In celebration of the 121st Philippine Independence Day
By Vanette Colmenares
New York – Tiny tots Samantha Perocho and Frederick Zion Plaza pulled off the “Bahay Kubo” (Nipa Hut) song with their slidy American accent. They were absolutely endearing and the entire audience that jam packed the auditorium of the Helen Marshall Cultural Center in Forest Hills were grinning in delight.
Young performers dominated the stage on the evening of June 11, 2019 as the Filipino community in Queens, the biggest and most diverse borough in the Big Apple was honored by the office of Queens Borough president Melinda Katz. The event was in time for the commemoration of the 121st Philippine Independence Day celebration on June 11, 2019.
Young students of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy danced the tinikiling (a brisk dance timed to hop in between two bamboo poles clapped rhythmically) while students of the Filipino School of New York and New Jersey did the “Pandango sa Ilaw.”
There were several performances that night to reminisce the diverse cultures of the Philippines. Mood music was provided by Rondalla ensemble of Pitat Lu, Lena Gonzales, Rudy Reyes, and Leon de Lara. Singers Carla Mongado and Jasmine Taala gave powerful renditions of Lupang Hinirang and the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of program which was emceed by Ramil Buenaventura and Ashley Lavina.
Towards the end of the show, the Filipino American Society of St. Joan of Arc did a medley of Mama Mia on Broadway. It brought the house down. But the closing song Bayan Ko was poignant enough sending tears to some community leaders like Tess Abuntamo dela Cruz and Loida Nicolas Lewis.
Put together by Katz and Aida Bartolome, chair of the Foundationfor Filipino Artists (FFAI), citations of honor were given to young artist Julian Pigao, parish priest of the Corpus Christi Church Rev. Patrick West, Mary Seren Camino, Annabelle Albano Lovendahl, and Marivir Montebon, OSM! Publisher and president of the Filipino American Press Club of NY.
In her acceptance speech, Montebon said it was an honor to be accorded a citation, “as I continue to amplify the voices of Filipinos in Queens which is continually growing and responding to the challenges of our times.”
”As a writer I believe that I am in a serious position in society to chronicle Filipinos events as they unfold, write about issues that confront each of us. By writing the truth, hopefully we as community and individuals will be guided to make correct decisions,” she said.
Sharon Lee, deputy president of Queens Borough welcomed the guests. She was introduced by lawyer Maria Lara Gregory. Katz was unable to attend the celebration as she was on a public debate with District Attorney candidates for the Democratic primaries on June 25.
Lee acknowledged the contributions of Filipinos in Queens and encouraged them to actively participate in the 2020 Census in order to be counted. “The census is being weaponized to target undocumented immigrants. This is a concern. But we have to be counted, because the Census is the government instrument which serves as basis for budgets for social needs of our society,” she said.
During the event, Filipinos artists Ann Beck, Marcelino Rodriguez, and Leonora Lim put up their works on exhibit. Artist Debra Simsek also displayed her work as a tribute to Filipinos in Queens.