Discover the Philippines’ Travel Destinations & Festivals at Grand Central Terminal, May 9 to 12

From May 9 to 12, New York’s beaux-arts landmark Grand Central Terminal will provide the backdrop to showcase the 7,641 islands that make up the Philippines, which is promoting its vacation destinations, along with its captivating festivals!

Vibrant and full of life, year-round Philippine festivals, also known as fiestas, attract both domestic and international tourists for its grandeur, sense of community, and fun-filled atmosphere.

Although these festivals had religious origins, where predominantly Christian Filipinos honor their patron saints via festive communal events, these celebrations have become favorite attractions for their vibrant parades, pounding drums, electrifying dances, and elaborate costumes, which will surely bring out your most radiant smile.

When you get the chance to visit the Philippines, don’t miss these family-friendly festivals:

  • Sinulog Festival

Held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, the Sinulog Festival honors the Child Jesus. It also commemorates the Filipinos’ pagan past and their conversion into Christianity.

A local version of the Mardi Gras, the festival highlights a grand street parade where the participants and the spectators shout “Pit Señor!” (Santo Niño) while they dance two steps forward and one step backward to the sinulog rhythm.

The Sinulog Festival is also known for its lively street parties held on the night of the Sunday parade.

  • Moriones Festival

The Moriones Festival is a Holy Week tradition in West Marinduque, Philippines, where men and women wear Roman soldier brightly colored costumes and full head masks. They roam the streets to find Saint Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus Christ’s side with a spear. According to oral history, a drop of the crucified Christ’s blood miraculously healed Saint Longinus’ blind right eye, which made the latter convert into Christianity.

The participants would traditionally join the Moriones Festival as an act of penance or a way to thank for God’s outpouring of blessings.

  • MassKara Festival

The MassKara (multitude of faces) Festival is held every fourth Sunday of October in Bacolod City since the early ‘80s, which was conceived to lift up the spirits of the locals who were facing a sugar industry crisis at that time. The use of the festive masks symbolizes the locals’ resilient attitude.

The festival spotlights the MassKara Queen beauty pageant, an assortment of food festivals, street dance competitions, and sports events, and the highly-anticipated electric MassKara night parade.

  • Dinagyang Festival

Similar to the Sinulog Festival, the Dinagyang Festival, held every fourth Sunday of January in Iloilo City, also honors the Child Jesus. It also commemorates the arrival of early Malay settlers on the island of Panay.

“Dinagyang” is an Ilonggo word that means merry making or revelry.

  • Pahiyas Festival

Attended by at least six million visitors, the Pahiyas Festival, held every 15th of May in Lucban, Quezon, honors the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador. First held in the 16th century, the Pahiyas Festival is an annual thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful rice harvest.

The locals’ homes are decorated with fresh fruits, vegetables, and edible rice kipings, dried, leaf-shaped rice paste in different colors, which the visitors can feast on for free!

Learn more about the Philippines and its endearing festivals at the Explore Islands Philippines expo at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.

Speakers from the Philippine Department of Tourism will talk on May 9 to 10 about various tourism initiatives including beautiful destinations, students and millennial tours, diving tourism, cuisine, retirement, as well as Philippine arts, culture, and history.  The flagship carrier of the Philippines, Philippine Airlines, will also give a special presentation.

This special event will also celebrate arts and culture in the final two days, May 11 to 12, showcasing artists and artisans from the United States and the Philippines. The program will include presentations from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Parangal Dance Company, Philippine martial artists, weavers, artisans, and fashion designers.

The Explore Islands Philippines expo, made possible by JS Productions Inc., the Philippine Department of Tourism, and the Philippine Tourism Promotions Board, is free to the public and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The venue can be easily accessed by the Pershing Square, 42nd Street entrance.

This article first appeared on BroadwayWorld.com.

Photos: ‘A Knight To Remember, A Night To Celebrate’

The Knights of Rizal (KOR), Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDCI), and friends at the Philippine Center in New York City held “A Knight To Remember, A Night To Celebrate,” a tribute to Ambassador Mario Lopez de Leon Jr., 2018 PIDCI honorary grand marshal, last April 20, 2018, at the Philippine Center.

PIDCI plans and implements the annual commemoration of the Philippine Independence Day parade and activities along Madison Avenue in Manhattan, which is set on June 3 this year.

Where To Next: Hijo Resorts Davao

Are you flying to the Philippines in the next few months? If you haven’t solidified your travel plans yet, consider a visit to Hijo Resorts Davao (Tagum City). More than just a beach trip, Hijo will give you and your family a really unique Filipino experience. You’ll be stepping away from the shopping malls and stepping into the world that many of our countrymen in the Davao region live every day.

A visit to Hijo has at least four components.

1. Beach

What is a resort in the Philippines without a beach, right? Just be ready for a black sand beach. It isn’t the largest or longest beach in the country, but there are tons of things to do! Banana boats, kayaks, and SCUBA divings just to name a few. Hijo has been working to preserve the marine life in the Davao Gulf, and it has recently installed bommies which have just started to grow coral and attract some of the Philippines’ best marine life.

2. Dining

While many Filipino dishes have made across international waters, there’s definitely more to our cuisine once you visit the different provinces. Hijo is home to The Spot, a Halal restaurant accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT). Be sure to try the dyampok, the traditional Kalagan, an ethnic group, way of cooking bananas, fried in a light batter and served with coconut sugar and roasted sesame seeds!

3. Tours

Hijo is situated inside a plantation, giving it the chance to offer tours no one else can. It offers two plantation tours, one to the coconut plantation and another to the banana plantation. You can learn about how both are grown and harvested. Think that’s boring? It really isn’t!

Apart from the plantations, you can take a mangrove boat tour. Mangrove forests are endangered, and Davao is home to a large chunk of what’s left in the world.  The boat tour will take you through the Madaum river, where the Kalagan tribe still lives.

4. Tagum

Unlike other cities in the Philippines, Tagum is full of parks. You can rent a bike, take a ride, have a picnic, or just enjoy some of the Philippine plants. The botanical garden, which is not quite full of flowers as it grows a variety of Philippine trees,  is a lovely spot to visit if you like strolling through the greenery.–Rachel Davis

Where To Eat In Madrid

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, has long been one of my dearest travel destinations.  Having spent a good amount of time there the past six years, I’ve found and discovered some favorite places and restaurants.  In a week-long trip this past autumn, I created a list of my top five.  While the extent of my culinary expertise really only comes from being a self-professed foodie brought up by self-professed foodies as well, if you ever take a trip to Madrid, I believe these places are worth visiting.

1. Posada de la Villa

In Cava Baja, a trendy part of town, a part full of bars and little restos, there is an old asador (grill house) called Posada de la Villa. Its oven has been roasting lamb since 1642. (Take that, Lombardi’s!)  And the lamb?  It’s out of this world!  But start your meal with some padrones (roasted Spanish peppers that are eaten whole, and they’re not spicy!) and choose among the many other classics it has on the menu.  Just don’t skip the lamb!

2. La Ardosa

Every visit I have ever made to Madrid included a visit to this bar (sometimes several visits to this bar!).  This place opens relatively early for a Spanish watering hole, and it is famous for its tortilla de patata (potato omelet).  Even Anthony Bourdain has nothing but praises for this dish.  Be sure to go early.  I’d once arrived at 9 p.m. (early for a Spanish night out) and they’d already run out and stopped cooking tortilla.  Should that happen, their other tapas are great, too.  My other go-to is the morcilla de foie.

3. Casa Salvador

Known for its bull soup, having once been frequented by bullfighters, the restaurant is nothing but Spanish charm.  Despite being known for its meat, I really enjoy its merluza (hake).  In a restaurant like this, you can’t go wrong. So order what you wish and savor every bite!

4. Barril de Las Letras

It was a real toss-up between this and La Barraca—another famous paella restaurant—because what is a trip to Spain without paella, right?  But since La Barraca makes it to many food lists, I thought to include this place instead.  La Barraca is another great restaurant for Spanish classics! Enjoy its giant sangrias on a lazy Spanish afternoon.

Note: If you really want out-of –this-world paella, and if you have the time, drive down to Alicante and look for a restaurant called Mi Casa.  Its paella is different, very thin and really incredibly delicious.

5. Valor vs. San Gines

This comes down to chocolate.  It really does.  Both churrerias are great places to visit.  Valor churros are big, puffy, and airy.  San Gines churros are what you might recognize: skinny, ridged, and crunchy.  Both are good so it really comes down to chocolate.  I, personally am a fan of Valor chocolate, which is thicker and more chocolatey (does that make sense?), but I know some people love San Gines through and through.  So if you have the time, try both!

One of the best things about Spain is the ability to take the simplest ingredients and make them out-of-this-world.  That is one of the defining traits of each of these restaurants, and perhaps what I love most about Spanish cuisine.–Rachel Davis

Christine Allado Joins The Original London Cast Of ‘Hamilton’

Filipino actress and singer Christine Allado has joined the original London cast of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton: An American Musical” as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds. The show opened last December at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

“…As a self-professed ‘Hamilfan’ since listening to the cast recording and having seen the show, I don’t think words could really encapsulate how thrilled, grateful, and incredulous I am at the fact that I will be playing such a cool part in the original West End production of ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ A quote from ‘Wicked’ always comes to mind when amazing things like this happen: ‘Well, what do you do when your dreams come true?’ Golly, I don’t know Ga– I mean Glinda, but I most certainly ‘couldn’t be happier’,” says Christine.

Christine is an emerging musical talent, who made a name for herself as a uniquely proficient artist that has a voice that fuses her classical soprano roots with a contemporary spin of pop and jazz. She is a triple threat; a truly all-rounder who has appeared on stages and broadcasts all over Asia as well as the UK.

Her roles have included Vanessa “In The Heights” (2016) at the King’s Cross Theatre; Maria “West Side Story” (2016) for the BBC 60th anniversary documentary;  Ursula, “Sweet Charity” (2016) at the Royal Exchange Theatre; Understudy Lorene “From Here to Eternity” (2013) at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and Understudy Imelda Marcos “Here Lies Love” (2014) at the National Theatre.

She has previously toured with beloved classical tenor Andrea Bocelli in his “Cinema: World Tour,” which led her to perform for several tens of thousands of people in arenas and stadiums across the world. She is also an original member of the girl band “Zyrah,” a classical crossover group with an epic cinematic influence. Christine trained at the Royal Academy of Music, where she received a post-graduate degree in Music Theatre.

She has many outside interests and loves makeup and skincare, especially for non-western skins, as she understands what works for Asian faces and features.  She is very sporty and loves windsurfing, jet skiing, and kayaking, and also embraces fitness and healthy eating. She is also a self-confessed budget travel lover!

Her parents and sister are both very musical and artistic. Unusually her grandfather, one of the people in legal team for the Philippine Stock Exchange and whenever people talk about him they say he is a true blue blood. Sadly he never got much credit–just like Hamilton didn’t’!

Follow Christine on Twitter: @ChristineAllado –Photo: Jory Rivera

Meet Pia Hamilton (Disney’s ‘The Lion King’)

Besides the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) Broadway actors that never fail to bring the audience to their feet in “Miss Saigon,” Fil-Am Broadway dancer Pia Hamilton (Gazelle Wheel, Ensemble Dancer) in “The Lion King,” together with the show’s vibrant full company, is keeping the show fresh—and the audience engaged—after all these years.

Pia, who starred in the children’s TV series “Barney and Friends” when she was nine, first joined “The Lion King,” the 1998 Tony Award recipient for Best Musical, in August 2014.  “This show [her Broadway debut] has always been my dream show! After performing in ‘The Lion King’ for over three and a half years, I still feel challenged and motivated as a performer,” she told Fil-Am Whos Who in an exclusive interview.

“I really love the storyline, the dancing, and my castmates—they make going to work a joy!” she said. Prior to her stint in the “The Lion King,” Pia also appeared in the productions of “A Chorus Line” as Connie, “Aida,” and “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”

She also runs a dance studio in Chicago called Intrigue Dance and Performing Arts Center whose students benefit a lot from Pia’s professional experience on Broadway. “It has taught me to ‘give’ even when I feel like I have nothing left to give.  After a week-long run of rehearsals and shows, when we were tired and our bodies were sore, we still give a true and authentic show at the end of the week. Our resident director once said, ‘Every show, there is someone in the audience that will see their very first show and someone that will see their very last show.’ That really stuck with me, and helps me perform my best each day.”

“I try to instill this drive and passion in my students at Intrigue Dance and Performing Arts Center.  Anyone can learn how to dance, but how to make dance come alive is what makes an artist,” shared Pia, whose musical theater influences include Tony winners Lea Salonga, Sutton Foster, and Julie Taymor, “The Lion King’s” visionary director who blends the use of masks, puppetry, and dance to bring the giraffes, the birds, and the gazelles in Africa’s Serengeti come to life on stage every night in “The Lion King.”

“This show is timeless. It speaks to everyone in all walks of life—every race, every age, every person,” Pia said when we asked why should people come out and see their show. She said further, “We can all relate to the story, the actors make you feel the story, and you walk out of the theatre with a love for the experience of live musical theater.”

A spectacular visual feast, “The Lion King” is the stage adaptation of Disney’s 1994 animated full-length feature film, which follows the story of Simba and his epic journey from a wide-eyed cub to his ascent to kinghood of the Pridelands, an expansive African grassland where most African lions live.

“The Lion King” plays eight times a week at the Minskoff Theatre (200 West 45th Street). To buy tickets, visit LionKing.com.

Photos: Manila-Davao Familiarization Tour

The Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing and promotions agency of the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), and Philippine Airlines hosted the Filipino-American media outlets’ familiarization tour in Manila and Davao last November 2017.

The tour included visits to the Walled City of Intramuros and the Bonifacio Global City in Manila, and the Pearl Farm and the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao.

Willing To Help In Any Way

“You don’t have to be someone special to help.” – Elsa Mole-Lambert

A short conversation with Elsa Mole-Lambert will leave anyone excited and inspired to take part in her community and get involved in local projects. For her, being involved is an opportunity to help others.

“I’m willing to help in any way I could. You don’t have to be someone (special) to help,” she told Fil-Am Who’s Who. Elsa, an active member of the Filipino community in the Tri-State Area, has been investing both her time and resources to different organizations since 1997.

“If you attend an event at an organization, find out what it does and see if the people are doing a good job. If there are some needs within the organization, that’s when I come in and help.” Elsa is known to give simply out of the goodness of her heart and without any expectations. She supports the Pilipino American Association of Connecticut (PAAC), Philippine American Friendship Committee (PAFCOM), and National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA).

She holds NaFFAA in high regard though, “It’s a very good organization,“ she said. “It was the very first organization I joined. I was involved in the youth leadership training.” Elsa, who lives a comfortable life in Connecticut, also shares her blessings to the less fortunate.

“For the past two years, I’ve been doing humanitarian works. I’ve been giving school supplies, reading glasses, toothpaste, and slippers. My husband and I do that on our own,” she said. The response was overwhelming that she decided to put up her own foundation, The Calvar Foundation, which she eventually plans to register as a nonprofit organization. The foundation’s first projects were an adoration chapel built in her hometown of Hinundayan Southern Leyte and a feeding program benefitting more than 200 people. She also plans to start a scholarship fund for deserving but financially challenged students. She’s now set to go back to the Philippines to assist with the medical missions and feeding programs for children. “Any small act will bring joy and fulfillment to someone’s life,” she said.

Her efforts are starting to pay off. She was recently recognized by Pan American Concerned Citizens’ Action League, Inc. (PACCAL) for Excellence in Community Service during the International
Women’s History Month celebration. Last year, Elsa won the 2017 Mrs. Philippines USA, a fundraising event sponsored by the Filipino Social Club of New York, where she received a roundtrip ticket to the Philippines, a portion of the event’s ticket sales, and the 25 percent of the event’s profit to be awarded to a charity of her own choice.

“It’s like a pageant but in terms of fundraising, the organizers raise money so they can do their charity and civic projects in the Philippines.”

Further, her genuine desire to help others extends to her profession as a caregiver, which has been good to her. “One of the reasons I’m helping others is because some people also helped me when I first set foot in the United States. I was so blessed. I had employers who were so generous, so now I’m giving back.”

There’s no doubt Elsa is a busy woman but she loves spending time with her family: Fritzroy Lambert, her second husband, her children from her first marriage, Aileen and Melvin Mole, and her three grandchildren.–Maricar CP Hampton

‘Ang Larawan’ Is Lavish, Absorbing Family Drama

The musical pedigree of “Ang Larawan,” an official entry to the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), traces back to Culturtain Musicat Productions’ (formerly Musical Theatre Philippines) 1997 musical adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s 1950 landmark play “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.” Why such a masterwork has stood the test of time is what this film adaptation wants you to fully grasp.

Directed by Loy Arcenas, “Ang Larawan” is a lavish, absorbing family drama whose original lengthy English dialogues were translated into mostly colloquial Tagalog by Rolando Tinio and set to music by Ryan Cayabyab.

Its story follows the plight of spinster sisters Candida Marasigan (Joanna Ampil) and Paula Marasigan (Rachel Alejandro), daughters of the celebrated visual artist Don Lorenzo Marasigan (Leo Rialp) who chooses to live as a recluse in the walled city of Intramuros, right before the Second World War.

Since Don Lorenzo has not produced a single painting for a long time, his daughters are in dire financial trouble. The artist’s self-portrait, which is his gift to his daughters, catches the attention of the prying public–including journalist Bitoy Camacho (Sandino Martin) and bodabil pianist Tony Javier (Paulo Avelino)–and fetches a huge sum of money from several art bidders, which could be (or maybe not) Candida and Paula’s ticket out of near poverty.

The film brings you back–somewhat eerily (both musically and visually)–to the famed cobblestoned streets and Spanish colonial houses with their large casement windows and heavy French doors in Intramuros in the early 1940s. It’s that era where the most stylish women wore the traditional terno on an ordinary Sunday and one of the forms of variety entertainment was Tony’s playground, the bodabil.

Director Loy Arcenas, together with production designer Gino Gonzales, cinematographer Boy Yñiguez, and colorist Marilen Magasaysay, vividly captures–albeit in a nearly sepia film color temperature and with set pieces and props of the same color scheme–that wistful spirit of Old Manila.

Supporting the film’s elaborate feast for the eyes are Rolando Tinio’s elegantly-written lyrics (some are spoken, but most are sung), where Ryan Cayabyab’s affecting, soaring score has found its heartbeat and the film’s musical rhythm specific to its dramatic storyline.

But in the center of it all is the brilliant Joanna Ampil as Candida–her first film role. Her Candida is strong-willed, but brittle–somewhat a cuckoo if you read between the lines. Her Candida and Rachel Alejandro’s Paula, the younger sibling, make a pair of complementing heroines whose life choices–whether they’re right or wrong–and their instinctive spoken lines and impassioned singing keep you in the palm of their hands in the film’s entirety. They both keep the movie moving and authentic, even though the sisters and the other characters: Nonie Buencamino’s Manolo, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo’s Pepang, Robert Arevalo’s Don Perico, and Zsa Zsa Padilla’s Elsa Montes, among others, burst into rapturous songs and delightful dances in between the characters’ sparsely spoken conversations.

Ampil is at her shining best in the scene where the two sisters find themselves in the dark, without electricity, in their ancestral home. That scene alone, which delectably works because she’s that crazy good shifting her emotions in seconds–while singing at that!–is worth the admission ticket.

The film’s extravagant finale: the grand procession of the Lady of La Naval, featuring the actual religious image of the miraculous Virgin Mary and around 700 extras, which also triggers Leo Rialp’s Don Lorenzo to break away from being a recluse, literally and figuratively finishes the film on a high note, despite the rather bittersweet mood as the war looms on the horizon.

This article first appeared on BroadwayWorld.com.

Power Couple Don & Lea Frain Shares The Same Commitment

There are many reasons why people choose to help their community, offering their time, energy, or resources. And, often, we wonder what motivates or drives them to do what they do. New York-based couple Don and Lea Frain is strong believers of the Fil-Am community and have no qualms in supporting a worthwhile project. “We both consider ourselves blessed in life and have a sense of obligation to give back as long as we can,” Don said. “We look forward to using our experience and knowledge for the betterment of people in the years to come.”

Both successful in their respective careers, Don is the President and COO of Quontic Bank, Astoria, N.Y. while Lea owns the accounting firm Business Solutions Now LLC and works as an accountant at Skyline Engineering. They share their expertise by providing financial guidance to different organizations.

They were both in the market for a serious relationship when they first met. Sparks flew and they got married in 2011. Don recalled, “We met on Match.com. We noticed that we both enjoyed ballroom dancing and things grew from there.”

Don first got involved in the Fil-Am community in 2007. “Lea ran for ‘Mrs. Philippines USA’ in 2004. She felt blessed to be able to help and support other organizations for charitable causes,” Don shared, “When we met in 2007, I joined her in many charitable events.” Since then, they’ve been active members of the community.

They found that cultivating friendships with people within the community helps them deal with stress. “Our jobs are stressful. But we find that being with friends helps remove the stress,” Lea said, “Dancing, of course, helps reduce the stress but more importantly the camaraderie of the people we often see.”

Lea is also a model for Filipiniana fashion. “I’m so proud that in my own little way I’m part of the Philippine cultural awareness,” she said. Lea has graced modeling events such as Renee Salud and Leonard Co’ s fashion shows.

Even before meeting Lea, Don was no stranger to the values and culture of the Filipino people. “When I lived and worked in Asia 30 years ago, I’d often go the Philippines. I found the people friendly and gracious.” Today, his opinion has not changed. “I enjoy going to the Philippines to visit Lea’s family and attend the numerous events in the N.Y. area. Their dedication to helping those in need back home is inspirational,” he told Fil-Am Who’s Who.

It was by accident that Don is now in the banking industry. “When I was looking for a job at the age of 19, a recruiter sent me to a finance company. I got the job and from there went into banking. I always liked working with numbers so it was a good fit,” he shared. As a bank executive, he’s responsible for overseeing quality banking services, hassle-free mortgage process, and good customer relations. What sets Quontic Bank apart is its services that are geared towards immigrant communities. “We’re a real estate finance savings bank that lends primarily to immigrant communities. We also have far more flexibility with respect to the interest rates we will pay on any deposit account,” he said.

Don applauds the Filipinos desire to advance in digital mobile banking. The United States has made many improvements in this area (mobile banking) but Filipinos appear more eager to learn more modern approaches.

Lea was a marketing manager of an export company in the Philippines before coming to the U.S. Lea came to the U.S. upon the invitation of a friend and that same friend convinced her to stay for good. She went to Plaza Business College to update herself with accounting technology. She then landed a job as a bookkeeper in a wellness center. Lea always finds herself working in several jobs in addition to her full-time job. In 2009, she decided to fully concentrate on her consulting business and continue to work for several different companies through 2016. She slowed down in 2017 to deal with her property investments in the Philippines. Currently, Lea continues to engage business clients through her company Business Solutions Now LLC, in addition to her job at Skyline Engineering LLC.

Lea believes that her father passed the torch to her when it comes to humanitarian endeavors. She grew up watching her father who always lends a helping hand to the less fortunate. Her support in several fundraising events in the Tri-State proves she’s fully committed to promoting humanitarian welfare. She thinks her role is not only giving financial support but also setting an example to those who can afford to share what they have. Also, she considers that by helping people in need, it gives them hope and also inspires other people to help.

As active members of the community, the couple supports organizations such as Filipino Social Club of New York Inc., Knights of Rizal and Ladies for Rizal, Metropolitan Chapter, Elmhurst-North Corona Lions Club, Friends Indeed, and Elmhurst Queen of Hearts. A foundation to support the Cancer Warriors Foundation located in Batangas, Philippines is in the works.

“When I first saw these children stricken with cancer, my heart broke. I vowed to dedicate myself to helping them financially,” Lea said. In fact, the Frains were recently on a medical/humanitarian mission to the Philippines as part of their commitment to helping the community.

In 2017, they were Grand Marshals of the 27th Philippine-American Friendship Parade and Festival held in Jersey City, spearheaded by the Philippine-American Friendship Committee Inc. (PAFCOM), an organization that provides social services and does charitable work in the Jersey City area. Initially, Lea had her doubts that Don would participate as a Grand Marshal, but he surprised everyone by accepting the invitation. The support was overwhelming,” Lea said. In 10 years, Don hopes to see the different organizations united and
thriving.

When asked about their secret to maintaining a successful marriage despite their busy lives, Lea answered, “It’s hard in today’s world but first and foremost to trust each other. Realize that you’ll often have different points of view but be willing to listen and compromise.”

Don added, “It’s difficult to balance. But helping others, good friends, and the occasional time alone helps.” To unwind, the couple goes ballroom dancing, overnight stays at the Jersey Shore, frequent visits to the Philippines, and long drives.–Maricar CP Hampton