Piyesta Pinoy makes a dream come true for one lucky Pinay

It was Ingrid Bantugan’s second time to perform at Piyesta Pinoy in Bolingbrook. This year, she regaled the crowd with her rousing rendition of the OPM classic Mamang Sorbetero at half past noon. It was made even more fun with the participation of Norman Paredes who gamely pushed his sorbetes (ice cream) cart in perfect synchrony with the tune!

But wait; there is more to this story! Ingrid and her family stayed on to enjoy the rest of the day while waiting for the celebrity segment to start.  Ingrid bought raffle tickets to help support Piyesta Pinoy and was surprised to hear her name called as the grand prize winner of a round-trip ticket to the Philippines! She quickly made her way to the main stage to claim her prize from Eva Air General Manager Oscar Chen and Deputy Manager Jake Chen.

She was born and raised in the US, and has never been to the Philippines. Her parents supported her late great-grandparents’ medications over the years and were not able to afford the fares to visit the home country. It has long been her dream to visit her Lolo Junior, who is the only one remaining in the Philippines among her grandparents.

“God answered my prayers and my birthday wish with the help of EVA Air and Piyesta Pinoy…My family wants me to take advantage of this opportunity while my grandfather is still strong and healthy…  I am truly grateful that I can finally go home and be with my Lolo Junior. Mabuhay EVA Air! Maraming salamat po!” she excitedly shared with the organizers. She is planning on surprising her lolo with a visit this summer.

This is just one of many stories told about Piyesta Pinoy this year. The Village of Bolingbrook estimated that there were about 5,700 attendees despite the afternoon rains. Some hardy folks stayed despite the cold winds and the rain that dampened the grass, but definitely not their spirits. They sang along and rocked on to the performances of front acts Raissa Yabes, Skokie Idol 2023 Trina Milo-Nicolasin and Skokie Idol 2024 Anna Nicolasin, and especially the celebrity guests The Voice Season 25 favorites Justin and Jeremy Garcia and Shamrock’s former front man Marc Tupaz. They gave rave reviews to the performances of Ingrid, the Nicolasin sisters and Lia Mercer (Lupang Hinirang), Phoebe Teoli (Star-Spangled Banner), Rozz Daniels, Soundredd, No Limits Band, FIA’Liwan, SamaSama Project, BIBBAK, Philippine Nurses Association of Greater Chicago, PSA Barkada, Santacruzan Dance Group, Santacruzan Rhythm of the Islands, FIA Cultural, PACF Performing Arts and Lane Tech Kapamilya Habang Buhay. Piyesta Pinoy had 130 singers, musicians and dancers this year! The program was emceed by Alpha Nicolasin, Galilee Montero, Olive Leopoldo and Olivia Mercer.

Bolingbrook Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta came with the Village Trustees and officers, leading the parade along with Philippine Consul Ella Karina Mitra, who delivered a message on behalf of Consul General J. Susana V. Paez. Mayor Alexander-Basta welcomed the crowds to the village and later on enjoyed the performances on the main stage. One deeply touching part of the program was the conferment of posthumous awards to Piyesta stalwarts Romy Balcita and Glenn Bermejo, with the plaques received by their families represented by Tita Balcita and Celeste Bermejo.

“There were more vendors and many attendees at this year’s festival. The parade started at around 3:00 p.m. and traveled around the far-side of the pond and ended in front of the stage. Despite the rain, overall the Piyesta Pinoy 2024 was highly enjoyable and very successful. Thank you, again, to all those involved!” Filipino Friendship Society new president Michael Palmaira posted on social media. Retired community leader, Alex Cirera who came to this year’s festival with his wife Josie (after being absent for five years), enthused “CONGRATULATIONS for the huge increase of participants and attendees. The numbers of Fil-Am associations have increased tenfold. Culturally, the costumes are more diverse in number and quality!”

Ronan Rebolledo of FOCUS Insurance Group was one of the sponsors and wrote “Great event. Great turn out. Set up was very easy. Food and entertainment were awesome. Count me in for next year!”  He is among the 31 businesses and 13 food vendors who participated this year. There were 35 non-profit and government agencies who signed in as partners and who provided services and information to Piyesta-goers.

Community partner Gawad Kalinga Illinois hosted the GK Chicago Walk Run Roll at Piyesta as it has done in previous years. GK Area Director Leslie Tiquia shared this review from GK USA Marketing and Communications Director Mia Navarro: “The GK Chicago Walk Run Roll was a memorable and impactful event that I was thrilled to attend. As a first-time visitor to Chicago and a first-time participant in this event, I enjoyed every minute of the experience. I was also delighted to meet the Filipino American Bikerz (FAB) who joined the Roll event. Their presence added a vibrant and dynamic aspect to the day, and it was great to see their enthusiasm and support for our cause. It was heartwarming to see the diverse group of attendees come together, not only for their health and well-being but also to support a greater cause. The funds raised will benefit the poor farming families of Arakan, North Cotabato, through Gawad Kalinga’s North Cotabato Productivity Hub.”

This year’s Piyesta Pinoy was hosted by the Filipino American Historical Society of Greater Chicago, Philippine American Cultural Foundation and the Village Bolingbrook, with the support of Platinum Sponsor Three Horses Jasmine Rice; Gold Sponsors Kabayan Remit, Phirst Homes and SendVia; Media sponsors GMA Life TV, GMA Pinoy TV, GMA News TV, Pinoy Newsmagazine, VIA Times and CPRTV; Silver sponsors CIRCA Pintig, Eva Air, Humana, Focus Insurance Group, The Pinoy Hub Chicago, Signature Event Designs and University of Illinois Chicago; Bronze sponsors Alveo, B & A Health, Nuvohaus, Philippine Airlines, PNC Bank, Salad Master and Triple A Health Ventures; and partners BIBBAK Illinois, Chicago Nightingales, CMS Illinois, Gawad Kalinga Illinois, Filipino American Association of Southern DuPage, FIA Cultural, Fountaindale Public Library, Filipino Friendship Society, International Society of Filipinos in Finance and Accounting, Philippine Nurses Association of Greater Chicago, PNA Illinois and Santacruzan Cultural Group of Greater Chicago. Lina’s Market, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bulls, Crown Plaza O’Hare, Max’s Restaurant, Hong Ning Restaurant, Mora Oak Park, Red Ribbon and Remuel Saltoc donated some prizes.

The superheroes in this story though are the committee members, volunteers and their families, without whose help and tireless commitment the Piyesta would not have been a success. Piyesta Pinoy is a project organized, managed and executed by an independent group of like-minded Filipino Americans whose shared purpose is to get the Filipino American community in the Greater Chicago area, Illinois and the neighboring states together in the spirits of pakikipagkaisa, pakikipagkaibigan at pakikipagtulungan (unity, camaraderie and collaboration), while promoting Filipino culture, heritage, history, music, businesses, advocacies and of course, Filipino cuisine. It is a community event for the people by the people. Truly a Bayanihan effort!

Photo Captions and Credits

1 – Caption: The parade was led by the Village of Bolingbrook mayor and other dignitaries. From left to right: Hope Mercado, Bolingbrook Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta, Will County Board Member Elnalyn Costa and Piyesta Pinoy Chair Ruben Salazar. (photo credit: Rey Miran)

2 – Caption: Ingrid Bantugan celebrates as she holds aloft a facsimile of her round trip ticket to the Philippines courtesy of Eva Air. From left: Raffle committee members Isabel Tuazon, Richelle Tuazon and Pia Natividad, host Alpha Nicolasin, Ingrid, Eva Air General Manager Oscar Chen, Deputy Manager Jake Chen and Piyesta chair Ruben Salazar. (photo credit: Aileen Garcia)

3 – Caption: Celebrity guests Marc Tupaz, and The Voice Season 25 Justin and Jeremy Garcia pose for pictures with the volunteers, crew and some of the audience members after the celebrity performances on the Bolingbrook Performing Arts Center’s main stage. (photo credit: Aileen Garcia)

4 -The Bantugan family (from left: Queen Grace, Jocelyn, Ingrid and Diomedes with fur babies Lucky, Cookie and Hershey) with Lolo Junior (inset) (photos courtesy of Ingrid Bantugan)

5. Caption: Mang Pilo with Ingrid Bantugan singing Mamang Sorbetero. (Photo Credit – Michelle Delson)

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