Philippines flag

New York City Celebrates Philippine Independence Day for the 34th Year


Lively festivities filled the streets of New York City on June 2nd as it celebrated the 126th anniversary of Philippine independence from Spain. The city’s 34th annual celebration reflected the thriving Filipino community in the tri-state area, and the country’s long search for independence.

In New York City, the first Sunday of June and 10 blocks of Madison Avenue are reserved for the largest Philippine Independence Day celebration outside of the Philippines. The Philippine Independence Day Council organized this year’s parade in collaboration with the Philippine Consulate General of New York, with the theme “Preserving Our Filipino Culture and History to Unite Generations”.

The Spanish colonization of the Philippines began in 1565 and lasted until June 12, 1898, when Spain ceded the Philippine colony to the United States after the Spanish-American War. The Philippines did not gain independence from the United States until July 4th, 1946. Thus, July 4th was the traditional Philippine Independence Day until President Diosdado Macapagal changed it to June 12th in 1964. Today, Philippine Independence is celebrated around the world by the diaspora, with food, music, and dance.

The New York City celebration began at the Philippine Center with a flag-raising ceremony followed by Independence Mass officiated by the Most Reverend Efren V. Esmilla, the first Filipino Bishop of Philadelphia. Soon after, around 135 floats, organizations, and marching bands took to the streets of Manhattan showcasing Filipino culture. With a crowd of around 100,000 people, the streets were filled with vibrant colors of floats, flags, banners, and traditional clothing. Food stalls lined the streets serving Filipino food from various regions.

Notable performances included singer Nonoy Zuñiga and vocal group 4th Impact. The Philippine Province of Misamis Oriental brought 80 dancers to perform the Kuyamis Festival dance. This is only the second time that the parade featured local government units from the Philippines.

As of 2019, metropolitan New York City is home to almost 250 thousand Filipinos, making it the city with the third highest Filipino population in the United States behind Los Angeles and San Francisco. As the Filipino population in the tri-state area continues to grow, so does their political importance. This was made apparent with the presence of various state and local officials and first-time Filipino representation in local government offices.

US Senator Chuck Schumer joined the parade, alongside New York State Assembly Member Steven Raga, New Jersey Mayor Arvin Amatorio, and Pennsylvania Mayor Peter Urscheler. Mayor Amatorio is a Filipino immigrant currently serving as the Mayor of Bergenfield, New Jersey. Bergenfield, only 14 miles from New York City, is home to about 5,000 Filipinos. Assemblymember Raga is the first Filipino American elected to the New York State Assembly serving the area where Little Manila Avenue is located.

Senator Schumer commended the Filipino people for their work ethic, love for family, and care for education. In the 2018 and 2020 elections, record increases in Asian American and Pacific Islander voter turnout has made the Filipino community increasingly important.

As Philippine Independence Day celebrations end around the globe, Filipino culture persists. The New York City Philippine Independence Day Parade is a yearly reminder of the strong presence of the Filipino diaspora in the United States.

Nissa Dotson is a Summer 2024 Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington DC and an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia studying Political Science and International Affairs.