Huge Crowds Enjoy the Fiesta ng Kalayaan

Colorful pavilions surround a grassy square as Tagalog and English entertainment blares from the stage from morning to night. Thousands of people mingle, enjoy the live performances and chomp on authentic Filipino food.
This was the scene at Fiesta Ng Kalayaan at Misissauga’s Celebration Square last Saturday, July 30.The festival may have been the largest outdoor gathering of Filipinos in several years.

“My measure of success is lots and lots of people,” said the chair of the Kalayaan Filipino Cultural Organization, Erlinda Olalia-Carin. Kalayaan organized this event in partnership with Fiesta Filipino Dance Troupe. “We are in the middle of the sweltering heat and there’s tons of people,” she said.

“This is the first time and we’re very happy with the turn out,” said the festival coordinator, Juliet Perez. Perez said it’s difficult to know the exact number of people that attended during the 12 hours of festivities, but she estimated there were thousands.

“I’ve never seen so many Filipinos here in Canada,” said the owner of Halo Halo World Cafe, Marci Peters, who had a food stand at the festival. “This is the meeting of all Filipinos around town. This is huge!”

Peters was overwhelmed by the amount of people who came to the event. By mid-afternoon she said, “This is the fourth time I am sending my crew to get ice, milk, and all the ingredients. People are so crazy for halo halo today because it’s so hot!” Peters was excited about the additional business this could bring to her store on Burnhamthorpe Rd. in Mississauga.

The festival brought visibility to the Filipino-Canadian residents and businesses in the Toronto suburbs. “We’re not well-known yet in Mississauga,” said Aguinaldo. “This is why I dreamed that we hold this affair, so they can see us and identify our culture right in the heart of Mississauga,” she continued.

For Estring Aguinaldo, a member of the organizing committee, the huge turnout signified the immense pride Filipinos in the GTA have for their culture. Many appreciated the event as a chance to show their Pinoy pride.

While a Filipino flag billowed on the stage along with the Canadian flag, the stars and sun was also seen proudly displayed on t-shirts and caps, like that of Mississauga resident Felipe Magsalansan. He liked the festival because “you feel you’re back home.”

“With the free admission, any nationality can come,” Perez said, “they are free to explore how we do festivals and the presentation of our culture through dance and food. It’s a good way of bringing our culture to mainstream Canada.”

Elderly residents of Mississauga, Peter and Judy Hollo, come to the Square regularly to participate in the festivals. They said it was their first time trying Filipino food, which they really enjoyed. The Hollos exclaimed with big smiles that they liked “the green drink with jello and coconut. Whatever it was it was nice!”

“I can’t believe how many talented Filipinos there are!” the Hollos said. They, like most in the crowd, had fun taking in the live entertainment on the newly built Celebration Square stage. The stage and the entire square in front of Mississauga City Hall opened a few weeks ago on July 1 after extensive renovations and this was just the fourth major event held there since.

The big screens flanking the stage showcased the performers with 360-degree views and split screens. Thus from the refuge of the shadowed sidelines, you can still see the intricate footwork of the Fiesta Filipino dancers weaving through the bamboo sticks during the Tinikling performance. Or you can see the details of the Filipino dresses modeled on stage showing the history of the clothing styles.

JERICHO ROSALES

When Jericho Rosales, the headline performer and host of Filipino reality show “I Dare You,” came out, the crowd shrieked and screamed. Swarms of people crowded the stage, aiming their cameras and phones at the ABS-CBN star. When he took off his shades, all eyes were on him, and stayed there throughout his many song and dance numbers.

As the day went on, there were more and more people pouring in, as the blazing sun slowly lost some of its heat. Throughout the day, you would see the faces of people brighten upon recognizing a familiar face as they walked through the crowds. Filipino faces, young and old, and hundreds of families from all cultures gathered on this long weekend to enjoy the festivities.

Many community leaders were among those in the crowd. The president of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Minda Neri, had nothing but compliments about the fiesta. “We also have our event, however we support them and we are glad that they are successful.”

One festivalgoer, Jose Villano, had many compliments about the food and entertainment, but said the festival was missing lechon. He suggested that next year they have a roasted pig paraded through the grounds.

A raffle winner, Maria Bangcoy, said it was very well organized considering this is the first event of its kind. Bangcoy said, “You feel like you’re in the Philippines. It’s good that we have this. I hope this is annual.”

Bangcoy was not alone. Many people interviewed said that they hope this is the start of a new annual Filipino festival. This includes the chair of Kalayaan, Olalia-Carin who said, “Watch out for the next one, it’ll be even more fun!”

Reference Article : Philippine Reporter