1:17 pm | Thursday, June 6th, 2013
NEW YORK—The city was having one of those hot and humid Sundays when the air was at its driest and the heat of the sun was punishing, unless you were in a park under a shady elm tree waiting for the big Philippine Independence Day parade.
Schoolteacher Catherine Ranili from Brooklyn didn’t mind the heat at all last Sunday, June 2. She was on Madison Avenue to watch her idol Sharon Cuneta perform live for what seemed to be the largest Philippine Independence Day celebration ever, with a crowd that at times grew to more than 80,000.
“I grew up with her songs,” she told the INQUIRER.net.
Cuneta of TV 5 was among the showbiz celebrities that graced the event and gave it luster. With her were Aga Muhlach and Derek Ramsay.
Wearing a black suit, the Megastar was all sweat as she sang Rey Valera’s “Kahit Maputi Na Ang Buhok Ko.” Senator Bong Revilla of GMA Pinoy TV performed the same song after TV 5’s segment. The three networks shared one stage and had their show one at a time.
Thousands cheered as Cuneta kicked off the parade’s four-hour musical program. She apologized for causing the parade’s delay, saying her limo was snarled in traffic as they headed to the assembly area.
This year’s celebration was unprecedented. The Philippines’ top three television networks offered their talents for the parade.
Actor Rafael Rosell of GMA praised Ambassador Mario de Leon and the parade organizers ending the practice of one network exclusively sponsoring the parade.
“Maganda po itong ginagawa ninyo na pinagsama-sama ninyo kami lahat, lahat ng TV networks,” Rosell said during a meet-and-greet at the consulate.
“It’s this one day in New York that we can shout altogether ‘I’m proud to be Pinoy!’ and show to the world that Filipinos have a great sense of solidarity and camaraderie. That no matter who you work for or what you believe in, we can be united as one,” said Grace Labaguis, marketing consultant for GMA International.
Floats and marchers
The parade featured colorful floats from various community organizations. Leading the parade were Ambassador de Leon, two-time Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDC) president Fe Martinez. Founded in 1990, PIDC is the organizer of this, the largest Independence Day gathering outside the Philippines.
Joining Martinez were Sen. Chiz Escudero and girlfriend Heart Evangelista, celebrities Gary Valenciano of TFC, GMA’s Marian Rivera, Rosell, Sen. Revilla. From TV 5 came Cuneta, Muhlach and Ramsay. The masked-and-plumed Dinagyang Street Dancers from Iloilo City provided the tempo and color.
Judges gave the marchers grand prize to Bacolod City Masskara NY Edition, with Bibak as first runner-up and Kiding Sindaw Melayu Heritage, second runner-up.
The Floats Category grand prize went to the Filipino Social Club of New York, with Kapampangan Foundation as first runner up and Philippine Fiesta U.S.A., Inc., second runner up. The Dinagyang Festival Group of Ilo-Ilo was given a special participation award.
Littered with barbecue sticks and plastic glasses with the remains of melted halo-halo, Madison Square Park was full of the aroma of grilled barbecue.
Families shared food from plastic plates and cardboard boxes. Some were seated on benches others sprawled on the hot pavement. It was a picnic. Small children wore patriotic T-shirts, and some lolos and lolas held umbrellas while dancing to a finale concert by TFC’s Valenciano.
As in any other public events, celebration organizer PIDC met a number of hurdles this year, including serious funding problems. But the commitment to celebrate together as one strong force of Filipino presence in the U.S. was evident during the celebration.
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