Gawad Kalinga USA marches during Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York.
More than 200 GK supporters converged on the corner of 36th and Madison Avenue on Sunday morning, June 5th to walk on one of Manhattan’s busiest throughways as participants of the east coast’s largest annual Filipino fiesta, the NYC Philippine Independence Day Parade. Along with the animated group of GK marchers, prominent organization figures such as founder Tony Meloto and national CEO Tony Olaes graced the presence of over 50,000 parade spectators by shouting “walang iwanan!” and other optimistic GK phrases, hopefully garnering the awareness and support of the general public in attendance. The two tonys were not the only familiar names at the parade, as national officers Tess Castro and Ben Dichoso came for the fun, even to bring their families along to march. Other heroes that came from far and wide were GK Center for Social Innovation president Frank Chiu of Manila and social innovation hero Philip Ortiz of Florida.
For the first time ever Gawad Kalinga had their own float and booth, both of which will surely become household fixtures in future parades as the organization continues to draw in more supporters from the northeast region. The float captured the warm hearted reception of observers, the PIDCI board, and even the Vice President of the Philippines, Jejomar Binay, who stood up from the reviewing stand and confidently clapped at the small-scale reproduction of the typical multicolored village home. Clichéd support? It most definitely is. But any form of praise from a pinoy policymaker definitely goes to show the amount of effort, care, and love that has been put into mobilizing every kababayan to support GK, especially by building an awesome looking float! On the other side of Madison Avenue the booth buzzed with GK NYC team members interacting with interested crowds and selling Human Nature products while the parade marchers disseminated into the lively block party to eat local pinoy favorites at adjacent food booths such as halo-halo and chorizo hamburgers with bagoong mayonnaise. You heard correctly. Bagoong mayonnaise.
All in all, the Gawad Kalinga march at the NYC Philippine Independence Day Parade was a loving family affair, where sibling heroes exchanged passion and Filipino patriotism in front of 50,000 spectators it the center of America’s greatest cultural mecca.