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Celebrity, youth culture and the question of role models
The day begins outside the church with the congregation walking in a procession and singing "Dios te Salve Maria" ("Hail Mary") in Spanish, in between saying the prayers of the Holy Rosary. The procession is led by one of the adult members of the congregation, often using a loud-speaker. Once inside the church, the children and youth offer flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The young people are all dressed in their finest clothes (often white). Lined up in pairs, they place flowers in front of a statue of Mary. The final devotee, the year's appointed "Reyna Elena" (Queen Helena), then places her flowers and a symbolic cross in a place of honor near the statue.
Jefferson Parish recently announced the recruitment of 60 Filipino teachers to its school system. On their arrival, established Filipino-Louisianans rushed to welcome the new residents and provide them with furniture and household items. In this way, the community absorbs new members and helps them to adapt, and the connection with newcomers just arrived from the islands serves to reinforce cultural identity and ties to the homeland. Lydia Alvarez, who is active with the Philippine-American United Council of Louisiana (PAUCLA) as well as other Philippine organizations, describes how the community welcomed some new arrivals:
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Growing up in New Orleans, I didn't feel out of place with my Cajun name, Richoux, and my brown skin, courtesy of my Filipino grandparents. At home, my Cajun and Filipino American relatives exchanged recipes and family stories-for example that my Filipino ancestor Felipe Madriaga worked in the Filipino fishing villages of St. Malo and Manila Village and, with his Irish wife Brigett Nugent, ran a small restaurant at one time. With so many diverse cultures, each neighborhood seemed like the center of the universe to its inhabitants. It was certainly the center of my universe, because just about everybody I knew and loved lived in the Faubourg Marigny, right outside of the French Quarter.
Rhonda Richoux, who now lives in St. Bernard Parish, recalls the days when cultural communities attended social clubs right in their own neighborhoods. Her story also brings out the constant interaction Filipinos had (and still have) with other immigrant communities and with visiting sailors from the islands.
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Since our course is focused on black popular culture, I thought it would be interesting to examine the portrayal of domestic space occupied by black families on television sitcoms, a genre defined heavily by shows from the 1950s....
The Philippine Heritage Celebration is held on or near Philippine Independence Day each year. When Independence Day occurs on a weekday, regular work schedules must still be maintained, so it is celebrated either the weekend before or after June 12. In 2008 the festivities, sponsored by the New Orleans Filipino American Lions Club but organized and attended by Filipinos who were both members and non-members, opened with an invocation by Deacon Patrick Dempsey. In his opening prayer, the island-loving priest of Irish descent declared, with enthusiastic sympathy, "We are all Filipino!" This was followed by the United States Pledge of Allegiance, then the United States and Philippine national anthems, and finally a song of importance to all Filipinos, one that is learned by everyone at an early age. Robert Romero, the president of the Filipino-American Lions Club, explains the importance of this song, called "Ako Ay Pilipino" ("I am a Filipino"), and also discusses the importance of gathering together as Filipinos to remember and celebrate freedom, culture, and community:
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Sara notes a difference between performing for an all-Filipino audience versus a mixed audience, "The shock factor is more surreal from a mixed audience versus an all-Filipino audience, because they have never seen anything like this." Like many people who keep traditional dance a vital part of Louisiana's Filipino community life, Sara explains that dance enhances her feelings of connection to her heritage and of pride in Philippine culture. Her comments also capture the great sense of fun with which dancers approach a performance:
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Dance can express so many things - feelings, pride, and love for country. It can express who you are, what you feel and what you stand for. Our own folk dances and the performers are my inspiration. I'm so proud of them. . . . Everything with the dance is my favorite - the dance itself, the melody and rhythm of the music, the gracefulness of the steps and movements. I could say that our folk dances provide wholesome entertainment for the family, for both men and women, young and not-so-young, and they are powerful in upholding our culture, customs, and traditions.
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The conservative organization, to the extent that it is successful in mobilizing money and prestige, incapacitates itself for direct political action insofar as the people it recruits are successful in business or their careers; personal success leaves them little time for or interest in personal participation.
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We have started these cultural presentations way back in the early 1970s, and through time interest for these somehow waned. I thought it would be worthwhile to restart it again. Like the leaders from before, I am very much aware of the need to keep Philippine customs and traditions in the hearts of our youth so that they will remain in tune with their ancestry.
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The Philippine Heritage & Independence Day celebration is very different in feel, since it specifically celebrates Philippine history and culture. The event is commonly described by participants as "a bonding experience" for Filipinos in Louisiana. Family members come from other places for the event and, after Katrina, community members may return from their new homes to celebrate with their former neighbors. The most obvious difference, of course, is that the crowd is almost entirely Filipino-notable exceptions are non-Filipino spouses. One of the most interesting and exciting ways in which the event differs from other events at which Filipino culture is included is the reception given by the audience to the dance performances, described by children and adult attendees as the high point of the evening.
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