NEW YORK - Filipino pride fired up the streets of New York City at the 116th Philippine Independence Day celebrations on Sunday.
Every first Sunday of June for 25 years now, Filipinos turn Madison Avenue into one big showcase of fiesta and culture.
From Filipino professionals to domestic helpers to beauty queesn - every sector of the Filipino community from 12 nearby states was represented.
"It's the largest Filipino celebration outside the Philippines, so mabuhay and Happy Independence Day," former beauty queen Bessie Badilla said.
This year's parade celebrates the triumphs of those who wore the flag: boxing and mixed martial arts champion Ana "The Hurricane" Julaton; Michele Bumgarner, the first Filipina to race and win on the international stage of auto racing; and Olympic figure skater Michael Christian Martinez, the first Southeast Asian to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Olympic figure skater Michael Christian Martinez joins the Philippine Independence Day parade in New York City. Courtesy of Michael Christian Martinez Facebook page
"Kahit na small, yung, maliit yung country pero pero magagaling naman tayong lahat at natatalo natin yung mga iba't ibang mga malalaking bansa... Sa tingin ko we are really blessed by God," Martinez said.
"I'm representing the Philippines. Ako lang ang Pinoy sa Mazda Road to Indys, so to be here is very exciting... So amazing, I'm very honored and blessed to be a part of it and siyempre, I'm a proud Pinoy," Bumgarner said.
"I think it's great for our future generations. I think all the Filipinos abroad here in the US will have resounding confidence... To have something like this is amazing and I'm glad to be part of it," Julaton said.
International celebrities like Black Eyed Peas' Apl.d.ap and Hannah Montana's Anna Maria Perez de Tagle also joined in the festivities.
"We are not in the Philippines, we are making this a huge celebration, that one day just, to show that we are proud Filipinos, so it's very important to me," Perez de Tagle said.
For these young Filipino-Americans, joining the parade is a way to discover their roots.
"In this Independence Parade, it's great to see what Philippines has to offer, what you're missing being here," Pauline Casino of Bronx, New York said.
But for some young activists, this is a yearly platform to convey their stand on pressing issues that affect their community such as immigration and human trafficking.
"Tuloy ang laban para sa tunay na kalayaan... Is this real genuine freedom? So we really want to show that workers are organized, that we're fighting for our rights, fighting for genuine freedom," Leah Obias of Damayan Migrant Workers Association said.