Finding home in a tightly-knit Fil-Am community

By: Cheryl Marcelo, Managing Editor | Food, media, language–all are excellent avenues to connect to one’s roots. However, these tangible pieces of culture are not the sole thresholds cheryl thumbnailinto triggering feelings of nostalgia for one’s mother country; more effectively, it’s the people–the interactions between folks from the same city or province, the reactions to familiar songs and dances, the practice of traditions of centuries past–that give culture its life, power and longevity.

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The Philippine Independence Ball last Friday, June 14th showcased such life and power within the Filipino American community. Beautiful filipiñanas and barongs filled the Westin Hotel with a distinctly Filipino aesthetic, and the presence of dignified Filipino American organizations and officials set the atmosphere for the rest of night–one full of honor, elegance and celebration for the 115th anniversary of our country’s independence.

The night was a testament to both our constant yearning for reconnecting to the Philippines and  the impact of FECGP within the Filipino American community. I was honored to have introduced His Excellency Consul General Mario De Leon to address the room, to have listened to the artistic power of Mr. Boots Benitez’s poetry, to have witnessed the celebration of Mr. Freddy Panes’ accomplishments, and to have experienced the gravitational pull of the dance floor as everyone line-danced and ballroom-danced the night away.

arrow green with textMost importantly, I was proud to see other young Filipino Americans embracing our culture: from Joanne Mantilla’s beautiful rendition of the U.S. and Philippine national anthems, to Bb. Pilipinas 2012 Ana Katrina Guerrero’s and 2013 Lara Angelica Mabanta’s representation of young Filipinas with poise and countless accomplishments, to the Mutya Philippine Dance Company’s graceful dancing to traditional Filipino music. My generation’s interests in celebrating and promoting Filipino culture gives me great hope for the continued presence of the Filipino American community in the Greater Philadelphia area.

As the evening came to a close, I reflected on why FECGP continues to have successful events like the Philippine Independence Ball. As I saw people leaving, carrying their souvenirs of beautiful floral arrangements, I realized that after each event, everyone also takes another kind of memento, something more long-lasting, yet intangible:

  • for the first-generation who yearn for a piece of the motherland–a night of reconnecting with old friends and familiar traditions
  • for the second-generation who have never set foot in the Philippines–a warm, inviting sense of a familiar place thousands of miles away;
  • and for me, a 1.5-generation trying to find a close, tight-knit community of fellow Filipinos and Filipino Americans–a home.

Thank you to the all the members of FECGP, especially President Hermie Aczon, for working tirelessly to create such events as the Philippine Independence Ball; to all the attendees for celebrating the night with such fun, energy and dancing; last but not least, to my fellow young Filipino Americans, for paving the way for the continued thriving of our culture here in Greater Philadelphia. Maraming salamat po, at Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

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