On November 18th, the Filipino American Student Association put on its annual culture night: Philippine Culture Night Centennial. This year’s PCN commemorates the hundredth year of having a filipino club at the University of Michigan, so suffice to say it was a particularly important celebration. It also dealt with a larger context for filipino and filipino american identity with the theme of “who are you?”, seeking to ask the audience what their culture means to them. As a half-filipino american myself, I found that this theme of identity connected greatly to my own personal experience of trying to understand and discover what being filipino means to me.
After speeches from FASA’s co-presidents and cultural executive board chairs and a dinner filled with filipino dishes supplied by M-dining (which surprisingly wasn’t bad), the night’s performances gave way. Beginning with amazing covers of OPM music—original pinoy music—I enjoyed UofM’s own Greenwood Sessions’ renditon of “Raining in Manila” by Lola Amour and Wayne State’s Fil-Soc Band’s rendition of “Hanggang Kailan” by Orange and Lemons (shoutout to my friend Jordan with the super awesome guitar and vocal skillz 😎). OPM is a genre of music that I love; even when I don’t understand the filipino languages that they sing in, connecting to the raw music and culture of filipino karaoke makes the genre invaluable. Besides the music can just be a good vibe, y’know?
Under dimmed lights did Pandanggo sa ilaw come to kick off the dance performances. Pandanggo sa ilaw is a traditional filipino dance where dances balance lit candles on top of their hands and heads to simulate the flight of fireflies. I especially enjoyed their teal and orange costumes—flawlessly unwrinkled thanks to the iron the choreographers took from me (joke lang).
Perhaps one of the most recognizable dances of the night, traditional Tinikling performed with a live Rondalla performance (an ensemble of various stringed lutes). If you’ve ever walked by Mason Posting Wall from 5-10 on Mondays and Wednesdays in the past few months, then you’ve definitely seen these bamboo sticks being clapped while people dodged bruising their ankles. Additionally, Purdue’s own filipino organization performed Maglalatik (a dance performed shirtless while clapping coconut shells strung up on one’s body) while throwing a lot of their ‘behinds’ on stage. For the first time I also saw a live Kulintang gong ensemble performed by PACE-MI (Philippine Arts & Culture Ensemble of Michigan) with their renditions of pre-colonial traditional dances as well.
Now, I also was a performer in this PCN as a part of the Modern Tinikling showcase. Displaying traditions with modern sensibilities, Modern Tinikling performed to the songs “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar, “America has a Problem” by Beyonce, and “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj (with Aqua). Not to be biased but we were pretty hype. The two modern dances that followed were pretty cool too I guess >_>. In all seriousness, I was impressed with the choreography and fun both modern dance groups showed, for I will be humming “Asan Ka Na Ba” by Zach Tabudlo for months now.
One last note on the performances as well, I was glad to see Hawai’i Club perform their traditional hula dance to celebrate their culture as well. While the night was mostly comprising filipino cultural performances, the point of the night was to celebrate identities and cultures which it was great to see them given a platform to do so.
I would say that my first PCN experience set a high bar for next year. So, I’d especially like to give a big thank you to FASA’s cultural chairs for organizing the event, Philip Churchley and Isabelle Lamug (my ate, pictured above in the middle of the photo). I look forward to my involvement in FASA and their respective events moving forward, and I’m super glad to be a part of this amazing community!