COVID did not stop the FilAms’ largest parade

Senator Charles Schumer delivers a quick ‘hello…goodbye’ message to the community, while PIDCI President Nora Galleros looks on. Photo: Nora Galleros

By Lindy Rosales

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer came early at 11:18 a.m. for the parade that was to start at 12 noon.  He came to shake hands with Filipino American leaders…and to apologize.

“I’m sorry I can’t come march with you today, it’s my 50th college reunion. But I did want to come here even if it’s a little early to say Mabuhay!” he said airily, sounding like a politico pressing hands for votes.

“How do you say I love the Philippines? Mahal ko kayo!” he said with a little coaching.

After a pandemic-induced hiatus of two years, the Philippine Independence Day parade returned to New York City on June 5. Madison Avenue seemed overflowing with FilAms in festive attire and jovial spirit. Friends and families they have not seen in years, they were happy to hug and elbow bump. It was reason enough to celebrate with Philippine drinks and delicacies available in kiosks nearby.

Schumer shook hands with parade frontliners Consul General Elmer Cato, and officers of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PICDI), who organized the event, led by President Nora Galleros.

“So, continued prosperity, continued success,” he said. “I know the great history of the Philippines. I know what great people you are. And we look forward to many more successes from this community.”

Dr. Francia De Vera, a pediatrician from Merrick, Long Island was the Grand marshal.

“I’m so excited kasi we’re blessed with nice weather. At tsaka maganda ang PIDCI group this time, very very coordinated. It will be perfect”, she said.

Parade beauties all. Photos by RJ Ensalada

Indeed, a perfect day for a parade.   Sun is out, and no rain in the forecast. The crowd seemed a little thinner in some parts of Madison but closer to the grandstand was where action awaited. The crowd roared with every passing community organization waving at the judges.

Nanette Caronan, a dietitian from Elmhurst Hospital, distributed free bottles of water to dancers from the Cebuanos Engaging in Building Unity. The dance troupe was the most applauded for their lively number and their billowy Sinulog costumes.

Arlene Trambulo, a co-owner of D’Haven, marched for the first time. “At the last minute we decided to join. There were around 60 participants in our group. I asked them,  Hindi ba kayo natakot mag-parade dahil sa COVID? They said no.”

Another organization making its debut is the International Women Artists (IWA) led by founder Ann Constantino Beck.

“We have 25 members. We joined the parade so we can have visibility and also to expand our network. In the beginning we were kinda hesitant to join because of rising cases of COVID, but since we are all vaccinated and well aware how to deal with COVID, we came out. Next year we are planning to join on a float,” she said.

Consul General Elmer Cato was elegant in his quilt-inspired Barong Tagalog.

He said, “Sa mga lugar na sakop ng Philippine Consulate we have 450,000 Filipinos in New York and surrounding areas. And that’s from Vermont all the way down to Delaware. We always look forward to events like these where we could gather together, to not only to celebrate our independence, but also to share our culture with the other nationalities. Yes, talagang this is something that our kababayans really look forward to every year.”

Liberty Abelido, nurse manager in a Queens hospital, marched with one of her sons, three nephews, and two friends.

Ceremonial ribbon cutting to open the parade. From left, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations Enrique Manalo, Consul General Elmer Cato, PIDCI’s Nora Galleros, Grand Marshal Dr. Francia De Vera and husband Tito de Vera.

“It feels good (to be here). We value the spirit of our Kalayaan,” she said. “Although we know we have so much problems in the Philippines, we still try to make sure there’s a positive way of collaborating with our peers. Not just discussing the problems”.

Liberty and her companions stood in line for two and a half hours to buy food. When it was their turn, they had to wait another 30 minutes as the vendor ran out of food, and had to bring out their back-up supplies. “But the barbecue was so good.”

More than a hundred community organizations came out to lend their support for PIDCI and also to mark the end of bitter political divisions following the May 9 presidential elections. As some reasoned, to give the new government a “fresh start.” At the tailend of the parade were the political organizations – one group signaling support for the newly elected Philippine president, another dressed mostly in black chanting activist slogans. The crowds on the sidelines chose which group to cheer or catcall.

Floats with beauty queens, marching bands, costumed dancers, alumni associations, nurses, police officers and more.  Everyone was marching in their flashiest finery.

The cultural show finished at 6 p.m. but the concession stands with their white tents remained open beyond the allotted hours. Smoke from grilling barbecue could be seen billowing from one of the tents. It was, for some, a ‘barbecue and halo-halo’ kind of day. 

© The FilAm

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