By Tony A. San Juan
Festival, in whatever form and setting, readily evokes meaning and images of celebration with fun, food, faith, fellowship and festive atmosphere. The celebration really propels people in transcending and transforming all things characteristically relevant to arts & beauty, talent & skills, perspectives & peculiarities and in true bayanihan spirit of appreciating, adhering, and becoming profoundly proud of one’s culture, history and heritage. In this respect, the ever prestigious Mabuhay Philippines Festival, as the anchor event of the Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDC), is celebrating its 20th year on August 23,25 & 26, 2018 in Toronto, Canada
In 1998, the Filipino Canadian community was on the cusp of celebrating the centenary year of the Philippine’s Independence Day; our “Araw ng Kalayaari. Then Norma Carpio, a dedicated & charismatic business & community leader, thought of having the commemoration on a different perspective. She recognized that there was a great need to meet the challenge of creating a solid vehicle to showcase what is best about the Philippines and its people in a cornucopia of relevant events, shows, parade, beauty pageant, entertainment and other family friendly activities, intertwining the past and the present. Ergo, the Mabuhay Philippines Festival was born. The festival began as a private initiative spearheaded by Mrs. Carpio then when she was elected President of PIDC in the year 2000, it became the signature celebratory event of PIDC eventually gaining the reputation as the “festival of festivals”.
Over the years, PIDC had for its many celebrations, usually during the August month, offered several celebration themes: “Pinagmulan (2013), “Kulay” (2015), “Pagdiriwang” (2016) “Kasaysayan (2017) and now, “Kinabukasa. Thus, in effect PIDC has scored a several “firsts” in community events ie.
- the first to organize a multi-day event to celebrate Philippine culture:
- the first to partner with Harbourfront Centre;
- the first to organize a three-day event at Toronto City Hall and David Pecaut Square, Metro Hall;
- the first to form a street parade on its yearly celebration;
- first to hold a Filipino Festival at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre;
- the first to partner with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Toronto;
- the first to partner with ABS-CBN featuring “Kapamilaya Stars”;
- the first to organize a three-day multi-category amateur basketball tournament;
- the first to partner with Kalayaan Centre to hold a Gala and many more.
Always in the forefront, Mabuhay Philippines Festival in its many successful events and programs has received funding grants from the provincial government and has partnered in the past with community entities such as Harbourfront Centre, Toronto Dominion Bank (TD), Philippine Chamber of Commerce-Toronto, Luminus Financial, TFC & ABS- CBN North America, World Financial Group-WFG, and other generous sponsors. Past and present Festival events, are held in popular Toronto venues like the CNE- Canadian National Exhibition, Harbourfront Centre, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, David Pecaut Square, Nathan Phillips Square and Earl Bales Park
The Mabuhay Philippines Festival, as a great supporter of performing arts, also brought into Toronto leading Philippine artists and entertainers like Angeline Quinto, Jericho Rosales, Jed Madela, John Lloyd Cruz, Vina Morales, Billy Crawford, Sam Milby, Arci Munoz, Ai-Ai de las Alas, Morissette Amon, Martin Nievera and American Idol winners, such as Jessica Sanchez and Jasmine Trias and a host of celluloid celebrities. In the world of fashion, the Festival organizers have invited leading Filipino couturiers Renee Salud, Shanon Pamaong, Kenneth Barlis and Jaki Penalosa to showcase their trendy designs. Among the Filipino-Canadian based cultural groups & individuals who performed were the:
Fiesta Filipina Dance Troupe, Culture Philippines Ontario, Folklorio Filipino Canada, Philippine Heritage Band and other established and rising Fil-Can entertainers, singers, dancers, and music bands. Sharing here are testimonials from six community leaders which professed in meaningful and hearty comments of how the Festival have made an impact into the life of the Filipino Canadian community in Ontario.
Camarines Norte Association president Suzy Llanera said : “Mabuhay Philippines Festival encompasses one’s expectation in bringing people together in the Filipino-Canadian community and as well as in the mainstream. It successfully delivers its many events and activities at the highest level in showcasing and bringing the “best of the best” of the Philippines in the Canadian landscape. Not only have I felt a sense of inclusion and belonging, I have also gained many friends over the years and proud to call PIDC as my family’:
Businessman & community leader Ramon Estaris cited that the: “PIDC Mabuhay Philippines Festival does an impeccable job of capturing the essence of our people through its wonderful community displays of a culture of strength, beauty, family and love. This is what it truly means to be Filipino Canadian!”
FilCan Teachers Assn. president CielitoDrapeza: “A great community celebration of Filipino culture in Canada in a nutshell. This event embodies and showcases what our people hold dear and must be introduced to the young generation of Filipinos in ways more than one, understand and appreciate their roots’? Action Honda general manager Rafael Nebres mentioned: “PIDC’s activities since its inception were all reflective of the desire of the organizers to perpetuate the promotion of the Philippine culture, heritage, arts and charity as well, its contribution into the life of the Filipino Canadian community in Canada.
All of these I subscribe, support and will always continue to do so as a proud Filipino. Let’s us all, Filipino Canadians, continue to do so!
“Philippine Press Club-Ontario president Rose Tijam expressed: ‘As expatriate Filipinos, we always remember in our hearts the home we left. I salute every community organization and individual who make possible the celebration of our culture, heritage and history, and help raise funds for our home country and people in need’:
Federation of Filipino Canadians Ontario president Monina Serrano: “PIDC is one of many organizations that has enhanced the image of the Filipino community in Toronto. I salute the organizers, officers and members of the PIDC for their efforts in encouraging the young and the old to participate and be active in both social and sports. Keep up the good work PIDC! “
Organized in the mid to late 90’s and formerly known as Philippine Independence Day Committee, PIDC had several presidents since becoming a Council, which indudes Norma Carpio (2000-2001), Jose “Pempe” Saavedra, Jr. (2002-2005), the late Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr. (2006-2009), Luzviminda Neri (2010-2011), Norma Carpio (2012-2017), Karen Pascual- Binaday (2018-2019) and currently Ramon Estaris. Norma Carpio, is the Chairman Emeritus of Mabuhay Philippines Festival with Agnes Miranda, WFG executive vice chair, as Co-chair.
In a recent interview, Norma Carpio said that the “Mabuhay Festival is my legacy”. Creditably, it was the brainchild of Mrs. Carpio that “became a programming and planning template of many community organizations” wrote one Filipino-Canadian newspaper and likewise, the “breeding ground for community leaders, beauty queens and entertainers”. On one hand, PIDC as a quintessential, non- profit &volunteer-run organization continues to provide leadership & initiatives of moving forward in the promotion and propagation of Philippine culture, heritage, arts and charity in the hearts and minds of Filipino Canadians and mainstream Canadians.