20,000 Filipinos turn up for day of food, fashion and fun

Dubai: The UAE is home away from home for Filipinos, but nowhere was this more evident than at the Bayanihan Festival in Dubai.

At the Dubai World Trade Centre, Filipino expatriates from different emirates gathered together to spend a fun-filled day, with lots of activities and performances by talented artistes.

Jaya, a well-known Filipina singer, entertained the crowd with her soulful music and Christmas songs. She even performed a number with Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes, and had the audience singing along.

Professional singers and dancers tried to outperform each other, entertain the audience, and receive the title of ‘Best of the Best Performers’.

The Parade of Fiestas showcased different regional costumes from the Philippines — from Cebu to Iloilo, from Davao to Ifugao — and the traditional folk songs and dances made the atmosphere vibrant. Candy Delos Santos, a Dubai-based Filipina cabin crew member, said: “I am thrilled seeing the different Filipino groups and various schools in colourful national attire. It’s amazing that they were able to bring the cultures and traditions of the Philippines to the UAE.”

Santos added that she wants to see more handicrafts from the country at the next Bayanihan Festival.

Hamdan Sayedy, a Dubai-based staff member of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO), said: “I am happy to see that Filipino community members from different emirates come together to celebrate the Bayanihan Festival.”

Doriana Elpedes, a Dubai resident who also works at POLO, said: “It feels like we are back home, seeing a lot of Filipinos in national costumes and meeting long-lost friends. It feels good!”

The festival saw around 20,000 Filipinos attending, with guests from other nationalities as well, according to FilClub chairperson Maria Fe Tata Dayot.

She said: “We are happy to see the support of 107 Filipino organisations and various schools, and to showcase the talented Pinoys. We are here to celebrate two important occasions — to feel the spirit of Christmas and UAE National Day. Let’s unite, participate and enjoy the Bayanihan Festival.”

A few non-Filipinos could also be seen at the venue, enjoying the show.

John Mellet, an Irish national working as a design manager in Dubai for the past nine years, came to the festival with his wife Aleah and daughter Aiden.

He said: “I have been to the Philippines many times and like the culture. Filipinos are friendly and dedicated to their jobs. It’s good to see Filipinos promoting their customs and traditions in the UAE.”

Johann Wilfred, 17, from India, was enjoying the show with his Filipino friends. He said: “Filipinos are well-behaved, very social and enthusiastic. I enjoyed the show and it’s lovely to see everyone in colourful dresses.”

The crowd was enthusiastic for more such festivals, to showcase Filipino cultures and traditions.

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