No raining on this parade, no rain date either

Actress KC Concepcion. Photos by Boyet Loverita

Actress KC Concepcion. Photos by Boyet Loverita

Filipino Women’s Club of Connecticut makes the umbrella part of their parade ‘look.’

Filipino Women’s Club of Connecticut makes the umbrella part of their parade ‘look.’

By Lindy Rosales

“Nasagupa namin lahat ng ulan. May dala kaming payong at raincoat pero nabasa ang aming pantalon at sapatos. Tinapos talaga namin ang parade.”

With fervor and frenzy, Queens resident Relieta Madera, two friends, and a sister from Virginia, made their way to the Philippine Independence Parade on Madison Avenue cloaked in raincoats and carrying umbrellas. On the morning of June 5, the clouds broke and rains fell across the city drenching the stands, the floats, the gowns. The enthusiasm of the Madera sisters and their friends and thousands of parade watchers remained steadfast.

“Sabi ng mga kasama ko, alas dies daw magsisimula. Kaya alas nueve pa, nandito na kami,” Relieta told The FilAm. “Pero hindi na kami nanood ng show or kumain, kasi ang daming tao.”

The celebration began with a flag-raising ceremony at the Philippine Center, followed by a solemn Mass officiated by Msgr. Oscar Aquino and Fr. Peter James Alindogan. The Kalayaan Hall was a virtual window display of Filipiniana finery.

In brief remarks, Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. noted how the annual parade is the “biggest Independence Day celebration outside our homeland.” This year’s theme, “Kalayaan 2016: Pagkakaisa, Pagkaambagan, Pagsulong,” is a call for unity behind the country’s march to good governance.

The rains stopped, and people began to file out of the Philippine Center to assemble for the parade. Elegant gowns — laced, embroidered and beaded — were being lifted by the hem to keep them from touching the wet pavement. In the end, the women decided to just let the hems fall where they were supposed to as they walked confidently — and with good humor — toward Madison Avenue.

Overheard on the way to the parade:

“Nabasa ang gown ko…natuyo din pero ang dumi sa ilalim.”

“Duane Reade ran out of umbrellas.”

“Where did you buy your raincoat? Mine is really old.”

Mrs. Kalayaan 2016 Dhelma Lopez said the umbrellas kept the rain from messing up hair-dos and make-up, but the beautiful Filipiniana gowns, soaked in rainwater, were not spared.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer stopped by the Philippine Center to greet FilAms and pose for pictures. “The Philippine community is such a strong, vibrant, hardworking, successful community,” he said.

He reminisced that when he was a congressman, he wrote the law that allowed the Philippine nurses to stay in the U.S. and not go home.

“I’ve always been a friend,” he said. “Hopefully next year, we’ll have a Democratic president, and hopefully a Democratic Senate, and then maybe we will be able to pass immigration reform, which will allow Filipinos living in the shadows to become legal.” His rhetoric was greeted with applause.

A ribbon cutting on 38th Street and Madison Avenue signaled the start of the parade.
Grand Marshalls Dr. Leonido “Ned” Pulido and his wife Menchie led the ceremony assisted by officers of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. or PIDCI., which organizes the annual parade.

Ambassador Jose Cuisia was running late and the parade participants were anxious to start before the rains gather for another downpour. Security was tight but NYPD officers and PIDCI volunteers wearing neon yellow shirts made sure the parade flowed smoothly.

The parade route from 38th Street to 27th Street along Madison Avenue was lined with spectators who cheered the marching bands, the ethnic dancers, the fraternities, the beauty queens, the celebrities, and about a hundred community organizations. One organization, the Filipino Social Club of Florida, travelled all the way from the southeast and may have brought with them some glow from the Sunshine State. The Elite Baby Nurses of New York made their debut, joining the parade for the first time.

It was an endless procession of floats and bands and marchers until a familiar image emerged: a Sarao Jeepney. No less than rapper of the Black Eyes Peas rode on top waving at the wowing crowd.

The Jeepney, painted in blue and silver, did not have the kitschy glitter of the jeepneys we grew up with but carried the promotional blurb “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” It was shipped from California for its maiden appearance in the parade.

“I just wanted to share part of our culture in America and throughout the world. I feel like the Jeepney is the national vehicle of the Philippines,” said during a Meet & Greet held on the eve of the parade. One of his staff said the vehicle was Filipino American-made: the body was crafted in the Philippines and assembled in California using the Corvette V8 engine.

Some people were not as pleased that the Jeepney looked too bare and “not too colorful and showy” like the ones in the Philippines. But many people I spoke to were thrilled to see a Jeepney rolling slowly on the streets of New York. There were two offers to buy the Jeepney, but it is scheduled to ship back to California on June 6.

At the end of the parade, hungry marchers and parade watchers trooped to the Street Fair for the pancit (noodles), pork and chicken barbeque, turon (banana fritters), halo halo and other Philippine delicacies. The parade is never complete without these treats shared by families and friends gathered at the nearby park.

The cultural show highlighted a bevy of talents from the Tri-State, such as Ann Garana of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, and from the Philippines, such as comedienne Nanette Inventor. She regaled the crowd with songs and Pinoy jokes: “No immigration law can stop the Pinoy from multiplying. The Pinoys are just everywhere. It’s so easy to spot a Pinoy, once your hear pssttt!”

Actor-singer Ogie Alcasid sang his popular songs to the delight of the crowd. He later made a quick trip to the front row to take a selfie using his smartphone. No luck, until one of the guests shouted “Let the millennials do it!”

Actress KC Concepcion showed the crowd how to do the hand wave or the famous S Wave. It’s her first time to attend the parade. gave the finale number, which got the crowd dancing on their tired feet. The Cultural Show ended at 6 p.m. just as the rains were threatening a comeback.

Dr. Prospero Lim, president of PIDCI, said it was a “great event.”

“It was beautiful in spite of the threatening weather. The street fair was crowded with people spilling out to the park. I received many calls asking me when the rain date was, I said there’s none, sorry, guys you did not come.”’s Jeepney cruises Madison Avenue.’s Jeepney cruises Madison Avenue.

Pep and pageantry

Pep and pageantry

Marching on stilts

Marching on stilts

red line

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