124th Philippine Independence Day Celebration in the Town of Jean Lafitte

On June 4th in the Town of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, members of the state’s Filipino American community gathered to celebrate the 124th Philippine Independence Day. The celebration honored the legacy of Filipinos who fought for their country’s independence and highlighted the richly connective histories between the Philippines and Louisiana. 

At Manilla Village Plaza, Philippine Honorary Consul Robert Romero honored the legacies of the first Filipino settlers in Louisiana.

We also memorialize the freedom-loving Filipino pioneers who have sought refuge in a place, not a land of their birth, but a place where they could value their heritage and practice their faith with universal aspiration for better lives. The lessons we can learn from [the first Filipino settlers in Louisiana] are: hope in the face of untold adversary and opportunity through their faith, determination, and resilience. 

Consul Robert Romero

Filipino settlers arrived in Louisiana as early as the 18th century to seek refuge from the oppressive control of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. These Filipino seamen, known as Manila Men, created the first permanent Asian American settlement at Saint Malo, Louisiana, and extended the frontier of opportunity for future generations of Filipino Americans to establish roots in the United States. Romero’s speech emphasized the hefty sacrifices of these early settlers and their contributions to creating flourishing communities of Filipino Americans in Louisiana who are proud to honor their ancestry and culture — a connection shared by many of the event’s audience members. 

Honorary Representative Tim Kerner Sr., Mayor of the Town of Jean Lafitte Tim Kerner Jr., and Philippine Honorary Consul Robert Romero

Romero’s speech was followed by a speech from the Mayor of the Town of Jean Lafitte Tim Kerner, Jr., who offered a commemoration to those who lost their lives in their heroic battle to make the Philippines an independent country.

This day is honoring all the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the Philippines. Those people, who made that ultimate sacrifice, will never die. They live through all the Filipinos who are changing lives and who are making this world better, so, look, today let’s honor them.

Mayor Tim Kerner, Jr.

Formal celebratory proceedings were followed by a cultural and historical reception which offered attendees a taste of assorted Filipino dishes and desserts. Volunteer chefs generously prepared Filipino foods like lechon, afritada, pancit, and ube halaya to serve guests.

Volunteer chefs standing ready to serve reception attendees (Image Credit: Jolly Alden P. Merto).

The reception included a variety of speeches that touched on the history and meaning behind Philippine Independence Day. Dr. Jose Juan Bautista explored the context surrounding the establishment of June 12th as Philippine Independence Day. Dr. Randy Gonzales explained how early Filipino American communities in Louisiana were often conflicted over their dual allegiances at a time when the Philippines was still colonized, but ended up using that inner conflict to support independence.  Eva Adolfo presented a compelling bid for attendees to remember that freedom is not a privilege that should be taken for granted. 

In a festive conclusion to the reception, Hayley Wysinger sang a collection of Tagalog songs including “Sierra Madre” as the crowd gathered with their fellow friends and members of the Philippine-Louisiana Historical Society.  

The program was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Town of Jean Lafitte, the Philippine-Louisiana Historical Society, and the Philippine Honorary Consulate in New Orleans.

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