Saturday, November 7 marked the 24th year of the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture, known as FPAC. The annual event is the longest-running Filipino cultural celebration in Southern California, hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Filipino American Arts and Culture (FilAm ARTS), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the arts and cultural heritage of Filipinos through arts services and education.
The theme for this year’s FPAC was “Balik Tanaw, Pananaw Bukas,” a Tagalog phrase meaning “looking back, looking forward,” and highlights the diverse Filipino American experience and culture, paved by ancestral history.
Special guests in attendance included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Philippine Consulate General Leo Herrera-Lim, LA18 Kababayan Today’s Giselle “G” Tongi, Board of Public Works Commissioner Joel Jacinto, and film and TV actor John Arcilla, star of the biopic film Heneral Luna (2015).
The free-admission, one-day outdoor festival was held at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, known as the birthplace of the richly diverse Los Angeles.
“It’s El Pueblo–isn’t this a great home for FPAC? This is where the city of Los Angeles was born,” said Garcetti in his opening remarks to the crowd. “Looking back, and moving forward is not just a great theme for the festival, it is a great theme for our city. We have such tremendous leadership, and [LA] is the creative capital of the world.”
The home of FPAC is also the site of the original El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula, which would later become the foundation for the city of Los Angeles. El Pueblo was originally settled in 1781 by a group of Spanish pobladores (explorers), including one of Filipino descent–a gunsmith from Manila, Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, who did not make it all the way to the site because of smallpox.
“It’s a fitting metaphor for the work here that is left undone,” Garcetti said. “Those who came here to start this great city included folks of Filipino descent…so this is our own history that we celebrate, our own creativity, music, art, dance, and filmmaking; everything that makes Filipino culture so rich. The Philippines is one of the great democracies in the world; it is vibrant, it is alive. We love our sister city, Makati City!”
FPAC also recognized the groundbreaking work of labor organizer Larry Itliong, who helped lead the United Farm Workers movement along with Cesar Chavez in the 1960s. FilAm ARTS presented an award of excellence to the Itliong family, celebrating the formal recognition of October 24 as Larry Itliong Day in California.
“Larry Itliong’s work with Cesar Chavez represents a proud moment of social justice for all Californians and inspiration for artists, especially those from its two larger communities,” said FilAm ARTS Board Member Winston Emano.
All day at the festival, exhibits from the Filipino-American community were on colorful display. The Pan Pavilion showcased traditional Philippine artwork and original costume designs from designer Carl Andrada. The Pamilya Pavilion bridged two generations with activities at the Seniors Pavilion and the Eskuela Kultura Youth Pavilion, sharing traditional stories and activities through the SaySay Project. The 2nd annual Katipunan Poetry Slam, hosted by Sunday Jump and Ariana Basco, encouraged youth to freely express themselves through open mic. Leaders from Filipino Cultural School were also present, showing children how to make colorful parols in time for the Pasko (Christmas) season.
FPAC vendors included The Filipino Channel / ABS-CBN, Asian Journal, Toyota, Kahoy Kollection, Pilipino Workers Center, Balisong Knife, Red Ribbon, Western Union, PNB, and the Philippine Expressions Bookshop. Delicious Filipino food and treats was provided by Neri’s Curbside Cravings, Wawa Grill, and booths including Manila Sky Gourmet Ice Cream, Red Ribbon, Magnolia, and Crème Caramel LA.
Along with the speeches and celebrations, FPAC included a diverse lineup of talented musicians, dancers, singers, and artists to perform on the main stage; including UCLA’s Tinig Choral, vocalist Morgan Ashley, dance performances from Kayamanan Ng Lahi and Malaya Filipino American Dance Arts, Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble, Philippine Choral Singers, SIPA Dance Crew, and the Rondalla Club of Los Angeles. The annual “TFC Hour” showcase included Original Pinoy Music and special guest performances from cellist and musical prodigy Matthew John Ignacio; jazz-pianist Tateng Katindig; vocalist Odesa Kane; and Broadway singer Joan Almedilla.
“To sing in front of a Filipino crowd, it transports you back home…you feel homesick, but at the same time you feel proud,” said Almedilla.
Next year, FilAm ARTS will celebrate its 25th year of FPAC, bringing Filipinos from all over Southern California together to recognize art, community and culture.