Philippine Consul-General in San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr. proudly announced that Philippine Independence Day celebration started early in the Bay Area even as the same celebration happens in other cities in the United States.
The announcement came after he hoisted the Philippine flag in Daly City Hall on June 3, 2019 for the fifth time in as many years, this time with Filipino community leader Perla Ibarrientos.
Bensurto was in Vallejo right on the first day of June and in Sacramento for the Pistahang Nayon the next day for their own Philippine Independence Day celebration.
In the same speech, Bensurto thanked the leadership and the community of Daly City for being the first to ever raise the Filipino flag in commemoration and celebration of Philippine Independence thereby recognizing Filipino heritage and community.
“Every time you hoist the flag, you actually elevate the profile of the Filipino community and recognize the contributions, the value of what the Filipino community is all about in Daly City. From then on, we have been hoisting the flag in San Jose, in Milpitas, San Mateo County Building, among others,” acknowledged Bensurto. “Each celebration shows that the Filipino community is alive, active and vibrant, a good indication that we Filipinos are no longer afraid of our identity.”
Bensurto also shared that the Philippine flag will similarly be hoisted at the San Francisco City Hall led by Mayor London Breed on June 12, the day the Philippine flag was first raised and the national anthem was first sung 121 years ago.,
“Celebrating Philippine Independence Day on the day itself in San Francisco is a source of pride for the entire Filipino community which will also tell us how far we have gone as far as our community being recognized and contribution to society. The growing number of Filipinos not just in the San Francisco Bay Area but in the entire United States that Filipinos might as well celebrate the whole month of June as Buwan ng Kasarinlan or the month of Independence, Liberation, of Freedom,” Bensurto beams.
Bensurto also credits the sacrifices of Filipino Americans like Larry Itliong that greatly helped in the look back on the struggle of Filipinos and what they have done to a larger community that also makes them the pride and ambassadors of their heritage and culture that must be passed on to the next generations of Filipinos.
“If you are not able to transmit that love and passion for your heritage to the next generations of Filipino Americans, then who will love your heritage? At the end of the day, that will have practical consequences because if you don’t love your heritage then you will not be able to speak for that community that may be marginalized for not having a voice,” reiterates Bensurto.
In an interview, Daly City Mayor Ray Buenaventura, who was also the master of ceremonies, acknowledges that Daly City, in being the first to raise the Filipino flag recognizing Philippine Independence Day, has always been very progressive, tried to think ahead and are always trying to recognize the Filipino community.
“Because we have such a large population here so it is incumbent upon us to recognize and honor them as much as we can and are grateful that it has expanded to other cities and it is something wonderful for us to see. To have four council members with Filipino background shows the strength in number. It does say a lot on how our community has responded to wanting the leadership to reflect on the people in the community,” imparted Buenaventura
Buenaventura also mentioned that Filipinos are stepping up in leadership not just in Daly City but in other government positions as well with now having Rob Bonta in the California Assembly to TJ Cox in the U.S. Congress.
“The Filipino are slowly but steadily are increasing their visibility and their positions in government setting a good position for all of us. This is just a start of more things to come. Once you start opening the doors and start seeing more leaders ascend and you see that they are doing a lot of good for the community, it has a trickling effect and more importantly t inspires more people to get more involved and to be in that position as well. And this will serve as an inspiration for others to follow,” confidently uttered Buenaventura.
The Buenaventura-led Daly City Council’s proclamation of Philippine Independence Day in Daly City encouraged all citizens to celebrate broad awareness and celebrate Filipino American history and culture to appreciate and remember the contributions the Filipino Americans have made to the community and to the country.
In his speech, Vice Mayor Glenn Sylvester recollected on the Philippine struggles against its Spanish and Japanese colonizers that only showcased further the courage and bravery in their pursuit of self-regulation and independence
“The thing that stood up to me in World War II was that 200,000 Filipinos fought alongside U.S. troops. And they were promised to get the same benefits as our veterans who are U.S. citizens but they didn’t. So in 2011, Congresswoman Jackie Speier created a bill so that all Filipinos who fought will get the same benefits,” Sylvester pointed out.
Sylvester also paid respect to Philippine flag by citing the significance the three stars that represents the three major islands of the country namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, among others.
“The color white represents hope and equality, blue stands for peace, truth and justice while red is patriotism and valor. There is also the uniqueness of the display of the flag with the blue stripe at the top if country is at peace and inverted with red on top if country is at war,” explains Sylvester of the flag’s colors as he also quoted Indian politician Gautam Gambhir in stressing that “Our flag is our identity. We cannot disrespect it or let anyone else disrespect our identity.”
Former Mayor and currently Daly City Council Member Juslyn Manalo for her part underscored the importance of “recognizing our roots” as she shared that she takes deep pride “in our Filipino culture, our heritage and the struggles as well as the triumphs of our community” although she was born in San Francisco.
“As one of the cities with the largest population of Filipinos, it is so important that we remember our roots and our heritage from the Philippines. Now that I have a son, it is more important me to pass on to him what our culture and our traditions are and who our historic heroes and heroines, like Jose Rizal, Lapu Lapu, and Tandang Sora that paved the way in the Philippines, are,” Manalo asserts. “Here in the United States, (we have the) likes of (Filipina American) Victoria Manalo Draves, the first woman diver to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States and stories like hers are what paved the way for our community.”
The only non-Filipino member of the Daly City Council newcomer Pam di Giovanni recalled that she has been in each and every flag raising in the last five years because she feels in her heart that she is a Filipina.
“I am Pinay because this community has always embraced me with open arms so that to me is nothing new. But to be here as new council member is more humbling as ever because I know that I now represent the community and this Filipino community that is so beautiful, so accepting, so heartwarming. And I look forward for more leadership, embracing them, and bring them in,” di Giovanni vowed.
Di Giovani added that the Filipinos that comprise the estimated 32% of Daly City population are mostly unsung heroes that contribute in the society quietly, humbly and with resilience that continued to grow fast like the rest of the Asian Pacific Islanders (API) that now constitutes 62% of Daly City.
“We need to remember and celebrate as we do today in raising the flag because of the struggles that happened. The Filipinos can finally get the recognition plus more. That is the symbol of hope and our friendship which needs to continue to be stronger than ever. Friendship is what is important and I will be there to make sure that the API voices, particularly those of Filipinos, are heard in our community.
The guests in the crowd who witnessed the flag-raising ceremonies include members of the Philippine community, Daly City Hall officials and employees, and Philippine Consular General in San Francisco officers.
The dignitaries in the momentous event include community leader (left to right) community elder Perla Ibarrientos, Mayor Ray Buenaventura, ConGen Henry Bensurto, Jr., Vice Mayor Glen Sylvester, Council Members Juslyn Manalo and Pam di Giovanni and representatives of Congresswoman Jackie Speier, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, State Senator Scott Weiner, and California Assembly Member Phil Ting among others.
Philippine Consul General in San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr. (left) prepares to hoist the Philippine flag with community leader Perla Ibarrientos (right) while Mayor Ray Buenaventura looks on.
For the fifth time in as many years, the Philippine flag lords it over the seat of power in Daly City where 32% of the population are Filipinos.