Spark* Connect* Empower* Awards, Gala Concert Mark Philippine Independence in San Francisco


San Francisco.spark.1

The Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, led by Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr., during the flag-raising ceremony at the San Francisco City Hall. (San Francisco PCG photo)


SAN FRANCISCO 08 July 2019 - The Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco celebrated the 121st Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence at the historic Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel with the Filipino American community through a gala dinner and concert top-billed by soprano duo, The Nightingales, and the awarding of Kalayaan Spark* Connect* Empower* (SCE) Heroes to three deserving Americans of Filipino descent on 14 June 2019.

In his keynote remarks, Consul General to San Francisco Henry S. Bensurto, Jr., addressed a crowd of 400 leaders and members of the Filipino_American Community as well as the San Francisco Consular Corps with the battlecry of the SCE movement, “Pinoy Ako Proud Ako!”

He underscored that the celebration was meant not only to commemorate Philippine independence but to celebrate the Filipinos’ collective pride as a people.

“We come together, as one and united, yet diverse, Filipino nation, spanning multiple generations, here in the city of San Francisco,” said Consul General Bensurto, whose jurisdiction covers Northern California, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. He acknowledged Filipino community leaders from Reno, Nevada, Tacoma and Snohomish Washington, and Juneau, Alaska who attended the gala dinner and concert.

The Filipinos’ excellence in various fields and characteristics as a people, were also highlighted in the remarks of the three Kalayaan SCE Heroes and speeches of the Department of State’s Office of Foreign Missions in San Francisco Clayton Stanger, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, and Kalayaan SF Committee Chair Conrad Calalang.

Three deserving Filipino-Americans were honored with the Kalayaan SCE Heroes Award for bringing recognition to the Filipino America Community, and beyond, by exhibiting excellence in their fields and serving as inspiration to the youth.

The 2019 Kalayaan SCE Heroes are as follows: 11-year-old swimmer Clark Kent Apuada, who continues to train after he beat the 23-year-old junior record of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly in July 2018; broadcaster and health rights advocate Veronica De La Cruz, who has been with KPIX/KBCW in the San Francisco Bay Area and is current evening anchor at CBS San Francisco; and world’s first licensed armless pilot Jessica Cox.

In memory of her late brother, Ms. De La Cruz started the Eric de la Cruz Hope for Hearts Foundation to provide assistance to heart transplant patients. To this day, she has continued to advocate for health care rights.

Ms. Cox is a pilot born without arms, but has defied all odds.  Being the world’s first armless licensed pilot and black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. She is currently a motivational speaker and makes humanitarian trips around the globe, including the Philippines, where she helped her countrymen in her mother’s typhoon-devastated hometown near Guian, Eastern Samar in 2014.   She is also the author of the book, “Disarm Your Limits.” Ms. Cox is the subject of the documentary “Right Footed,” directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nick Spark.

Meanwhile, Mr. Apuada plans to hold swimming clinics in the Philippines to continue to inspire the youth.

In their remarks, the three Kalayaan SCE heroes emphasized the importance of family and how it has affected their lives and guided them through success. Ms.Cox recalled how her parents would always say that she can do anything she dreams to do. Mr. Apuada also credited his family for serving as his inspiration to do his feat.

The Kalayaan SCE heroes embody the ideals of the Spark*Connect*Empower* Movement, which envisions to spark pride in Philippine culture and heritage among Filipinos abroad, connect Filipinos to others, including the diaspora, and empower their communities in the Unites States, the Philippines and abroad.

With the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and in honor of the opening of the Sentro Rizal San Francisco, powerful soprano duo The Nightingales, composed of Rhina Paula Cruz and Bianca Camille Lopez, highlighted the Filipino talent through their performance of a wide range of repertoire from Philippine folk songs to opera arias.

The gala concert also featured The Sincerity Girls, a group of vibrant Filipino American girls from middle and high school grades who perform for various church and civic causes in the Bay Area and abroad, led by its musical director Henry Torres. Together with the Nightingales, the Sincerity Girls sang the SCE jingle, “Pinoy Ako, Proud Ako” in the concert.

With over 1.3 million Filipino Americans under the care of the Consulate General, half a million of whom are located in the San Francisco Bay Area, the whole month of June is devoted to various celebrations to commemorate the anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence.

The Consulate General participated in and led a number of activities throughout June, including flag raising ceremonies at the San Francisco City Hall led by Consul General Bensurto and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, in Daly City led by Filipino American Mayor Ray Buenaventura, in Redwood City led by San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, in San Jose City led by Mayor Sam Liccardo, and in Vallejo, Sacramento, Alameda, Hayward, among others, led by various Filipino American communities.

On 22 June 2019, a concert at the Union Square in San Francisco was led by Filipino-American community group Kalayaan SF, which featured actor-singer Sam Milby and Filipino-American rapper and producer Ruby Ibarra, in cooperation with The Filipino Channel.

On 23 June 2019, the Philippine Ballet Theatre presented a ballet performance in San Francisco, titled, “Kalayaan on Pointe.” Major sponsors included the Department of Foreign Affairs and the San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee. END

 San Francisco.spark.2

(From left to right) Chief of Protocol of California and San Francisco City and County Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Consul General Bensurto, San Francisco-Manila Sister City Committee chair Carmen Colet, and Madame Mariza S. Bensurto. (San Francisco PCG photo)

                                                              San Francisco.spark.3Consul General Bensurto delivers the keynote remark during the 121st Philippine Independence Day gala dinner and concert. (San Francisco PCG photo)

 San Francisco.spark.4

The Nightingales and the Sincerity Girls Ensemble sing at the 121st Philippine Independence Day Gala Dinner and Concert. (San Francisco PCG photo)

 San Francisco.spark.5

Top photo: Consul General Bensurto (leftmost), and Kalayaan SF Committee Chair Conrad Calalang (rightmost), and Kalayaan Spark*Connect*Empower* Hero Jessica Cox (center). Bottom right photo: Kalayaan Spark*Connect*Empower* Hero Clark Kent Apuada. Bottom left photo: Kalayaan Spark*Connect*Empower* Hero  Veronica De La Cruz (San Francisco PCG photo)


For more information, visit or