The tradition of the Pista sa Nayon dates back centuries to the rural areas and towns of the Philippines. During Pista sa Nayon (a Filipino phrase translated “town festival”) Filipinos would gather for a fiesta in the middle of town to celebrate a good harvest, and it would be a time for people to focus on their neighbors, family and friends, solidifying the sense of community and hard work.
This tradition has been carried from the Philippines to America since the first large waves of Filipino immigrants arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Festivals are held in many communities with significant Filipino American populations, such as those in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Honolulu. Even so, none has surpassed the size of Pista sa Nayon in Seattle.
The festival in Seattle was first proposed in 1990 by Ron Sims, then a member of the King County Council. Together with his wife, Cayan Topacio and his staff assistant Bengie Santos (both Filipino Americans), they approached Filipino American community leaders and asked for their support for a summer festival associated with Seafair. The purpose of the festival was to give the growing Filipino American population a sense of partnership with the larger Seattle community. African American, Latino, Native American, and other Asian American groups already had celebrations as part of Seafair.
By 1990, the Filipino American community was fast becoming the largest Asian American group in the State of Washington. Most of this population is concentrated in the Puget Sound area, among the counties of King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish. With this in mind, Sims, Topacio, Santos and Mars Rivera and Dr. Camilo de Guzman, Filipino American leaders, mobilized the community to support the establishment of Pista.