Photos by Asia Morris.
The inaugural Long Beach Filipino Festival’s only hitch was that it was too packed.
Thousands attended the highly-anticipated event to experience the art, culture and food of one of the city’s largest Asian American populations, blowing its committee members’ expectations clear out of the water.
“It was just a big X factor,” said the festival’s executive director, Anthony Formoso, whose background includes over a decade of experience helping organize the Annual Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture (FPAC) in Los Angeles. “We knew that we were going to build it, that it was going to be made, but we didn’t know that people were going to actually come.”
Headliners included rapper and lyricist Ruby Ibarra, DJ and vocalist Gingee and local outfit Bootleg Orchestra. Bootleg Orchestra’s performance was one stop on their mini tour in support of the Stop the Killings Campaign by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, while Ibarra celebrated the release of Nothing On Us: Pinays Rising and the accompanying music video at the Roxie the following day.
Attendees were also treated to a live art battle, wares sold by dozens of vendors including Philippine Expressions Bookshop and Illa Manila and authentic Filipino food from Long Beach-based Edna’s Filipino Cuisine and others.
Festival goers waited in line for full plates of pork and chicken adobo—where the meat is cooked slowly in vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and soy sauce—empanadas, halo-halo—a shaved iced sundae with layers of sweetened beans and evaporated milk, topped with ube ice cream made from a sweet purple yam commonly used in Filipino desserts—and ensaymada, a sweet bread traditionally topped with grated cheese, some which were stuffed with ube ice cream.
“I hope attendees walked away from the event knowing a little more about the culture and with a sense of inclusivity as being a part of the Pinoy family,” said Art Director Bodeck Hernandez. “Also for Filipino-Americans to have a deeper understanding, pride and ownership of their indigenous roots and lost traditions.”
Organizers also commented on a few improvements already in the hopper for the next event, which would include more art installations on top of the live art illustration battle, a few tweaks to restroom signage and parking, and most importantly, more food vendors. Attendees waited in line—some for more than an hour—to get a taste of what the dozen or so vendors were offering; not a bad problem to have for the committee’s first event.
“It’s a beautiful thing, it’s super overwhelming,” said Formoso. “Everyone I talk to—it doesn’t matter if you’re Filipino or not Filipino—this has been a long-awaited festival. And it was a powerful feeling having around 7,000 people there and just the community finally coming together, the Long Beach community.”
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