TAMPA, FL — It was a ball fit for Maharlikan royalty, and for 24 years now, the Sampaguita ball has been a showcase of the Filipino culture and Filipiniana fashion in Tampa.
“This is my sixth year in doing this, and I absolutely love this experience, it makes everyone feel so royal for a night and so much Filipino pride,” said Kristina Biglete, Miss Philippines Earth Florida 2017.
Through the years, proceeds of the ball helped fund one of the biggest — if not the biggest Filipino community center in the US.
The 10-acre Philippine cultural enrichment complex of Tampa, Florida.
“Lahat ng pilipino dito nagkakaisa, for how many years 24 years, lahat kami nagkakaisa para maitayo lang itong cultural (center) natin,” said Marly Balderama, chair of Sampaguita Ball 2017.
As Filipinos in the US celebrate Filipino American history month this October, Filipinos in Tampa celebrate their own history of coming together.
In 1993, Filipino organizations in Tampa came together to form what is now known as PCF-I.
To build this 10-acre property that includes a Bayanihan performing arts center – where Sampagita Ball is held and an open field Philippine village for the yearly Philippine festival or PhilFest.
Their first fundraiser was the Sampaguita ball of 1994.
“At first people are just watching us, their feeling is they’re only good at the start, you know like ningas kugon, but worked past that, and little by little every year they noticed and they realized that we’re really devoted,” said Lucy Bautista, the chair. “And gradually little by little, we got their attention and cooperation.”
The idea was for each organization to be the owner of the cultural center in proportion to its contributions – so every single member took ownership and took great care of the complex.
From the very first Sampaguita ball fundraiser in 1994 to the full payment of the ten-acre property last year, Filipinos in Tampa believe that their accomplishment is a testament to the Filipino bayanihan.
“Learn to work with each other, you cannot all be leaders, you cannot all be the ones to tell this is the way it should be done, cooperate with each other practice bayanihan, that;s what that word is for bayanihan,” said Lari Cummings.
Today, the Filipino community in Tampa is not only enjoying their cultural complex – for them, it’s a source of pride as they celebrate Filipino-American history month.