Filipino Fest raises funds for scholarship

During Mass to celebrate the feast day of St. Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, a special banner and statue of the saint processed into church. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

The 34th Filipino Fest celebrating St. Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, the first Filipino saint, took over the Cathedral of the Assumption undercroft on the first Sunday of fall.

Held annually on the last weekend of September, Filipino Fest brings together Filipino Catholics from the entire Archdiocese of Louisville. Volunteers hailed from seven parishes, including St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky.

During 5:30 p.m. Mass, a banner and statue of St. Lorenzo were part of the procession. Following Mass, a traditional Filipino meal was served in the undercroft. At $15 a plate or carryout container, the dinner served to raise funds for the San Lorenzo Ruiz-William L. Fichteman Scholarship Fund, which helps students whose parents have limited income to attend a Catholic school.

The meal raised $5,515 to put toward the scholarship fund. Last year, a to-go-only year due to pandemic restrictions, Filipino Fest raised $6,067.

Elisa Garcia, a St. James in Elizabethtown parishioner who was in charge of this year’s fest, said the scholarship fund usually helps two students a year. Students who received scholarships don’t have to be Filipino, but “they’re still a minority,” Garcia said.

A volunteer fist bumped a participant in the food line of the Filipino Fest, held Sept. 25 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

The scholarship fund began in 1989 and in 2011 was renamed to include Father Fichteman’s name.

“Father Fichteman got involved and very into it,” said Theresa Javier, a St. John Paul II Church parishioner. “He donated a lot of money toward it.” Father Fichteman passed away in May of this year.

Many of the volunteers responsible for the fest are the children of those who started it nearly 35 years ago, Javier said Javier.

“My parents were very excited there was going to be a Filipino saint,” she said.

Judette Baylon, a parishioner of St. Albert the Great Church, said her mother participated in the fest from the beginning. Prior to her death several years ago, she asked Baylon and her four sisters to help take over.

Noni Javier, a St. Margaret Mary parishioner, prepared the lechon — roasted pig traditionally served with liver paste sauce — before the Filipino Fest began the evening of Sept. 25. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

“My mom said, ‘We need to get some younger blood involved,’ ” Baylon said, laughing. This year she worked the dessert station, handing out cups of Filipino flan.

“This feast day is open to everyone. Especially for the older Filipinos, it’s all about hospitality.”

Manny Bacala and his wife, Bernadette, southern Indiana residents, said their parents also helped found the fest. Manny’s parents even went to Rome for St. Lorenzo’s canonization in 1987.

Maria “Lulu” Crame, a St. Margaret Mary parishioner, and her late husband, were instrumental in the fest’s conception. She said he designed the banner used during Mass and she got the St. Lorenzo statue from the Philippines.

“It’s very meaningful,” she said during the fest. “Bayanihan. Everybody helps.”

Bayanihan is a spirit of civic unity and cooperation among Filipinos. In this case, Crame said, it’s seen in the way the whole Filipino community brings together food to help fund education.

Mila Dichoso, left, and Maria “Lulu” Crame, center, served traditional Filipino food during Filipino Fest at the Cathedral of the Assumption Sept. 25. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

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