Historic Filipinotown Festival: A celebration of a community

by Gayle Gatchalian/AJPress
Two blocks of Temple St. was barely enough to contain the 6th Historic Filipinotown Festival last Saturday, August 2. Spearheaded by the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HFNC), this year’s festival has been the biggest so far and has opened its arms to embrace people of all color and creed, making it an event truly for the community at large.

Since its inception, the Festival has been drawing crowds of Filipinos from all over Southern California and beyond. The one-day extravaganza of food, culture and fun used to reside in small alleys but it proved too big to stay there for long. The festival also catered to the current residents of Filipinotown, not just its namesakes. With 65 percent Hispanic residency in the district, they had to take it to the streets. The 2008 festival provided an action-packed schedule to those who attended. About 800 runners participated in the 7:30 a.m. 5K Run/Walk followed by eleven hours of non-stop stage time. There was dancing and singing that kept the multi-cultural crowd entertained. There were carnival rides for the younger kids to enjoy and numerous booths of organizations and commercial entities active in the FilAm market. No festival would be complete without food of course and not surprisingly, food was to be found aplenty. Filipino superstar Nora Aunor graced the evening, topping off the long day’s celebration of Historic Filipinotown.

Alvaro VanEgas from Proyectos Saluda, is media chair and promoter for this year’s festival. Proyectos Saluda is actually an organization that promotes Hispanic cultures, but VanEgas could ignore the similarities between Hispanic and Filipino cultures. His involvement is paradigmatic of the inclusive, welcoming nature of the festival and Filipinos themselves. Cross-cultural sharing is an important part of the festival and the Latin component could be felt throughout the day.

“It used to be on a small community level, but now we have gone big-time with a massive campaign and plenty of sponsors,” VenEgas continued. “We want Historic Filipinotown to be a model for all other Filipino communities and this festival is the first step in a long-term project to promote the area.”

Historic Filipinotown has gone a long way since its incorporation in three years ago. The HFNC has a vision to make Historic Filipinotown, HiFi as it is fondly called, a tourist destination in the city of Los Angeles. HFNC President Cecille Ramos explained, “This is an opportunity for the community to get together, discover and embrace each other’s culture.” She added, “A miracle is happening in HiFi. Everyone is coming together, enjoying diversity and the happenings.”

HFNC was responsible for putting up the freeway signs indicating HiFi’s downtown location. Their next project involves adopting 125 city posts upon which will hang a parol, those ornamental star-like lanterns that grace every Filipino home during Christmas. Mrs. Ramos disclosed that “there’s a lot of excitement in the families we’ve spoken to and the pledges are coming in.”

The community can only look forward to more in the coming years. “We are looking into a bigger street closing, more booths and more runners for the Run/Walk,” revealed Mrs. Ramos. This one-day street party might even see another day added to its schedule.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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