Friday, July 20, 2007

Barrio Fiestas in the UK: showcase for Philippine culture and tourism | Wow Philippines

LINK: WOW Philippines

Two of the biggest Filipino barrio fiestas in the world take place in London every year. These are the Barrio Fiesta sa London organized by The Philippine Centre, the oldest umbrella organization of Filipino community associations in the United Kingdom, and held in mid-July at the Lampton Park of Hounslow Central in west London. 

The other one is the Philippine Independence Barrio Fiesta in Morden Park, south London, organized by a new grouping of associations under the banner of Kapatirang Sandigan ng mga Pilipino UK or KASAPI, held sometime in June to celebrate Philippine National Day which is June 12.

And these two events are just among several other barrio fiestas taking place around the United Kingdom, with similar activities already being held in nearby Ireland where a Filipino community of OFWs is growing fast.

With thousands of festival enthusiasts including Britons and other nationalities trooping to the barrio fiestas, these cultural and social events have turned into a fun-filled, overwhelming introduction to Filipino culture, and an open invitation to Britons of all ethnicities, as well as other Europeans, to travel and see more of the Philippines.

In fact it's not only a growing number of UK and Europe tourists who have been attracted to spending their holidays in the Philippines, but also overseas Filipinos who miss the sights and sounds of their native land. The existence of the Filipino barrio fiesta, together with an aggressive promotion campaign being waged by the Philippine Department of Tourism in London under the Philippine Embassy, can be credited for this phenomenon.

Given the potential huge market as seen in fiesta attendance, the Philippine Department of Tourism office in London ?�?��?ǣ now headed by Tourism Attache Domingo Ramon C. Enerio III, with the expert assistance of tourism officer Chit Afuang and their hardworking staff, has become a regular participant not only in the London barrio fiestas but in other Philippine festivals held in the United Kingdom and Ireland spread throughout the year. No matter the size of the Philippine fiesta, expect the DOT to be present, pitching the WOW Philippines campaign both to homesick overseas Filipinos as well as to Europeans eager for exotic destinations and value-for-money vacations and holidays.

At the Philippine Independence barrio fiesta in Morden, on June 23-24, DOT's streamers and promo ads served as decor of the performance stage as well as of the KASAPI booth. The tourism booth itself was festooned with WOW Philippines buntings earlier shown at the World Travel Market in London, which featured Philippine health spas, and the attractions of Banaue, Bohol and Baguio. The Lord Mayor of Merton, Councillor John Dehany, visited the booth and was pleased with the native handicrafts displayed there. Sharing the booth was the Philippine Embassy which rendered consular work such as authentication, acceptance of passport applications, passport renewal, and other services. The overall two-day attendance was almost 40,000, which wasn?�?��?��t bad at all for a barrio fiesta being held only for the third time. 

The 23rd Barrio Fiesta sa London took place on July 14 and 15 at its usual venue, the sprawling, green expanse of Lampton Park in Hounslow Central, just a few train stops from central London. Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu gave the welcome remarks on opening day of the fiesta, while his Deputy Chief of Mission Rey Catapang continued to set the festive mood with another message on the second day. 

This year's staging of the fiesta drew a record weekend crowd of 80,000 people, almost double the attendance in recent years. Not even the strongest tempest has been known to dampen the holiday spirit of the London fiesta-goers, and this year the slight drizzles on the second day hardly diminished the fun and excitement generated by the warm camaraderie and intermingling of the huge variety of people who had come to savor the best of Filipino hospitality and community celebration. Majority of the fiesta-goers were overseas Filipino workers with whole families and even visiting friends in tow ?�?��?ǣ nurses and hospital workers, professionals and students, long-time UK residents working in British companies and institutions. They were joined by numerous Brits and other nationalities ?�?��?ǣ Caucasian, Asian, African, Caribbean, etc. ?�?��?ǣ who were obviously having the time of their lives.

The picnic grounds were filled with tents and mats brought by these families and groups of revelers who had come to watch the highly skilled performances of cultural groups and listen to the world-class musical artistry of Regine Velazquez. She, together with two other Pinoy musical stars Nyoy Volante and Epy Quizon, had their trip to London sponsored by Smart, and received assistance from the Philippine Embassy in the processing of their visas in Manila. They all performed at the center stage, while another stage near the entrance featured rock bands.

Aside from the performances on stage, the other top crowd-drawer was of course the Filipino food bazaar, made up of a row of booths from where hunger-inducing, mouth-watering aromas wafted all throughout the weekend, giving the Pinoys a welcome taste of home and their British and other guests a savory treat of native Filipino dishes with their distinctive Asian flavor and European influences. Another line of stalls offered groceries, souvenir items, real estate investment opportunities in the Philippines, tours and travel packages, cargo-forwarding and money remittance services, and right at the very entrance stood the Department of Tourism booth, which it shared with the Philippine Embassy, as well as the Labor/OWWA, SSS, and Pag-ibig representatives. 

The DOT for the first time held a picnic reception in its ample reception area for its travel trade partners ?�?��?ǣ Jetlife, Faraway Holidays, Celestial Travel, Gifto Travels, Charrie Travel, PIC-UK, Emerald Global Travel, Complete India and Asia, Go Dive, Live Travel, Citibond, Pinoy Travel, Dukes Court Travel, Fiesta International Travel, and Philippine Worldwide Connections. Also gracing the occasion were other supporters of Philippine tourism, including the DOT?�?��?��s friends from the British travel trade media, the UK executive director of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), members of Friends Philippines, officers of Filipino community organizations, officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy and its other attached agencies, and many others. 

The primary objective for this picnic reception was to give British friends and supporters a chance to witness the excitement of a Philippine barrio fiesta. The two hundred guests of the DOT were visibly impressed not only by the reception but also by the atmosphere of gaiety pervading the fiesta grounds. The bands of Ray Desomala from Birmingham and Roger Rogero, an Embassy officer, provided rousing music at the reception. 

The DOT was all over the place during both days of the fiesta. Newly printed flyers were distributed, including a promo flyer for Text WOW, a new initiative of DOT London, focusing on the pleasures of Boracay, Puerto Galera, Palawan, and Bohol. The new WOW Philippines bags with the Text WOW promo were also distributed. On the second day of the fiesta, DOT London joined the main parade at 10:00 am, led by Deputy Chief of Mission Rey Catapang and Tourism AttacheChicoy Enerio, together with the heads of Filipino associations. The parade also featured a mini-Santacruzan with pretty little sagalas or princesses flanked by gaily decorated arches.

In the course of the parade, the DOT displayed eight colorful roll-up streamers on Boracay, Palawan, Bohol, Manila, Dive, Mindanao, Baguio/Banaue, and the Ilocos, and shouted "WOW Philippines!" while the huge street crowd cheered them on. The DOT contingent included Tourism Attache Chicoy Enerio, DOT press relations officer Chit Afuang (who took on the role of majorette!), DOT stalwarts John Cruz, Lito Mendoza, Richard de Villa, and Mrs. Tere Enerio, and the Philippine embassy's Querubin Cacho, Defense Attache Col. Aldred Limoso, and Beth Cunanan. The parade started at Holloway Street near ASDA, a 3-minute walk from Hounslow Central Station, wended through the High Street, and culminated at Lampton Park where a throng of cheering thousands waited.

So great was the demand for DOT London?�?��?��s brochures, posters, flyers, maps and bags that they were all snapped up by the fiesta-goers. 

?�?��?�With such overwhelming enthusiasm for Filipino culture, cuisine, and customs very evident during the two days of the Barrio Fiesta sa London, one may conclude that Filipinos abroad are beginning to realize they have an important role to play in promoting tourism to the Philippines, and we always welcome their support,?�?��?� said Tourism Attach?�?? Enerio.

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