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“Paskuhan sa Konsulado”, the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco’s annual Christmas tree and parol-lighting ceremony was held at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center on Friday, 16 December 2016.  The program included Simbang Gabi, the tradtional parol lighting, carols singing and an early Noche Buena, complete with puto and bibingka.

Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. welcomed friends and guests, some of whom were new faces that came all the way from the East Bay, to the Philippine Center.  He congratulated the Filipino-American Community for developments that took place in 2016, including the passage of legislation designating an area of San Francisco as SoMa Pilipinas, a cultural district honoring the Filipino-American Community; the approval of the inclusion of the Filipinos’ role in World War II in the Philippines in the revised history curriculum framework for the state’s schools, and President Barrack Obama’s signing of Senate Bill No. 1555, the "Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015," which provides for the award of a Congressional gold medal to the Filipino Veterans for their dedicated service during World War II.

He reminded the Community that the Consulate is their home away from home, and assured them of the Consulate’s renewed vigor to serve the Community.  Consul General Bensurto added that Christmas, arguably the favorite holiday of many Filipinos, holds a special place in Filipinos’ hearts, and that for many who are far from their families and missing home, Paskuhan is the Consulate’s antidote to bring the Community some warmth, Filipino-style.

This year’s celebration was graced by the Russian Federation’s Deputy Consul General, Mr. Andrey Varlamov, and Consul Ivan Pauzin, leaders of the Filipino-American Community in San Francisco, including Mrs. Bernadette Borja-Sy, one of the proponents of SoMa Pilipinas, and Cecilia Gaerlan, who was instrumental in lobbying for the inclusion of the Philippines’ and Filipino soldiers’ contributions to World War II in Grade 11 textbooks throughout California.

The mass was celebrated by Fr. Arnold Zamora of Holy Name Church, who is also the choir master of the San Francisco Philippine Consulate General Choir.  While Mrs. Cecile Ascalon sang “Payapang Daigdig” to new and familiar faces, Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon led the procession carrying the Christ Child from the Lobby to the Kalayaan Hall, handing over to Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. and Madame Mariza Bensurto, to be placed in the manger.

The SFPCG Choir was accompanied by Matthew Bensurto, the son of Consul General and Mrs. Bensurto, as they sang “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  The SFPCG Choir sang “Kumukutikutitap” and a “Christmas Medley” to begin the caroling.  This year, five other choirs joined the event, including Music-Cali-Three, the Anima Christi Choir, the East Bay Koro, the St. Therese Choir and the Couples for Christ Choir.

Guests who attended the event enjoyed a night of nostalgia that echoed Christmases spent in the Philippines with family and loved ones and traditions celebrated during the holidays.  Russian guests commented on how the Christmas carols were very similar to Russian folk songs, which aroused feelings of sentimentality.  END

Choirs from around the San Francisco Bay Area participate in the carol singing.

The Kalayaan SF Committee