Santiagenians of the USA did it again – 46th anniversary celebration at Stockton was a blast


The two-day celebration of the Sangtiagenians of the USA 46th anniversary at Stockton Hilton, CA last weekend more than met expectations.  For one, the attendance was among the best in decades, 220 plus. The vibrancy couldn’t have been matched. The Saturday banquet/dinner-dance glittered with the ladies’ elegant Filipiniana wear and the gentlemen’s formal Philippine attire. The entire ambience at the Stockton Hilton ballroom was undoubtedly festive.  The zest was infectious. General impression at the start of the event was excited anticipation. There was no let-down.

Upon arrival at the celebration site, warm greetings were the usual protocol, accented by brief chats focused on catching up after the restricted covid years.  Everyone looked good. “Aging” diplomatically described as getting older didn‘t seem to mar the sparkle in everyone’s eyes and the lilt in the smiles that greeted attendees.  And of course, posing for pictures often broke conversations that never seemed to find resumption in the milieu of party-goers that swarmed, waved and robustly called out greetings. It was a joyful chaos that continued till the last dance of the evening.

(Photos from Dr. Chandra Vadhana)

Saturday evening banquet at Stockton Hilton.

The Santiagenian Sunday picnic at Lodi park, CA.

Lunch at Fremont Thai restaurant on the way to Stockton.

My three guests, their first time at a Santiagenian event, were definitely entertained and delighted. We are most grateful to Ronee and Israel Cagampan from Walnut Creek  who drove us from Palo Alto to Stockton and back. Without them, Raquel Belmonte Young, Chandra Vadhana and I couldn’t have attended that important celebration. Raquel is a past president of the Santiagenian Club and part of the founding group. Chandra, a Fulbright postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University is from India. I had agreed to co-emcee this year’s anniversary program with Irma Sipin. So, you see how relieved we were when Ronee and Israel decided to attend the Stockton celebration. The reward was, no one of us regretted being there – we all enjoyed the 2-day event to the max.  We had a ball!

The program featured spectacular folkdances by the graceful SUSA dancers (Sam and Juvy Nuezca, Mino and Minda Escalona, Blas and Malou Elefante, Alex and Thelma Dimalanta), and Hawaiian dancers (Malou Elefante, Juvy Nuezca, Hedwig Tolentino, Thelma Dimalanta, Majencia Cabaccang, Vangie Echavarre, Minda Escalona, Irma Sipin). Song numbers by Dr. Jay Sipin, Hernando Po, Gizelle and Gabby Sipini wowed the audience as well.  The entertainment was topped by the Tinikling performed by the Elefante grandkids Mailyn, Maliko, Alain and Teo. While they exhibited such skill, we watched nervously, concerned that their feet would get caught by the fast clicking bamboo poles, especially when the two male dancers, blindfolded,  leaped to the rhythm of the Tinikling that got faster and faster to a dizzying speed. The crowd exuded a big sigh when the speed peaked and then stopped. Bravo, Elefante grandkids!

The dancing was frolicsome and enjoyable.  With encouragement and vigorous leadership of the DI and skillful operation of the DJ, the dance floor was often crowded with happy feet.

The serious part of the program was an enlightening talk by guest speaker, Engineer Manuel Elefante Palma of Chicago, introduced by Malou Angeles Elefante. There was a brief impromptu honoring of past SUSA presidents, Raquel Belmonte Young, Dr. Narcisa Tuliao and Vinceng Sabado. National anthems led by Gloria Dasigan and Abigail Echavarre, an invocation by Vangie Echavarre, and a welcome speech by SUSA President Sam Nuezca officially started the program.

The picnic at Lodi park next day brought out the Hawaiian look. Flower-printed frocks and shirts, garlands and leis colored the scene. But the attention grabber was the array of food, a generous spread of vegetable and meat dishes. Ilokano songs by volunteer singers regaled the atmosphere, but they also tickled nostalgia for the old hometown of Santiago, and for those Santiagenians who had gone to the beyond (for me, my husband, Stanley Jacob and his parents, Antonio and Angela Jacob).

The 2-day event was the product of hard work and diligent preparation of SUSA President Sam Nuezca and Acting Vice President Mino Escalona, assisted by a slew of active volunteers, some of them: Juvy Nuezca, Alex and Thelma Dimalanta, Emma and Gab Elefante, Vangie Echavarre, Minda Escalona, Malou Elefante, Irma Sipin and Dr. Narcisa Tuliao.

The undercurrents of hometown reunions are the memories that linger, the past touching the present and future with strains of sentimentalism.  But isn’t what anniversary commemorations are for – gratitude for the past, and celebrating the present in joyful anticipation of the future?  Well, such was the spectacular 46th anniversary celebration of the Santiagenians of the USA. The continuity of this tradition is embodied in the several generations that attended this event.

Hats off to SUSA (the club that commemorates Santiago, Ilocos Sur, Philippines)!

Linda P. Jacob