March 17, 2005

A Celebration of Identity

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The pounding of bass drums and rhythmic chimes reverberated from all corners of the State Theater, hailing the opening of the 2005 Filipino Culture Night, a production of the Cornell Filipino Association, Hala Bira. The show had started.

Mimicking the Ati-Atihan fiesta of the Aklan province in the Philippines, members of the Cornell Filipino Association — undergraduate, graduate, faculty and residents — paraded down the aisles toward the stage to begin the show. The stage then cleared and the clatter stopped to reveal, three couples dancing Aray, a Filipino adaptation of the Spanish jota dance that displays the grace and delicate poise invested in traditional courtship.

While the programs primarily focused on the presence of Filipino culture, the show was clearly situated in Cornell, as made evident by the first skit, a parody of “Belle” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The song announced what many in the audience chant to themselves everyday: “The weather sucks — it feels like hell.”

The night was punctuated by skits directed and written by Blesserene Punzalan ’05, Miranda Macasieb ’05 and Mario Salazar ’04. The sketches performed in between dance numbers portrayed the culture experienced by those who have built a community under the commonality of the Philippine archipelago. The skits demonstrated the daily lives of the Filipino and Filipino-identified Cornellians.

The night featured the solo modern dance performance of Jeff Rebudal. Dancing to an emotionally powerful combination of violin and piano, Rebudal inhabited the stage with deliberate and precise movements to invoke high moments of passion and violence. Rebudal’s performance was followed by Pandanggo sa Ilaw, meaning fandango with light. In a dark, cerulean-lit stage, dancers mesmerized the audience as they balanced candles on their heads to perform with dexterity, steadiness and grace.

A performance from the Philippine Dance Troupe from the Tokyo University Foreign Studies Department followed, ending the first act. The Maria Clara suite is a collection of dances inspired by Spanish culture. Women donned Spanish-inspired, Maria Clara costumes consisting of a bell-sleeved camisa with a shawl-like panuelos and full, floor-length saya (skirt) wrapped with a hip-hugging, tapis (overskirt). The men wore the barong tagalog, a traditional costume made of sheer, hand-woven pi