‘Tribute to Philippines’ rides the waves of Ocean City

'Tinikling' in hip-hop. Photos by Elton Lugay

‘Tinikling’ in hip-hop. Photos by Elton Lugay

By Elton Lugay

For two days, Ocean City in New Jersey dressed in the colors of the Philippines. Festive ‘banderitas’ flapped in the wind while the heaving waves kept in sync with the lively rondalla music in the background.

Welcome to Tribute to the Philippines’ fourth annual fiesta, celebrating the sister-city relationship of Ocean City and San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, a Philippine province in the island of Luzon. The affair drew crowds from the New York Tri-State, including Filipino Americans who drove all the way from Pennsylvania and Delaware.

“We are here to promote the Philippines as a travel destination for tourists and residents of Ocean City,” Consul Zaldy Patron told The FilAm. The Philippines, he quickly added, is the ideal destination for retirement and medical tourism.

He said the event is very timely as Palawan and Boracay were recently hailed by Travel+Leisure magazine as among the top island destinations in the world. This country of 95 million fun-loving people is turning heads!

“The Philippines is a unique island, it’s a unique group of people,” said Michele Gillian, wife of Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian. She said Ocean City’s “formula of family and friends” is no different from the Philippines’.

The Tribute was started by Rene Sese, a local resident and owner of a resort guest house. As a Cultural Ambassador of Ocean City, he founded the trade-tourism-cultural-medical event in 2010.

““This is a win-win situation for the two cities,” said Sese in an interview with the Press of Atlantic City. “I fell in love with Ocean City because of its serenity and the congeniality of the people. I am proud to live here, but I am also proud of where I am from. I am fortunate to have two hometowns, and I am just happy to bring attention to both of these great cities, where the future is very bright.”

Wooden sandals: Not 'bakya' at all

Wooden sandals: Not ‘bakya’ at all

Philippine flag flies high over the resort city

Philippine flag flies high over the resort city

At the Music Pier, the venue of the celebration, the spectators were treated to Philippine cultural entertainment with a little bit of a modern twist. For one, the indigenous ‘tinikling’ dance on bamboo poles was performed to hip-hop beat by young people from the Philippine Community of Southern New Jersey, Inc.

Hermie Aczon, president of the Filipino Executive Council of Greater Philadelphia, came with busloads of talents and entertainers. The cultural groups under her belt included the Philippine Mutya Dance Company, the Philippine Folk Arts Society, and the St. Augustine Choir.

The guests swarmed tables selling Philippine food and handicraft. Other tables had doctors, nurses, nutritionists and dieticians conducting blood pressure and blood sugar tests.

“When FilAms come here, they also help the local economy of Ocean City,” said Patron.

The event was jointly organized by the Philippine Consulate and the City of Ocean City, with GMA Pinoy TV as a media sponsor.

“This is our first time to join in the celebration,” said Grace Labaguis, marketing representative of GMA Pinoy TV on the East Coast. “We are grateful for the opportunity to help promote the Philippines, and we look forward to a bigger celebration next year.”

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One Comment

  1. M. Matthews wrote:

    Dear Elton,

    Thank you for writing an informative articles about two cities coming together to celebrate Filipino heritage and culture in Ocean City, New Jersey.

    Indeed, a win, win cultural and tourism exchange that will benefits the ever growing Philippine tourist industry in the Philippines in the months and years to come.

    M. Matthews

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