By: Ryan Tejero
Welcome to the new heights of celebrating the 120th Philippine Independence Day this year! Here in Chicago, the Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC) is the community’s leader in steering up Independence Day festivities, year after year. Now, on its 43rd anniversary, PIWC ushers in a new and vibrant leadership that will surely leave behind a commemoration of an important Filipino historical event – in its grandeur, inspiring and a deepening experience.
Lourdes Mon is this year’s PIWC Overall Chairperson. She is hailed by others as “strict,” but many admire her for being straightforward, objective, and no nonsense. She is one of the most respected leaders in the Chicago Fil-Am community. Her vision for this year’s celebration is to honor the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines, and to raise the historical significance of the Philippine Independence in the younger generation. Her passion is to create an Independence Day celebration where the youth will be connected to their roots, and for the earlier generation to work harder in promoting our culture and always encourage everyone’s participation.
This year, PIWC’s role is changing, as it hopes to bring one another in a venue where everyone equally puts the same energy in making the festivities a huge success. Lourdes explains that, “As a teacher, my style of leadership is to inspire the volunteers, treat them well and encourage teamwork. As the Overall Chair, I act like one of the foot soldiers, where I work just like one of the volunteers.” Lourdes wants to see every volunteer to contribute productively, to accomplish expectations, collectively, and to empower each one of them to make decisions for the good of the event.
Lourdes believes that, in today’s time, it is hard to teach the young, and so the parents should encourage their children to appreciate and embrace what they know about Filipino culture and heritage. She calls for PIWC and the entirety of the Filipino American community in Chicago to instill and strengthen the mentoring and guidance among the youth, especially those who were born here in America, on the importance of celebrating and the true meaning of Philippine Independence. It is her utmost desire to leave a lasting gift for the young people to connect and relate with Philippine Independence Day to increase their awareness of their roots, get inspired by their heritage, and feel proud of their culture as part of the beautiful Filipino race.
PIWC’s Gala event on June 23rd is partly a fundraiser. Lourdes encourages all the volunteers and guests to have fun celebrating Philippine Independence Day. She said, “Don’t worry about the money, let’s just enjoy ourselves.” She said that if money is raised during the Gala, she plans to help the following charitable institutions close to her heart: First possible beneficiary is the “Tuloy Foundation,” – which is a charity run by Don Bosco fathers under the leadership of a multi-awarded humanitarian leader, Raqui Evangelista. This organization is based in Manila, and is involved in providing services for the abandoned and street children. Their services include feeding, housing, and educating. The organization offers vocational courses for street children that are enhancing work skills and turning them into productive members of the community. Another possible beneficiary is, “Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation.” This organization is Manila-based, and they are involved in providing books for children, who lack the resources to buy their needed books at school. The last beneficiary in her mind is based here in Chicago. It is the “Feed My Starving Children,” which is an organization that facilitates packing and distribution of food items for families in the Third World countries. This is so attractive to the Filipino American community volunteers because the organization includes the Philippines as one of their recipient countries.
Lourdes is not new to PIWC. In 2001, she was a partner to her husband, who mounted a successful PIWC Independence Day Celebration here in Chicago. Among the highlights of that celebration was inviting the 2001 Filipino American Miss America Angela Baraquio, as the Gala Night guest speaker. Inspired by the impact of a great message from an outstanding Fil-Am celebrity, this year, Lourdes resurrects the same grandeur as she brings in the 2003 Miss America Erika Harold to inspire the community on issues affecting diversity. Ms. Harold represented as Miss Illinois at the 2003 Miss America Pageant, and presented her winning platform on working against bullying.
PIWC 2018 Calendar of Events includes the following: Kick-off Party – January 13; Essay Writing Contest – May 19; Bowling Tournament – June 9; Flag Raising & Cultural Show – June 12 at the Daley Center – Flag Raising, 9:00 AM; Show 12:00 Noon; Senior Citizens Day – June 14 at the Levy Center, Chicago; Mass Celebration – June 16 at the St. Hilary (California & Bryn Mawr, Chicago); Picnic – June 17 at the Bunker Hill, Chicago; Health- O-Rama – June 17 at the Picnic; Art Exhibition TBA; Gala Night – June 23 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, and Awards & Appreciation Night – July 6at the Miraj Banquets.
Lourdes adheres to the value of effective time management. As a producer of a TV Show and Awards, she wants the Independence Day Gala Program to be well-organized, on-time and well-executed. So this is just a very exciting event to witness. The PIWC Gala Night is scheduled on June 23, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. This year’s theme is “Pilipinas Na Hinirang, Ipagdiwang Natin.” Program starts at 6:30PM.