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Thursday, March 17, 2005


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Lalaine, a Filipino-American actress and singer, said she has never felt she has to choose one culture over another.


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Lalaine has performed with Meatloaf, golfed with Dennis Quaid and Bill Murray and played basketball with *N Sync. Among teen communities, she gained popularity as Miranda on the "Lizzie McGuire" TV series.

But when asked what her greatest accomplishment is, she says, "My mom is proud of me."

Fil-Am Festival

"Tayo ay Nagkakaisa! Together We are One!"

Where: Kapiolani Park

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

Call: 548-0335

Family is an important aspect of her upbringing as an Americanized Filipina. That's to be expected, according to her mother, Lilia Vergara. "I practice Filipino customs in my home. I want them to go to church once a week and remember that someone up there is watching over us," she said. "I want them not to forget the blessings that they are getting."

"You automatically take care of your family," Vergara said of her four daughters and one son.

Family values is one aspect of the first Fil-Am Festival at Kapiolani Park, where Lalaine will be one of the performers. The cultural festival aims to bridge the gap between Filipino and American culture. Her ambition is to take the festival on the road as early as next year, with stops in San Diego, Las Vegas and the Philippines.

"We want everyone to know what we Filipino Americans do not have to choose one culture over the other," said event coordinator Candice Fajardo. "The Fil-Am Festival is especially relevant now because the Filipino population continues to grow in the United States, especially here in Hawaii. And a lot of Filipino Americans are now stepping into the public eye and making significant contributions to the community."

Fajardo hopes the festival will help bridge cultural and generational gaps within the Filipino community itself.

"Whether they're new immigrants from the Philippines or native-born citizens, we want all Filipinos in America to know that they don't have to forget about native Philippine culture."

Lalaine never felt that she had to choose one culture over the other. The 17-year-old actress/singer lives in Los Angeles but makes frequent trips to the Philippines to star in the television series "Flipside," in which she portrays a character who travels throughout the country rediscovering her roots as she interviews celebrities, musicians and politicians.

Her latest passion is her music. In a phone call from a recording studio in Nashville, Tenn., she said is pleased that her career is evolving beyond her "Lizzie McGuire" character.

"I've loved discovering how to write music. I didn't think I could do it. Initially I was scared," she said. Her producer Rob Cavallo (also the producer for Green Day) makes things fun. "I love working with (Cavallo). The studio is not boring and I can be myself," she said.

"I write songs about stuff I'm going through, my family and my friends. ... It's a great feeling."

She plans a music tour in the Philippines this summer.

Lalaine started performing at age 9, when she toured the nation for a year performing in "Les Miserables." She was inspired by her sister Christina, who also performed.

Her sense of family extends to the community. "It is not just all glamorous. I have the capability to reach and connect with other lives, other children all over the world," she said.

"I love raising money for a good cause and having fun at the same time. When I played basketball with *N Sync, we raised $4 million."

Kids' charities also pull at her heartstrings. "I do a lot of hospital stuff. The kids have disabilities and disadvantages, but they are amazing and awesome. They keep me going," she said.

During breaks from her rigorous schedule of recording sessions and charity events, Lalaine likes to relax, like a typical teen.

"I call up a few of my friends and go hang out, chill," she said. "Oh, and I do love my Filipino food -- that is my favorite thing in the world."

GROWING UP in Hawaii, Jordan Segundo, who will also be appearing at the festival, maintained his Filipino roots with the help of his grandparents.

"For Asian artists it's a little tough to be accepted," he said. "Some communities stereotype you as an outcast.

"Young kids imitate others and sometimes lose their own identity, lose their culture. It's important to keep that foundation. It's OK to be proud and not ashamed of where you came from," said the entertainer, who makes frequent appearances at elementary and intermediate schools to talk about his experiences.

Like many minority groups, Filipinos work hard to reconnect with their native culture, so easily lost to Americanization by the second and third generations. Fajardo said many Filipinos feel a need to carry a piece of culture with them wherever they go, whether it is a favorite recipe, dance or clothing.

The festival will host an array of cultural booths, including a few addressing specific health issues of concern to Filipino Americans.

Kids can enjoy a special section dedicated to childhood traditions and pastimes from the Philippines, including street and tribal games, crafts and storytelling.

And of course, no Filipino fiesta would be complete without food. Filipino plate lunches and gourmet treats from Hawaii and the West Coast promise a feast for the taste buds.

B2B Promotions - FilAm Festival
www.b2bpromotions.org



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