Filipino American participants celebrate history, promote heart health awareness at 2017 Rose Parade

Cloudy skies could not hamper the high spirits of thousands of cheering spectators who lined the five-and-a-half mile route of the 128th Tournament of Roses Parade in the City of Pasadena, California on Monday, January 2.

A collection of 41 floats, 19 marching bands and 20 equestrian units from across the country captivated people of all ages and walks of life who came out to witness the iconic celebration of the New Year.

“The vibes from everybody, everyone’s energy, it’s really cool!” said Filipino-American snare drummer Kai Domingo, who had marched in three prior Rose Parades with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s All City Band.

“It’s a thrill,” he told the Asian Journal at the sidelines of Monday’s spectacle.

Filipino Americans were also among the riders and marchers at the annual event.

Recognizing Filipino World War II Veterans

This year, a historical society commemorating the legacy of a U.S. Army unit made up of Filipino soldiers was featured for the first time in the parade’s history.

The Philippine Scouts Heritage Society (PSHS), a nationwide living history group, made its Rose Parade debut on Monday. The 26th Ceremonial Mounted Unit (CMU) of the PSHS’s Nininger chapter in Los Angeles rode proudly down Colorado Boulevard fully adorned in World War II regalia.

“It’s a great honor,” PSHS Membership Chair Gil Mislang told the Asian Journal during a phone interview on Saturday, December 31. “We also worked very hard to get in there so that the Filipino soldiers can be shown to the world.”

Members of the 26th CMU paid thousands of dollars to cover their own equestrian maintenance and transportation costs in order to take part in Monday’s parade as well as other events held throughout the year, according to Mislang.

He said the PSHS’s efforts seek to do more than educate people about the sacrifices made by the Philippine Scouts. They also celebrate the history of cooperation between the militaries of the Philippines and America, as well as the triumph of Filipinos who started families in the U.S. That mission reflects the theme of this year’s parade, “Echoes of Success.”

In 2016, American lawmakers helped take the hidden history of the Philippine Scouts out of the shadows. On Thursday, December 15, President Barack Obama signed legislation that awards Filipino veterans of WWII  with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Despite progress made last year, Mislang admitted that more still needs to be done in order to bring the contributions of those soldiers out of obscurity. He and other people working to bring recognition to the Philippine Scouts are pushing for the passage of California Assembly Bill 199, which would add the stories of Filipino soldiers into the history curriculum of the state’s public schools.

Promoting heart health 

Every person’s education should also include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

It invited Filipina-American Celine Showman, a cardiac arrest survivor, to ride on the organization’s parade float to help bring awareness to health issues affecting Filipinos and many other people in the U.S.

In 2007, the resident of Oceanside, California had been momentarily declared deceased after her heart stopped beating while she was out to dinner with her daughter, Megan.

“It didn’t feel real. It felt like I was watching a movie,” said Showman’s daughter, who began screaming for help after watching her mother unexpectedly collapse. During a phone interview with the Asian Journal on Thursday, December 22, she went on to say “I was freaking out because no one was doing anything.”

Showman could have died or suffered permanent brain damage that day, surrounded by helpless bystanders. Thankfully, an ambulance was nearby and a group of three Navy Corpsmen who happened to be having dinner at the same restaurant stepped in to administer life-saving CPR.

The experience was a wake-up call for Showman, who has since maintained a healthier, less stressful lifestyle.

“I was on the go, working 50 to 60 hours a week, and not getting enough sleep,” Showman told the Asian Journal on Thursday.

After the incident, Showman took stock of her circumstances, refocused her priorities on her family and loved ones, and learned to let go of unnecessary stressors. She has also led and participated in efforts to raise awareness of heart health concerns in her community.

On Monday,  Showman and other survivors of cardiovascular-related issues rode on the AHA’s float titled “Keep the Beat Alive” to promote CPR training and healthy living. The AHA’s entry won the Judges’ Special Trophy in this year’s event.

Despite the gray weather and abundant competition for good viewing positions, most of those who came out for Monday’s celebration left with a smile.

“The first time I saw [the Rose Parade live], it was pretty impressive, but I think, through the years, it’s gotten bigger,” Filipino-American Manny Zamora, a system’s analyst for the city of Los Angeles, told the Asian Journal while in attendance of the parade on Monday.

Later in the day, University of Southern California football fans found an extra reason to cheer after the Trojans claimed victory in a hotly contested Rose Bowl game over Penn State’s Nittany Lions.

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