A day of pride for Fil-Ams in the San Francisco Bay Area
Bay Area fans brave the heat of the sun to watch their favorite performers Martin Nievera and Lani Misalucha onstage at the Kalayaan 2016 in Union Square in San Francisco. JUN NUCUM
SAN FRANCISCO — “Fantastic, fantastic!!! This is a good celebration for all Filipinos in the Bay Area and the whole United States for that matter. I feel very good. Ang sarap maging Pilipino!” the euphoric Consul-General Henry Bensurto Jr. exclaimed as the almost whole-day Philippine Independence Day festivity neared conclusion.
Filipino Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area on June 12 celebrated Philippine Independence Day once again with a bang, capped by the anticipated concert by “Philippine Concert King” Martin Nievera and “Asia’s Nightingale” Lani Misalucha at Union Square in San Francisco.
The festivity also featured Gawad Bayani awards that were conferred on eight “Kalayaan 2016 heroes.”
Kalayaan San Francisco event Chairman Conrado Radi Calalang observed that the crowd doubled in size this year.
“Every year we get bigger and stronger, every year as designed. I am very happy there is more participation. There is a lot more traction now. I think as we do this every year we are learning in providing a better show, a better festival for everyone. I look forward to next year and the year after that and we will even make it better,” Calalang beamed.
Nievera and Misalucha kept their audience jubilantly on their feet, singing along with their every song both slow and fast, just as Nievera had promised in an earlier press conference to make everyone yearn for the things that reminded them of home through their songs.
In the same press event, Filipino World War II veterans benefit and recognition advocate U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba (Ret.) reminded everyone that “we would not be celebrating our Kalayaan day today if not for the sacrifices of the World War II Filipino veterans.”
WATCH: Kalayaan SF 2016 festivity, San Francisco Union Square. VIC VALBUENA BARENG
“I want to thank the veterans because we owe them a debt of gratitude. Of the 260,000 who fought during the war where 60,000 of them died and many of them who were missing in action. I personally would want to dedicate my honor to them as those who died before us literally deserve our future as well,” stated Taguba.
”Do good for our country whether you are in the Philippines or in the United States as in service to nation, God comes to mind… So for our youngsters, if you don’t know what citizenship is all about, it is how you serve your country in whatever capacity and profession you want to be. It is for our future.”
Taguba is one of the eight recipients of the Gawad Bayani award of Kalayaan 2016 that also included:
Cecilia I. Gaerlan, founder and executive director of Bataan Legacy Historical Society, the organization that addresses the lack of information about the role of the Filipinos during World War II in the Philippines and seeks justice for the Filipino veterans whose benefits were rescinded in 1946;
Cora Tellez, founding president and CEO of Sterling Administration who in 2015 began Amazing CARE Network, Inc., services, which include savings accounts geared to setting funds aside to pay for services not covered by long term care insurance or Medicare, among others;
Erlinda Borromeo conceived and co-founded the Autism Network for Global Education and Lifelong Support (ANGELS), an inclusive community based center, which serves children and adults on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) along with their families and caregivers;
Elaine R. Serina, Ph.D., P.E., is a principal and co-founder of Talas Engineering, Inc., a nationally recognized engineering consulting firm and a leader in providing engineering expertise;
Dr. Jei Africa who has committed his career to building mental health systems that are accessible and responsive to the diverse needs of all communities;
Juvy Buena-Bulacan, a Filipina immigrant who has made it her life’s work to become a community advocate for seniors and women;
Rudy Corpuz Jr., a former felon who founded and is also the executive director of United Playaz, a violence prevention and leadership development organization.
“For this year and the next five years, our theme is to spark, connect and empower. We are trying to spark that Filipino heritage in the hearts of every Filipino. The seeds are there but we need to have the seeds grow. We have to be able to pass this on to the next generations and we have to make sure that we reach and connect to ensure that that spirit will live not only for the next 70 years but also beyond that,” Bensurto emphasized.
Calalang recalled that Kalayaan San Francisco celebration was born five years ago after Filipino community leaders along with the Filipino Consulate General realized that the community was vastly unrepresented in the U.S. and underrepresented even in California where they are the largest Asian American ethnic group.
“There are 3.5 million Filipinos all over U.S, half of them or 1.7 million are in California. Half of these are in the Bay Area where there are more than half a million Filipinos. But most of the ethnic groups don’t realize that Filipinos have made big strides for California. We have made reforms for California and they don’t realize that. We have to make that known. We have to tell them our stories,” stressed Calalang.
Among the performers, long-time Bay Area resident Nievera confided that it doesn’t feel work when he comes to entertain Filipinos when he comes over but rather more as homecoming.
“I think the Filipinos are a blessing to the world, regardless of what it is that they do. They brought the Philippine heritage, customs, values, the way Filipinos worship, love each other, treat each other. I think of Filipino as a soldier (who is a hero) when they are not in their country, their own comfort zone,” Nievera disclosed. “It is a big feather in my cap I feel honored and humbled to be singing in front of people who I admire for leaving their families back home to seek greener pastures.”
Misalucha urged everyone that as heroes in their own little way, Filipinos have to show their adoptive country that they can be good citizens. “We can actually bring out whatever talent, skills we have to be able to contribute to the community.”
She added, “We are so honored and grateful that Martin and I were the ones chosen in both the east coast and west coast to perform for the Kalayaan celebration. We are very happy to be able to perform for all of them.
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