CSUN Pilipino Cultural Night celebrates culture with dance, theater and music
As darkness looms over Matador Square on April 1, performers fill the scene, wearing hoodies and sweats. The sound of rhythmic drumming completes the night.
An estimated 50 members are preparing for the 28th annual Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN), an event free to the public that celebrates Filipino culture through dance, theater and music. The Filipino American Student Association (FASA) is hosting the April 6 event.
With sticks held vertically in their right hands, male participants forcefully hit the ground at a steady beat. Letting out hunter-like screams, they pace rapidly in a circular motion.
At various points throughout the practice session, men can be seen wearing white, translucent Barongs, a cultural garment of the Philippines usually worn at weddings. At other times, women are seen holding onto colored handkerchiefs in both hands, waving their arms up and down sharply. They wear black long-sleeved shirts and ankle-length skirts.
Typical rehearsal for PCN members starts around 5 or 6 p.m. with a full run through, a critique, a break, and a final full run through with simultaneous critiquing. Practice typically ends at 10 p.m., but can last until 2 a.m., especially toward the performance date.
“(Practice is) long and strenuous. Sometimes we run until 2 to 3 a.m., but I don’t mind,” said Alyanna Estanislao, 18, a PCN performer and marine biology major. “Seeing PCN come together slowly, bit by bit, is kind of motivating. I love practice even though sometimes I forget to eat and it conflicts with my homework. I don’t go to sleep until 5 a.m. sometimes to be honest, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”
The event showcases cultural dances that are distributed throughout a script and storyline. Every year, the story changes. This year the story focuses on a college freshman who has no connection with his roots because his parents have assimilated into American culture. The script follows his journey as a freshman in college trying to find an identity.
For FASA members, PCN is more than an event to celebrate culture. By preparing for it, performers form not only a strong bond with the culture but also with one another, creating a tight-knit family.
“Out here I have fun and I get close to a lot of people,” said CSUN FASA President Earlyn Eleria. “I’m an only child and I don’t have siblings to look up to, so these people are my friends and the closest people I can look up to.”
Under the leadership of PCN coordinators Joseph Tagnipes and Chris Nelmida, participants have been rehearsing the script and practicing the dances.
Nelmida said PCN dance routines consist of six suites: Maria Clara, ethnic, mountain, Muslim, rural and modern. Maria Clara is a Spanish-influenced dance; Ethnic and mountain are both tribal dances; Muslim suite is influenced by the dances of Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines; Rural consists of happy dances; Modern suite consists of hip-hop and contemporary choreography and was just added onto the list last year.
“This is my chance to express myself and my culture through dance and through the script. It’s an opportunity to understand what the Filipino culture is about,” said Cameron Cudiamat, FASA sergeant at arms and kinesiology major. “I’m doing a mountain dance, an ethnic dance and a Muslim dance. I’m on also on script which gives me a chance to act in front of people.”
Since late January, participants have been practicing at Matador Square and at Northridge Methodist Community Church on Reseda Boulevard.
Coordination and discipline is required to be a part of PCN. The traditional dances practiced require effort and the students take pride in their performance, but overall they require respect. Everyone who is part of PCN projects emotion in their dances and aspires for perfection each night they gather to practice.
“Even when it’s just practicing the dances, whenever you do the dances right, you make the people in PCN proud. They see all the effort you are putting into it,” said FASA Community Chair Mackenzie Bacalzo. “All the sweat, all the tears, all the inspiration that you get from it, you just feel so accomplished with yourself.”