Filipino festival still fostering ‘friends for life’ after 7 years
Tom Schaaf and Maria Sinsioco come from two very different backgrounds. Schaaf once worked in close coordination with the White House, as a part of the Office of Management and Budget. Sinsioco once worked as a medical physician and lived in the Philippines. By 1996, Schaaf was working as a director for Capital One. Sinsioco was settling into her new life in the U.S.
On Aug. 10 and 11, the two will have but one simple label: volunteer. They will be working for the sole purpose of benefitting the seventh annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Woodman Road.
“It’s a huge effort,” Schaaf said. “You could never do this if you were paying everyone. It takes so much from our volunteers.”
The festival will feature authentic Filipino cuisine, including pansit, lumpia and adobo and live performances from the likes of Keith Horne, Janet Martin and Cedar Creek. Also, native Filipino dances will be performed by children in a local Pilipino language class.
Sinsioco and Ernesto Mina started the class, independently of the festival, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in 2005. Sinsioco had previously held culture workshops in the Richmond area and when introduced to Mina, another teacher of Filipino culture, the idea sprouted to create a class.
“Two of my children were born here, and they are the wind beneath my wings,” Sinsioco said. “I wanted them to be able to connect with the past so that they really would understand who they are as Filipino-Americans. They’ve always participated in the class.”
The class is taught from October to June and is open to all Filipino-American youth and interested adults. It is free and completely volunteer-based. The students learn about language, art and history of the Philippines.
“The church was very supportive when we first got started,” Sinsioco said. “They gave us a free room for the program which we have all year around. We do most of the dances and performances to help the church, and proceeds go to youth programs.”
As Sinsioco’s class was starting up in a back room of Our Lady of Lourdes, Tom Schaaf was sitting on the church finance committee, thinking of ideas about how to better serve the local community.
“We started to look at things more so in a social perspective than a financial perspective,” Schaaf said. “I got to know everyone in the community through that and met a lot of our church’s Filipino contingent.”
Finally, the committee came up with the idea to run a Filipino festival. The idea was approved by the pastor and the inaugural festival was held that year.
“It was extremely successful in our first year,” Schaaf said. “It was a perfect day. We proved we could do this and we were like ‘Gee, let’s just do this every year.’”
It wasn’t long until the two programs came in contact with one another and decided to fuse interests for the good of the community.
“We just decided that we should combine forces,” Sinsioco said. “We learned about their plan and they learned about ours, and we all just decided to help out for the good of the kids.”
The class was a main cause for the influx in volunteer support for the festival, including Sue Berinato, now manager of the festival promotions team.
“I got involved because my kids were dancers in Maria’s class,” Berinato said. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is a perfect opportunity for the kids to learn about our heritage. I need to help out.’”
Berinato is now one of 600 volunteers, who like Schaaf and Sinsioco come from an array of diverse backgrounds. Some are from the church and some come from other factions. Some are Filipino and some are of other heritages.
“It all starts because the kids [in the class] come from different backgrounds,” Sinsioco said. “Whether we’re black or Hispanic or whatever, it’s important to send the message that we’re all the same. We put on a dance called the Pinoy Ako at the festival. The message is that no matter what, we all should still be proud of who we are.”
Festival representatives expect this to be their biggest year for attendance, even though it competes against other festivals in the Richmond area.
“We’ve always had this competition,” Schaaf said. “The Richmond people really just love their festivals. I’m going to bet that people will really enjoy ours, plus we cost infinitely less.”
The festival begins at 5 p.m. on Friday and continues until 10 p.m. It will then continue from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free but donations are accepted. More information about the weekend can be found on the festival website, http://www.filipinofestival.org.
“Where else can you say, ‘Hey, come here and learn about this culture,’” Berinato said. “We’re going to teach you a bit and put on a show for you. That’s the beauty of this. Everybody’s welcome.”
“The Filipino people want the visitors to feel welcome,” Sinsioco said. “We want you to feel like you belong. When you are a friend, you are a friend for life.”
If you go
What: The Filipino Festival
Where: Our Lady of Lourdes, 8200 Woodman Road
When: Aug. 10 (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and Aug. 11 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Admission: Free; donations accepted
Details: The event will include authentic cuisine, live music and dancing, exhibits, health screenings, children’s games, crafts, jewelry, clothing and more. For information, call 262-7315 or visit http://www.filipinofestival.org
To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.
Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.
The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.
While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.
Hundreds of spectators filled the banks of the James River to watch two dozen teams of competitors in the Walgreen’s Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing Aug. 2. The event included a number of races, as well as several cultural performances. The sport is billed as the fastest growing water sport in the world.(Photo by Roger Walk for the Henrico Citizen) > Read more.
For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.
‘Fire and Rescue’ proves too predictable, boring
Planes: Fire and Rescue opens with a dedication to the hero firefighters of the world. It’s an admirable notion, and it makes sense, given that this is a film about planes that fight fires.
But here it might be a little out of place, as Planes: Fire and Rescue has a few things on its mind besides supporting the men and women who routinely throw themselves into burning buildings.
Like money. Lots and lots of money – into the 11-figures-and-counting range. In case you weren’t aware, 2006’s Cars was the biggest moneymaker Disney had in decades – not because of how much green the film printed at the box office, but because a combination of toys, games and snack foods stamped with the Cars seal of approval routinely pulls in tens of billions of dollars per year. > Read more.
This weekend in Henrico, you can learn about fall herbs or mad science. Enjoy some laughs from West End Comedy or Three-Penny Theatre’s production of “The Rivah Home Companion.” For music lovers, Jennifer Nettles is in concert tonight and the fifth annual GWAR-B-Q takes place tomorrow at Hadad’s Lake. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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