By Robert Bernstein
Pilipino Cultural Night has been happening for 27 years at UCSB. I discovered it by chance last Saturday and we went! Amazing to be in a standing room only event at UCSB Campbell Hall that is not publicized through any of the usual outlets! As far as I can tell I was the only “Joe” (non-Filipino) in attendance!
Here are all my photos and video clips.
The event was creatively designed to alternate between a very moving and emotionally powerful play and a range of traditional and modern Filipino (Pilipino) dances and performances. It made for a very long event, from 4PM until around 7:30PM with one intermission.
The play was called “’til next time”. It tells the story of a family split between the US and the Philippines. It is very personal and very political at the same time.
Naomi Bautista is a busy film student at UCSB…
… who speaks with her brother Matthew back in the Philippines on the phone almost every day
Here Naomi is with her boyfriend Alex and her best friend Mariel
Here they are with Naomi’s parents Raymond and May
Raymond and May had to make a tough decision to bring Naomi with them to the US while leaving Matthew in the Philippines with his grandmother “Lola” Emila (mother of Raymond). Here Lola once again is beating Matthew at Mahjong
Matthew has a beautiful and intelligent girlfriend Ella. He wants to marry her, but first he needs to get a good job. Here they are with Matthew’s best friend Francis
It has been ten years that the family has been divided between countries. With much sacrifice, the parents are able to bring Matthew to the US
But he feels his life is rooted back in the Philippines. His girlfriend is there. And his work is there. Matthew is an aspiring journalist. He feels frustrated that his reporting assignments are all fluff while there are so many important changes happening in the world.
The most important changes are happening in parallel in the US and in the Philippines.
In the US we see the rise of Trump as the play begins during the primary season. Naomi takes no interest as her boyfriend and friends try to tell her how serious this could be. Naomi cannot vote because she is “undocumented”. As is the case with most undocumented people in the US, presumably they entered legally but overstayed their visas.
For decades the Congress has failed to provide any legal path for people like Naomi. She was brought as a child to the US and knows no other country. She has devoted all of her attention to being the best possible student and focusing on her future career. But all of that can be taken from her.
As the play progresses, the threat that Trump represents to her and her family becomes ever more real.
When she talks to Matthew on the phone he is telling her of parallel changes in the Philippines. Like Trump, Duterte comes seemingly from nowhere to become President of the Philippines. And, like Trump, he is making big changes that affect millions of people.
I have Filipino friends who fall on both sides with regard to Duterte, just as I have friends on both sides with Trump. My anti-Duterte friends see him as a dangerous clown as many see Trump. Someone who is all talk and bluster. Someone who is willing to bend and break rules of conduct and of law to achieve his ends. Someone with dictatorial tendencies.
But my pro-Duterte friends see Duterte as a man with a vision. A man who owes nothing to any special interests. A man who is free to make dramatic changes. Unlike Trump, he was not corrupted by campaign spending by people who want to own him. His vision is to develop the Philippines for Filipinos, not for any foreign interests. He wants to improve infrastructure and provide quality jobs for everyone. But his first priority is to end corruption. And his first priority there is to destroy the entire drug economy. He sees the drug economy as the main source of violence and political corruption. Duterte is willing to use any and all means to achieve his goal.
Whether one is for or against Duterte, Filipinos agree that Duterte is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in his drug war. And they have to agree that many of those killed are innocent. The pro-Duterte people think it is a necessary price to pay for a better future. The anti-Duterte people think he is acting as a brutal dictatorial thug and that in itself just increases violence and corruption.
The play at UCSB has no happy ending. It parallels the tragedy that is happening in the US and in the Philippines.
The main point of the play was not about Trump or Duterte. The main point was a message to get involved. No matter how busy your life is, be informed and be involved. Even if what is happening does not seem to affect you, be active and aware. If not for those around you, do it for yourself. Happy endings can happen if we work to make them happen.
Here are my videos of the performances that alternated with the acts of the play. You will notice the audience is very energetic and enthusiastic!
Two short Tambourine Dance clips stitched together:
The Pangalay Fingernail Dance:
The Jota Paragua Dance with Spanish roots:
Two clips of the Hinang Hinang Fishermen Dance. Some beautiful acrobatics.
Filipino Martial Arts called Arnis
Pandango Sa Ilaw “Dance of Lights” which reminds me a bit of the Santa Lucia dance I was part of as a child in Denmark:
Two clips of the Tinikling Dance. This is quite a challenge. A bit like jumping rope while dancing, except the ropes are heavy bamboo poles!
Here is the finale with the huge cast on stage
Not only were there huge chorus groups like this
There were many directors, crew members and support staff all devoted to making this enormous event a success. I felt very privileged to be able to experience this grand event.