During my brief residence in the Bay Area in the United States, I made friends in the Filipinx-American writing community, and among them was Aileen Cassinetto, who is currently San Mateo County’s poet laureate.
Aileen migrated to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was young, but still bears much of Inang Bayan’s culture within her. Her present work entails creating and performing poems at special occasions and events, and it is a joy to follow her on Facebook and see her contributions to her community.
Last June 20, she posted about an event that raised Filipinx pride:
“Grateful to be here as San Mateo County raises the Philippine flag, on the 121st anniversary of Philippine Independence.
“San Mateo County, the home of Facebook and other tech giants, is also home to over 60,000 Filipino-Americans. There are more than three million Filipino Americans scattered across the U.S. today, and nearly 500,000 call the San Francisco Bay Area home.”
The event was the 2nd Annual County of San Mateo Philippine Flag Raising, in celebration of the 121st anniversary of Philippine independence. It was held June 20 at Courthouse Square, Redwood City.
The U.S. flag and the Philippine flags were raised in front of the San Mateo Country History Museum. As per protocol, the Philippine flag was positioned slightly lower than the U.S. flag. Both anthems were sung.
The flag-raising event was spearheaded by San Mateo County Supervisor David J. Canepa, who spoke about the origins of Philippine independence and the shared history of the Philippines and the U.S.:
“One hundred twenty-one years ago, the Filipino revolutionary, Emilio Aguinaldo, stood amongst a crowd of his fellow countrymen in Cavite El Viejo and declared the Philippines’ independence from Spain’s 300-year reign…
“We gather here now to celebrate the strong-willed tenacity and courage of the Filipino people who paid the heavy price of freedom.
“Both the Philippines and the United States, inspired by the dreams of sovereignty and self-governance, have built histories together and we stand here to reflect upon them.
“In World War II, when the Axis powers threatened to overtake the freedoms of other nations, more than a quarter million Filipinos fought alongside the United States to overcome it.
“The stories of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans are part of US history. Because when I think about the histories of these two great countries and look at the values on which they were founded on, we share the same spirit.
“The price of freedom is not an easy one to pay, and it is a never-ending responsibility to uphold.
“I stand in awe when I think of our predecessors who had the courage and strength to carry that task on their shoulders, and I salute the servicemen and women who protect the sanctity of this precious privilege today.
“So, I am humbled that you have invited me to share in this feeling of solemn respect as we honor the Philippines’ story of independence.”
Canepa also related that on June 14, the U.S. celebrated Flag Day, a holiday that “commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.”
Canepa said, “We know that a country’s flag holds meaning to the people that it represents, and this holds especially true for the flag of the United States.
“Raising the Philippines’ national flag with this United States’ flag is a moving experience for me. As we celebrate this special day let us be reminded that our two countries are connected through history, partnership, and friendship.”
Other cities in the Bay Area held their own flag raising and Philippine Independence Day celebrations, among them Daly City, population 32 percent Filipinx; Vallejo, Sacramento, San Jose, Milpitas, and San Francisco.
Most Fil-Ams, particularly those with a connection to the Philippines through their family, have a strong pride in Philippine culture, traditions, and heritage. I’ve seen how the youth who were born and grew up in America try to make sense of their identity in a country where the different races are often in conflict by reaching out to their roots, learning to speak Filipino, and cultivating an interest in Philippine mythology and folk tales.
Knowing that the Philippine flag is being raised in a foreign country sends a frisson up my spine. Thanks to Aileen Cassinetto and other kababayans for keeping us updated on their Filipinx-related events. My greetings to the Fil-Am community of the Bay Area, of which I once was a part.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas at ang kanyang, watawat, sagisag ng bansa! //FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO