bridges. They also do regular cleanings, whitenings, fillings, extractions and root canal therapy.
Among this year’s exhibitors are AARP Hawaii, Aerotek, Argosy University, Atlas Express Padala, EneGence (Lipsense), Estherbrook, Inc. (Salad Master), Globe/GTI Corporation 8 T-Mobile, and Valley of the Temples.
AARP Hawaii has been a part of the fiesta since 2013. “The focus of our participation at the Filipino Fiesta has been on increasing our relevance to Filipinos by providing information about legislative advocacy issues and free resource materials to help them understand public benefits like Social Security and Medicare, and ways to avoid fraud, and to care for their family members,” said Toy Arre, member of AARP Hawaii’s Executive Council.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older.
“In previous years, we’ve been part of the group in the community services tent. This year, we are renting our own tent in order to see if we can engage more people in looking at our information and discussing our issues,” said Arre, who also served as President and COO of the FilCom Center, Inc. from 2004-2012.
Significance of the Filipino Fiesta
For Honolulu city employee Evangeline Endrina, the fiesta “represents our community’s unity. It’s an opportunity for Filipinos living away from the Philippines to come together.”
For Endrina, food is an integral part of cultural sharing, so what better way is there to share Filipino culture at the fiesta than to present authentic Filipino dishes. She has participated in the fiesta since 2004. She said her Lasang Pilipinas booth serves “100 percent Filipino dishes that every Filipino can find in a fiesta back in the Philippines.” While Endrina will not be putting up a food booth this year, she says she’ll be back next year to share specialty dishes such as relenong bangus, kare-kare, afritada and caldereta. She also cooks street food such as fishball, kwek-kwek, and arroz caldo.
“I cook each dish homemade style with fresh ingredients. I do not have a big food inventory but my food is sold out at the end of the day. People line up by yards for my food,” she said.
The fiesta also brings back fond memories of her mother. Endrina recalls her most memorable fiesta was in 2004, the last time her mother helped her at the Lasang Pilipinas food booth. Her mom later passed on in 2006.
For Melody Calisay, past President of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Hawaii (UPAAH), the fiesta serves as a gathering place to meet new people and old friends that she hasn’t seen in a long time. “For UPAAH, it is always a place to find a new member, either new to Hawaii, or those who doesn't know UPAAH exists.”
Calisay is also president and owner of East West Marketing Inc., an importer/wholesaler of Filipino food products to the U.S. “Last year’s fiesta, UPAAH showcased a sari-sari store (typically found in the Philippines) where we displayed all kinds of Filipino food products. Even non-Filipinos were surprised with the varieties of food products we have. One of the biggest attractions in our booth was the gugo shampoo made from Gugo bark. People were surprised that gugo bark still exists,” she said.
Like Endrina who used to attend the event with her mother while she was still alive, to Calisay, the fiesta is a family event. “I always take my grandnephew with me to the event every year, so that he can learn about the different places, food, dance and dialects within the Philippines.”
Fiesta-goers once again can learn about the diversity of the Philippines at the cultural booths. Local Filipino clubs will present educational and cultural displays that represent the Cordillera, Ilocos (Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur), Mindanao, Pangasinan, Tagalog, and Visayas regions. The clubs organizing the cultural booths are BIBAK Hawaii, the Filipino-American Historical Society of Hawaii (FAHSOH), Ilocos Norte College of Arts and Trades (INCA), Ilocos Surian Association of Hawaii (ISAH), Dabawenyos, Urdaneta/San Manuel, Philippine Cultural Foundation of Hawaii, Bulacan Circle Associates Hawaii (BCAH), Aklanon, Congress of Visayan Organizations (COVO), Cebuano, Balaan-Catalina. The Philippine Consulate General of Honolulu will also have a booth.
How the fiesta got started
“Twenty-five years ago, I saw a Thai Festival at Kapiolani Park and told myself that we Filipinos love fiestas; and yet, we don’t have one. So, I called several of my friends from the Filipino Chamber and we started to organize the first Filipino Fiesta at Kapiolani Park. The next year, I decided to have a Filipino Parade on Kalakaua. That was the first Filipino Parade for us,” Flores recalls.
Each year Flores, president of L&L Drive-Inn, dedicates his marketing staff to promoting the event. But the coordination and production is spearheaded by the FilCom Center, Inc.
One of the reasons the Filipino Fiesta was created was to help raise public awareness and support for the completion of the FilCom Center. The Center eventually became a reality and opened its doors almost 10 years after the first Filipino Fiesta in May 1993.
Roland Casamina, the first president of the FilCom Center, Inc. said having a fiesta was part of the overall strategy of the FilCom Center. “We visited the Okinawa Center and they suggested that we do a festival like the Okinawans do each year (to help support their Center). The late Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Mario Ramil, who at the time was the vice-president of the FilCom, Inc., spearheaded the meetings with the Okinawans. When Ramil was appointed judge, I recruited Eddie Flores to join me to coordinate with the community. It was a perfect fit since we talked about having a festival. Since Eddie had already organized a group, we merged the groups together,” said Casamina.
Twenty-five years later, the Filipino Fiesta is still going strong, putting smiles on faces and helping to unite our community. Organizers say let’s keep this tradition alive and come celebrate the Filipino Fiesta’s 25th anniversary.