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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dance stars emerge at Filipino Fiesta

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Dane Fagaragan, 5, of Salt Lake, and Gabriel Lewis, 7, of Kalihi, take on the clapping tinikling poles for the folk dance at the 18th annual Filipino Fiesta at Kapi'olani Park.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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As a housekeeper at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, Efren Salas is the reigning employee of the month and featured singer/harmonica player/comedian at the department Christmas party.

But at yesterday's Filipino Fiesta at Kapi'olani Park, Salas reached a new pinnacle: Igiling Giling Dance Champion.

The 59-year-old Kalihi resident said he had never before attempted the slinky, hip-displacing dance — a club fave in the Philippines — so he improvised.

And while the official record has him tied for first with two other dancers more than half his age, Salas was clearly the crowd favorite as he inspired raucous chants of "Shake it, manong!"

"I'm an entertainer," Salas said with a shrug. "That is what I do."

The dance contest put a decidedly festive bow on a day in which thousands gathered to celebrate Fili-pino culture.

Manny Grafia, 69, of Chinatown, watched the contest — which he dubbed "Fili-pino American Bandstand" — with a broad smile.

"It's good that they're trying new things," he said. "It's modern but still ethnic. My dad was a musician, so I like to come here to listen to the music and watch the entertainment. I like it, but I think the music should be a little more fiery."

The festival, now in its 18th year, kicked off with a parade from Fort DeRussy to Kapi'olani Park, followed by a traditional Flores de Mayo springtime celebration.

While hundreds gathered around the bandstand to watch a full schedule of traditional music and dance performances, many others waited patiently in line for heaping portions of pinakbet, pancit, adobo, lumpia, embodito and other Filipino fare.

Newlyweds Michael and Elana Jiminez of Toronto stopped by the festival after a full afternoon of shopping and sunbathing.

"I had to have my halo-halo," said Michael Jiminez, 32. "It's been too long."

Elana Jiminez said she and her husband attend Philippine National Day celebrations and other Filipino cultural events at home in Toronto. The festival, she said, felt much like home.

"The vibe is very warm and very comfortable," Jiminez said. "We totally blend in."

Entrepreneurs Rodel Joson and Rico Naputo of Underground Tees were on hand to promote their Pinaybreed lines of T-shirts.

"We've been in business for two years," Joson said. "So far, so good."

The booth attracted a steady flow of business throughout the day, mainly on the strength of its impressive collection of Manny Pacquiao tribute shirts.

Also at the festival were clubs representing the Illocos, Cordillera, Tagalog, Mindanao and Bicol regions of the Philippines.

Charo Feliciano of the Bicol Club of Hawai'i said the event provides a rare opportunity for Filipinos at large to come together to celebrate their shared history and culture, and for immigrants from specific regions to connect and find a bit of home in their new country.

Fellow Bicol Club member Bebot Cruzata said she met several people from her native Bicolandia — a region famous in part for its Mayon Volcano and equally fiery laing chili peppers.

"It's very nice to be able to talk about home," she said.

CORRECTION:?Efren Sales’ name was misspelled in a previous version of this story about the Filipino Fieazsat.