Pistahan (Filipino) Festival and Indonesian Day Festival

Saturday, August 11, 2007, saw me return to Yerba Buena Gardens for the Pistahan (Filipino) Festival. I like living near a Caltrain station; it makes trips to certain parts of the city very easy.

Pistahan (Filipino) Festival
The Filipino Festival was fairly small, smaller even than last week's festival. I explored it in under an hour. As I explored, I took a few pictures. The festival's most appealing aspect to me was the wide, themed food selection: pancit, adobe, lumpia, palabok, menudo, sisig, halo-halo, and more. I'd never heard of most of these dishes. And I'd certainly never seen halo-halo before -- I'd have remembered it if I had.

First, I tried some sisig. It was simply good grilled meat, tossed with jalapenos, and served over (unnecessary) rice. It reminded me greatly of Mexican food.

Later, in the afternoon, I tried some pancit. Basically a Filipino version of spaghetti and tiny meatballs, it was decent and satisfying. There's minor differences between the American and Filipino versions of the dish: the Filipino meatballs are made from pork (American one are, I think, beef); and, the Filipino noodles were rice noodles and hence had a slightly different texture.

Even later, I grabbed a few lumpia (not photographed). A fried egg-roll-type dish served with sweet and sour sauce, these were, oddly, more greasy inside than out. Still, I called them good, They were filled with peas, carrots, corn. The contents surprised me because I don't normally think of these as Asian vegetables.

As for the non-culinary aspects of the festival, the ordinary booths were pretty boring. Some promoted tourism and culture. A number offered real estate opportunities or mortgages. Local bay area banks, utilities, police forces, and financial institutions (including those offering money transfers) also had tables. I suppose the festival is a good opportunity to reach out to this community.

As for retailers, they were all themed. Although there weren't many, I'm sure for anything you wanted that's usually sold at a fair, a booth or two carried it.

Also, one booth was devoted to Filipino and Filipino-American history. It displayed Filipino art, old coins, flags, weapons, letters, and military uniforms (for Filipino units in the US army and Filipino troops commanded by the US military in joint operations). Some items had little binders explaining their significant and role. I wish more festivals had museum-type exhibits like this.

Other observations:

  • Interestingly, most of the performances (musical entertainment or dance) were in the rap and hip-hop vein.
  • There were more cops than I've seen at other festivals. I wonder why.
  • I learned pinoy is another term for Filipino.
I had extra time and I remembered the Indonesian Day Festival existed. As it was a short walk away, I decided to explore it. On the way, I noticed San Francisco's Cody's bookstore closed (San Francisco Chronicle article). Though I've never been in there, I'm sad to see it close because, closing so soon after Cody's Telegraph Avenue store, it may prophecy the death of independent bookstores.

Indonesian Day Festival
The Indonesian Day Festival was even tinier than the Filipino Festival. Located in Union Square, it had one musical stage and ten booths, half of which sold food and half sold items such as handbags, wooden sculptures, and drums. Since most of the Indonesian food for sale was heavy and I'd already had lunch, I decided to pass. Although I spent less than thirty minutes at the festival, it was a fun excursion--I got to see some Indonesian dancing and to read some interesting menus.

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