ALAMEDA -- Filipino-Americans from Alameda, friends, family members and dignitaries came together for the second-annual Philippine Independence Day Celebration at City Hall on Saturday.
The morning event drew several dozen guests, while an equal number attended an evening of cultural performances at Rhythmix Cultural Works.
"We have made great strides and have come to embrace diversity in Alameda. You can go through the rainbow in our city and see the truly admirable contributions of Afro-Americans, Filipino-Americans, Chinese-Americans and others," said Mayor Marie Gilmore, whose parents came to the United States from the Caribbean nation of Dominica.
"We are glad you have come here to forge new roots and to hang onto your own traditions, while contributing to the community in which you now live," Gilmore explained. "I'm so pleased we can be together today to celebrate what makes our community so much stronger."
Filipinos are the fastest-growing and largest group of Asian-Americans in California, according to Assemblyman Rob Bonta, an Alameda resident who came to the United States from the Philippines when he was just a few months old.
"It's critical that we remember our history and the values that got us where we are today," said Bonta, a former Alameda City Council member. "I am the first person of Filipino descent in the Assembly and will not be the last. We have work to do."
Bonta's mother Cynthia, who helped organize the event, told guests that there is much for the community to look forward to and to remember.
"We are here to celebrate our history and freedom, something unheard of back in the 1920s and 1930s," when there was discrimination against the Filipino community, she said.
According to City Councilman Steward Chen, Cynthia Bonta approached him a few years ago about establishing a day to celebrate Filipino heritage and culture and to find an official sister city in the Philippines for Alameda.
"The first (goal) is now a reality and hopefully will be for many years to come," Chen said. "The second, which we have been working long and hard on, is a relationship with Dumaguete, and that is full of potential."
Consul Reginald Bernabe of the Consulate General of the Philippines in San Francisco reminded the audience of the robust economic growth that the island nation has been able to maintain in recent years.
"We have outpaced most neighbors in the region, even as we sustained massive damage from natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan," Ascalon said.
Alameda City Councilman Tony Daysog ended the event by thanking organizers and guests.
"I encourage all of you to take some words of wisdom with you ... and see what you change you can make for our community," he said.