Pandemonium at Friendship Day parade

Fans went berserk when Aljur (right) came on stage. With Iza Calzado. Photos by Ivan Roque

By Elton Lugay

The Filipino-American Friendship Day on June 26 drew a huge crowd, and with it a melee triggered by film star Aljur Abrenica.

Pandemonium broke out when eye candy Aljur showed up on stage for his number. One woman passed out from too much heat and too thick a crowd. Two fans, who were taking photos of the hunky actor, got into fight when one was accidentally pushed aside by the other. The program was interrupted for a few minutes, and the festival security was called to the scene.

Except for that little incident, the parade proceeded as in traditional FilAm festivals — with pomp, pageantry and pork barbecue.

The parade began at noon from Jersey City’s Claremont Avenue and ended at Lincoln Park featuring marchers in their colorful Filipiniana attire and crisp barong. The participants represented diverse groups and organizations. Some rode in colorful floats followed by marching bands.

But what is most noticeable is the pageantry of beauties. It seemed like almost every association has a beauty queen or a tiara-ed princess.

“It just amuses me to see so many teen girls and married women wearing long train gowns and huge crowns complete with sashes that tell you about their winning titles. It’s becoming so much a part of our culture,” observed Sami Bonghanoy from Bergenfield, a cheerful onlooker at the parade.

The parade was organized by the Philippine American Friendship Committee, headed by its president Isagani Puertollano. Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. and this year’s grand marshal Nena Lozada-Kaufman led the parade.

The 21st parade and festival was slightly smaller compared to the Independence Day event in New York which attracted as much as 100,000 people, according to organizers’ estimates. However, it drew strong support from the New Jersey government. Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Senator Robert Menendez attended the festivities. CBS 2 news anchor Kristine Johnson also made a special appearance.

Won't be a FilAm parade without the assortment of beauty queens.

Jersey officialdom represented by Mayor Healy (left) and Senator Menendez. ConGen de Leon in the middle.

Ever the star, the pork barbecue

“This is an effort to continue the tradition of celebrating the friendly relations between the United States and the Philippines,” the organizers said. “The event serves to celebrate Filipino solidarity and culture.”

Contract stars from GMA Network in the Philippines provided glam and glitter: TV host Iza Calzado, actor and balladeer Mark Bautista, Star Struck singing champion Jennylyn Mercado and, the ‘Ultimate Hunk’ Aljur.

“GMA is honored to be part of the celebration,” said Grace Hufano Labaguis, East Coast representative of the network. The local artists held their own alongside talents from Manila. They were Kirby Asunto, Nina Waga Mojares, Craig and Samantha Abaya Campos, Alyssa Shoemaker, Maureen Varco and Tiffany Viray.

Pafcom is a nonprofit organization that promotes inter-culturalism, advocacy and inter-generationalism.

Elton Lugay is a journalist, publicist and community events organizer.

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