Filipino culture SF style: Fiesta Filipina 2008 unites Bay Area FilAms

by Malou L. Aguilar/AJPress

SAN FRANCISCO – One of the things that can be associated with the Filipino culture is their fiestas. Probably as popular as the adobo, Filipinos will never run out of excuses to celebrate something – or anything. Here in the US, the annual Fiesta Filipina in San Francisco last June 7 and 8 at the Civic Center united the Filipinos even just for the weekend.

Fiesta Filipina is a commemoration of the Philippine Independence Day. During the 80s the Department of Tourism (DOT) launched the Fiesta Islands festival in San Francisco and almost after a decade of successful festivals, the cash-strapped DOT decided 1994 would be its last year. However, in 1995, four organizers from the private sector formed the Asian Pacific Exhibits and Conferences, Inc. (APEC) and continued the celebration. Thus, the first Fiesta Filipina was held at Fort Mason on June 10-12, 1995. It was an overwhelming success. Since then, Fiesta Filipina has been at the forefront of Filipino festivals in the Bay Area.

A fiesta of food, fun, freedom and freebies

This year is no different from the previous Fiesta Filipina celebrations. Aside from keeping the Filipinos in tune with the 110th year of Philippine Independence, the weekend was filled with a wide variety of products and services from the exhibitors’ booths, Filipino food and best of all, freebies.

Yes, free stuff. From the interesting and useful pens, green shopping bags, shirts and fans, to the best-loved food samples that had people waiting in line. Never mind that the new Starbucks Mint Mocha Chip Frappucino sample is about less than one-eighth of the size of their tall cup. It was still for free and there was no limit on how many you could get. Besides, Safeway’s booth is just across it and with just a simple game you’d be able to take home free grocery items like laundry detergent, milk, salsa and carrots.

Star power

And what’s a fiesta without entertainment? For 14 years, Fiesta Filipina invited numerous Filipino artists to perform for the crowd and this year’s celebration lived up to many people’s expectations. Saturday, Las Vegas-based Asia’s Nightingale Lani Misalucha serenaded the crowd, along with performances from Rachel Alejandro and South Border member Duncan Ramos. Of course, the appearance of Jake Cuenca sent the girls shrieking with delight, especially during his autograph signing on Sunday.

But the piece de resistance was reserved for the last day that drove the crowd — Filipinos and not – to the event was the performance of rising international star Charice. Barely having the time to sit back and relax from her flight, Charice wowed the crowd with her strong vocal prowess with Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.

After the crowds have dispersed and the exhibitors have packed up their booths, hopefully Filipinos brought home more than just giveaways. It will be another year until the next fiesta, but this one had given most Filipinos a feel of home. As for the younger generation who hardly know their roots, Filipino Fiesta is a gateway to learning about the culture. “I enjoyed the games and free stuff,” said 12-year-old FilAm Timothy Aysip about the event. “But I did learn a lot of things about being Filipino – picking up Tagalog words I never hear at home, the culture — and realizing how big the community has grown.”


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