The Madison Avenue parade that never gets old

First, the Holy Mass at the Philippine Center…Photos by Elton Lugay

By Elton Lugay

The inclement weather did not stop Joyce Manzano from marching at the Philippine Independence Day parade June 3 on Madison Avenue.

“I came prepared,” the 29-year-old paralegal from Woodside, Queens told The FilAm. “I knew it’s going to rain so I brought a very big umbrella.”

Joyce came for many reasons: There’s GMA stars Dingdong Dantes, Rachel Ann Go and Aljur Abrenica who drew thousands to the annual celebration. There’s the street fair with the delectable grilled barbecue. But more importantly, she came to celebrate what it means to be Filipino in America. It’s what drives her to come to Madison Avenue year after year whatever the weather condition is.

“I come to help celebrate who we are as Filipinos in America,” she said. “I am a Filipino who is proud of my heritage. It doesn’t hurt to look back where you come from.”

Even the red-shirted Bayan USA activists came to march to raise awareness against human trafficking. They joined hundreds other organizations that participated in the annual parade that shows Filipino hearts swelling with patriotic pride every time June comes around and that FilAms know how to have fun.

The Sunday event kicked off with a flag-raising and mass at the Philippine Consulate attended by Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Libran Cabactulan, Consul General Mario de Leon, Deputy Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega, and community leaders.

The parade followed with more than a hundred colorful floats. Among the most applauded were the Bacolod City Masskara, business leader Loida Nicolas Lewis’ U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, Gawad Kalinga’s human flag, The Filipino Social Club, and the young performers Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig from the Smokey Mountain dumpsite in Manila. The human flag drew a lot of attention because of its magnitude. Imagine a collective of about 450 Filipinos clustered in the colors of the Philippine flag and marching in step with the beat.

The float that carried the movie stars of GMA International was another attraction. Fans shrieked with delight at their favorite telenovela actors, while snapping with their smartphones.

While the parade was in progress, a street fair was doing brisk business selling comfort food like pork barbecue, ‘sago at gulaman’ and Magnolia ice cream; T-shirts and ethnic jewelry crafted by indigenous tribes.

Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, Broadway actress Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, OPM band Sounds of Manila and teen singers Kirby Asunto, Gail Banawis and Tiffany Viray were among the performers. Comedian Air Tabigue, balladeer Jared Philippe and Broadway actress Liz Casasola hosted the musical program.

Although pleased, Joyce said the organizers could have done a better job at running the event.

“I see the same flaws happen every year,” she said. “The parade and the program were dragging but nevertheless I encourage the parents to bring their children to cultural events like this.”

Grace Hufano-Labaguis, East Coast marketing representative for GMA International, said she was proud to be part of the celebration.

“GMA is grateful to the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. for the opportunity to co-host the event this year,” she said. “It was quite a challenge to work with so many leaders who spoke different minds. Cliché, but all’s well that ends well.”

…Outside, the mass of revelers jam several blocks of Madison Avenue.

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