Salakot Dance

Women dressed for the traditional Filipino Folk Dance, “Salakot Dance” at the Vermont International Festival. “Salakot” means hat with customized national costumes made from the Philippines. From left,Iris Kimball, Elsa Aguila, Lita Knickerbocker, Anna Sheilla Aguillon and Leeza Robenstein of the Filipino-American Community of South Burlington.

Elsa Aguila is excited about the growth of the Filipino-American community here. The vice president of the Filipino-American Community of Vermont and a South Burlington resident, Aguila said that the non-profit is seeing an increase in participants at events.

“We know almost every Filipino family here in the neighboring towns,” Aguila said. “We have regular events, mostly potlucks with our scrumptious Filipino food,” 

Aguila said that the community’s goals include uniting Filipino-Americans throughout Vermont through activities and events offered to educate and inspire kids on Philippine culture.

“As always, we wanted to be united, we have our Facebook page, Filipinos in Vermont, and our website,” Aguila said. “We had been doing events and we want to continue in the years to come,” 

Many other South Burlington residents are engaged with Filipino-American Community of Vermont as members or officers, including President Gigi Apostol, Advisor Iris Kimball, Secretary Patricia Nelson and Public Relations Officer Donna Harrington, as well as members Teresita Ramirez and Lita Knickerbocker.

Along with offering community initiatives to connect local Filipino-Americans, the Community also engages in civic activity to assist Filipino nationals residing in Vermont and many other states along the East Coast.

The Community also serves in an advocacy role for its members. The association works with the Philippine Consulate General in New York to assist with services related to passports, civil registration, dual citizenship and overseas voter registration. Eighty cases or services in need are required before a meeting with the Consulate General can be arranged, so anyone in need of assistance is encouraged to contact the Community and indicate the service needed in the subject line.

The Community is also now registering as a nonprofit association. 

“On our end, we are in the process of finalizing our bylaws and hopefully we can have it in place sometime this year,” President Gigi Apostol said. “We are growing our membership and it is a challenge because there are few Filipino-American communities in Vermont. Becoming a registered nonprofit association has its pros and cons and we are taking it one step at a time.”

The Community advisor and former president Iris Kimball said that one of the community’s greatest challenges is uniting members across Vermont’s 14 counties stretch, including 237 towns.

“Right now, we have a lot of members in eight counties,” Kimball said. “The biggest is Chittenden and Rutland, and then St. Albans, Grand Isle and Newport. Since people come from far away, people struggle to make events because of the distance.” 

Kimball noted that while expecting high attendance at every gathering is unrealistic, some annual events host over 100 people, including the annual Christmas Party and Easter Sunday celebration. Easter Sunday will be celebrated again this year on April 21 in St. Augustine’s Church in Montpelier. The event will involve a potluck lunch and Easter egg hunt for kids.

On April 19, PEN Open Book Award-winning author Gina Apostol will read from her novel “Insurrecto.” As part of University of Vermont’s Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Apostol will discuss “Insurrecto” as well as sign copies.

Then on May 19, Flores de Mayo, a festival devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, will be celebrated in St. Augustine’s Church. The celebration will consist of a mass followed by a procession including kids.  

Kimball is also excited to announce that the Community has already booked with the Vermont International Festival in Essex, which will take place during the first week of December. The Community will model traditional Filipino outfits, perform dances and offer a Filipino cuisine at food booth.

Both Kimball and Aguila emphasize the importance these events have on the children of the community. The fun outdoor activities keep Philippine culture vibrant and exciting to Filipino children in the South Burlington Community.

“We try to preserve and promote Philippine culture and heritage, and the members are excited to hold these events for the kids to understand and know the culture,” Kimball said.

For more information or for contact information, visit the “Filipinos in Vermont” page on Facebook.

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