Juneau's Filipino Community continues a 60-year history of spirited participation in Fourth of July festivities Wednesday by assembling three floats, rehearsing dancing and drumming groups, and preparing a free lunch.
Sawdust was flying over the weekend, as Arturo "Art" Bautista's volunteer crew created decorative toppers that would transform three trucks into decorated parade floats.
"I have worked as a volunteer before on the floats, but this makes my first time to take charge," said Bautista, who works for the information systems section of the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The floats created by the 700-member Filipino Community embrace the official parade theme, "Let Freedom Ring." One will be a platform for Vanessa Vu, costumed as the Statue of Liberty. The second has a globe of the world, surrounded by seven local children. The third float shows lush recreations of scenery from the three main islands of the Philippines. The skirts of the floats are decorated with graphics of the Statue of Liberty plus framed computer printouts of important documents.
The patriotic theme of the floats contrasts with the religious theme of the 30-plus Ati-Atihan dancers who will be led along the parade route by Alex Carrillo Jr. The Carrillo family is very active in Filipino civic and social affairs, said Ed Carrillo, a purchasing specialist for the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
"The costumes are in colors like red, black and orange. They have bat faces," said Ed Carrillo. "We don't imitate how bats fly. The motion of the dance goes with the beat of the music."
The dance has been part of Juneau's Fourth of July parade since 1991, said Morris Carrillo, Ed's brother and a noncommissioned officer with the National Guard.
"In the Philippines, Ati-Atihan is an old tradition dating back to 1210 A.D. We celebrate this in conjunction with the Santo Nino, the Infant Jesus, in a festival during the third week of January," he said.
The tradition the Carrillos follow comes from Kalibo on the island of Panay where 300 regional groups perform, each costumed in a different motif, Morris Carrillo said. The motifs include bats, ants and butterflies. The costumes are made from materials relating to subsistence. Rice farmers recycle rice straw; fishermen, fishing nets. The Carrillos use banana fiber, which has the appearance of shredded bark, as appendages on the masks.
The dancers don't sing, although they may chant "Hala Bira, Puero Pasma" - "keep on going, no tiring," a mantra traditionally fueled in the islands by fermented coconut wine.
For 2001, the group has "the best costumes we've ever had," Morris Carrillo said. The dancers pulse to the beat of 20 drummers.
"Most of the drummers have been doing this for years, so it only takes us about three days to get into the mood again," Carrillo said. The drummers wear special T-shirts, and carry a bat banner.
Nestor Catli, president of the Filipino Community, noted that members will serve a free lunch at the Community Hall, 251 South Franklin St., from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday. The menu will include pancit (noodles), fried chicken and hot dogs. Coordinator for the lunch is Alex Carrillo Jr.
The Juneau Fourth of July parade begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday on Eighth Street near the Douglas Bridge and proceeds along Egan Drive, South Franklin and Front Streets.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at email@example.com.