By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly
For the last 20 years, Pista Sa Nayon (roughly translated, it means “festival now,” though it has a colloquial definition of “town festival”) has been a longstanding tradition for the Filipino community in Western Washington.
Former King County Executive Ron Sims, his wife Cayan Topacio, and members of the Filipino community held the first Pista Sa Nayon in 1990. Since then, the Pinoy community hosts a day-long event in Seward Park that celebrates cultural milestones, contemporary talent, local businesses and organizations, and, of course, the food. Pista also coincides with Seafair, Seattle’s ongoing summer festival.
This year, the festivities took place on Sunday, July 26, which also happened to be the second day of a 90-degree heat wave that engulfed the city. As the event got underway at 9 a.m., people braved the hot weather to celebrate and eat.
“Man, it’s so hot here,” said Jon Cruz, while fanning himself with a program.
Cruz, 21, is a student who lives in Lynnwood, originally from California. This is his second year attending Pista Sa Nayon.
“You know, growing up, there’s a lot about Filipino culture I didn’t get to really learn because my parents wanted us to be able to integrate with American culture well, so other than [some swear words] and the food, this is the one place where I can get to learn more about my heritage.”
Like many cultural festivals, Pista balances tradition, contemporary arts, and a bit of everything else. The Pilipino American Youth Organization (PAYO), for example, performed traditional dances. Hip-hop inspired dance groups like Kontagious and Angels also performed throughout the 10-hour day.
While a majority of the contemporary acts were hip-hop or R&B-based, there was a separate stage at the entrance of the festival dubbed the Ihaw Ihaw Jam, which featured rock bands, thanks in part to the explosion of Filipino pop-punk bands.
And yet for all the dancing, rocking, and halo-halo (a Filipino dessert that can consist of ube, jackfruit, crushed ice, and red mung beans), there were members of groups like the Filipino American Student Association (FASA) and Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), who were there raising awareness for their respective nonprofit organizations.
Local businesses, such as Filipino-inspired apparel company Archipelago, occupied the tented booths on the perimeter of Seward Park’s amphitheater.
The support of Mayor Greg Nickels, King County Executive Ron Sims, and others walking around the Pista is a reminder that there is a strong support system within the community to not only host cultural events, but also to encourage independent businesses owned by Filipinos.
As he sips from a bottle of water and holds a lumpia, a Filipino egg roll, Cruz is able to offer a sensible, youthful insight.
“I know that a lot of Pinoys and Pinays will buy shirts like this one,” said Cruz, pointing to an oversized red t-shirt emblazoned with the Philippine sun, “and that’s cool, but [I think that] people should look more into what it means to them and to us, rather than just getting it because they’re Filipino and they want to turn themselves into an [advertisement].” ♦
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at email@example.com.