My favorite food in the whole wide world is chicken adobo with steamed rice. The first month I spent here, I got so homesick that I texted my mom and announced that I would be making it. The one word I could easily associate the Philippine American League’s spring event, Bayanihan, would be that—homesick.
After a delicious buffet of common Filipino dishes such as adobo, pancit, lumpia, caldereta, and cassava cake, members of PAL lead the audience in the national anthem of the Philippines, “Lupang Hinirang”, and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Following that, the show began.
Being half Filipino, I’ve experienced my fair share of the culture’s idiosyncrasies, and the night was full of them. A charming narrator laid out the scene of a young man returning to the Philippines to visit his family. His nanay (mother) was there, of course, to drop him off at the airport. Fiona Flynn ’19 played my mother to the tee. Her character’s obsessive need to make sure that Brian Villejo, played by Phil Vincent Castanares ’19, remembered to bring all the presents to all the aunties, uncles, and cousins, was an exact replica. Her line “I’m going to miss you, anak!” was executed with all the gusto and sincerity that only a Filipino mom could achieve.
As the narrator further explained, Brian found himself sitting next to a talkative tita (aunt) played by Mary Margaret Sta. Cruz ’19. With her impressive grasp and control of the main language of the Philippines, Tagalog, Cruz adorably plays your typical tita with too much to say. Brian, in his attempt to ignore her, plays a series of Filipino parodies of popular movies and tv shows. These movies and TV shows included The Lord of the Coconut, How I Met Your Tatay (father), and other more familiar titles of The Last Airbender, High School Musical, and Pitch Perfect. Each of these parodies had funny versions of the original story based upon Filipino stereotypes and traditions.
However, the highlight of each of these parodies was when the storyline devolved into coordinated dancing. While a lot of people know the national dance of the Philippines, the Tinikling, a dance with bamboo sticks, I had the pleasure to witness and learn about a vast variety of other traditional dances of the Philippine Islands. Bulaklakan is a dance of young women with flower covered bamboo/wire. Subli, a ceremonial worship dance rooted in the Spanish Catholic culture, was performed with small-brimmed hats. Sayaw Sa Bangko and Binasuan are dances thought to have been passed down from the ancient Philippine ancestors. Sayaw Sa Bangko, a dance highlighting the dancing couple’s partnership, is performed on top of bangko or narrow benches. Binasuan, a dance praising the ancient gods, is performed with the dancers dancing with glasses or cups of water. Pandanggo Sa Ilaw, performed with the lights dimmed and flickering candles in hand, is a dance meant to simulate fireflies. Maglalatik, my personal favorite, is a dance telling the story of a war between the Moros (Muslims) and Christians over latik (coconut meat), performed by men wearing coconut shells on their shoulders, hips, backs, and thighs. Coconut shells in hand, they proceed to hit the other shells on their body in time with the music. The influence of Spanish rule is evident in the style of music that is played during the performance of these dances. Each of which were well-done.
Beyond the comedic skits, culturally enriching dance performances, well-made parody music videos, and the traditional Philippine hospitable mentality of “eat more food,” the night served as a meaningful explanation of what it meant to be Filipino. Individuals of all races and cultural origins were present and were highly interested in learning and experiencing more. I revelled in all the jokes, I savored all the food, but most importantly, I was reminded of something important that all people can relate to: who you are is heavily influenced by your culture.
I had the great privilege of speaking with members of the PAL. “It’s an annual event where we get to share our Filipino culture with other people. We do it as an integrated show where we do Filipino dances and host Filipino food while doing a skit of a show to make it relatable to other people. It’s a beautiful event that we love to host. It’s a way for us to reach out to the community,” Co-President Aerrol Ampeloguio ’17 stated. “We all feel really great about this event. We are all very welcome to having more members. If you want to join us, you can contact me on Facebook or at email@example.com.”
“This is my favorite club. It’s like a family away from home. We’re all like brothers and sisters,” says Mary Margaret Sta. Cruz ’19. “This club helped me break out of my shell. In high school, I was very shy. I’ve never done anything like this [event] before. Now, I’m one of the leading roles in a show. The members of this club made me feel like I can be myself with them. I feel like I’ve known them all my life. We’re a family here in PAL, which is exactly what the Philippine culture entails. Even an audience member said to me ‘I didn’t know you guys were like a family in PAL.’ Despite being a member for only less than a year, this club has already influenced the person I am.”
“I love this club. It literally is a family. Especially being a Filipino in a school that’s predominately white, it’s really nice to have your culture here, and celebrated here, which is really, really awesome. This is the one event that nails it in, that we are a family,” according to Adrian Pangilinan ’17.
It’s clear a common sentiment was made among the members. Bayanihan, the event’s name, derives its meaning from bayan (community), and the word translates to “being a bayan,” or “being a community.” The unity amongst these RPI students is displayed in their pride in Philippine culture and their love of their heritage.