Centennial Parade in Jersey City..Today May 31, 1998 the Philippine Centennial Celebration Society of New Jersey celebrated the occasion with a parade in Jersey City. A cultural show followed the parade at the Exchange Place with the New York Skyline on the backdrop. With more advance promotions and organizations it could have been better. Souvenir programs ran out early until someone found more packages inside the truck when it was almost over. What impressed me most however were the Filipinas (Manangs instead of the Manongs) who were prime movers of the show.
Gabriela Silang riding in a white horse with her raised bolo reminded me of my story. We love parade and this tradition did not change from 100 years.
About 70 years ago in the New Orleans "Mardi Gras Time"
Homogenes "Slim" Del Prado was the prime mover . He came from a family of float builders in Manila. Decorations were made mostly from banana stems, bamboo sticks and weeping willows. If you have ever been in Jackson Square in New Orleans you will find Banana trees. Funds were raised by the Penny-a-Vote Pageant and Party. The volunteers worked hard and long before the parade day. On the eve of the parade everything was set, except they needed a long white beard so Jesse Marinelo could portray Uncle Sam. This dilemma worried Slim. He was assured that a white beard would be found and not to worry about it. He slept soundly until the next morning and then he headed towards the parade's starting area. On his way he observed a crowd around a very angry man and a horse. The horse's owner was looking for the culprit who had cut his horse's tail off. When he saw Jesse onboard the float wearing a white beard he realized where the tail had gone. The police were summoned and the first participation of Pinoy Float was in danger. Thanks to some cool heads and strategic compromise, the Filipino Float was allowed to travel in the parade that year.
Jesse a perfect Uncle Sam with giant scissors, fooled paradegoers into thinking that he was the analogy of the US getting ready to cut the chain of a Filipina in bondage. The carnival queen was Agnes Ferniz (Now Mrs. Dominador M Morales of California), a fourth generation Filipina, represented the Philippines with her hands tied as the Philippines was on the brink of being granted its commonwealth status. Around them were about 33 Fil-ams singing and playing guitars to the delight of the Mardi Gras crowd. Slim happily strolled along to slow down watchers trying to pick flowers and decorations off the float as take-home. for souveniers on the side. The float won First Prize that year.
The following year, the floats got even bigger. Chief George Reyer, New Orleans Police Department superintendent, noticed how big the Filipino float was and started asking the volunteers how they were going to pull it through the parade route. These innovative people were happy to point out to the Chief that under the massive decoration was a truck driven by a volunteer. This was the year the first motor driven float showed up in the world's biggest parade. And needless to say, that year, they won again.
Float is Balsa and it must be our seafaring characters from our barangay days. Early Filipinos were very fond of water festivals. Towering floats as in Bocaue, Pasig, and other Rivers in the Philippines had been in the main attraction. Yes the early Filipinos in New Orleans were famous for floats.
Nestor Palugod Enriquez
The floats were partially funded by the Slice of Heaven Program of the City of Jersey City. Please visit the site, Filipino friendly>>>>
City of Jersey City Webpage