The Filipino Fiesta Is Back for its 30th Year Join the Fun and Festivities

Spring, known as the season of renewal and the beginning of a new cycle of birth, carries extraordinary meaning this year when it comes to culture as the annual Filipino Fiesta (now in its 30th year) resumes after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Our Filipino community is excited and joyous over the return of our biggest celebration of the year which has been the event to showcase to all of Hawaii and to teach our own children our unique culture.

Celebrating our culture
From regional dances like the Singkil from the south to the celebrated national folk dance Tinikling, to Filipino food from pancit to lechon, history revisited from Jose Rizal’s fight for independence from Spain to Filipino World War II veterans who joined the U.S. and defended our nation’s islands-chain, and to the promotion of our various languages Tagalog, Ilocano, Bisaya, Cebuano – all that Philippines culture has to offer had been featured at one time or another in our Filipino Fiestas.

Origins of fiestas
Hawaii’s Filipino Fiesta that normally would draw about 10,000 attendees is known as one of the largest outside of the Philippines. Fiestas is plentiful in the Philippines. There are Spanish-influenced fiestas all-year-round in honor of the Santo Nino, the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. But fiestas held in Spring actually predates the arrival of the Spanish and were held (like in most of Asia) to bring good luck for a bountiful harvest year as the Philippines were a largely agricultural-based economy and lifestyle back when fiestas first started hundreds of years ago.

Hawaii’s Fiesta started as a way to bring public awareness to garner support for the building of the FilCom Center, which many in the community see as a symbol of our community locally. The FilCom Center is a non-profit organization that promotes cultural, social and educational events to Hawaii’s Filipinos and community at large. It’s the largest center of its kind in the U.S. and outside of the Philippines.

This Filipino Fiesta’s theme

This year’s Filipino Fiesta will be held at the FilCom Center, Waipahu, Saturday, May 14, 10 am to 4 pm. It’s open to the public.

The theme this year is Sama-samang Muli, Sari-saring Saya (Together Again, Loads of Fun!). Fiesta is the Spanish word for celebration.

Besides culture (which can be fun) the Filipino Fiesta is also known for entertainment. Philippine stars, singers and actors have been a part of the all-day line up of entertainers during past fiestas that also include very talented amateur singers and dancers from our community. Filipino American locals who’ve made it big time as stars in national touring musicals and Broadway are also known to give surprise performances.

Family coming together for the event, reuniting with old classmates from universities or townmates from the mother country, seeing old friends from other parts of the island or the neighbor islands and mainland who are on vacation – these are all common occurrences at our fiesta. You’ll never know who you might come across during the event, which is another reason why attendees keep coming back.

Lastly, the celebration at the annual fiesta goes much deeper than the activities held on this day thoughtfully put together by hundreds of volunteers from various clubs, businesses and nonprofits.

In the process of acculturation, generationally or even as immigrants, there is often a gradual erosion of self-identity, erosion of our inherited identity as Filipinos.

At its worse form of manifestation, our youth talk of feeling estranged from their parents’ culture. Or in communities where Filipinos are an extreme minority, they commonly describe feeling alienated, even ashamed for being different, experience discrimination, and grow up with varying degrees of self-loathing.

The annual Filipino Fiesta does wonders to instill pride in our heritage and give our youth a sense of belonging to be among thousands of others who are like them. They get to hear from prominent role models expressing how important their ethnicity has been for them; and for some, it has served as a driving force to achieve personal goals.

At the very least, events such as our Filipino Fiesta slows down this erosion of ethnic identity by giving our youth more exposure to our culture outside of the family setting. It helps to spark curiosity and interest for our youth to reconnect to our ancestral roots. This is one reason why the Fiesta has always been a popular family event.

Cultivating ethnic pride and perpetuating our culture require work and effort. We cannot kid ourselves into thinking it just happens especially in our modern, fast-paced world with influences coming from and pulling us in all directions.

The pandemic has disrupted this community tradition that many Filipinos say they’ve regularly attended. Like other festivals that take place annually on Oahu, the Filipino Fiesta’s first year back from the pandemic could be slower than usual.

It’s important to rebuild and make the event fun, exciting and an attraction once again. We cannot take for granted that the Fiesta’s past success is guaranteed in the post-pandemic era.

Don’t let a fear of large crowds scare you off. Such events like the Fiesta are already approved by the CDC and if you must take extra precaution, it’s perfectly fine to wear a facial mask and practice social distancing. We hope to see you there.

Mabuhay to the FilCom Center and organizers of the 30th Filipino Fiesta.

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