Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Alvin Christopher Galang Varquez

Philippine Fiesta Shines in Yokohama
by Alvin Christopher Galang Varquez

It was a gloomy Saturday morning at the historical Yamashita Park with no sun in sight. Occasional rainfall was expected throughout the weekend according to weather forecast. In spite of the permanent and distressing weather projected for September 1 and 2, the energy could be felt growing across the area. Thanks to the event organizers, the booths, field, and stage were already set-up and decorated. Most of the designs used for publicity, the souvenir program and shirts, the mascots, and the stage were created by the famous Filipino artist in Japan, Mr. Dennis Sun. The bustling and excited Filipinos, devoted to the event's success, came early to get to their position. Music could be heard building up from the stage, where a test performance was conducted. The aroma of fresh traditional Filipino food from the stalls could be savored from a distance. Souvenir and commercial goods and services opening up for the long-awaited day. The Barrio Fiesta was about to begin.

The Barrio Fiesta, commonly celebrated as a devotion to Patron Saints in the Philippines, was brought to life at Yokohama city. Thanks to the united efforts of the Filipino community in Japan, Yokohama City, Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan. Yokohama is the place with the longest shared history between Philippines and Japan. In fact, the highlight of the first day was the commemoration of Gen. Artemio Ricarte (1866-1945). The Philippine revolution hero lived in exile at Yokohama during the early 1900's. During the event, his humble monument was adorned with fresh colorful flowers laid out similar to the Philippine flag. Along with the VIPs coming from the sponsoring units, special guests - such as  Mayor Fumiko Hayashi from the Yokohama local government and Hon. Manuel M. Lopez, the Philippine Ambassador to Japan - graced the occasion with their presence.

Although the celebration differed from the original barrio fiesta in many ways, the event brought about one of the fiesta's purpose which was to provide a venue for Filipinos in Japan to unwind and reminisce of home. Yokohama being a popular place for excursions and tourists, Japanese, foreigners, and even curious bystanders also joined the festivities. Thus, the beauty of Filipino culture was also introduced to the world and was covered by local and Philippine media partners.

There were 11 food stalls, 41 commercial booths, and 4 special food stalls. Food served covered a wide variety of indigenous and modern Filipino cuisines. Among the favorites were the pansit palabok, pork sisig, leche flan, barbeque (or BBQ), and tropical fruit drinks like mango, coconut, calamansi. Like all fiestas, San Miguel beer and local Japanese alcoholic beverages were also popular among visitors.

A cultural parade showca-sing the year-round major parades of the Philippines was conducted in the morning. The cultural parade featured the "Higantes" (Spanish for Giant) festival and the "Flores de Mayo (Spanish for Flowers of May)" or the "Santa Cruzan". Two astounding multi-colored 12-feet height giant mascots, donated by Western Union, led the parade. Following them were the Filipino women dancing in their vibrant traditional costumes accompanied by native instruments. It ended with the "Flores de Mayo". The flow highlighted the Filipino/ Filipino-Japanese young women wearing delightful traditional dresses, such as the Baro't Saya, carrying with them floral offerings and symbols each representing tributes to Catholic saints and the Virgin Mary. The inaugural cultural parade was conducted during both days and was among the unique attractions of the festival.

While the shops were busy cooking their appetizing meals, the bustling visitors rushed for their seats near the stage to cheer and enjoy the performances of the talented Filipino Japan-based artists and talents. The performances comprised of the UTAWIT Champions, Magkantahan Tayo Artists, Allison Opaon, Carol Inagaki, John Alejandro, The Abraenians, Jazz Ramirez, Regz, Rex Angeles, Jenny Nishimura, and Charito. UTAWIT is a nationwide singing competition event conducted in Japan. Later in the afternoon, Filipino celebrities, fresh from the Philippines, swept the audience off their feet with their hilarious jokes and soft serenades. The celebrity guests who came were Giselle Sanchez, Ariel Rivera, Christopher de Leon, Lovi Poe, Allan K, and Pops Fernandez.

A lot was also happening around Yamashita Park while the program was going on. Thanks to the indigenous animals designed by the official Barrio Fiesta designer, Dennis Sun, mascots and give-aways were prepared which served as an added appeal for the minors who came with their parents. Photographs were allowed to be taken with the adorable mascots and the "higantes" as souvenirs. The characters were "dugong", "tarsius", "tamaraw", and "haribon".

Patterned after the traditional barrio fiesta, a thanksgiving and anticipated Mass was held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Saturday night. The solemn Mass was also offered to commemorate the good deeds and teachings of Sec. Jesse Robredo, former secretary of the Philippine's Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), who recently passed away from a tragic plane accident.

On the second day, around 3PM, kids were invited to join the sack race and the egg race. The sack race is a popular festival game in the Philippines wherein people have to outrun others as individuals or in groups with their legs in sacks, similar to the ones used to contain harvested bigas (Tagalog for rice). The egg race is another game wherein people have to compete with chicken eggs placed on spoons. Influenced by Spain, spoon and fork are the common eating utensils in the Phil. For the kids’ safety and sanitation, golf balls were used instead. The winners were given trophies care of Tina Hazama and Samahang Pilipino.

The event was highly supported by the embassy with Consul Hans Mohaimin L. Siriban as the acting Philippine Barrio Fiesta 2012 secretariat, and the rest of the consuls as committee advisers. The Barrio Fiesta was all under the close supervision and guidance of Minister and Consul-General Marian Jocelyn R. Tirol-Ignacio and Hon. Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez. The Philippine Barrio Fiesta 2012 chairperson was Ms. Jenavilla B. Shigemizu. The Philippine Barrio Fiesta 2012 coordinator was Ms. Joyce V. Ogawa.

This year's Philippine Barrio Fiesta 2012 was indeed an uplifting and remarkable sight. In the end, the participants, aloof to the bad weather, brought the sunshine into the park with their spirit of nationalism and pride for their motherland, Philippines.

For those who missed it, please visit the official Philippine Barrio Fiesta 2012 for more photos.

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