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Posted by Ricardo Kaulessar, Urban Times News on July 22, 2003 at 08:52:02:

Urban Times News

July 1, 2003

The Philippine-American Friendship Day and Parade and Festival on June 29th at Exchange Place may be the only festival in recent memory that has had a Catholic Mass taking place in its midst, but not at all unusual according to Marfo Manibay, one of the chairpersons of the day's event.

"The Philippine-speaking majority are Catholics. It's a practice that every event either starts with a mass or makes the mass an important part of the event," said Manibay.

The Mass was one of the highlights of the event, organized by the Jersey City-based Philippine-American Friendship Committee, Inc. (PAFCOM). It started with a parade from Jose Rizal Park, located on Christopher Columbus Drive and ended up at Exchange Place, where thousands of native Filipinos and Filipino-Americans from Jersey City and the tri-state area gathered for this celebration.

Over 50,000 Filipinos reside in the state of New Jersey with sizable populations located in such places as Jersey City and Bergenfield. Many came to the parade/festival to see the various performers of native songs and native dances as well as a beauty pageant and other events.

Bettina Lopez, a 17-year old Filipina-American from Middletown, N.J. came to take part in the parade and festival as Miss Philippine Day 2003, representing the PDOC organization from Passaic.

"It really gives you a sense of pride when you see everybody gathering together celebrating. It's like usually every day you don't get to experience being a part of something. When I'm at these events, I feel like I'm part of something big. You seem to know this person, and this person. It's one big connection."

The parade/festival was also held to celebrate the Philippine Day of Independence from the Spanish, June 12th 1898, and the Day of Independence from American forces, July 4, 1946. The day's festivity was one of three held this month in the New York/New Jersey area.

Lita Pena, a resident of Jersey City and the overall chairman of this year's parade/festival, explained in detail the theme of this year's parade – FILIPINO VALUES, AMERICAN WAYS, PERFECT TOGETHER. "We want to instill in the hearts and minds of the younger Filipino generation. Them having the American ways, we want to bring them together. Bridging the gap between the young and the old."

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