PAAET celebrates 
30th Anniversary

By Orlino & Estrella Baldonado

August 16, 2014

The Philippine-American Association of East Tennessee (PAAET) recently celebrated its 30th Anniversary of their formation in 1984.

The Filipino-American community has grown from few dozen friends who got together soon after the 1982 World’s Fair held in Knoxville to over 400 active and semi-active members today.

PAAET has become a medium for cultural exchange and social interaction for Filipino-Americans and their friends and families in the Knoxville area. Several individuals from the East Tennessee area also join in the celebration.

Orlino Baldonado, who was President of PAAET for 14 years, provided a brief review of the early days of the association.

Matthew Solis, the current PAAET president, enumerated the milestones and accomplishments of the association including the recent activities like the “Adopt a Barangay Project”, “Free Health Fair”, “Winter Coat Drive”, “Tagalog Class”, and helping the victims of typhoons Ondoy (2009) and Yolanda (2013).

Typhoon Yolanda devastated large areas of the Visayas Island, mainly in Leyte, in November 2013. Typhoon Yolanda was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded and the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record. Leyte’s capital city, Tacloban, is still trying to recover from the damages caused by the storm.

In the past, PAAET had also served meals to the homeless in Knoxville, and sang Christmas carols in several assisted living homes in the area.

Past leaders of the organization included: Romeo Baylosis, Mark Alquiza, Orlino Baldonado, Chester Punchuen, Mercy Lynn, and Tony Bercero. The association serves as a medium for Filipinos, their friends and others to share the culture and the food and camaraderie.

“Mainly the food. We had a whole roast pig, adobo, pansit (Filipino pasta), and of course, many rice delicacies.” Estrella Baldonado said. “Filipinos, especially the women, love to dance. We showed several folk dances. Baldonado danced the “Pandango sa Ilaw” (Dance with Lights) together with Heide Houston. A traditional children’s dance, Itik-itik (mimicking the movement of ducks), was performed by several adults, led by Mary Jo Solis.

The other performers were: Raquel Cruze, Veronica Denton, Jhay Everett, Elsa Hyman, Angel Nicole Kenner, Elvie Kenner, and Leila Warren. Other dances that were featured included: Sayaw sa Bangko (dancing on benches performed by JP Catuncan, Regine Gomez, Matthew Paraiso, Gracy Lasig, Julian Ragos, and Allison Solis), Banga (a dance with a pot on the head, featuring a costume from one of the indigenous tribes in the Philippines, danced by Flora Brown, and Janggay (a Badjao dance) performed by Precy Sturgeon and Vicky Noah. Two of the children, Gracy Lasig and Mackenzy Navarro, performed gymnastics. Allison Solis sang and played a keyboard piece (Secrets).

Singing is also a part of the culture, so two songs were sang by Aris Abrasaldo and Clarina dela Cruz (Hanggang and Usahay). Flora Brown sang “Ako Ay Pilipino.” Warren Pineda and his father, Rey, performed an Elvis Presley number.

Imelda Rogers demonstrated how to cook Puto Bong-bong, a favorite Filipino dessert made of sweet rice and coconut.

Everyone was surprised when Bishop Richard Stika showed up in the event. The bishop thank the Filipino-American community for gathering and celebrating its faith and the Filipino culture.

Father Albert Sescon led the invocation while Janice England sang the Lupang Hinirang and Mary Jo Solis sang the Star Spangled Banner. Ling Catuncan and Warren Pineda emceed the affair held at Sacred Heart Gymnasium on Northshore Drive.

The next PAAET event will be the Annual Christmas Party to be held at Ellington Plant Science Auditorium in UT Agriculture Campus on December 13, 2014. (Note to Members: Orlino and Estrella Baldonado have made a DVD most of the various performances taken during the PAAET 30th Anniversary celebration. Contact them if you want a copy, but as Orlino observed, “everyone else was taking video using their own cameras, phones, and tablets, so there may not be a need for this DVD. The DVD is long, and is in high resolution format, so posting it on social media, as it is, is difficult”.)