Pista Sa Nayon packs thousands to celebrate Filipino culture

The Pista Sa Nayon festival returned to Mare Island on Saturday, bringing with it a family-friendly burst of Filipino tradition and culture.

The 38th annual event, held at Mare Island Coal Sheds and hosted by Vallejo’s Philippine Cultural Committee, featured the theme of “Weaving Generations of Filipino Culture and Traditions.”

Also new this year was the partnership of Mare Island Brewing Co., debuting a special edition Pista Pilsner, created in collaboration with their Filipino-American staff. The unique brew was available exclusively at the festival.

The event also had its first-ever Filipino fashion show inspired by festival organizer Jennie Mojica’s recent visit to the Philippines. Designers like Lola Weavers (New York/San Jose), Pineapple Industries (New York), La Union Filipiniana (San Diego), Barong Barkada (San Francisco), and Vallejo’s own Barong & Formal helped with the fashion show. It is Mojica’s fourth year organizing this event, pulled off this year with just four months of preparation.

Krista Mae Flores and Paige France Ramiro with the Vallejo High School Filipino Club perform a traditional Tinikling during the Pista Sa Nayon festival on Mare Island in Vallejo on Saturday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

“This event is really important because it allows us to share the history of what has happened in the past, and bring it forward.” said Mojica. “I represent very proudly with our volunteer team, our elders, but that’s really why that representation is important.”

There were more than 20 Filipino food vendors and more than 35 cultural retail vendors. One of them was Lawrence Iriarte, a producer of a crowdfunded action comedy film titled “Lumpia with a Vengeance,” starring UFC fighter — and local wrestling start — Mark Muñoz, April Absynth (“Blindspotting”), Katrina Dimaranan (Miss Philippines Universe Tourism 2021), Earl Baylon (Netflix “Tomb Raider”), and Danny Trejo (“Machete”).

“ With the beauty of our film, it’s an open door to come in whether you’re Filipino or not,” said Iriarte. “It’s centric about family, friendship, loyalty, identity, and it’s anti-bullying. I encourage everybody — Filipino and non-Filipino — to watch it. We take the stereotypes and the culturally recognized aspects from food to the Barong and make it fun.”

Last year’s event drew more than 8,000 people — a number officials expect to top this year.

“I want to see generations come through,” said Victoria Grace Barksdale, a volunteer stage manager. “Our theme this year is us being together throughout generations of Filipino culture. So we like to incorporate not just our traditional elders but we want to weave in a younger generation for families and kids.”

The Cultural Pavilion will also feature weaving demonstrations, Filipino tattoo artists, heirloom bead workshops, history panels, and kid-friendly activities led by Kababayan Kids. Performers like championship winners Chapkis Dance also showed off their dance moves.

“We love to perform and compete and we also do stuff like festivals. We come up with pieces throughout the year and throughout the season,” said Josephine Dellafosse, a member of  Chapkis Dance. “We have a lot of diversity, but most of us are Filipino.”

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