Celebrating Independence Day away from the Philippines
For Filipinos living abroad, the mere hint of home is enough to make them smile. Meeting up with a kababayan, cooking sinigang at home and drinking Filipino beer are just some of the things many OFWs take pleasure in.
Perhaps that is why every June 12, when the Philippines celebrates Independence Day, Filipinos from all over the world join in on the fun as well. This national holiday ties us to our country’s history and culture, wherever we might be.
If you ever find yourself in these places this month, you’re in luck. On specific dates in June, these foreign sites give way for Philippine festivities. They become temporary homes to hundreds of Filipino
migrants and workers. From a picnic to a concert, check out how Pinoys abroad celebrate our country’s fight for freedom.
Madison Avenue, New York
One of the most popular roads in the United States, Madison Avenue becomes Philippine territory every first Sunday of June. Thousands of spectators, Filipinos and foreigners alike, partake in a colorful and grand celebration of
Filipino culture and tradition.
The event includes a pageant called Diwa ng Kalayaan, a public Ball, the Grand Marshall Gala, and the most anticipated activity of them all—a cultural parade.
A tradition which began in 1990, the annual celebration started out as an effort to
encourage Filipinos and Filipino-Americans to explore and showcase their native roots. The Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. (PDIC) was formed to take charge of the festival planning. Nowadays, the event has become a joyous affair that most New Yorkers look forward to.
During the parade proper, Philippine flags are waved around by children in costumes. Philippine festivals such as the Sinulog of Cebu are replicated in a lively sashay of masks and glitter. Decorative floats glide across the streets, carrying Filipino celebrities and pageant winners. Filipino performers breathe life and music into Madison Avenue, transforming a New York landmark into a temporary concert venue.
In 2016, a distinct Filipino icon made a surprising appearance on the streets of New York during the parade: the Philippine jeepney. The beloved Pinoy icon was brought in by Apl.de.ap, a Filipino-American singer and one of the festival’s performers.
Who knows what else the Filipino community of New York will come up with during the festivities in the years to come?
Spaarnwoude Houtrak, Halfweg
Situated in the Netherlands, the Spaarnwoude Houtrak is this year’s host for the annual Philippine Independence Day Picnic (Iday). Organized by the non-profit organization Kalayaan Fiesta Foundation (KFFI), the goal of the celebration goes beyond promotion of Filipino culture.
It supports charity causes and invites everyone who belongs to or is curious about the Filipino community in the Netherlands. As discussed on KFFI’s Facebook page, “participation to Iday is not bound by ethnicity, religion, or gender.” It invites the world to celebrate the joy of being a Filipino.
This year’s celebration is scheduled to be held today, June 8. Various activities are lined up for the celebration. There is a stall dress-up contest, a Cordillera ethnic dance performance, a Zumba demo and
exciting games from sponsor companies. Visitors may also avail themselves of Pinoy delicacies sold in the Netherlands such as Luneta Ice Cream and Pinoy Kitchen meat products. Pinoy restaurants such as Baryo Pilipinas will also offer crispy pata and halo-halo, treats for Pinoys yearning for a taste of home.
The annual festival is somewhat comparable to the excitement of the Coachella Festival and the Burning Man Festival of the US. Though smaller in size, this picnic transforms a European venue into Philippine grounds for a day. It’s a fun-filled affair that brings the Philippines to those who miss it.
Various places in United Arab Emirates
Catering to many OFWS, UAE hosts numerous celebrations of Philippine Independence Day across seven states.
In Abu Dhabi, the Bayanihan Council organizes the annual festivities. For this year, the celebration will take place at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater Theater on June 21. Activities to be expected include Himig Pinoy (a singing competition) and Mutya ng Kasarinlan (a beauty contest). In addition, photography and art competitions will be held to showcase Pinoy talents.
To kick off the celebration, the Kabayan Beach Fiesta would be held in partnership with Yas Waterworld, a popular attraction in the area. Filipinos would be given a discounted price of Dh55 per head to enjoy the park’s rides, slides and attractions. The park will also host a number of cultural performances, a Karaoke club, and sari-sari stores.
In Dubai, Filipinos celebrate Independence Day with a grand motorcade, a job fair, a beauty pageant, a battle of the bands, a dance competition, and a fruit, vegetable and chocolate carving competition.
Entertainers from the Philippines also perform in the celebration. Moreover, games are held during the celebration, which raffle off exciting prizes such as airline tickets to the Philippines.
In support of the festivities, the Dubai Parks and Resorts offers discounted prices to three theme parks for Filipinos. From the original price of Dh175 to Dh245 for the entrance fee, Pinoys would get to enjoy the theme parks of Legoland, Motiongate and Bollywood Parks for only Dh39. The lower rates will apply from June 12 to June 15 in commemoration of Philippine Independence Day.
This coming Independence Day, be thankful for your Filipino roots, wherever the holiday might catch you. Beyond our freedom from colonizers, the holiday reminds us of our struggles and strengths, whether as a revolutionary fighting in war or an OFW battling to survive in foreign land.
Even if you find yourself away from home on June 12, may the celebrations remind you that the Pinoy spirit will always dwell in your blood.
Happy Independence Day!
Sources: kffn.nl; dubaiofw.com; filipinotimes.net; Kagoikunai via Wikimedia Commons; Photo via the Kalayaan Fiesta Foundation FB page; Jeremy Thompson via flickr.com; Philippine Independence Day Dubai and UAE FB page; Philippine Independence Day Council FB Page