Taipei, June 16 (CNA) Veteran Filipino game show host and former public servant Arnell Ignacio stole the hearts of over 5,000 people who gathered at an event in New Taipei on Sunday to celebrate the 121st anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence.
Sunday's gathering -- one of several events held this past week to celebrate Philippine independence -- was geared mostly to Filipino migrant workers, who formed the bulk of the crowd, and they had plenty to keep their attention.
It started with a fun run in the morning, and also included a parade, music performances by rock brands, and a commemoration ceremony attended by officials from both the New Taipei City government and the Philippine representative office in Taiwan.
But more than anybody else, it was Ignacio who drew the most vocal response from the crowd with his comedy and music performances accompanied by rock band G-male.
Scores of fans latched themselves onto Ignacio for photos and selfies while the crowd sang and danced with him as he performed.
In an interview with Ignacio a day before the event, he said he came to Taiwan specifically to celebrate the 121st anniversary of Philippine Independence Day with Filipinos in Taiwan.
"I will be celebrating it with my fellow Filipinos. There will be a lot of singing, dancing, fun, eating and a lot of picture taking," said Ignacio, who has gained fame hosting numerous game shows and reality TV shows in the Philippines since the 1990s.
He is also known for earning his first bachelor's degree in April this year at the age of 55 and as the deputy chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, which protects the interests of overseas Filipino workers, from January 2018 to February 2019.
New Taipei Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) also connected with the crowd, after greeting the Filipinos in attendance in their native Tagalog.
He said the Philippines was the country he had the greatest affection for because it was the first country he ever visited, when he went there in 1984 as an undercover detective to investigate Taiwanese fugitives.
During his investigations, he was nearly shot and killed by Taiwanese fugitives, but it was because of the help of Filipino friends during that time that he was able to safely to return to Taiwan, Hou said.
"Even though this happened over 30 years ago, I am taking this opportunity to thank my Filipino friends for their help so that I can stand before you today. Filipinos are my saviors and my best companions in fighting crime," he said.
He also praised the more than 13,000 Filipino workers in the city, saying their contributions and hard work in both the industrial and domestic caregiver sectors were greatly appreciated.
"They bring us stability in industry, harmony in the home, and our future in New Taipei," Hou said.
Angelito T. Banayo, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, read out a letter from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Filipinos in Taiwan, which commended them as true Filipinos who hold unconditional love for their country.
"I am pleased to know that even while you are miles away from home you continue to hold in your hearts the values of a true Filipino," Banayo read.
"Your appreciation of our culture, pride of place and solidarity through community events like this clearly manifests your genuine and unconditional love for our country. As overseas Filipinos, may you further enrich our heritage by promoting it where ever you are in the world," Banayo read.
The letter also encouraged the migrant workers to remember the "sacrifices of our forebearers, which led to the freedom that we enjoy today."
"I trust that you will use their bravery and patriotism as inspiration as you reach for your personal goals and partake in our agenda of improving the welfare of our people and nation," the letter said as read by Banayo.
The Philippines gained independence on June 12, 1898 after more than 300 years of Spanish colonial rule.