Home / News / Celebrate Filipino Independence Day: Sigal Museum hosts event in Easton, showcases immigrant stories

Celebrate Filipino Independence Day: Sigal Museum hosts event in Easton, showcases immigrant stories

Jul 03, 2023Jul 03, 2023

EASTON, Pa. — Residents can cool off with an icy treat and learn about how Filipinos celebrate their Independence Day at a special event this weekend.

The Sigal Museum and the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society, or NCHGS, will host its Halo-Halo party from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jun 10.

Halo-halo, a shaved ice, is considered the unofficial dessert of the Asian country and a summer staple during Independence Day, which falls on June 12 (Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan!).

The celebration is part of an ongoing exhibition, "Destination: Northampton County, presenting unheard stories, photographs, and family heirlooms of the last 75 years."

Staff will keep things cool by handing out samples of halo-halo, made with coconut milk and sweetened beans.

It is mixed using a handheld scraper and large blocks of ice.

Ricardo Reyes, director of galleries and curator of collections at Lafayette College, came up with the idea to host the bash after he noticed an antique ice shaver on display at the Sigal.

"When talking about Filipino culture you don't necessarily think of this object. I wondered why the person donated the object, why did they use it? And since it's here, why don't we talk about it and give it some context," he said.

Reyes, whose parents are from the Philippines, recently edited "The SAGE Encyclopedia of Filipina/x/o American Studies," a two-volume encyclopedia that focuses on the Filipino diaspora and covers a variety of topics such as activism and education, arts and humanities, health, immigration, psychology and social issues.

He hopes the museum event helps people understand the culture better.

"There is a lot of misconstrued notions about the Philippines because it is closely related to Latino culture because of Spanish colonialism. There is a lot of misrecognition of Filipinos being Latinos, especially when there isn't a big population because we have Spanish names. Things like that are always happening so part of [this] is to educate the community," Reyes said.

He said he gets the confusion. After all, the country is a melting pot of different dialects, customs and traditions.

"The Philippines, because of colonization, was a made up country that is all of a sudden different cultures and different languages — the country itself is made up of 7,100 different islands, so how do you say this is Filipino culture when 7,000 islands make up the culture?" Reyes said.

"Halo-halo, the dessert, because it is a layer of mixtures of fruit and nuts and different things has become a metaphor for being Filipino — we are all multiple layers and getting mixed up together."

The event will also include a dance performance byKinding Sindaw, a non-profit dance company consisting of indigenous and Filipino-American artists.

During the performance, the group will recreate traditions of dance, music, martial arts, storytelling, and orature of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, Southern Philippines.

Additionally, attendees can mingle with members of the Santos family, who are the offspring of Dr. Meinardo Santos, and his wife, Ann.

The family lent several items to the museum for the show, including the ice shaver that inspired the Halo-Halo party.

Meinardo, who passed away in 1985, was from the Bulucan Philippines. While doing his medical residency in New Jersey, he met Ann, the daughter of Irish immigrants. Their interracial relationship was frowned upon by most of their family and friends, so they moved back to the Philippines.

Several years later, they migrated back to the U.S. in Easton where Meinardo opened a psychiatric practice in the city's South Side.

"A lot of the items we have from Meinardo revolve around his physician's bag. One of the things we tried to do with the exhibit was to make it interactive for children. We recreated his bag that kids can go through. They can try on a little stethoscope," said Sarah White, the Sigal Museum's community engagement coordinator.

The family is one of many who shared their stories as part of the "Destination: Northampton County, presenting unheard stories, photographs, and family heirlooms of the last 75 years" show.

Along with the Santos' story, museum goers will find heartfelt memories and artifacts from local immigrants from countries such as Colombia, Lebanon and Ireland, along with a specially curated section dedicated to Black Americans.