Last weekend, I attended my first Bayanihan, hosted by the Philippine American League, and it was the true definition of an experience. Walking into Academy Hall I was immediately greeted with a huge line, longer than the line for Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s the previous week. Needless to say, I was ready. Going in blind, I had no idea what to expect, other than a reported dinner and evening of performances. Entering the room, I was greeted with a sea of tables, with the Academy Hall Auditorium stage acting as the horizon in the sea of people. We were seated at a table near the back, and there we stayed until food was ready to be served. Afterwards, the festivities began.
The show started off with an acoustic rendition of the American national anthem, and then a similarly sung version of the Philippine national anthem. Then, audience members were treated to a snapshot of PAL members doing the mannequin challenge as they prepared for the upcoming show. I liked this, as it broke any remaining tension between cast and audience and set the stage for a lighthearted performance, while also acknowledging the weeks of hard work that made Bayanihan possible.
The general premise of this year’s Bayanihan was a story of Manny Pacquiao losing a high-profile boxing match and, subsequently, losing his mojo. He finds out that the only way to reclaim it is to travel to RPI and hang out with PAL. This is harder than it seems, as all flights to America were reportedly cancelled. The only way for Manny to get a ticket is to win a national talent show: Pinoy’s Got Talent. The talent show served as a background for the various traditional dances PAL members performed, as either explanations for actions or talents being showcased themselves.
The dances themselves were the main highlight of Bayanihan, as it was clear that their choreography had taken the students a while to master. They were all captivating in their own right. One included students balancing cups of water in their hands and doing tricks with them, taking care not to let the water spill. Another dance was masked as a parkour talent, with PAL members jumping up, down, and around benches. A third dance was performed by the shirtless men of the club, hitting coconuts in their hands on coconuts attached to their shoulders in a dancing rhythm. Each different performance was captivating, as it was something new for me and not something I would likely see again. The amount of dedication that PAL showed to their event was amazing: everyone in the club was either performing onstage or helping serving food and setting up in between intermissions.
The story concluded with Manny winning the talent show and reclaiming his mojo with members of PAL in RPI. The show concluded with dances by the various members of PAL, and with a final dance by the graduating seniors. Audience members were also told of their recent club elections and who would lead PAL into another successful year.
All and all, I enjoyed Bayanihan. It was clearly a labor of love, and it paid off: I was told that after the initial crowd of people came through the door for dinner, 216 tickets had been sold. I can’t wait for next year’s Bayanihan and wonder if the upcoming seniors can raise the bar higher than the departing seniors had set it. Either way, I encourage everyone to check it out next year.