Kodiak Filipino American Association brings back in-person celebration for Filipino Independence Day

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This week marks the 125th anniversary of the Philippines’ Declaration of Independence. That was when the island nation officially began a revolution from its colonizers. Festivities take place across the country each year, and this year, celebrations even took place here in Kodiak. 

St. Mary’s Parish, Kodiak’s Catholic church, dedicated a Mass to the archipelago’s Filipino community on Sunday. After Mass, a celebration was held in the church’s community center across the parking lot.

After Mass, community members and attendees gathered for a group photo in front of the altar, June 11, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

This is one of the first events Kodiak Filipino American Association has had in a while. Mark Anthony Vizcocho is the association’s president. The United States didn’t officially recognize the Philippines until after World War II, but Vizcocho said most Filipinos recognize the original declaration from June 12,1898.

“The first time that the Philippine flag was raised was in Kawit, Cavite by the late president (and) general, Emilio Aguinaldo,” he said. “That’s the first time that we as the Filipino [sic], we are free from bondage, we are freed from slavery. ” 

Some folks even wore traditional Filipino formal clothes for Sunday’s celebration in Kodiak. 

Barong tagalogs are usually worn by men and look kind of like a western button up shirt. Filipinianas are usually worn by women and can look like a short jacket or similar to a shawl. Both are usually white or off-white and transparent, but worn with a similar color shirt or dress underneath. They’re traditionally made from pineapple fibers, and adorned with patterns near the collar and chest areas.

Vizcocho said he wants to hold more events like this to bring together the Filipino community and spread awareness about the association’s efforts. 

“Let’s bring this back online so that everyone can see that we are here,” he said. “We are proud of who we are and we want to share that celebration with everybody in the community, so this is just a start on just giving back to the community.” 

Some helped serve food as they talked with friends, June 11, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

The small room was lined with tables filled with foods like pancit, a rice noodle dish with chicken and vegetables, and kaldereta which is like a stew. There were also desserts like puto, a steamed rice cake. The room was filled to the brim and attendees spoke both in English and Tagalog, the main dialect of the Philippines. 

City Mayor Pat Branson also attended the celebration. The Kodiak City Council proclaimed June as Filipino Heritage Month at its meeting last week in honor of the independence day. She said it’s important to acknowledge the historic presence of Filipinos on the island and the impact they’ve had over the years.

Four women, just outside the filled room, June 11, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

“(The) Filipino Community’s been here since the 1800s, a major part of our community, volunteering, working hard,” said Branson. “And celebrating – The FilAm Association knows how to celebrate with great food and laughter – you can hear that going on inside! So, it’s joyous day.”

Vizcocho said they hope to host a basketball or volleyball tournament next year as well to get more young people involved. 

“Anything that we try to do to get the youth involved,” he said. “That’s one of our main projects, towards the youth.” 

The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly will also proclaim June as Filipino Heritage Month in their meeting on Thursday. Vizcocho says this past weekend’s festivities are just the beginning, and is already planning to host more events soon.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misspelled Mark Anthony Vizcocho’s name; it has since been corrected.

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