The Militant, tending to non-blog-related activities over the past few days, ended his Militant hiatus on Saturday as he carpooled with an unspecified number of his Filipino operatives to the 16th Annual Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC ("F-pack"), as the Militant's operatives pronounce it) in San Pedro's Point Fermin Park, the southernmost point in the City of Los Angeles, and, as one of the operatives half-jokingly pointed out, the closest part of Los Angeles to the Philippines - a Southeast Asian archipelago some 7,000 miles across the Pacific.
With over 262,000 Filipinos in Los Angeles County, the ethnic group also comprises the second largest nationality immigrating to the United States (after Mexico) and is the largest Asian ethnic group in California, a state which boasts a little more than half of the two million-plus Filipinos in America.
Unlike most ethnic festivals, FPAC does not coincide with a national holiday but rather was organized by predominantly 2nd-generation Filipinos who grew up in the US to showcase their cultural traditions through various disciplines of the arts. The festival actually started in 1992 at Los Angeles City College, then moved down to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro a couple years later, finally arriving at its current home in 2001.
The festival site, located on the grassy area next to the Point Fermin Lighthouse on cliffs overlooking the Pacific, was a fine spot for a festival, and the mildly warm and breezy late Summer weather was a far cry from the blistering mugginess that plagued the Southland just one week prior. When the Militant and his operatives arrived around noontime, it was already abuzz with so much action, the Militant had a difficult time focusing on things. The main elements, though, were two stages which featured mostly live music and ethnic dance performances, a "Culinary Pavilion" which featured cooking demonstrations of Filipino cuisine, an adjacent food court and a row of tents that ran the perimeter that housed everything from ethnic-pride t-shirts to nonprofit group outreach booths. Though the crowd was obviously predominantly Filipino, there were a fair number of blacks, whites, Latinos and other Asians there to take in the Filipino culture as well. It also attracted visitors who encompassed the entire age spectrum.
The operatives mainly spent their time hanging out with friends they literally ran into by walking the festival grounds. To the Militant's surprise, he even ran into various operatives he knew as well. There were even a few surprise guests who dropped by, such as the Goodyear Blimp (er, flying overhead...not making an unexpected landing) and even (according to one of the operatives), Mike of Franklin Avenue fame, family in tow (if that was him, then little did he know he walked in close proximity past the Militant...heh heh).
The highlights for the Militant included Room to Improv, an improvisational comedy troupe with a clever name, the Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble (pictured at the top of the article), who played traditional gong music from the Southern Philippines, a screening of a documentary film called World on a String, which detailed the yo-yo's Philippine origins and some great free food samples, such as sisig (sizzling, seasoned pork...er, parts) and spam-burgers and vacuum-packaged samples (spam-ples?) from the SPAM truck (apparently, Filipinos really love SPAM).
FPAC continues on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Admission is $5. Get some SPAM (and some culture as well) while it lasts.