Like the ‘bamboo amid a storm,’ the return of People’s Ball

People’s Ball founder Fernando Mendez and Laura Garcia.

The People’s Ball, a festive gathering of Filipino Americans in the New York area, returned on August 22 paying tribute to health care professionals as well as economic frontline workers — FilAms and non-Filipinos alike — calling them the community’s Pandemic Vanguards.

This is the first time People’s Ball, a companion event to the annual Fiesta In America (FIA) indoor expo, is giving recognition to non-Filipinos, said Fernando ‘Nanding’ Mendez, founder and president of FIA. The Fiesta expo is waiting guidance from the venue management on when it can safely reopen.

“We are honoring the health care professionals and frontline workers who put their lives at risk during the pandemic…and answered the call of duty,” he said in his opening remarks.

The Empowerment Awards went to Coleen Sta. Ana, MHA of Sentara Healthcare; Jade Borromeo Flinn of Johns Hopkins Hospital; and Quimberly Villamer, RN of Frontliners Above and Beyond.

Organizations named Pandemic Vanguards were the Philippine Nurses Association NJ; PACCAL, Inc.; and Clara Maass Medical Center.

From left: Corge Reyes, Dr. Elma Castillo, Evelyn Sison, and Joycelyn Aligarbes. Photo: Francis Sison
Former Consul General Claro Cristobal (center), wife Marilou Cristobal, and Eric Bustamante. Photo: Eric Bustamante
Fernando Mendez and Laura Garcia (center) with Pandemic Vanguards honorees PACCAL and PNA NJ and their officers. Photo: Rod Elma Castillo
Edwin Josue (center) flanked by Juliet Payabyab (left) and Dr. Connie Uy. Photo: Juliet Payabyab

Individuals who were recognized as Pandemic Vanguards were Fatima Aguilar, RN; Gregorio Calderon, RN; nurse technician Sheila Carino; assistant physical therapist Melvic Gallego; Roma Johnson of the Maryland Department of Health; Kern McKelvey of Clara Maass Medical Center; Nicole Montemar of Overlook Medical Center; mental health screener Roger Mosquera; Myrna Permunian of Weis Markets; Patrick Paragas, RN; Antione Steed of Clara Maass environmental services; Aileen Tababa, RN; and mental health associate Andrew Williamson.

The event was held at the Marriott Newark International Airport hotel with about 300 people in attendance, led by ambassadors and former consuls general Mario de Leon and Claro Cristobal, corporate sponsors led by PNB General Manager Eric Bustamante, community leaders, and musical artists.

The People’s Ball event happened just as New York was coming out of a year-long pandemic paralysis.

“The community, bent from the pandemic’s blows, but did not break,” said Mendez. “Embodying the bamboo’s resilience, we have sprung back.” – Cristina DC Pastor

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(C) The FilAm 2021

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