PhilFest 2018: A Celebration of Filipino-American Festivities of its kind!
Report: Joey Omila, Director of Cultural Affairs, PCFI | Contributing Writer
Managing Editor: Raymund Thom Golez
Photos Credits: Nhick Ramiro Pacis, Lorna Smith, Philfest/ PCFI Org.
TAMPA, Florida – Whichever part of the world you go to, a celebration of Philippine festivities would always be manifested for as long as the Filipino united workmanship is present, and that’s what the Philippine Festival 2018 (Philfest) is all about. Celebrating its 23rd year, the Philippine Cultural Foundation, Inc. (PCFI) created another milestone for the Filipino-American community in Tampa, Florida. More than 9,000 estimated attendees made the event more remarkable that’s why Tampa’s “PhilFest” no doubt is now one, if not the biggest Philippine festival in the East Coast. Many are wondering why people keep coming back to Tampa’s ever so popular “PhilFest?”
Filipinos and Americans alike travel from afar, making sure not to miss this annual event full of celebrations. Because coming to PhilFest is like going to the Philippines without the expensive airfare and the 19 hours flight. Just imagine yourself arriving in a small Philippine town called “The Philippine Enrichment Complex” in Tampa, Florida with thousands of people trying to get the nearest parking. First, you are greeted with a huge “Fiesta arch” welcoming everybody to the festival. Then as you purchase your $7 tickets to enter, you are even given the option of “Veteran’s with Valid ID” line which allows all veterans, Filipinos and Americans alike, enter free with their families. Even children 5 and under also enter free of charge.
Once you step your first foot in the festival grounds you are immediately greeted by beautiful Filipinos dressed in their best outfits saying, “Welcome and Mabuhay!” The first thing you will see is a special build full scale “Bahay Kubo” (a typical Philippine nipa hut) beautifully decorated. You can even walk-in the Bahay Kubo and see some cultural displays on exhibits.
The next thing one does is buy your “coupons” from coupon booths spread all over the festival. The festival does not allow cash payments and transactions to control all vendors sales and later donate to the foundation certain percentage of their sales for the foundations cultural projects and maintenance of the entire 10-acre property.
Once you have your coupons, its time to eat!!!! PhilFest offers more than 20 of the best Filipino caterer’s in the State of Florida. Caterer’s from as far as Tallahassee, Daytona Beach, Orlando come to sell their best food at PhilFest. One of the most popular is the “Carioca” (flour balls made of sweet rice) from a vendor called “Tita’s Place” who travels every year all the way from Tallahassee! People cue almost half a mile and waiting do hours just to taste this delicious dessert balls called “carioca.” Another popular dessert “Halo-halo” comes from Filipiniana Cafe of Tampa that is not to be missed. There is also Mercel’s Bakery, Noah’s Filipino Restaurant, Simo’s Lechon, Chibugan, Ilonggo, Mata’s Carrinderia, Kaskas Na Yelo, Flora’s Catering, Tindahang Pinoy, just to mention a few. There are also about 30 merchandise vendors selling from Philippine dresses and Barong Tagalogs to Philippine wooden slippers and shoes, fancy jewelry, Philippine brand t-shirts, caps, socks, decals, and much more. There is even “Balut” sold by a roaming screaming “Baluuuuuut.”
Different member organizations from all over Tampa Bay also sell specialty foods like “Kambing” by the Ilocano’s, Magnolia Ice Cream by the Bicolano’s, “Saging Variety” by Bisayan’s, “Torta” other Bohol delicacies by the Boholano’s.
But one of the highlights of PhilFest is the non-stop entertainment during the 3-day event prepared by Entertainment Chairman, composer and conductor of the Bamboo orchestra Nhick Ramiro-Pacis. Just watching the entertainment at PhilFest makes you stay the whole day if not the whole 3 days. Why? Here are just some of the highlights, on Friday come the spectacular “Cultural Night” production Directed by Joey Omila where in the three-cultural group of the foundation perform as one. Music, songs, and dances in one big production. This is followed by a singing competition called, “Tawag ng Tanghalan” with contestants competing for the first place. This competition has sent two winners in American Idol and became finalists. Friday evening ends with dance music provided by a fantastic DJ called “DJ Valenti.” This year was special to PhilFest with the unveiling of the Rizal Monument by members of the Knights of Rizal attended by presidents and officers of the different Philippine organizations.
Saturday is the longest day of the festival. Gates open at 10 am with a live concert by the “Man of a Thousand Voices” Aba Villagomeza taking the center stage singing interpretations from Louis Armstrong to Philippine balladeer Anthony Castello. Highlights for Saturday are the “TFC Hour” with popular movie stars from the Philippines is provided by ABS/CBN Philippine Network through the recommendation of Fernando Solis and Riza Abadia publishers of “PINOY AT IBA PA” and organizers of the Fiesta Mo Sa Florida; the Grand Flores de PhilFest parade, REVOLUTION Hip-hop competition, Sumba, Latin Portion, Classical and contemporary ballet, and performances of Philippine folk dances from different dance groups all over Florida including Tampa’s very own the Philippine Performing Arts Company.
Then Sunday starts with a celebration of the Holy Mass on site before the start of the festival. The one of the highlight for Sunday is the “Tanghalan Pambata” talent competition where children ages 4-15 show off their hidden talents to win the First Place of $500. Then there is the street parade participated by all the organizations called “YUGYUGAN” which means, “shake you boogie,” where people can join and dance just like the festivals in the Philippines. And the finale of all is the crowning of the Miss, Ms. Mrs. PhilFest from participation organizations. This year, ILOCANO USA represented by beautiful Lorna Smith who won the crown of MRS. PHILFEST 2018.
Within the property also stands the magnificent and spectacular Bayanihan Arts & Events Center that seats about a thousand guests in a theater set up, or 500 people in a Banquet setup. The center is transformed into an exhibition hall during PhilFest for people to enjoy the cultural exhibits of clothes, costumes, instruments, art works, mostly loaned by members of the Philippine community.
No question, PhilFest of Tampa today is now known as the biggest and most attended Philippine festival in the East Coast and the only festival in America that takes place in a 10-acre property owned and managed by the Philippine community of organization of the Philippine Cultural Foundation, Inc. The festival which normally takes place every first weekend of April, depending on when the religious Holy Week which is devoted celebrated by Filipinos takes place. This festival is a must to attend every year.