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Organizations and Pageants

Organizations & Pageants

Community * Connections * Contribution Bayanihan * Kapwa

Filipinos by nature seek to find commonality with others. The Filipino organizations fulfilled that need and by the 1980’s the number of Filipino organizations exceeded 250. One popular event through the 1990’s were pageants and popularity contests which served as
fundraisers for the organizations. More importantly, it brought community together.

The Filipino American Community

The Filipino American Community was the fifth Filipino organization founded in 1959 with Florencio Lopez of National City as its first president. When the Philippines was given its independence from the United States on July 4, 1946, the Philippines designated July 4 as Philippine American Friendship Day. The organization held an annual beauty pageant the first week of July and representatives from different organizations competed in the contest.

The 1970’s brought the creation of regional organizations which held various social gatherings including picnics, dinner-dances and beauty pageants to raise funds for the organization. Those regional pageant winners then ran for the Miss Philippines Contest which ran from 1960 to 2013.

The Filipino American Women’s Club was established in 1949. Photos are from their first Installation of Officers on April 17, 1949.

Courtesy of the Hawkins Family

As early as 1964, Filipinos in San Diego contributed to efforts helping the Philippines. A plane was purchased to send on mission in the isolated areas of the Philippines. The Summer Institute of Linguistics aptly named the plane The Spirit of San Diego because of the generosity of the Filipinos for this mission.
Article SDUT September, 1964 Photo with Summer Institute and Puring Labao of National City and Edna Jaramillo of Sherman Heights, both officers of the Filipino Community Association of San Diego County.

The Balboa Park Centennial- Philippine American Celebration

2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, an event that drew millions of spectators to Balboa Park and put San Diego on the world map.The Balboa Park Centennial- Philippine American Celebration was presented by the Filipino community in a collaborative effort by ten Filipino organizations. The three day event held June 5-7, was called a “Big Balboa Park Party.” The organizations provided funding for the $150,000 project and resources in the management and entertainment of the three day event are:

Council of Philippine American Organizations-COPAO DOD FED GLOBE
Fil-Am Fest
Gawad Kalinga
House of the Philippines
Operation Samahan
Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts&Education Center

Silayan Filipino National Organization

The Evolution of Singkil

Philippine dance once again draws an audience to the Balboa Park Centennial Philippine American Celebration in June, 2015. The presentation of THE EVOLUTION OF SINGKIL, a dance from Southern Mindanao was an epic performance in the first major collaboration featuring six California Philippine Dance Companies. The audience roared as fan dancers came from all directions at the Organ Pavilion for a stunning conclusion to evening’s celebration.

National City based
Samahan Philippine Dance Company;
Los Angeles based Kayamanan Ng Lahi and
Malaya Filipino American Dance Arts;
and from San Francisco BARANGAY Dance Company.

Beauty Pageants

Beauty pageants were popular in the Philippines as each village had a muse. The tradition continued and became part of the Filipino American experience in the 1960’s – 1980’s. The selection of queens was done in two ways: either a beauty pageant or the selling of

The Filipino American Community Association of San Diego County held the Philippine American Friendship Day to commemorate the Philippines independence from the United States in 1946. It was highlighted by a beauty pageant of young women representing various Filipino organizations.

The ballot method had each candidate sell ballots. They would have a “Tabulation Night.” where the winner would be declared and then a Coronation Ball in the following month. The funds for these events helped purchase buildings or in the organizations operations.

The first Miss Philippines Beauty Pageant was held July 3, 1960 at the U.S. Grant Hotel.

Courtesy of Grace Aruta Lallana

The Philippine American Community of San Diego County hosted the annual Miss Philippines contest from 1960 to 2011. It was the largest gathering of the Filipino community.

PC-L: 1962 Miss Philippines held at the historic

El Cortez Hotel.

PC-T: 1999 Miss Philippines, Francine Maigue, (escorted by her father Edilberto) of Chula Vista whose community work was inspiring for many Filipino Americans you in the performing arts and politics. She sadly passed away February 22, 2022 from cancer.

May Queen of Flowers

Florita Tulao Billena of National City, won the first May Queen of Flowers in 1967 for the Filipino American Veterans Association. It was the first of many queen contests in the Filipino community in which purchased ballots determined the queen and raised funds for their activities or the purchase and maintenance of their building.
Souvenir Program provided by the Labao Family

The First Mrs. Philippines Contest

PASACAT held the first Mrs. Philippines Contest in 1971. The coronation took place on the eve of Mother’s Day and the proclaimed queen would process in a Santa Cruzan with floral arches and an entourage of attendants. The contest was held for 13 years and helped purchase and pay off the PASACAT Center at 102 E 16th Street, National City in 1973.
San Diego Union Tribune PAGE B6, January, 28 1971 Souvenir Program provided by PASACAT

Contest Winners

Irma Ellazar from National City, represented the regional Pangasinan Association in the 1971 Miss Philippines contest and won the title.
Shirley Madla from Logan Heights, represented the Cavite Association in the 1973 Miss Philippines contest.
Souvenir Program provided by Labao Family
Eva Ricasa from Imperial Beach, represented the Filipino Women’s Club in the 1962 Miss Philippines Contest and won. Then in 1965 competed in the Miss Imperial Beach Pageant and won the crown.
Florence Ungab became Miss National City in 1972. At the age of 23 she was the first Filipino elected in a political office as she won the National City School Board seat and served till 1987. She was active at St. Mary’s parish in National City.
Grace Nall was born in Cavite City, Philippines to USA Navy Veteran Eugenio Abrigo Limbag (Iba, Zambales) and teacher Cristina Salud Aguinaldo (Illocos Norte). Their family immigrated to United States. She became a naturalized US Citizen. As Miss Chula Vista 1986, Grace participated in many activities for the city’s 75th Anniversary. Later, she served as Secretary for the Aguinaldo Foundation and Secretary for the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS). From journalist to being a National Board Certified Teacher,, her students created a video/ film about Filipino Farm Labor Hero Larry Itliong that won best documentary at the IVIE Film Festival in 2020.

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