HaloHalo Festival draws huge crowd
To the delight of the fledgling organizer, the first ever Halohalo Festival on August 17, 2014 at the iconic Artscape Wychwood Barns at 601 Christie Street, Toronto drew a huge festive crowd, under the very sunny August skies. Like the year-round favorite “halohalo” which is a thirst quencher and eye-filler (tummy filler, too) the festival offered a mix of Philippine traditional and modern music and dance, history, cuisine, traditional games and martial arts, visual arts , and also a mix of economic diversity.
A number of commercial sponsors came to promote their products and services, and celebrate with a huge crowd of Filipino Canadians and other multicultural communities who attended. Named to celebrate the merry mixture of Philippine racial, cultural, and hereditary diversity with the corresponding conglomerate of languages, music, dance, games, sports, arts, dress and costumes, food and practices, and many other matters that make up the Filipino, the favorite concoction “halohalo” is itself a merry mix of delicious ingredients.
Sponsored by the HaloHalo Organization, the festival is supported by the Philippine Consulate General, the Philippine Artists Group, and earlier inspired by Ward 21 Councillor Joe Mihevc whose ward is home to numerous Filipino Canadians and covers the Wychwood Barns.
Politicians – present and aspiring, and of various political affiliations – trooped to the event: MP Patrick Brown of Barrie, Ontario; Minister of Finance Joe Oliver; MP Mark Adler – Bathurst constituency; mayoral candidates Olivia Chow, John Tory, and Sarah Ferguson; and District Board candidate Manuel Mendoza Ching.
Consul General Junever Mahilum West , Senator Jun Enverga and Councillor Joe Mihevc graced the festival, and cut the Ceremonial Ribbon. Alberto Rodil, 2014 recipient of 2014 Outstanding Canadian Immigrant Award was present, and delivered an inspiring speech. Numerous Filipino Canadians from as far as Barrie, Port Hope, Cobourg and other Ontario towns and cities joined the festivities, and pledged to come again next year.
Members of the Philippine Artists Group, a 26-year old venerable pool of elite visual artists of the Filipino Canadian community, got center stage sketching their models who posed with self-conscious delight as the artists drew their features on the sketch pads. Cultural Attache Janet Hizon marvelled at her likeness when presented with the sketches, and vowed to display them at her office in the Philippine Consulate in Toronto. Consul General Junever Mahilum West, herself a talented visual artist and participant at PAG’s art exhibits, joined in the plein air. Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow surprised many as she sat and joined the sketching session – she shows talent!
To what amounted as street dancing to which Filipino folk dances and music gathered great interest and participation, the HaloHalo Festival organizers vow to expand the program next year. Too, the Halohalo dessert itself, costing a mere few dollars for a super-sized bowl to fill as much as you want, proved to be a crowd pleaser – it will surely come back next year.
Consul General Mahilum-West stated that the Halohalo Festival jives with the cultural and economic diplomacy objectives of the Philippine Consulate, and the Consulate supports and encourages community organizations that promote them. The Consulate booth featured registration for overseas voting in the Philippines; inquiries on dual Philippine/Canadian citizenship; and the 2nd Tour of Winter Escapade.
The HaloHalo Festival is organized by a handful of Filipino Canadian community leaders who aim to further promote and celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the Philippines.
The small group of organizers – composed of Voltaire de Leon, Rose Tijam, Ana Nacorda, Maria Guiao, Marcie Bernal and Hernani de Leon – chose August 17, 2014 to hold the event in memory of the martyrdom of Filipino leader Benigno Aguino, who was assassinated for his principles on August 21, 1983 in Manila. Voltaire de Leon paid tribute to Ninoy Aquino in his Welcome Speech to the audience.