The Filipino community on St. Croix, which is largely comprised of teachers employed with the Virgin Islands Department of Education, celebrated the 120th Philippine Independence Day on June 17 with history, music, food, games and recognition of its members for their work in the St. Croix community.
The celebration–themed “Kalayaan 2018. Pagbabagong Ipinaglaban, Alay Sa Masaganang Kinabukasan,” which translates as “Freedom 2018. Fought for Change, Offer to a Copious Future,”– was the first of its kind in the Virgin Islands and was held at the St. Croix Educational Complex gymnasium.
“A month ago, it was just a dream to celebrate the Philippines 120th Independence Day here on St. Croix — our second home to most Filipinos here on the island,” said Florendo Astropabio. “But with all hands-on-deck, everyone’s blood and sweat, here we are commemorating, for the first time in the Virgin Islands, the Philippines Kalayaan 2018!”
Astropabio, special education teacher at John H. Woodson Junior High School, extended his appreciation to guests for attending the ceremony on Father’s Day.
“We are grateful for your presence here,” he said. “You chose to spend the day with us, especially on Father’s Day. I am requesting all the fathers to please stand up, including the father of the Virgin Islands, (Governor Kenneth Mapp). We wish you a Happy Father’s Day from the Filipino community.”
During his remarks, Mapp highlighted the long history of the Filipino community in the Virgin Islands. “Folks from the Philippines in the Virgin Islands and Philippine culture in the Virgin Islands really [aren’t] new to us,” he said. “Folks from the Philippines in the Virgin Islands, they are family. They came in the mid-seventies I believe, in the health care system, as doctors and nurses.”
“The community of folks from the Philippines and the community of folks of the Virgin Islands really are a blended community,” the governor Mapp said. “You bring tremendous value to the Virgin Islands of your service and work. We have reached out to the Philippines community for teachers for our students and for our classrooms here. And we’re just very, very, very happy to have you.”
Elsa Zara, Filipinos Awards Committee Chairman and special education teacher at Elena L. Christian Jr. H.S. presented plaques of appreciation to members of the Filipino community who have served the St. Croix community in education, medicine and business.
Gov. Mapp and Genitta Richards, principal of St. Croix Educational Complex principal, were singled out for recognition. School administrators, teachers and government officials attended the celebration.
Guests enjoyed traditional Filipino cuisine and an exhibition volleyball match. Larong Pinoy, a traditional Filipino game, shaped the rest of the day.