ALAMEDA -- Filipino-Americans from Alameda and around the Bay Area celebrated the first Philippine Independence Day Celebration in Alameda on Saturday. The event drew several hundred guests, who came to City Hall to enjoy the festivities.
"We are here to acknowledge the many contributions of our community, including those in the military, health care, political leadership and other roles," said Councilman Stewart Chen. "This is the first visit of the Philippine Consul to Alameda, and we really want to shine."
Consul General Marciano Paynor shared that there are some 3.4 million individuals of Filipino descent in the United States, and about 1.5 million live in the Golden State.
"We are becoming the largest Asian community in California," he explained. "I thank the City of Alameda and the event's organizing committee for holding this special celebration."
Assemblymember and former Alameda City Councilman Rob Bonta worked with several colleagues on an official state resolution, which supported Alameda's event on Saturday and recognized the cultural and historic importance of the Filipino-American community across the state.
"This is so exciting to be having the first Philippine Independence Day Celebration here in Alameda," Bonta said.
Bonta was born in the Philippines. He came to the United States when he was 2 months old, while his mother Cynthia Bonta, one of the event's organizers, moved to America at age 28.
"My mother gave me the name Andres Bonifacio" as a middle name, the Assembly member said. "And I'm proud to have named my son for the father of the Philippine Revolution (against Spanish colonial rule)."
"I'm also proud of the community for shattering the glass ceiling," said Bonta, referring to his election last year as the first Filipino-American in the state Assembly. "Today, we celebrate our history, recognize our progress and acknowledge there is much left to achieve."
Bernadette Roco, a member of the event's organizing committee, and others have been pushing to make the idea of a Philippine Independence Day Celebration a reality for more than a decade.
"I'm feeling overwhelmed to see that dreams come true," Roco said. "Alameda is so diverse, and we want to see everyone here share our heritage and our talents."
"I'm so pleased and proud to be here and see the great turnout," said Mayor Marie Gilmore, after reading a proclamation from the city. "We're making great strides at embracing and celebrating our diversity. There's still much to be done, and we'll keep pushing forward."
In addition to speeches, the event included a demonstration of traditional martial arts from the Philippines by the Oakland Eskrima Club and folk dances by the American Center for Philippine Arts, including members from Alameda.
Other entertainers included singer George Elizalde, of Daly City: "X Factor" finalist Ellona Santiago, of San Lorenzo; and comedian Fe de Los Reyes. Niki Jew, a student at Encinal High School, sang "The Star Spangled Banner."