By Josephine H. Kim
UW News Lab
For the past 23 years, Filipino Americans in the Seattle area have gathered each year to celebrate their culture. On Sunday, July 31, the Filipino community hosted Pista Sa Nayon (a phrase translated to “town festival”).
From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. visitors enjoyed games, dance, entertainment and food at the Seward Park Amphitheater.
“Although times are different, there is still an understanding to be had within different generations. We want to show that we are proud of our heritage,” said Austin Mesina, vice president of FASA, the Filipino American Student Association at the University of Washington.
In 1990, Ron Sims, then a member of the King County Council, proposed an idea for a summer festival. Sims recognized that while the Filipino community had a large presence in Seattle, they didn’t have a celebration of their own.
With help from his wife and staff assistant, Sims approached community leaders and asked for support to put together a summer festival to celebrate Filipino traditions.
The event started rather small with 5,000 attendees. Last year some 15,000 people were attracted to Pista Sa Nayon.
“It has been amazing,” said Cindy Cawaling, chair of Pista’s all-volunteer operation. “I feel fortunate to be the chair of an event that has so many people involved. Not one person can put this together, and it’s an honor to be a leader of a dedicated community that wants to celebrate tradition.”
A devoted team of organizers, participants, entertainers and sponsors come together to bring Pista to fruition every year. Volunteer-led organizing committees meet throughout the year for the now large-scale event. About 100 volunteers come out on the day of the festival; they are busy picking up trash, organizing the parade and performances, and driving the free shuttle that runs through the surrounding neighborhood of Seward Park.
At the backbone of this operation is FASA. Not only do members help out behind the scenes, they perform on stage every year and promote their events at a booth.
When asked about her experience with FASA volunteers, co-chair of entertainment Aileen Trilles commended their involvement. “It is amazing to see multi generations of the Filipino community represented throughout the event. We wouldn’t be able to give a comprehensive cultural view without the help of FASA. Their contribution is unquestionably visible.”
Led by their community chair Melissa Jubane, FASA members are currently busy preparing for Pista Sa Nayon. This year they will organize a booth for children. Members will be face painting and setting up games to give away prizes, including both real and fake (edible) gold fish.
“Our main goal is to show that the young Filipino American adults in the greater Seattle area actually care and want to be there,” said Mesina. He explained that many older Filipino Americans think young adults don’t care about tradition. FASA would like to prove their cultural awareness since many second- and third-generation Filipino Americans don’t speak the language, become increasingly Americanized, and forget their roots.
While many college students are indifferent about community involvement, FASA’s contribution to Pista shows that they want to be part of the Filipino American community. Whether through community service or Project FAMILY (Filipino Americans Mentoring and Instilling Leadership in our Youth) they plan to continue to take an active role.
“In order to Pista to continue, we need the younger generation to get involved,” said Cawaling. “The FASA volunteers do anything we ask of them, we appreciate their eagerness and willingness to help out. Their interest in the event is a true testament to the dedication and effort in connecting to their cultural heritage.”
(JOSEPHINE H. KIM is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)