FILIPINOS EYE SUCCESS
From Sugar Cane To Healthcare
Students at Queensboro Community College wave the flag of the Philippines. Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
By Christine Wilborne
A celebration of Immigrant History Week in New York City would not be complete without recognizing the contributions of the fourth largest Asian community in New York City.
On April 17 the Foundation for Filipino Artists hosted a Celebration of Filipino Centennial History in the United States. The evening consisted of presentations and performances as rich and diverse as the Philippine Islands themselves.
Some of the highlights of the evening included a PowerPoint presentation that educated audiences about the waves of migration of Filipinos to the United States, starting with workers who migrated from to Hawaii in 1906 to work on sugar cane plantations. The presentation ended with a look at contributions of Filipino Americans in the United States today. Traditional Filipino folk songs and dynamic renditions of old New York favorites were played by the Foundation for Filipino Artists Rondalla String Ensemble. Coloratura Soprano Lani Misenas sang “New York, New York” and “Ako Ay Pilipino” or “I am Filipino.”
Filipino Americans work in the city as doctors, lawyers, teachers and day care providers. They contribute in large numbers to the health care sector.
“The terms Filipino doctor and Filipino nurse have become synonymous with excellent care,” said Dr. Jean Labell, managing director of the Community Resources Exchange.
The program also included traditional dances from different regions of the Philippines. The dance Pan Pilpilalecan or Courtship Dance from Pangasinan featured young dancers from the Paaralang Pinoy Group. Pilat Martial Arts in Dance Form was performed by young ladies from the Kinding Sindaw Dance Group. The dancers marched across the stage in precise military time performing the martial art form accredited with winning the Philippines its Independence.
Dr. Guillermo Linares, Commissioner of the Mayors Office of Immigrant Affairs, spoke to the audience about his own challenges as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and the mission of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, to serve all immigrant New Yorkers. He expressed appreciation for the contributions that Filipino Americans make to New York City’s “beautiful colorful cloth”.
Honors were accepted on behalf of the Filipino community by Cecil Rebong, Consul General of the Philippines from the Senate and the New York City Council. The Foundation of Filipino Artists also presented Rebong with a book of traditional Filipino cloth.
The Celebration was a time to recognize Filipino American accomplishment and contribution to the New York City. It was also a time to reflect on Filipino American involvement in their future as Emil Deguzman, one of the key speakers at the event pointed out. Filipinos need to continue to value education and participate more in discussions about issues that affect them.
Labell reminded the audience that Filipino Americans are doing well in their educational and professional accomplishments. Some 94 percent of Filipino Americans in New York City graduate from high school and 84 percent have received some post secondary education. However, the entire community has a responsibility to those who need to be uplifted.
This evening represented an amazing look at the Filipino American contribution to New York City and its wonderful cultural mosaic.