In A Hurry

kutitapBy Becky Pagsibingan
With less than 7 weeks before the end of the year, the Filipino American organizations are busy as the buzzzin’ bees tying up loose ends to accomplish the remaining events in the community. Leaders and volunteers amongst us who are passionate about serving in the community are meeting here and there and everywhere making sure that these events meet the goals that they have set, be it civic, religious, political, with specific focus on assistance to the poor, community development, improving the quality of life of people or supporting the political involvements of the Filipino American candidates to help promote the growth and welfare our community. With the holiday season in the offing, we are in a hurry to finish with all our community projects for 2009 as we would like to start preparing for our Christmas celebration with family and friends.

The Alay Concert 2009
Mother nature cooperated and did not send pouring rains that could have deterred people from attending the concert. This was one of the many similar projects all over the nation with a common goal.

The Harmony Hall auditorium in Ft. Washington, MD, off I-495, was a little out-of-the-way for some people, but they came out to support a worthy cause. All proceeds were directed to the victims of Typhoon Ondoy in the Philippines. With the concerted efforts of The Philippine American Foundation for Charities, The Feed the Hungry and The Gawad Kalinga this event happened. These three groups exhibited hard work and dedication to get donations and ticket sales. The PAFC put their heads together to take care of the finance matters. They mobilized it’s members to do the administrative work, with the GK and FtH working side by side with them. But, importantly, without the unselfish and compassionate spirit of Rod Garcia who invited and had gathered the performers, this event will not also materialize. With Rod’s leadership, initiative and connections, he personally invited top performers to comprise the concert. Not all of them were from the area.

One was from New York and another one flew all the way from California.
Rod formed five groups, all carried with them their own Cd’s to boast of. They were not ‘bagitos” (just starting). They were already considered as pros and had sets of followers. Blessed with good hearts and sense of compassion, they performed free, bringing with them their bulky musical instruments to perform on a Sunday afternoon. Recalling the past typhoon/disaster concerts, Rod who himself is a singer, composer, also a writer and a lawyer, had been in sync with the volunteer efforts of the community.
The Openers: Kristine Climaco, Ernie Cordero, John Luke Pagsibigan, Vince Lacsamana and Kim Frias.

The Main Performers: Alfa, a young New York.singer/song writer with a smoky voice; Lucky 28, with Odie Sotomayor and Pong Velasquez, the singers; Charmaine Clamor, an L.A.- based FilAm jazz singer and popularizer of Jazzipino – a music movement that beautifully and skillfully blends traditional Filipino songs and old school jazz.; Russ Arlotta and Friends- has been under the songwriter’s spell since the early 1970’s.

His debut CD “The Road We Travel” takes the listener on a journey of heart and mind in search of that beauty and profoundity; Nikki & Ira Gonzales,- the sibling duo has honed a unique, musical synergy that continues to entertain and evolve, showing in their eclectic repertoire; and of course, The Rod Garcia Band, consists of drummer ace Rick Brigham, a university professor, Russ Arlotta, an attorney, singer daughter Jitter and sax phenom son, Rocky, with Rod being the lead singer.

Charmaine Clamor from start to finish has mesmerized the audience with her expressive voice and captivating emotions. She sang old Filipino romantic songs with soft electrifying style that touches the heart. The rhythm was jazzy bolero beat. This was my kind of music. The audience had clamored for more.

The concert was a success in terms of the artists’ performance and the goal to raise funds for the typhoon Ondoy project. We thank all the compassionate volunteers (performers and non-performers), generous donors and kind supporters.

“The Day The Dancers Stayed”
I read the email invitation sent out by Mitzi Picard – launching of a book by Theodore S. Gonzalves at the Embassy of the Philippines. I read on – The Day The Dancers Stayed:
Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora. The title and subtitle caught my attention. This was my area of interest and I should be there.

The author was already so engaged in his speech when I arrived. I listened and tried to capture and absorb what he was saying about his book. I heard him say something that happened a long time ago: “the Bayanihan Dance Company was designated as the official dance group to represent the Philippines as a special cultural mission to the Americas and Europe.

Meanwhile, another cultural dance group, the Far Eastern University Dance Group, secured its own presidential endorsement, successfully performed in nine countries in Europe, was invited to perform in Chicago but was blocked by the Bayanihan Dance Group.” My ears were wide open. At the end of his presentation during the open forum, I was one of those who spoke. Others had asked questions, but mine was not a question. I shared with them what I knew about that part of his book.

I was a part of the FEU Dance Group. I fully knew what happened. The Philippine Women’s University’s Bayanihan Dance Group used political manipulation in the process. I also stressed on FEU’s focus on the authenticity of the Philippine folk steps and movements as opposed to the Bayanihan’s stylized performance. BTW – FEU won first place in the two big folk dance competitions in Madrid and Barcelona. I had more to share and details to tell, but I gave the others the chance to talk.

I have not finished reading the book, only half way, but I could already see how Gonzalves had interwoven the kaleidoscope of Philippine historical facts and the cultural developments, as he observed cultural presentations in America. The first two chapters of the book gave me more indepth historical and cultural memories of the past, all condensed in the book.

This saved me from visits to the library to research on things that I did not know about. I am glad I took the time to come and meet the author with the hope that next time, I will have the opportunity to delve into his inner thoughts and ask him about the future image of Philippine culture and heritage.

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