Kalayaan SF celebration wraps up in grand style | Global News

Kalayaan SF celebration wraps up in grand style


The Rigodon de Honor at the reception following the concert by Cecile Licad in San Francisco. ESTHER CHAVEZ

SAN FRANCISCO — The month-long celebration of the 118th Philippine Independence Day Commemoration concluded with a brilliant piano concert by world-renowned piano virtuoso Cecile Licad at the newly refurbished Herbst Theater of the historic War Memorial Building.

Just a week after her highly acclaimed concert with the 80-piece Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Licad continued her masterful interpretations of classical pieces by European, American and Filipino composers.


Radi Calalang, Chair of KalayaanSF said “Cecile Licad delivered a true virtuoso performance and demonstrated why she has been perched at the top of her craft for so long. Her presence, along with the amazing Kalayaan Heroes awardees who graced the gala, helped fulfill one of our most important goals: to provide inspiration to a new generation of Filipinos.”

Spark, Connect, Empower


This year’s theme, “Spark, Connect, Empower” sought to remind Filipino Americans to reach for greater heights as a community and as individuals and to connect with organizations and individuals who share the vision of empowering Filipino American communities.

Filipiniana art on display

Filipiniana art on barong of concert guest. ESTHER CHAVEZ

At the vin d’ honneur that preceded the concert, Consul General Henry S. Bensurto Jr. hosted a dozen or more diplomatic delegates and community leaders. He toasted the strides made by the Philippines since a hundred years ago, the strong bond between the US and the Philippines now on its 70th year, the recent approval of a distinct Filipino Cultural Heritage District in San Francisco’s SOMA (South of Market) neighborhood and the burgeoning popularity of Filipino cuisine, cultural events and the arts.

Bensurto also noted the “sacrifices of our modern day heroes” — overseas Filipinos, who have found success in their respective fields and have projected a positive image of the Philippines globally and who have been giving back to their motherland.

“Today, we can finally say that the Philippines has lived up to its potential, with its unprecedented economic growth and confidence from the international community. More than ever, we Filipinos, whether in the Philippines or abroad, need to invoke the spirit of community and patriotism that was present in the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986,” Bensurto stated.


ConGen and Mrs. Bensurto with Cecile Licad and guests

Consul General Henry Bensurto (center) with Cecile Licad (fourth from right) and various guests. ESTHER CHAVEZ

A gala reception followed the Licad concert and the first order of the evening was the performance of the traditional Spanish-influenced Rigodon de Honor led by Consul General Bensurto and Mrs. Mariza Bensurto, and joined by eight other couples, namely, Allen and Eric Capalla, Bernadette and Dr. Carmelo Roco, Dorie Paniza, Benjamin Enverga, Sonia Delen, Edwin Lozada, Elsie McAteer, Joseph Cowan, Wendy Andong, JR Calanoc, Marilyn Alber and Antonio Valdez. The dance was choreographed by Johnny Veloso.

Gawad Bayani awardees

2016 Gawad Bayani awardees were given their ttheir crystal trophies. Awardees were:


JEI AFRICA, Diversity Champion, director of the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) within Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) Division of the San Mateo County Health System;

ERLINDA BORROMEO, Leadership with Heart, president and co-founder of Autism Hearts Foundation (AHF) which has contributed significantly to the quality of life of those affected by autism;

JUVY BUENA BULACAN, Community Advocate, united families coordinator of the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN);


RUDY CORPUZ, Community Advocate, founder and executive director of United Playaz, a violence preventio, and leadership development organization;

CECILIA GAERLAN, Guardian of Philippine History, executive director of Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which addresses information gaps in the role of Filipino soldiers during World War II and their loss of postwar rights and benefits;

ELAINE SERINA, Engineering Leader, principal and co-founder of Talas Engineering, Inc., a nationally recognized engineering consulting firm and a leader in providing engineering expertise in the areas of accident reconstruction, biomechanics, design analysis, materials science and failure analysis;

MAJ. GEN. TONY TAGUBA (Ret.), Leadership Excellence with Integrity, he is only the second American citizen of Philippine birth to be promoted to a general officer rank in the Army. General Taguba is best known for leading the charge against war crimes at Abu Ghraib.

CORA TELLEZ, Health Care Industry Pioneer, currently president & CEO of Sterling Administration and Amazing CARE Network, Inc., focused on helping men and women redefine age.

Post-concert reception

The music-filled post-concert reception featured Classically Contempo, a duo of sisters Mikki and Nina Lim, Mathew John Ignacio, cellist, and Mathew Szemela, violinist.

Mathew Szemela, violinis with Mathey John Ignacio, cellist

Cellist Matthew John Ignacio and violinist Matthew Szemetela performing at post-concert reception. ESTHER CHAVEZ

Gourmet Filipino food was served in classy bowls and platelets from six stations. Joanna Boston and MJ Cordova Ly of the Filipino Food Movement curated the delicious spread. Participating restaurants and beverage importers were: Attic Restaurant; Coffee Adventure; Goldilocks; Hapag Pilipino; Pampanguena Cuisine; Infanta Lambanog; Kalesa; Patio Filipino; Inay; Hana Zen; Ramar Foods; Frozen Kuhsterd and Sun Tropics.

Filipino pride

KalayaanSF is now on its fourth year of promoting the visibility of Filipinos in the Bay Area by celebrating Philippine Independence Day in both public and private venues, with popular and talented artists, craftsmen and outstanding Filipino American citizens and imparting Filipino pride across generations.

San Francisco City Hall on backdrop from Green Room

San Francisco City Hall as seen from the Green Room post-concert reception venue. ESTHER CHAVEZ

The list of major corporate sponsors has been growing since the group’s founding. Main partners are TFC The Filipino Channel, Wells Fargo, Western Union, Del Monte, Philippine Airlines, Bank of the West, Omni Hotels, Panalo, DOT, Philippine Center, Macy’s, Seafood City BDO, LBC, Globe, San Francisco Manila Sister City Committee, MJM Management Group and Inquirer.net.

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