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Commemorating the Filipino Victims of 9/11

By Jaslee Carayol

Two days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, members of the Filipino American community gathered at the Asian American Writer’s Workshop in Chelsea and held an evening vigil to pay tribute to the 20 Filipino and Filipino Americans who died that day.

“We show our endless support to the families that are still grieving and healing a decade later.  We exemplify the resilience that sets us apart as Filipinos, as Americans and as New Yorkers,” said Kevin Nadal, who organized the vigil.

Following Nadal’s introduction, readers from the Filipino community took the stage in succession to honor each person lost.  Framed by a slideshow with names and photos of the deceased, the community members read biographies of each person compiled from The New York Times and Philippine news outlets.

The biographies summarized the life of each person, including how they came to America or how they ended up at the World Trade Center that day.  Mostly college students and young professionals from the sponsoring organizations, few of the speakers had personal ties to the people that were killed in the attacks.

Mark Habana recounted the life of Ramon Grijalvo, who worked as a computer analyst on the 23rd floor of the North Tower.  The biography included facts about Ramon Grijalvo’s life such as his Philippine birthplace, mechanical engineering degree and 11 siblings.  After Habana read a quote from the Grijalvos’ daughter, his wife Nenita Grijalvo took the stage.  A petite woman wearing a flowered blouse and pearls, Nenita Grijalvo was tearful and fought to compose herself as she quietly spoke of her husband.

“My husband actually died September 15, 2001.  He was still alive when he was brought by the ambulance,” Nenita Grijalvo said.  Ramon Grijalvo was placed in the hospital’s burn unit.

Recounting her husband’s death, Nenita Grijalvo said that someone from the hospital came to tell them the news.

“When we went to inquire they told us he was not there,” Nenita Grijalvo said.  “It took us 10 days to recover his body.  He was given to a Chinese family.”

The tribute readers and members of the 15 Filipino sponsoring organizations were distinguishable from the families and friends of the victims by their seating and dress.  The readers sat closer to the podium while the families and friends were further back.  The readers wore somber colors and pinned white ribbons to their shirts, while the families and friends were dressed more colorfully.

Ryan “Hydroponikz” Abugan, 25, took the stage to perform a song called “Strife,” which was about overcoming life’s troubles to become stronger.  Abugan, whose girlfriend’s father, Hector Tamayo, was honored, said the song is “not just about death and about trouble, but it’s also about the lessons that are left behind.”

“My girlfriend had lost her father in 9/11 and it just impacted me so much,” Abugan said.  “And for the past 10 years I’ve just been sort of waiting to get involved and help out, but the only thing I could really do was write music so that’s what I did.”

A slow hip-hop song with the chorus sung by a female artist, “Strife” had been in the works for eight years before Abugan wrote it.

“That piece actually is only two years old,” Abugan said.  “It just goes to show that I never forget.  The feeling has sat with me for a long time.”

57 Responses to “Commemorating the Filipino Victims of 9/11”

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