Filipino organization marks 50 years

Posted: Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fifty years ago this February, as the delegates to the original Alaska Constitutional Convention were wrapping up their business in Fairbanks, a group of Filipinos in Juneau was drafting its own framework.

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Filipino Community Inc. - celebrating its 50th anniversary with a weeklong party - was founded on Feb. 7, 1956, as a fraternal organization to unite the many Filipinos who had settled in town.

The FCI is now the oldest organized Filipino community in Alaska, President Jenny Gomez Strickler said. The group's original headquarters was on Willoughby Avenue, near the present-day site of Bullwinkle's Pizza Parlor. It has long since moved to the Filipino Community Hall at 251 S. Franklin St.

"It sounds like it was a fairly small group that consisted mostly of men that were working different jobs," Strickler said. "Because they were here, they wanted to get together, and it evolved to where they wanted a place to call their own. It was the women who they married that actually went out and did a lot of the fundraising. They held dances in the canneries and raised funds to purchase a facility."

The weeklong celebration, Friday through June 17, coincides with the international observance of Philippine Independence Day, June 12.

The United States actually ended its sovereignty in the Philippines on July 4, 1946, but Philippines President Diosdado Macapagal changed the celebration to June 12 in the 1960s. In part, Macapagal sought to honor Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, who proclaimed independence for the Philippines on June 12, 1898.

"We didn't plan it that way when we picked June 12 as the first day of the celebration," Strickler said. "It was also in June 2003 that we celebrated the naming of (Juneau's) Manila Square, so this has all worked out real well."

Weeklong Celebration

6 p.m. Friday - Actor/comedian bernardo bernardo and friends, solo show, at filipino community hall, 251 s. franklin st., $10.

6 p.m. Monday - Opening night, at filipino community hall. ati-atihan parade, opening ceremony, dinner provided, entertainment and socializing.

6 p.m. Tuesday - Founders night, at filipino community hall. dinner provided. display of photos and other memorabilia of original founders and their families.

6 p.m. Wednesday - Regional night, at filipino community hall. display of food, crafts and artifacts from various regions of the philippines. food sample tickets, $1 at the door.

7 p.m. June 15 - Super bingo, at filipino community hall.

6 p.m. June 16 - Formal gala, at centennial hall. formal filipino or evening attire. $40 per person. includes dinner, dancing, closing ceremony, a performance by the alitaptap philippine folkloric group, comedian/actor bernardo bernardo and local talent.

11 a.m. June 17 - Annual picnic, at savikko park, shelter no. 1.

7 p.m. June 17 - Encore reading of the perseverance theatre second-stage play, "voyage," at filipino community hall. pay-as-you-can.

The week begins with an opening night dinner at 6 p.m. Monday at the Filipino Community Hall. The Ati-Atihan Filipino Dancers, known for their lavish displays in the annual Fourth of July parade, will play at Manila Square, near the downtown Juneau Public Library at the corner of Franklin Street and Marine Way.

On Tuesday, the community will honor its founders with Founders Night. Many are expected to attend from out of town, Strickler said.

Regional Night, set for Wednesday, includes food and crafts from various regions of the country. Food sample tickets are $1 at the door. The Philippines include more than 7,000 islands, 79 provinces and eight major dialects.

"If you have chicken adobo and pork adobo, it might be a different taste if it's cooked in a different region," said co-organizer Cecille Saceda. "We'll have original foods from the traditional adobo and pansit and lumpia."

The June 16 closing ceremony gala will include an appearance by Filipino comedian and actor Bernardo Bernardo, in town last year as part of Perseverance Theatre's presentations of "The Long Season" and "Voyage." Bernardo is also hosting a solo show this Friday at the Filipino Community Hall.

During closing night, the Alitaptap Dancers will perform eight of the dances from their upcoming Obra Maestra performance in October. Group organizer Ellery Lumbab is in the Philippines picking up new outfits for the performance. He's expected to return early next week.

Saturday's annual picnic, at Savikko Park No. 1 on Sandy Beach, includes food and games for adults and kids.

"I will never let the men in the community forget that the women won the tug of war (last year)," Strickler said.

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