As part of Chicago’s Neighborhoods of the World series, a nine week event that celebrates the diverse communities of the city, the local Filipino community celebrated Piyesta Pinoy in late March. The event, now in its fifth consecutive year, drew tourists and locals to enjoy the rich heritage and culture of the Philippines. In partnership with the Philippine Consulate General of Chicago and the Philippine American Cultural Foundation, the celebration was held at Navy Pier, one of the top tourist destinations in the heart of downtown Chicago. The celebration included contemporary and folk music and dance performances, authentic Filipino cuisine, and cultural activities. Student groups from schools across Illinois also took part, such as University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Barkada and Loyola University Kapwa Cultural, winners of the 2016 Battle of the Bamboos, a Filipino dance competition for schools in Chicago and the Midwest.
Illinois has the third largest Filipino population in the US after California and Hawai'i, and Filipinos comprise the fourth largest group of Asians in Chicago, with more than 130,000 living in the metropolitan area. Among immigrants to the US from the ASEAN countries, Filipinos also are the largest group choosing to become naturalized US citizens. In part because of the state’s large Filipino population, another festival in June will be held in Bolingbrook, Illinois to celebrate Philippine Independence Day for the third consecutive year, having drawn thousands of attendees in years past.
With the potential to further grow Illinois’ ties to the region, Philippine Airlines is considering San Diego and Texas as potential new routes, with Chicago seen as a future target. In March, they launched a new service from Cebu to Los Angeles, adding to existing services between Manila and Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Honolulu, and Guam. Even without a direct flight of its own, Illinois earns over $151 million in spending by visitors from ASEAN, putting it in the top 10 among all US states.
Besides tourists, the Windy City has also been a destination for high-level political visits from the Philippines, including by President Benigo S. Aquino III in May of 2015, at which time he met with Mayor Emanuel, business groups, and members of the local Filipino community.
Janny Jang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at American University.