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It's All history by Jon Malek

Manitoba Filipino Street Festival

August 24, 2013

 By Jon Malek

MFSF2Neither rain nor the prairie humidity could bring down the spirits of the second annual Filipino Street Festival. For the entire day of August 24, the corner parking lot of Garden City Mall at Leila and McPhillips became the centre of Winnipeg’s Filipino community. Even though Folklorama wrapped up just a week previous, the cultural energy of the city and of the Filipino community shined throughout the day.

Starting at 9:00 a.m. with a parade procession that took over a stretch of McPhillips, the Street Festival program began with beautiful performances of the Canadian and Philippine national anthems by the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival Choir, conducted by Azel Navarro. The morning program included speeches from Mayor Sam Katz and Senator Tobias C. Enverga, Jr. Following the release of the balloons as part of the grand opening ceremony, the first performances of the day took to the stage. There were many excellent performers throughout the day, and they all deserve honourable mention. A full list of the performers can be found on Manitoba Filipino Street Festival’s Facebook page.

The Aklan Association of Manitoba opened the first segment of the Festival with their bright costumes and lively drumming. The La Sallians dance group followed with a well-coordinated fan dance and the Association of Ilocanos of Manitoba (AIM) did a version of the Singkil dance. The composure that all the performers of the day were able to maintain in the heat as they performed their routines in full costume reflects the skill and dedication of these dance groups. After the AIM group, the Filipino Batangueno Canadian Community Association, Winnipeg Sikaran-Arnis Academy and Filipino Canadian Folk Dancing group entertained the crowd with lively performances, and the three dancers of FILCASA, who won first place for the best costume, enchanted viewers. The last two groups, Tribu Sugbu, from Cebu, and Bibak both tied for second place for best costume. The red and gold of Tribu Sugbu’s costume shimmered like sunrays in the heat as they danced and Bibak’s Cordillera-region costumes and Gangsa gongs brought the mountainous region of the Philippines to Winnipeg. After these performances, the Festival participants were treated to what might be the largest Philippine flag in North America, according to the emcee of the day. Made in the Philippines, the flag was tightly packed in a modest looking container, but as it was laid out it took up a large portion of the parking lot. Visitors were invited to grab a hold of the massive flag and wave it as photos were taken and children played underneath.

In between performances, visitors were able to browse the many tents and displays set up by a variety of participant associations. Visitors could stop by for a friendly chat with Migrante Manitoba, the Filipino youth cultural group ANAK, one of the Festival’s sponsors, or one of the regional associations present. The number of different associations reflects the diversity of regions in the Philippines that are represented in the Winnipeg Filipino community. The open nature of the Festival, whether in the parking lot or inside Garden City Mall, was inviting to members of the Winnipeg community, many of whom came to see the performances and displays.

The next set of Festival performances moved inside as the centre of the mall turned into a Glee Club and many talented singers took the stage. This portion of the Festival’s program highlighted the exceptional talent that is in the Winnipeg Filipino community, such as young singing talents, Rose Marie Tamondong, who did an excellent cover of Stars with her soaring voice, and Reynaline Gacilan, who sang Skyscraper with a strong stage presence. Yvanne Dandan gave a stirring tribute to the Philippines, dedicating her performance to the resiliency of Filipinos as they face natural calamities. As with the cultural dances in the morning, all who sang and performed in this segment of the Festival deserve praise for their excellent performances.

The program then moved back outside as the night’s entertainment began under the growing threat of rain in the distance. Azel Navarro and the Winnipeg Sikaran School of Martial Arts took to the stage before awards for best performances, costumes and tents were announced. After this, the party started. Yvanne Dandan and Tiffany Ponce, who also performed earlier, started the night with their uplifting and upbeat music. After these two performers, the band 12/21 took the stage and rocked the crowd as the rain clouds drifted in and started blessing the crowd with water from above, as the ever-positive emcees, Maui Zamora, Alyssa May de Guzman said.

As the next band, Side FX, took the stage, the rain became heavier. But did this stop the music? Of course not! The organizers put a tent over the performers and the band played on, while concert listeners huddled under tents of their own, listened from their cars, or stubbornly remained out in the rain. Side FX played through the rain, never losing their energy, and as Transfusion took the stage the rain cleared and the sun shone once more. Truly, rain or shine, the Filipino show went on! Transfusion brought a magical end to the day as they played a mix of current music and music from the 1970s, demonstrating their artistic flexibility. The energy of all performers in the final part of the Festival defied the elements and gave a memorable show. The night wrapped up on a unforgettable note, with Transfusion moving the crowd to the musical beats of the 1970s as the Queen of the Festival, Alyssa de Guzman, gave dance lessons to an excited little girl as the sun set on the musical revellers.

The second Manitoba Filipino Street Festival thus had something for everyone: cultural dances, musical performances, tents and displays, and even Filipino BBQ. Whether one stayed for an hour or the whole day, the sustained cultural energy of the day never dimmed, an excitement that is reflective of the community in Winnipeg.

Jon Malek is a PhD candidate in History at Western University, and an alumnus of the University of Manitoba (B.A., M.A. in History). He is starting a research project on the history of the Filipino community in Winnipeg.. He can be contacted at jmalek7@uwo.ca.

Photos by JP Sumbillo