For many Pinoys based in the Tri-State area of New York-New Jersey-Connecticut, all roads led today to Madison Avenue, long regarded as New York City's fashionable road. Today's agenda still has a bit of fashion involved as men in Barong Tagalog and women attired in Terno paraded down the street as part of the 111th Philippine Independence Day celebrations. This year's theme: "The Filipino-American: Bahagi Ng Bagong Bayani Ng Bayan". Leading the pack was Philippine Vice Pres. Noli de Castro with Sen. Manny Villar, Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano and Ambassador to the U.N. Hilario Davide, Jr.
As the sun shone brightly and Philippine flags fluttered in the wind, different contingents of Filipino-American groups followed one another in between brass bands and floats. Mixed crowds of Pinoys, locals and curious tourists viewed the parade from 41st Street down to 23rd Street where it terminated with a huge street fair just next to Madison Square Park. With my friends Sonny, Ryan and William, we tried to squeeze ourselves in the humongous mass of people - there was a trade fair, a food court and a cultural festival onstage for everyone. I swear I've never seen so many Filipinos congregating in one place outside the Philippines.
It's heartening to note that despite the Pinoy diaspora, everybody still has a grasp of their roots and appreciated where they came from. Food stalls selling Pinoy favorite dishes were a big hit. Many wore T-shirts emblazoned with Pinoy heritage and pride (Manny Pacquiao shirts anyone?). Most surprising was a Tagalog course for those who want to learn the language. At the GMA booth, heartthrob Dingdong Dantes was mobbed by Pinoy paparazzis. While munching on fish balls, I thought leafy Madison Square Park morphed into a Rizal Park with all the Pinoys around me. If Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain were there, they probably would have felt like they're transported back to Manila.