THE CARIGARA FIESTA - EASTCOAST
HOW IT CAME TO BE
Simon Q. Riel
One spring weekend in 1987, I was visiting Boy & Grace Larraga at their home in Queens, a borough of New York City, when
Luisito de la Peņa came a-knocking. We had the usual repartee common whenever friends get together. Boy mentioned that he
was getting anonymous phone messages in Waray looking for him and asking why nobody answers the phone; but the caller would
not leave his name or number.
We found out that Caloy Quilaneta was the caller; he and his family had just arrived from the islands. Probably bored stiff
and with a lot of spare time, he was trying to contact other Kalgaran-ons. We understood what Caloy was feeling because most
of us had been through that stage when we had just arrived in the "TATE " at one time.
Out of the blue, Luisito asked how many Carigaran-on families do we know who live in the New York/New Jersey area. Among
the three of us, we counted about 25 families. Boy came up with the idea to have a get-to-gether during the coming summer;
to which Luisito suggested having it on the Saturday in July nearest the 16th to celebrate the Carigara town fiesta. A "potluck"
picnic would be much better, I said.
The three of us agreed to this idea; Luisito already knew of a park where we could go and he had a big tent that we could
use. My role was to contact the different families of this plan. Little did we know that this picnic would snowball into
what it is now.
I called town-mates that I knew who live in New York City and the areas surrounding the Big Apple. On one of these calls,
I found out that a group of Carigaran-ons (the Uy siblings, their relations & others town mates) in the Washington DC
metro area had tried for the last couple of years to organize a town fiesta affair but could not get it off the ground. They
always ended up at Jessie & Elaine (nee Uy) de Leon's home in Great Falls, Virginia on the weekend closest to the town
fiesta date. I called up Elaine and urged her and her group to come up to the planned picnic in Staten Island, New York,
with the promise that the whole group will celebrate the following year's town fiesta in the Washington, DC Metro area.
I came up with the invitation and directions to the park. The mailing list included town mates down the East Coast of the
North American continent, from as far north as Ontario, Canada and Norfolk, Virginia to the south. We purposely did not send
out invitations to friends in California, because we knew that the West Coast Carigaran-ons were already organized and had
been celebrating the town fiesta in San Francisco, California for a couple of decades.
July 17, the day of the fiesta came, and we found ourselves, behind the park office building, away from the people who frequented
this seaside park every summer weekend. About 70 people showed up. Food was plentiful and the drinks flowed with the usual
"batidor & pabowa-bowa", a trait of a Carigaran-on. Catching up with the latest news from back home, new happenings in
each other's life were the topics of conversation throughout the day. Funny incidents that we had experienced in this great
American way of life were recalled. We had taped music but it was always being drowned by laughter. The camaraderie was great
and enjoyed by everyone present.
Towards the afternoon, we could sense that everyone wanted this affair to be held on a yearly basis. There was a proposal
to have an election of officers for the group. I explained to everyone that elected officers would not be advisable for our
group because of the great distances between most of us. It would be very hard to manage such a group. I reminded everyone
of groups, clubs and associations of Filipinos who live in areas very close to each other, having problems because of petty
jealousies, wounded pride, distrusts and the often unaccounted or missing funds. I told them of incidents of several Filipino
associations' presidents, who formed another association because they lost their re-election bids.
We would be better off if "there will be no President; all of us will be Presidents. We do not need a Treasurer because there
will be no revolving funds so there will be nothing to be miss-spent or to be accounted for".
It was agreed unanimously. The affair will always be a potluck basis. Each family must bring enough food and drinks for
the duration of the party. Next year's celebration will always be announced during the previous fiesta. The families that
live in the area hosting the next celebration will meet and organize among themselves into committees. They have to come up
with the date, venue and the music. As long as these two rental-expenses are not too costly, they will be paid using the
proceeds of the kuratcha dances, T-shirt sales, donations at the door and other gimmick they can do during the affair.
The picnic had to end around seven o'clock that evening because the park had to close up. We left knowing fully well that
the following year we will be in Washington, DC as announced.
By word of mouth, the next year's fiesta became known among other town mates. People planned their vacation so they could
attend this affair. Calls were coming in to have their names & addresses added to the invitation-mailing list.
July 16, 1988 was a very hot Saturday. The venue was a community hall in Burke, Virginia. The hall was air-conditioned,
but with about 250 people inside the hall, it was hard to get the place cooled down. The affair started around 12 Noon, with
a Holy Mass in honor of our patron, "Santa Cruz del Triumfo". Whenever the front door would open with new arrivals, surprised
faces and muffled screams of glee could be heard even during the Holy Mass. New faces from California, Delaware, Florida,
Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia came aside from those who had
attended the previous year. Faces that could not be connected to their familiar names were causes of much finger-pointing,
keen stares, big laughs and renewed acquaintances.
After eating lunch, dancing was the order of the day. Taped music for line-dance, hustle, bogie, tango, rumba, paso-doble,
cha-cha, slow-drag and waltz were interspersed with the requisite "kuracha" for the hall rental. Younger kids enjoyed the
games held to get them involved. In the afternoon, Luisito made "lupak" in the middle of the dance floor complete with a
wooden mortar & pestle. We had plenty of food and drinks to last us through lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and late night
snack. The affair lasted until eleven PM. Again, we had a wonderful time.
At 11 PM, people were being told to leave since the hosting families had to clean up the area. Instead people were helping
fold up the chairs, tables and in the clean-up itself; that it started becoming a routine at the end of each affair in the
years to come. With the hall all locked-up, people were still lingering around unable to separate from long-lost friends.
Over the years, somehow, a "parumpag" seem to have materialized the day after the fiesta. Let me explain what is a parumpag.
In Carigara, whenever there is a big wedding or a fiesta, the host or the hermano has to erect a temporary place, a "pantaw
or tolda" perhaps, to house the food pantry and/or the kitchen where the food is going to be prepared. After the affair,
this temporary place had to be taken down - "magpaparumpag". The host would have reserved food and wine especially for this
occasion in appreciation for the help and assistance given him and his family during the affair.
In 1991, I moved to Fort Washington, Maryland from Pennsauken, New Jersey to work for a US federal agency. Since I had several
relatives staying with me for the 1993 fiesta, I decided to have a noontime parumpag. Really, it was just an excuse either
to continue with the merry-making or to taper down the previous day's excitement. All of us at my parumpag ended up at Vinod
& Nilda (nee Uy) Wadhwa's home in McLean, Virginia for the evening parumpag.
Through the years the town fiesta had been celebrated in:
1987 Seaside Park in Staten Island, New York
1988 Community Hall in Burke, Northern Virginia
1989 Monmouth Battlefield State Park, New Jersey
1990 Church Hall in Norfolk, Virginia
1991 Fire Hall in Felton, Delaware
1992 Church Hall in Rockaway, New York
1993 Church Hall in Bethesda, Maryland
1994 Church Hall in Middlesex, New Jersey
1995 Carigara, Leyte for the Quadricentennial Celebration
1996 Church Hall in Norfolk, Virginia
1997 Church Hall in Coram, New York
1998 Church Hall in Orlando Florida
1999 Church Hall in Bethesda, Maryland
2000 Church Hall in Chicago, Illinois
2001 Church Hall in Carteret, New Jersey
2002 Community Hall in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
2003 Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church Auditorium Ridgewood, NY
2004 Christ Lutheran Church Hall Bethesda, MD
2005 St. Demetrius Community Center Carteret, NJ
2006 Ithasca Golf and Country Club Ithasca, IL
2007 Sts Cyril & Methodius Church Deer Park, NY
2008 The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Alexandria, VA.
2009 Santo Niņo Catholic Church San Antonio, TX.
2010 Frankfort Square Park District Community Center Frankfort, IL
2011 Kalayaan Community Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
2012 Seniors Center South Plainfield, New Jersey
2013 Greensboro, North Carolina
2014 Bayanihan Center Nine Eagle
Dr. Tampa, Florida
2015 Sts Philip and James Church St. James New York
2016 Collumcille Knights Hall, Fort Washington Maryland
2017 Pope John Paul ll Cultural
Centre Mississauga ON. Canada
Next year's celebration will be on July __, 2018?
The new venue is ___________ Details will be posted as they become available.
Past Fiesta Celebrations
FIESTAS SITE HISTORY
1987 - Staten Island, New York
1988 - Burke, Virginia
1989 - Freehold, New Jersey
1990 - Norfolk, Virginia
1991 - Dover, Delaware
1992 - Rockaway, New York
1993 - Bethesda, Maryland
1994 - Middlesex, New Jersey
1995 - Carigara, Leyte Phil.
1996 - Norfolk, Virginia
1997 - Coram, New York
1998 - Orlando, Florida
1999 - Bethesda, Maryland
2000 - Chicago, Illinois
2001 - Carteret, New Jersey
2002 - Mississauga, ON Canada.
2003 - Ridgewood, New York
2004 - Bethesda, Maryland
2005 - Carteret, New Jersey
2006 - Chicago, Illinois
2007 - Long Island, New York
2008 - Washington DC
2009 - San Antonio, Texas
2010 - Chicago, Illinois
2011 - Mississauga, ON Canada
2012 - South Plainfield, New Jersey
2013 - Greensboro, North Carolina
2014 - Tampa, Florida
2015 - St. James, New York
2016 - Fort Washington, Maryland
2017 - Mississauga ON. Canada
HOST'S STATE FLAGS