Consul General’s Corner

Consul General’s Corner

Emil T. Fernandez

Leaving May — The Filipino Fiesta Season

May is considered fiesta season in the Philippines. Coinciding with the harvest season, different festivals are celebrated as thanksgiving for their produce. Among them, we have the Pahiyas festival in Lucban, Quezon with their colorful displays of the kiping (leaf-shaped wafer made from glutinous rice), the Pista Y Dayat festival in Lingayen, Pangasinan celebrating the bountiful harvest from the sea, Magayon festival in Albay and others celebrating local agricultural crops or products such as garlic in Ilocos Sur and basi (sugarcane wine) in La Union.

In almost all parts of the Philippines, the Santacruzan or the Flores de Mayo is held. This Philippine tradition dates back to the 1860s and has religious roots, wherein devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary offer flowers to her image as a symbol of their love and affection. Since its beginnings in the 1800s, this tradition has evolved to become a showcase of each region’s cultural distinctiveness and the craftmanship of Filipino artisans. From the beautiful arches, the elaborate gowns and barongs during the procession to the food prepared for guests, spectators are treated to gorgeous displays of creativity, talent and vibrant traditions of each province.

It is not surprising that Filipinos’ love for celebrations and social gatherings have been adopted by our kababayan in the Aloha State. The Philippine Consulate General had the pleasure to participate in two community-organized fiestas last month: the Filipino Fiesta at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu last May 6 and the Barrio Fiesta at the Binhi at Ani Filipino Community Center in Kahului, Maui on May 26 and 27. During these celebrations, the Consulate set up information booths wherein queries regarding consular services and upcoming activities were addressed. The Consulate also had the opportunity to offer overseas voter registration services at the Barrio Fiesta in Kahului.

A Philippine Consulate General staff assists guests at the Filipino Fiesta held at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu last 6 May.
Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Philippine Consulate

Last May 27, Commissioner Aimee Ferolino and Director Lionel Castillano of the Commission on Elections, participated in the Barrio Fiesta to engage with the Filipinos based on Maui, encourage them to register as overseas voters and exercise their political right to suffrage in the 2025 National Elections. Registered and active overseas voters can vote for senators and party-list representatives in the upcoming mid-term elections.

The fiestas in both Waipahu and Kahului were fun-filled celebrations showcasing the rich heritage of the Philippines through various regional booths, cultural performances, games like pabitin, sungka and palo sebo and, of course, delicious culinary offerings (the lechon was especially mouthwatering). Fiestas, such as these, keep our traditions alive and create opportunities to share them with our youth and introduce them to friends or neighbors who may not be familiar with our cultural heritage.

Commissioner Ferolino invites Maui-based Filipinos to register as overseas voters.
Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Philippine Consulate

Deepest thanks are in order to the organizers of the Filipino Fiesta in Waipahu: Mr. Harry Alanso as Event Chair, Ms. Su Lazo as Event Co-Chair, the Chair of The Filipino Community Center Mr. Edmund Aczon and its Board of Directors, and the organizers of the Barrio Fiesta in Maui: Chairperson Mrs. Nora Cabanilla Takushi, Co-Chairperson Atty. Alfredo Evangelista, President of Binhi at Ani Mrs. Melen Agcolicol and its Board of Directors, for giving the Consulate the opportunity to join the festivities and engage with visitors and guests. We look forward to further sharing our culture and heritage with our countrymen and other residents of Hawai‘i in the coming years.

A contestant attempts to reach the top of the greased pole during the palo sebo game at the Barrio Fiesta.
Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Philippine Consulate

Emil T. Fernandez is the current Consul General of the Philippines stationed in Honolulu. He graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management Economics. Prior to his appointment to Hawai‘i, Fernandez served as Deputy Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany. His other foreign assignments included Washington, D.C. (2010–2016), Santiago, Chile (2005–2008) and Caracas, Venezuela (2002–2005). In Manila, Fernandez held several important positions, including Executive Director of the Office of Asian & Pacific Affairs (2016–2018), Director for Southern Europe of the Office of European Affairs (2009–2010), Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations (2008–2009) and Acting Director of the Office of ASEAN Affairs (1999–2001).