New York City’s bustling Madison Avenue took on a new life on June 7 as celebrations were held to observe the Philippines’ 117th year as an independent nation.The event, put on annually by the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc., commemorated its 25th year as one of the nation’s largest Philippine Independence Day celebrations, drawing a massive crowd of around 100,000 people. Hundreds of local organizations paraded through the street, with performing groups in colorful garb also marching. Famed Filipina singer Sylvia La Torre headlined a program that was held after the parade, with US Senator Chuck Schumer also speaking to the crowd, praising the Filipino-American community’s contributions to the city and state of New York.
As of 2011, the New York metropolitan area was home to at least 150,000 Filipino-Americans, with the largest concentration centered in Queens, which is home to an array of Filipino-owned stores and restaurants. In May, New York City celebrated its Filipino-American community as part of Asia Pacific American Heritage Month by hosting the city’s 36th Annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Festival in Chinatown.
Apart from cultural ties, New York and the Philippines possess robust trade and political ties. Recognizing the incredible size of New York’s economy and the city’s position as a focal point within the US Northeast region, the Philippine government maintains a consulate in Manhattan, as well as offices that house the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and the Department of Trade and Industry. Consular officials regularly hold cultural events and other forums in the city for Filipino-Americans living in surrounding areas, including a recent briefing on the reform policies of Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
While the various events commemorating Philippine Independence Day, which is officially observed on June 12, are finished, New York’s Filipino community now looks forward to Filipino American Heritage Month, which is celebrated in October.
Patrick Madaj is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma.