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Despite the intermittent summer rains, around 30,000 to 50,000 guests thronged and filled Yamashita Park at Yokohama City to take part in the successfully-concluded Philippine Festival Barrio Fiesta (PBF) 2012 on September 1 and 2.
The Barrio Fiesta 2012, organized by the Filipino Community in Japan with the co-sponsorship of the City of Yokohama with the support of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan, was held after a hiatus of five years since the last Philippine Festival in 2007 at Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.
At the opening ceremony, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez commended the efforts of the Filipino community and expressed appreciation to the different sponsors and local officials who contributed to the success of the event.
Ambassador Lopez said the Barrio Fiesta aims to promote greater appreciation and understanding of the various facets of Filipino culture and traditions in mainstream Japanese society and the wider international community. He said that the fiesta also aims to get the Filipino community in Japan know and appreciate each other better, whether one is from Luzon, Visayas, or Mindanao. He invited the guests to experience that, indeed, it is not just more fun in the Philippines but that there is more Filipino fun in Japan as well.
MOFA Director General for Southeast and Southwest Asian Affairs Kunio Umeda delivered a special message on behalf of Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba who also congratulated the organizers of the Barrio Fiesta and expressed pleasure that the event was held in Yokohama, a sister city of Manila and a city with deep historical connections to the Philippines.
Minister Gemba cited the strengthening of the strategic partnership of Japan and the Philippines and reiterated his appreciation for the latter’s humanitarian support during the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake. He also hoped that there was no major damage in the Philippines after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck off the Pacific Coast of Samar last August 31.
PBF Chairperson Jenavilla Shigemizu said that in the Filipino tradition of a fiesta being celebrated as a thanksgiving and an offering for safety from harm and disasters, she hoped that the Barrio Fiesta 2012 would be on occasion to pray for the safety of fellow Filipinos in the Philippines. She also hoped that the event would help Filipinos in Japan unite for the good and welfare of their native land, the Philippines and their second home, Japan.
Yokohama City Mayor Fumiko Hayashi also graced the afternoon of the first day of the Barrio Fiesta by laying flowers, along with Ambassador Lopez, by the commemorative marker of General Artermio Ricarte at Yamashita Park. In her message, Mayor Hayashi said, “While in exile in Japan, General Ricarte, one of the heroes who contributed to the independence of the Philippines, lived for approximately 20 years around what is now Chinatown”.
Mayor Hayashi also cited the Dr. Jose Rizal first landed in Japan through the port of Yokohama. She said that these heroes “would surely be so pleased that the Philippine Festival is so splendidly held in Yokohama which has very deep ties with the Philippines.” She also hoped that through the Barrio Fiesta, “the friendship between our two countries can grow even stronger.” Mayor Hayashi also visited the different food and commercial booths that participated in PBF 2012.
A lively and colorful cultural parade, composed of the Higantes Festival of Angono, Halad Festival of Leyte and Samar, folk dances from Abra and the Cordillera, and the Santacruzan, kicked off the celebrations.
Through the assistance of many sponsors, popular Philippine celebrities such as Christopher de Leon, Pops Fernandez, Ariel Rivera, Giselle Sanchez, Allan K., Lovie Poe, and Laarni Lozada performed and entertained visitors during the two-day event.
Japan-based Filipino talents and Filipino community groups also filled PBF 2012 with many songs and dances which showcased the diversity and richness of Filipino culture.
PBF 2012 had 54 booths occupied by 11 food and 26 commercial locators. Filipino fiesta cuisine, products, and services were widely patronized by the visitors to the PBF. The Department of Tourism and the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo also maintained booths during the Barrio Fiesta to promote Philippine tourism and provide public services and other vital information respectively.
As of 2011, there are more than 210,000 Filipinos in Japan, with around 128,000 thousand residing in East Japan.