A weekend full of festivities, from the NJ Santacruzan to the NYC parade

The author crowns her successor, this year's Reyna Elena Stephanie Song.

The author crowns her successor, this year’s Reyna Elena Stephanie Song.

By Megan Villarin

This year, our Santacruzan mass at the St. Raphael-Holy Angels Filipino Parish in Hamilton, New Jersey was held inside the gym. Regardless, it was still a spectacular event.

I watched the procession of the statue of the Virgin Mary, the sagalas and their escorts coming into the gym and taking their seats. So many memories from last year flooded my mind. This year I passed down the crown to the new Reyna Elena.

Everything from the procession into the church, the formalities of the mass, the offering of flowers to the Blessed Mother, until the end as the sagalas exited, it was overall an enjoyable experience.

The procession followed shortly after, and it was interesting being a spectator for the first time, rather than participating and walking as one of the sagalas. Everyone was having a good time and snapping photos, even with the sagalas having to walk in heels and big gowns. We walked around the block and back to the parish center, where the evening program was to begin and hence, the coronation.

However, before the dinner/dance began, I was chosen to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” as an acapella solo to start off our evening program. Although I know the song at heart and have sung it for years at school, it was the first time for me to sing it solo in front of such a large audience.

After I was done singing, I received a warm applause and was thrilled that it went well. Subsequently, I joined my choir in singing the Philippine National Anthem, “Lupang Hinirang,” and as a Filipino-American, it felt great being able to represent both sides of my nationality through these national anthems.

Soon after, dinner was served, the dancing went on all night, there were raffle drawings and a silent auction, and of course, the gorgeous sagalas and their handsome escorts came in one by one, leading up to the coronation. It was a happy yet nostalgic feeling, as I did my farewell walk — with my brother, Kyle, as my escort — and crowned the Reyna Elena, Stephanie Song. It was such an honor to be crowned Reyna Elena last year and despite the year passing, it is an experience I will carry with me throughout my lifetime. As the evening drew to a close, it was not the end of the fun and festivities for me, as the following morning was the Philippine Independence Day Parade.

This past December, I was given the title of Miss Filipino American Association of Central New Jersey (FAACNJ) Ambassador of 2014 for being an active young Filipino female within my community. As part of this honor, I was to take part in this year’s Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

I had taken part last year and walked with other FAACNJ members, but this year I promenaded with my crown, sash, and gown. It was a remarkable and interesting experience as I’ve never really been the kind of girl that was intrigued with pageantry. Yet, I will never forget walking down Madison Avenue alongside the lofty skyscrapers and beautiful buildings. It was so enjoyable, waving to all the bystanders that were watching the parade, seeing all the other groups participating, and smiling for pictures. Even people that I’ve never met before came up to me and asked to take a picture with me. I felt like a mini celebrity for a day!

But most of all, I will always be fond of the Philippine pride shown that day. So many people came out to celebrate the occasion and take part in such a joyous event. People were attired in Barong Tagalog and Filipiniana dress, wearing Philippine-themed shirts, snapbacks, and clothing, and waving around Philippine flags. You could certainly feel all the energy, the exhilaration, and the true dignity everyone felt for the Philippines. This event not only gathered a numerous amount of Filipinos, but many differently people of all ethnicities. It was absolutely breathtaking seeing such a big and lively crowd, united to show their support for our beautiful country.

With both of these events, the Santacruzan and Philippine Independence Day Parade, people are one, all sharing their love and pride for the Philippines and their Filipino heritage. It is a truly heartwarming experience to be able to see these traditions continue and thrive here in the United States and be so warmly received by Americans and those of other ethnic backgrounds.

Among many Filipinos, like myself, the pride in our nation is undeniable. My weekend of fun Filipino festivities may be over, but undoubtedly, I am definite that no matter how much time may pass, the spirit of endearment, adoration, devotion, and utmost support and loyalty to our beloved nation will live on.

New Jersey delegation marches on Madison Avenue for the Philippine Independence Day Parade

New Jersey delegation marches on Madison Avenue for the Philippine Independence Day Parade

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