Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who we? We Filipinos: Jacksonville Pinay/Pinoys represent (Part I)

When you roll thru Duval, you fidna roll dirty. Noon crowd watching Ridgeview High School tinikling at Jacksonville's first ever Filipino Pride Day. Photo credit: Jeff Enriquez.

Creme de la Creme prove they can rise to the top at Jacksonville's Filipino Pride Day. Photo credit: Jeff Enriquez.

May I offer you a Chiquita banana and a chocolate superbaby? Click to enlarge.

It is with extreme pride that I write about my folks in J-Ville... Duuuuuuvaaaal... the 904. Jacksonville, Florida, the town where I grew up, hosted its biggest Filipino gathering--Filipino Pride Day (FPD)--on Saturday, June 20th at the Jacksonville Landing by the St. John's River in downtown. This supposed location of the first landing of Euros on the continent served as the space for the largest and first-ever Northern Florida Filipino festival (not provincial or faith-based). Tampa has been for 14 years hosting the impressive PhilFest event, but remains inaccessible for many Filipinos who live far away from Tampa. So, for Filipinos and friends of Filipinos in Jacksonville (and also parts north of Jacksonville, such as Georgia), FPD played an important role in forming community and creating cultural spaces for a historic Filipino demographic in Jacksonville that may very well be the largest in the state.

From polynesian dances, a fashion show, R&B groups, "traditional" Filipino performances, and hip hop acts, FPD delivered on its promise to bring the very best and very diverse mix of Filipino talent. Organized by the non-profit group "We Filipinos, Inc.," FPD also hosted an array of food and merchandise vendors as well as provided free health services.
The news article on the left provides more detail about the event, where performers, organizers, and participants endured 100+ degree sticky Florida weather. It was a historic moment for the Filipino community, and many of my close friends and family helped out and participated. There is talk that it will become an annual thing. Let's hope so.

Listen, festivals are not perfect. As with the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC), we see the heroic amount of energy, time, and dedication to organize a large-scale event. On a side note, FPAC is looking for Filipino talent to apply to perform at the 18th Annual FPAC! Bambu is the program co-director (my position last year)! Every year, these events can be improved on in terms of logistics, organization, leadership, and especially budget.

As for FPD, it is only in its embryonic stage, so I cannot wait for it to grow, mature, and serve as a productive and constructive venue for the Filipino community in North Florida. All Filipino festivals develop through a process of drama, all subscribe to elements of cultural essentialism (often offensive/silly to actual indigenous or Muslim people in the archipelago), and all will not please every single community leader or participant. But it cannot be denied that these spaces provide crucial centers for developing a sense of pride, dignity, and community for a people (especially young people) who have been denied it. This is so important in a place like Jacksonville, where Filipinos are extremely scattered geographically, generationally, labor-wise, and socio-economically.

If FPD becomes more and more successful, it would contribute to my faux-controversial article here, which argues that today more than ever we have opportunities to go from "Fobby to Fly." Yall always been fly, now FPD can be a venue to express that flyness! I will be interviewing some folks who helped out with the event in upcoming posts.

For now, here are more pictures courtesy of the talented photographer, local Jacksonville Pinoy, and legendary local DJ, Jeff Enriquez:

Duuuvaaal! Handle it.


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