Taste of Manila 2017 with Pacquiao the biggest yet
By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
Taste of Manila founder and Philippine Cultural Community Centre Chairman Rolando Mangante confirmed Manny Pacquiao’s attendance at this year’s upcoming summer festival. With an impressive growth in attendance from approximately 75,000 in its first year in 2014, last year’s Taste of Manila attracted approximately 350,000 visitors drawing people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds to get a taste of Filipino food and culture in the heart of Little Manila along Bathurst Street and Wilson Avenue in North York. The annual festival has always been well attended by Canadian government officials but 2016 was the first time a Prime Minister graced the event.
Justin Trudeau delivered a speech on cultural diversity wearing the barong Tagalog he received from the APEX summit in the Philippines the previous year before he mingled with the crowd. Media coverage of the charismatic leader taking selfies with visitors and donning an apron at a stall to try his hand at cooking Filipino food brought worldwide attention to the festival. Government officials back in Malacañang Palace could not help but notice the Taste of Manila’s significantly growing success due to the Filipino community’s collaboration and strong presence in Canada that Mangante received a direct congratulatory email from Malacañang which led to talks about President Rodrigo Roa Duterte possibly visiting this time.
This year’s festival on August 19 and 20 is expected to be the biggest yet with international boxing superstar and Senator Manny Pacquiao confirming his attendance as a guest speaker during his meeting with Mangante. This is sure to draw an unprecedented massive crowd of Pacquiao fans from outside the Filipino community to the local street festival. In a video Mangante showed this writer, which he recorded during his meeting with Pacquiao this past January, the senator sends a personal message to his fans in Toronto. “Hello to all the people in Toronto, Canada. How are you there? I hope to meet you there and I can come there. Thank you so much for everything and all the prayers and support. This coming August at Taste of Manila, I hope I can join you to celebrate that occasion and thank you and God bless you,” he says.
Mangante also excitedly hinted at the possibility that Philippine President Duterte will be gracing the event along with an entourage of government officials after Mangante personally invited them during talks about the Taste of Manila when he visited Malacañang. With Duterte’s war on drugs, extrajudicial killings and controversial statements raising international ire on the issues of human rights, his potential visit raises the question of what security measures will be implemented for crowd control. This is in addition to the logistics required to accommodate the certain substantial influx of Pacquiao fans who will be flooding into the festival to get close to the champ. As of now, there is no confirmation yet about whether or not the City of Toronto will give permits to expand the stretch of road closure from last year to allow more space for this year’s growing foot traffic to the festival.
Booths are still available for local and international businesses to rent which will be totalling approximately 127 -130, space permitting, as the board is still working out what games, rides and other activities will be included. The main annual attraction at the event is the presence of Filipino celebrities as the highlight of the entertainment programme. When pressed for hints of which stars might be visiting this year, Mangante said they are still in talks. ABS CBN has supported the Taste of Manila for the past three years but as of now, there is still no confirmation regarding which network or celebrities will be participating. As always, the entertainment programme will include performances by local talents including cultural dances by traditional folk dance groups and indie artists. Local artists who wish to perform at the festival this year should keep an eye on the website for an announcement on auditions.
Now that Mangante has signed a contract to host a radio show with My Radio Toronto set to launch on March 18, he will be more accessible to the public. When asked about what feedback the Taste of Manila board has received over the years in terms of improving the event and what changes they are implementing, Mangante replied, “We are acknowledging all those comments and suggestions. Kung meron man magagandang suggestions at comments, they are welcome. Sino pa ba ang magtutulungan kundi tayong magkababayan.”
For more information, visit http://www.tasteofmanilatoronto.com