EDINBURG — The city of Edinburg in conjunction with the Araw Ng Ating Kalayan organization, or ANAK, hosted the seventh annual Filipino Festival on Sunday to celebrate the culture and contributions of the Filipino community in the Rio Grande Valley.
The event was held in October for the first time this year to honor its recognition by the U.S. Congress as Filipino American History Month. It was first recognized in 2009.
Padini Santiago, president of ANAK, an organization in the Valley that has celebrated Filipino independence since 2010, said the purpose of the event is to spread awareness for Filipino culture and its presence in the community.
The event also serves as a revitalization for Filipino Americans themselves who may feel separated from their roots.
“This is one way to bring us together and basically we are reaffirming our dedication to the city and the country for allowing us to practice and display our culture,” Santiago said.
At the festival were pop-up canopies with tienditas selling Filipino food, dress and other accessories.
Notably the most popular food at the festival was pancit, which is noodles with vegetables, meat and soy sauce. The giant pots of pancit were prepared by Vilma Murphy and Malou Jimenez, from Saladmaster, who said the dish is always a hit.
About 100 people attended the festival and were able to enjoy traditional music, and dance performances by professional groups and children.
The Filipino Students Association from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley performed a Tinikling dance at the festival, which is a courtship dance used to illustrate the Tinikling bird which hops from patch to patch in the Philippines.
Deborah Lagas, cultural chair of the club, and choreographer of the dance said, “The farmlands in the Philippines have squares and so the birds go in and out. So we are kind of like the birds going in and out and we will be doing those formations.”
Janice Madrilejos, a mother of three from Edinburg, said she attended the festival to expose her children to Filipino culture and to see that they have a community of people who share their customs from back home.
“I wanted to inform my kids to show them what our culture is now that they are little,” Madrilejos said. “When I was little I was dancing too with a Filipino program like this, so they will also learn the language and the dance.”
She watched proudly as her daughters performed a medley of songs with the RGV Filam Kids.
Similar to Madrilejo’s desire to connect her children with their Filipino culture, Santiago said he feels the same way and encouraged his son, Pablo, to play traditional music at the festival.
Santiago moved to the Valley in the early 2000s to follow his wife, who took a job as a nurse in McAllen. He said many Filipinos in the region specialize in nursing and teaching because of incentives that were offered in those professions in the early 2000s.
Santiago said he is grateful for the city to host them and recognizes the similarities in his culture back home and Hispanic culture in the Valley. He attributes this to the history of the land and how the Spanish colonized the Philippines.
“During the Spanish regime it was not the Spanish that was managing the Philippines, it was Mexico from Alcapulco,” he said. “So for 250 years there’s this Galleon Trade going back and forth and the Philipinos are the ones going to Mexico for the trade. … That’s how we got your food, adobada, tamales — it’s basically similar.”
Among the organizations at the event were also the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce and the Philippine Nurses Association.