The Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) is an umbrella organization of Filipino American associations based on the East Coast. It is principally dedicated to promoting history, the cultural heritage and traditions of the Filipino people through the celebration of Philippine Independence Day, hence, the name. But there is more to PIDCI than its name implies.
Since the fall of 1989 Filipino American organizations have come together to plan, design, and prepare for an all-day parade, cultural show and street fair that showcase the sounds and spectacle of participating contigents, and the discovery of an array of Filipino musical and performing arts talents. Initiated by the Philippine Consulate General in New York under Consul General Herminigildo Garcia, the creation of the Philippine Independence Day committee was formed with the accomplished community leaders primarily from the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from which the Overall Chairpersons were elected. The first PIDCI celebration eventually occurred on June 17, 1990 that featured a street fair and cultural presentation along 45th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues and a mini-parade in from of the Consulate winding at the 45th Street, which turned out to be a huge success.
The first Overall Chairman was Honesto “Ness” Quijano while Mrs. Nina Garcia, was wife of Consul General Garcia was its Honorary Overall Chairman, thus started the close partnership between the community and the Consulate in planning, organizing, and managing the celebration. Vice Consul Fe Fuentebella for Cultural Affairs guided and encouraged the PIDCI from its inception, a role to be assumed hereafter by other Consuls for Cultural Affairs, notably by Consul Ruperto ‘Tong’ Dizon.
In 1991, Nilda Jaynal was the Overall Chairman and the title of Honarary Overall Chairman was offered to Consul General Rodolfo Arizala and to future Consul Generals thereafter. This was the year that launched the grand parade along Madison Avenue from 48th Street to 38th Street with Parade Chair Luis San Pascual with the first time Grand Marshal, Lilia Clemente; and Broadway star Lea Salonga of Miss Saigon as Guest of Honor. The Street Fair and Cultural Festival was held along 45th Street close to the Consulate. The first beauty pageant Diwa ng Kalayaan was held in the Kalayaan Hall (introduced by Ms. Jaynal), and the winners were the central attraction in the parade perched on a PIDCI float and personified the spirit of Philippine freedom.
In 1992, Luis San Pascual became the Overall Chairman and the Street Festival and Cultural Festival was relocated to its current home now Madison Square Park from 26th Street to 23rd Street on Madison Avenue. This year also marked the historic beginning of the full blown Independence Parade held every first Sunday of June as arranged by Parade Chair Maria Andrada, complete with parade marshalls, and the route was extended dow to 27th Street leading to the Street Fair where a hospitality tent was first erected. Leading the parade was Dr. Ric Crudo, who became the first Grand Marshal to voluntarily assist in fund raising. In attendance were politicians that included NYC Mayor David Dinkins and US Senators Christopher Todd and Joe Lieberman and US Representative Barbara Kennelly. Filipino talents continued to be recognized on Broadway and Leila Florentino, the new Miss Saigon and some cast members joined the parade. The first Independence Ball was held name “Unity Nite” with a Souvenir Journal.
The year 1993 saw the beginning of the steady growth of PIDCI under Overall Chairperson Maria Andrada with an enlarged parade and street fair, cultural and art exhibits and attractions, and fundraising reached new heights with the Grand Marshal Dr. Alice Francisco setting the tone for unspoken reliance on the Grand Marshals to bear great involvement in fundraising. For the third time, another Ms. Saigon would grace the event in the presence of Joan Almedilla. Parade participants now came from as far as Virginia and Washington DC. PIDCI was now an enduring community institution with established operations and traditions.
During the term of Sofie Abad as Overall Chairman in 1994, Ambassador Melody Lopez was the Honorary Overall Chairman, responsible in bringing for the first time a Gues of Honor from the Philippines, Senate President Edgardo Angara who marched in the Parade lead by Grand Marshal Dr. Estela Gonzales. This would be the genesis of participation by high-ranking Philippine government officials. Ambassador Lopez would also be credited for the successful large sponsorship of Pepsi Cola ($50k). There was no more doubt that the PIDCI had become institutionalized, accepted by the community, and recognized by New York City.
To continue on its many firsts, with 1995 Overall Chairman Lynn Matriano, Honorary Overall Chairman Consul General Romeo Arguelles, and Consul Mila Perez as adviser, the first CONGEN Night was held at his residence; the Independence Ball was held at a hotel in the NY Hilton (to become a favorite venue for years to come); and the first Grand Marshal Night was launched at the Kalayaan Hall with Grand Marshal Dr. Gary Villanueva. NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani marched in the parade, as well as the participation of former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz.
Such was the impact and success of the Philippine Independence Day Celebration and continued with its many firsts through 2001. 1996 was most memorable with the presence of highly popular politician-actor Philippine Vice President Joseph as Guest of Honor, and Overall Chairman Luz Sapin Micabalo was credited for inviting him and became his first official visit to the East Coast. Grand Marshal was businessman Manuel Aldana, PIDCI also made its mark at the City Hall with Mayor Guiliani’s continued appearance in the parade from 1996-1999 & 2001. Parades were now aimed at featuring spectacular floats to depict the rich cultural heritage of the Filipinos; politicians and beauty queens were invited yearly; Eucharistic Masses were held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Fundraisings soared, seeking corporate donations and more organizations participation lengthened the parade.
The 1997 celebration lead by Overall Chairman Nelia Ferrette, elicited major media exposure; highlights included the publisher of Filipino Reporter as Grand Marshal, Libertito Pelayo; new Consul General Willie Gaa arrived in time for the June event; Guests of Honor were Philippine House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Senator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Secretary of Finance Robert de Ocampo and former Miss International Melanie Marquez; more Filipino-American actors were given lead roles on Broadway and the Cultural Festival became the avenue to showcase these talents.
The 100th Anniversary of Philippine Independence Celebration was a much-heralded event in 1998. By reason of its immensity and historic significance, Malacaṅang designated Consul General Willie Gaa to head the celebration in the tri-state as the Overall Chairman, with the past Overall Chairpersons as his Co-Chairs to head the various committees with Consul Cecille Rebong as Community Liaison Officer. Chosen as the Centennial Grand Marshal was TLC Beatrice International CEO Loida Nicolas Lewis, and each state of NY, NJ, CT, DE and PA was represented by a Bb Centennial during the Centennial Ball (NY Hilton) with a record attendance. A Performing Arts of the Philippine Festival was held at the Lincoln Center for 1 week in May; a Centennial Mass was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral officiated by Archbishop Martino Apostolic Nuncio; an all-day celebration named “Pagdiriwang” was held at the American Museum of Natural History on the eve of the parade; important historical events of the Philippines were depicted in the parade by 27 well conceptualized and designed floats; the epic event the Centennial Grand Parade was graced by Guest of Honor Philippine Senator and TV Personality Loren Legarda; with a big Street Fair and spectacular cultural and musical extravaganza called “Kasaysayan ng Lahi” Filipino pride rocketed to its highest peak on June 7, 1998.
After the Centennial euphoria, 1999 grossed large revenues with multiple fundraising events in the tri-state, under the able leadership of Overall Chairman Cora Reyes, Grand Marshal Joanne de Asis-Benitez, and Consul General Linglingay Lacanlale. PIDCI was a co-promoter of “Danhani” by the Leyte Dance Theater at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center; and the Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Jose Pardo was guest speaker at the Independence Ball. Guest of Honor at the parade was Philippine Senator-actor Vic Sotto and special guest was Miriam Quiambao, 1999 Miss Universe 1st Runner up. PIDCI welcomed the millennium with Alan Britanico at the helm as Overall Chairman and adviser was Consul Tess Lazaro. For a change the Grand Marshall was honored not at a dinner-dance but with an “Evening of Musical Enchantment” held at the Florence Gould Hall, featuring distinguished Filipino musical artists. A successful “Youth Festival of Philippine Culture” was organized to develop awareness, instill pride and appreciation of Philippine culture amongst Filipino Americans. Philippine Defense Secretary Orly Mercado was the Guest of Speaker at the lavish “Philippine Fiesta” Independence Ball; PIDCI sponsored the Second Filipino Film Festival at Lincoln Center for two weeks in July/Aug; and adding the pizzazz of the parade were the attendance of NY Senatorial candidates Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio. The cultural presentation continued to be an extravaganza with a mix of classical, standard, pop, hip-hop, rhythm and blues.
By 2001 Overall Chairman Lett Dayao organized a fundraising dinner gala in honor of the past Overall Chairpersons and past Grand Marshals named “Salute to the Filipino-American Leaders” in March, made memorable by a short video documentary of the PIDCI; this was followed by another twist to the Grand Marshal Gala honoring Dr. Vivi Malantic by having a presentation of mini-evolution of Filipino attire from 1225-1900 complimented with songs, dances and the fashion show. A Filipino cultural arts series, a first of its kind, was shown at the Consulate the month of May; the Independence Ball was moved from the traditional NY Hilton to the NY Marriott Marquis honoring the Presidents and heads of Filipino-American Associations in the tri-state. Former Miss Universe Margie Moran marched with thousands of proud organizations and marching bands along popular singer Ricky Davao; with the largest Sinulog contingent from CT enthralled the on-lookers with their distinctively-designed costumes, live music and street dancing which easily won them the Best Overall Performance award; and for the first time a trio of Filipino-American mainstream TV journalists & news reporters were the Masters of Ceremony at the Parade with Nina Pineda(ABC), Hazel Sanchez (CBS) and Bob de Castro (FOX5); a proud moment for the Philippine Independence indeed!
This led the Filipino community to realize that the Independence Day celebration itself had become a point of unity and cooperation among Filipinos. The annual parade had been attended by tens of thousands including public officials from New York City and New York State and from the Philippines and has grown steadily since 1996 when it gained reputation as the largest outdoor gathering of Filipinos in the northeastern United States. The requirements of sustaining this activity were enormous. The potential benefit of a more unified Filipino community was obviously worth the effort towards institutionalizing the Philippine Independence Day celebration. Thus, the idea of establishing a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Filipino cultural heritage through the Independence Day celebration was conceived.
In October 2001, at a meeting called by Consul General Linglingay Lacanlale of the Philippine Consulate General of New York, community leaders voted a referendum to establish PIDCI and elected those who would undertake the organizational process. Elected were: Sofia Abad, Roger Alama, Lolita Compas, Ramon Constancio, Angie Cruz, Loreto Elgo, Elice Flores, Nilda Jaynal, Nimia Lacebal, Rudy Nicolas, Juliet Payabyab, Honesto Quijano, Cora Reyes, Arnie Rosario, Reuben S. Seguritan, Francis Talangbayan and Lee Vargas.
The dust that accompanied the frenetic incorporation process eventually settled on February 14, 2002, when the PIDCI was officially issued its certificate of incorporation as a not-for-profit organization. It was granted tax-exempt status on October 17, 2002 PIDCI was then proceeded to elect its first set of officers. Elected were: President Reuben S. Seguritan; Vice President Lolita Compas; Secretary Angie Cruz; Treasurer Cora Reyes; Auditor Honesto Quijano. Chosen Grand Marshal was Fe Martinez while Nena Kaufman was Overall Chairperson of the Philippine Independence Celebration Committee (PICC). A logo competition was held and the winning entry was design by Fernando “Nanding” Mendez, who rendered an integrated illustration of a modified image of the Philippine flag and a dove to symbolize freedom and peace, symbolizing what the Philippine Independence means to all who are of Filipino heritage.
The vision of PIDCI was crystallized in the purpose of clause of its Certificate of Incorporation. The purpose of PIDCI, while inevitably related to one another, may be broadly defined as follows: (a) the promotion of Filipino cultural heritage; (b) the reinforcement of mutual cooperation among Filipino American organizations; and (c) the preservation of the rights and interests of Filipino Americans. These objectives were accomplished during the 11 years of PIDCI under 9 Presidents who made their mark in the making of the PIDCI history.
A separate dedicated page will be prepared in 2014 on how PIDCI has evolved since then, but some of years’ highlights are very noteworthy to mention. The PICC operated until the next year only under President 2003/2004 Roger Alama, with the Overall Chair Lolit Gillberg. During the growing years of PIDCI, Consul General Cecille B. Rebong was highly involved serving its Honorary Adviser until 2010 along with Deputy Consul General Millie Thomeczek ably assisting her and PIDCI in the celebration until 2011. ‘Con Gen’ was also responsible in bringing AIG as a major sponsor in 2005 under President Nimia Lacebal, with Grand Marshal Dr. Linda R. Pelayo who was since been the highest GM Committee to date that contributed towards the fund-raising ($108k) of the total PIDCI budget. The Cultural Series Program was also first introduced by Pres. Nimia to keep in touch with our cultural heritage and allow the young Filipino Americans to learn and appreciate them.
Gani Puertollano ran for two terms as President 2005/2005 & 2006/2007 with Parade Grand Marshal Dan de Guzman organizing a full-blown PIDCI Golf Tournament fund-raising in 2006. Grand Marshal 2007 was Dr. Emanuel ‘Boy’ Pangan (a former PIDCI Board Member) who lead the parade with the newly-assigned Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the U.N. Hilario G. Davide Jr. (Centennial and Millenial Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines) who marched in the Parade until 2009.
In 2008 under President Raul Estrellado, for the first time a priest, Rev. Monsignor Oscar A. Aquino, JCD was chosen as Parade Grand Marshal. AIG returned as a major sponsor and the participation of a major Philippine Media Network ABS-CBN/TFC as an Official Sponsor and Media Partner was first introduced in the parade and the ‘Celebrity Hour’ with their top Philippine Celebrities at the Cultural Festival created much euphoria. The promotion around the world by TFC of the all-day event was a major factor for the combined attendance rising from the annual average of 40,000 to 70,000 as estimated by the New York Police Department (NYPD). TFC continued their support with their participation in 2010, 2011 & 2013.
Gerry Austria was president in 2008/2009 and was honored with the attendance of Philippine Vice-President Noli de Castro; Grand Marshal Dr. Teofila Malanum-Santos did her share personally arranging the attendance of Senator Manny Villar; NY Senator Chuck Schumer came and shook hands at the reviewing stand; major TV Network GMA came on board as Official Sponsor and Media Partner bringing their top Philippine Celebrities, and would come back again in 2012 & 2013. By 2010, President Bernie dela Merced had for the first time a husband and wife as Parade Grand Marshals, Ben and Dr. Zenaida Santos with Guest of Honor H.E. Willy C. Gaa, Ambassador to the US joined by newly arrived Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the U.N. Libran N. Cabactulan, who has been marching at the parade up to the present.
2011 became very special for President Joji J. Jalandoni with Parade Grand Marshals, Nick and Dr. Edita Libramonte. PIDCI also welcome the newly arrived Consul General Mario De Leon, Jr. as Honorary Adviser, highlighted with the presence of Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay and H.E. Jose L. Cusia, Jr., Ambassador to the US at the Parade and Culutural Festival, along with the colorful participation of the award-winning Dinagyang Festival winners from Iloilo sponsored by the Philippine Department of Tourism. Combined participants and spectators throughout the day surged to 100,000. By 2012, President Fe Martinez launched the Mrs. Kalayaan Pageant as a new PIDCI fund-raising arm; she was re-elected for a second term this 2013 and with the close collaboration of Consul General Mario De Leon, Jr., the unprecedented participation and support of all three major Philippine TV Networks –TFC, GMA and TV5, finally happened; the Philippine Department of Tourism came on board for the first time as an Official Sponsor with “It’s more fun in the Philippines” program and brought back the renowned Dinagyang Festival winners; top VIPs attended the parade but too many to mention; and AARP became a significant Sponsor of PIDCI.
Participation in the PIDCI activities by its member organizations (averaging 200 annually), has strengthened cooperation, unity and collaboration in the community. It is with greater pride and anticipation that PIDCI explores opportunities to serve the Filipino community. It is with greater pride and anticipation that PIDCI explores opportunities to serve the Filipino community, focusing on the 2nd generation of Filipino-Americans as it prepares for the 25th year of celebrating the Philippine Independence in NY!