By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – The Madison Square Park smelled delicious with the grilled pork barbecue even before the Philippine parade started at 11 AM, said Muriel Iturralde of the Pinas Global Newspaper. Despite overcast skies, the paraders (about 120 groups) and spectators were bent to attend the 119th celebration of the first Asian Republic, ready with their umbrellas. It showered a little, but the glee of the big crowd of friends and families won that day.
The parade commemorated Philippine independence from Spanish and American colonial rule and was in its colorful and festive self on Sunday, June 4 on the stretch of Madison Avenue from 37th Street to the Madison Square Park, a long-time collaborative effort of the Philippine Consulate and the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. together with hundreds of Filipino organizations in the East Coast. Outside Philippine shores, New York witnessed the biggest of these Philippine celebrations.
Three international beauty queens graced the parade: Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015, Megan Young, Miss World 2013, and Kylie Versoza, Miss International 2016.
Permanent Representative to the UN Amb. Teodoro Locsin Jr. energetically danced to the tune of “Tayo’y Magsayawan” (Let’s Dance) to the MSP along with the UN Philippine team, earning cheers and laughter from spectators.
The Cebu contingent won first in the dance category, dancing the Sinulog (a prayer dance) as well as its float for this year. Unlike in the past years, Cebu had a real little child personifying the Sto. Nino, which definitely was an eye-catcher. CEBU president Gay Blanca Albao said they clinched first place “because of hard work.” In last year’s competition, the group landed third and in 2015, it grabbed the first prize. “There is a lot of pressure to maintain our top position. But we will keep doing it. And it is fun too,” Ms. Albao told OSM!.
Her brother Axel Albao choreographed the dance and designed the costume, a red robe with profuse halo headdress, a replica of the Sto. Nino (Child Jesus) image. Hannah Diluvio, a dance sport multi-awarded champion, is this year’s lead dancer. In the Philippines, particularly Cebu and Panay, reverence to the Child Jesus is a popular devotion of Roman Catholics.
Although a cultural event, some group attendees carried with them political messages in the parade. The Migrante, which had earlier supported Pres. Duterte, denounced the Martial Law as well as the carrying of extra-judicial killings against drug users and pushers in the Philippines while another group supportive of Duterte raised a placard saying “give him a chance.” Even at the time of glee, one could see the political division here.
(Featured photo is the champion Cebu dance contingent, headed by Hannah Diluvio by Mike Matthews)