Philippines Independence Day Parade Marches Down Madison

In the 34th annual celebration of the island nation’s declaration of independence from Spain, bright colors and ebullience abound.

| 10 Jun 2024 | 02:44

This is a tale of two parades. They were both held on the same Sunday, June 3, in the same borough, Manhattan, about 20 odd blocks apart.

The larger one, the Israel Day Parade up 5th Avenue, got an immense amount of attention, including from Straus News. This is totally understandable: blue and white Israeli flags, and police, were everywhere.

The smaller one, the 34th Annual Philippines Independence Day Parade, marched down Madison Avenue from 38th to 27th streets, was comparatively overlooked. This is unfortunate for the event—the largest Philippine Independence Day parade outside of Manila—is hidden jewel of Manhattan’s June calendar and a joyous, exciting, accessible spectacle that makes one want to wave a red, white, blue and yellow flag, and dance, and eat, while wearing the brightest colors modern textiles allow.

The parade is organized by the Philippine Independence Day Committee, Inc (PIDIC. with the cooperation of the Philippine Consulate General in New York. The theme of this year’s event was “Preserving Our Filipino Culture and Heritage to Unite Generations.” Said PIDCI President, Amram David—who’s also a registered nurse in the post anesthesia care unit at Christ Hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey— “The theme is a tribute to the diversity of cultures and traditions that make up our great nation, and the importance of coming together in harmony and respect for one another.”

This isn’t just rhetoric. The sprawling Pacific Island nation of more than 114 million people includes ten distinct ethnic groups, with Tagalog (26%), followed by Bisaya (14.3%) being most numerous. Though the Philippines is mostly Catholic, there are other Christian denominations, Muslims, and indigenous beliefs. Syncretism is also common.

This year’s grand marshal was Charina Amunategui and, if one only took a quick glance at her photo and embroidered dress in the PIDCI website, they might think she was one of the event’s numerous musical performers. Not quite! In fact, Amunategui—who was born in raised in the Tondo neighborhood of Manila—is an accomplished finance professional. Having worked in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Bermuda, she presently holds the position of Executive Director of Fund Finance at MUFG Investor Services, a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. This past spring, Amunategui completed her MBA at Yale University with a specialization in Asset Management.

The historic date of Philippines Independence Day actual is June 12, 1898, when the nation declared its independence from Spain. New York’s parade is held the first Sunday in June because the second Sunday is reserved for the immense Puerto Rican Day Parade, with which no one wishes to compete.

The day began with a morning flag raising ceremony and Independence Mass at the Philippine Center at 556 5th Avenue. This six-story building near 46th Street houses the Philippine Mission to the United Nations, the Philipine Consulate General, and the offices of the Department of Trade and Tourism.

Kicking off at around noon, the parade itself was like that of other such events, minus the sidewalk fencing and heavy police presence. Not that cops were absent: the line of march was led by a pair of NYPD mounted officers. They were followed by a PIPDI contingent clad in bright silken robes and, for the women, bright decorative headdresses. The NYPD color guard came next, accompanied by various white-shirt cops, a photographer from the NYPD photo unit, and, in their dress blue uniforms, members of the NYPD Asian Jade Society, with family members trailing behind.

Preceded by her banner, Grand Marshal Amunategui soon followed. Waving a small Philippines flag, she wore a pink dress with a white parade sash and matching pink, white and black Nike hi-top sneakers. Hours of marchers, musicians, floats, and most stunningly, dancers in various radiant costumes filled the afternoon with joy and vivacity.

Indeed, so inviting was one co-ed dance-line of consisting of shirtless men in loincloths and headdresses, banging metal pans, accompanied by women in multi-hued green skirts, white tops and sombreros, this reporter nearly put away his notebook to join in.

Professional comportment triumphed, however, and we can now share the exclusive news that:

1) Senator Charles Schumer, of Brooklyn, was the only politician known to have attended both the Israel Day and Philippines Independence Day Parade

2) anchored by Fritzie’s Bake Shop of Woodside, Queens, and So Sarap, a Filipino cuisine pop up, the parade’s attendant street fair, on 26th Street between Madison and Park, is among the tastiest in the city.