By Steve Angeles ABS-CBN North America Bureau

June 12, 2013

LOS ANGELES–Filipino Americans are reliving the spirit of Araw Ng Kalayaan in Los Angeles with a month’s worth of parades, high profile visits, and numerous festivities.

“This parade is vital to any Filipino in any country because the Kalayaan or Independence Day symbolize the Filipino people being free,” parade marcher Tony Mendoza said.

While cities like San Francisco and New York have unified celebrations drawing tens of thousands, Los Angeles, the region with the largest Filipino population could only muster multiple small gatherings. The Consul General hopes to change this. This year she helped spearhead the first Filipinotown parade and has recruited the youth to have an active role in organizing the community.

“What we’re trying to do is strengthen the institution so that our community will see that there is really available support system from the different organizations, hometown associations and for our youth to be reconnected to their heritage,” said Consul General Helen Barber Dela Vega.

This year’s first ever parade drew thousands, and a few popular Filipinos from the area including Bernardo Bernardo, Power 106 radio personality DJ Icy Ice, Hollywood Actor Sean Michael Afable, and boxing contender Drian Francisco.

While the celebrations are festive and elaborate, for many it’s a time to reflect on the issues confronting the Philippines.

Former president Fidel Ramos kicked off independence week, celebrating with the Pangasinan Brotherhood, touring the US on with his book ‘Silver Linings.’

His tour comes shortly after American author Dan brown compared Manila to the “Gates of Hell”which he says is a reminder for Filipinos to keep striving for a better country despite gaining its independence 115 year ago.

“I see this as a wake up call for the leaders of our country to starting with those in Malacanang, the debate the house and in the metro Manila environment. It’s a wake up call because its not the way we would like to portray the Philippines much less our metropolitan capital,” explained FVR.

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