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The Filipino Cultural Heritage Society of Washington (FCHSW) is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers. It is committed to nurturing and proudly expressing the finest and all that is beautiful and enduring in the Filipino. Its primary objective is to perpetuate, educate and share the Filipino culture and heritage with the people of Washington through music, dance, arts, history, literature, and crafts.


Pagdiriwang (the Filipino word for festival) is FCHSW’s annual celebration commemorating the anniversary of Philippine Independence. Held on the first or second week of June at the Seattle Center since 1987, the event has grown into the biggest festival of Filipino arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest. 


This celebration, which is now part of Seattle Center Festál, a series of cultural programs sponsored by the City of Seattle, provides a venue for Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike to learn about the culture. It is an ideal setting for presenting art, craft, song, dance, music, history, literature, and culture to promote better understanding of the Filipino cultural heritage.



The Sarimanok is considered one of the greatest mythical symbols in Philippine folk culture. In the southern Philippines, only the royalty uses it in their banners or family emblems. The Sarimanok symbolizes prestige, wealth and honor.

The Sarimanok Soars!

A Look Back at Pagdiriwang through the Years

Ferdinand De Leon


The newly established Filipino Cultural Heritage Society of Washington presented its first summer festival at the Seattle Center. It was a showcase of Filipino culture timed to coincide with the celebration of Philippine Independence. The program that first year was largely focused on traditional songs and dances, with performances by Filipiniana Dance Co., Barangay Folk Arts, Folklorico Filipino of Seattle and Renton, and Barangay Folk Arts. Although spread over three days, the festival was much shorter than its current incarnation: opening ceremonies on Friday night, a talent show on Saturday afternoon, and a mass and a musical show on Sunday afternoon.

Little Royalty makes its debut at Pagdiriwang. Money raised by the pageant participants and their families, is a major source of Pagdiriwang's funding. 1988 program additions include a fashion show of Philippine costumes, and a rock concert. The Filipino Youth Activities Drill Team, now a fixture of the festival, closed out the festivities.

A message from Philippine President Corazon Aquino is included in Pagdiriwang's official program. Pagdiriwang also has its first art exhibit, featuring the works of Philippine artist/painter Fredinel Banaag. A ceremony is held at Rizal Park in Beacon Hill, followed by a motorcade through downtown to the Filipino Community Center, where part of the programming is held. Filipino American Educators of Washington hold their first Literary Musical as part of Pagdiriwang.


Programming expands into a full Saturday. Karate exhibitions, craft activities, dance lessons, and cultural games are added to the lineup of songs and dances. Exhibits include historical pictures of Filipinos in Washington State (1889-1989).


Pagdiriwang grows to five days, with various events held during the week, including a program featuring writer Peter Bacho, who had just received an American Book award. The Health Service Booth makes its first appearance on the program. It's staffed by nurses who offer blood pressure readings. Pilipino American Youth Organization (PAYO), a regular Pagdiriwang participant, is started by Gussie Jagod, director and choreographer.


Fil-Am Jam, a showcase for musicians of contemporary music, makes its official debut at Pagdiriwang. Also, there's a photo exhibit of Mt. Pinatubo before, during and after its eruption.

Pagdiriwang events now spread out over six days, starting on a Tuesday with a prelude concert by the Filipiniana Dance Co and the Mindanao Kulintang Ensemble at the old Nippon Kan Theater in the International District. By this year, most of the regular features of Pagdiriwang are in place, including Little Royalty, Palaro, Vendor and Food Booths, Fil Am Jam, Sunday Mass, Variety Shows, the Literary Musical Contest, and the FYA Drill Team. Marfelita Felix, a long-time supporter of Pagdiriwang, starts Mabuhay Performers, serving as its director and choreographer.

Former Philippine Vice President Salvador Laurel, the chairman of the National Philippine Centennial Commission, speaks at Pagdiriwang about the festivities planned around the 100th anniversary of the Philippines' Declaration of Independence from Spain.

Pagdiriwang becomes one of the five ethnic festivals to become part of Seattle Center's Festál, a series of events celebrating the city's various cultures. In 2007, Festál has grown to 22 cultural community events scheduled throughout the year.

Big year for Pagdiriwang and Filipinos worldwide: the 100th Anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence. Pagdiriwang, spread out over the first two weekends in June, includes a Film festival, an adobo cooking contest, and the Pagdiriwang '98 Centerpiece Historical Exhibit "The Philippines Through The Ages." There is also a Centennial Grand Banquet and Ball at the Westin Hotel, with former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell as the guest speaker. The year's official program book includes greetings from President Bill Clinton and Gov. Gary Locke.

Pagdiriwang is back on a shorter schedule, with all events and activities taking place over three jam-packed days. Flori Montante, who has led Pagdiriwang from the beginning, remains the driving force behind the festival, supported by a growing cast of constantly changing participants and organizations.

A recreation of an Igorot village featured in the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was the centerpiece of an ambitious exhibit at the 2009 festival.

Pagdiriwang, which now draws thousands to Seattle Center every year, marks its 25th year.


As the long time President of FCHSW, organizer of Pagdiriwang, passed on, a new management has taken over with a different management style that seeks to cement the legacy of Flori Montante.

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