An Explosion of Color, Culture, & Community at the 4th Holi Festival in Manila

Celebrate Love, Friendship, and New Beginnings: Holi Festival 2016 at SM by the Bay Asia Society Philippines

More than 2,500 people gathered at SM by the Bay to celebrate the Holi Festival of Colors last March 20, 2016. This was the 4th year of celebrating Holi in Manila, organized by Asia Society and SM by the Bay, in partnership with Embassy of India, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce, Indian Ladies Club and SingIndia Music of the Soul.

Holi ushers in the arrival of spring, and is considered the happiest and most colorful festival of the Hindus. It is widely celebrated in India, Nepal and other places with a Hindu population. Recently, this festival has been popularized all over the world as a festival of love and colors.

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Holi goers were greeted with a dab of colored powder, also known as gulal powder, when they entered the grounds. As soon as the first color countdown commenced, everyone was barely recognizable from the explosion of colors on their bodies. It was quite a mesmerizing scene with people literally transformed into one multi-colored race united by love and friendship.

Asia Society Philippines Executive Director Suyin Liu Lee, who opened the program, highlighted the importance of interaction and cultural exchange in promoting cooperation and understanding between communities.

Ambassador of India to the Philippines H.E. Lalduhthlana Ralte, together with Ram Sitaldas of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce, came onstage to greet participants. Amb. Ralte thanked everyone for taking part in the event and expressed his hopes that more people would participate in the years to come. Sitaldas said “Today, we are not Filipino, Indian, American nor any other nationality. We are all global citizens.” He added that Holi Festival in Manila would not be possible without everyone in the audience.

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Various performers from the local Indian community graced the stage. Partygoers quickly shed their inhibitions dancing to traditional folk music, Bhangra, and Bollywood music mixed by DJ CJ Wasu. A few brave souls were invited onstage to try learning some signature moves. To get the crowd going, Samba School Imperatriz Filipinense provided rhythmic drum beats throughout the show.

Food cravings were satisfied by ample servings of chicken tandoori, pani puri, idly sambal and samosas offered by Kashmir, Bollywood, Royal Indian Curry House, Green Dot, and Saffron Plates. Participants were also treated to samples of Gulab Jamun, a favorite Indian dessert mainly made of milk solids.

Many lined up to get traditional Mehndi (henna) tattoos from talented artists. The beautiful designs were promptly shared on social media. Kids and kids-at-heart indulged their creative energies in creating their own rangoli artwork. Rangoli is a folk art, wherein interesting patters are filled with colored sand, colored rice, and flower petals, often crafted to celebrate auspicious occasions in India.

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Holika Dahan or the lighting of bonfire was performed by a Hindu priest after sunset. Holika Dahan, usually performed on the eve of Holi, is a popular tradition that is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. The priest chanted prayers, and encouraged the crowd to throw away their sufferings and sorrows. It was an amazing day not only to party and feast on Indian delicacies but also a great opportunity to forge closer ties between Filipinos and Indians who call the Philippines their second home.

Holi Festival 2016 is presented by India Tourism, and sponsored by Air Asia, New India Assurance, and Jollibee Food Corporation. It is supported by Ambica,, Havaianas, Jockey, Oakley, One Stop Distribution, and Speedo, with special thanks to RK Manufacturing, WiPro, and Mobkard. ANC,, CNN Philippines, Coconuts Manila, GMA, Barangay LS 97.1 FM,, Manila Bulletin, The Standard, The Manila Times, Scout Magazine, Spot.PH, Travelife, and are media partners for the event.

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