.

Providing entertainment on stage were Fil-Am artists, singers and dancers. Showbiz never fails among Filipinos.

Residents said they missed last year’s big hit, the award-winning “Dinagyang” street performers from Iloilo. Maybe Dinagyang, Ati-atihan or their variations could be brought in next year?

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PANATAG FLOAT: Philippine Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. came down from Washington, DC, to join Ambassador Mario de Leon Jr. (consul-general in New York) and other officials for the seven-hour celebration.

The affair was organized by the Philippine Independence Day Council, an umbrella coordinator for the more than 260 Fil-Am organizations in the area. The PIDC president is Fe Martinez. Dr. Prospero A. Lim was the parade marshal.

The program being a private-sector activity, it is hoped that Beijing will not make an issue of one of the floats calling attention to the Philippines-China territorial dispute over the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoals off Zambales.

On the float were persons in dark robes piercing a dragon with spears. Emblazoned on its side was “China’s claim: No basis in international law.” On its front was the name “Filipino Veterans” and on its back was “Filipinos for Good Governance.”

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ANNUAL FETE: The Independence Day celebration here has been an annual activity of the Filipino community for the past 23 years. (On June 12, 1898, the Philippines under then Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo unfurled its own flag and declared itself an independent republic.)

Traditionally, an “Araw ng Kalayaan” reception on June 12 or thereabouts is hosted in Washington, DC, by the Philippine ambassador. It is said that in that single party, the chief of mission normally spends more than his whole-year allowance.

That is one of the reasons why the ambassador to Washington, as also in London, Tokyo, Paris and other expensive posts, must be independently rich and able to spend out of pocket.

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