Mira Mesa High School
Filipino American Culture Night 2019
By: Jasminh Nguyen, Isabelle Pineda, Aeriel Suarez
The heroic Jose Rizal once said, “Know History, Know Self. No History, No Self.” This quote echoed within the minds of many students at Mira Mesa High School. Last Thursday on April 25, 2019, Mira Mesa High’s FilAm Club hosted their second annual Filipino Culture Night. This year’s theme was entitled: “Riding the Waves: Who We Are and How We Got Here,” which told a heartfelt story of Filipino immigration to the United States. Although many of us are still exploring our Filipino identities, Filipinos have been a part of San Diego history for over hundreds of years and the students wanted to share it.
The event was directed by Mrs. Jacquilin Lapid, Mira Mesa High’s Filipino language teacher, along with a dedicated group of students who were eager to express the love they have for their culture. The event was sponsored by the FilAm Club of MMHS headed by President Allan Nuguid. The emcees of this year’s Filipino Culture Night were Michelle Widelski and Tyler Jacobs (Coordinator), who both introduced and transitioned each performance smoothly. Our judges this year were Mr. Ron Lardizabal, the Dean of Students and Athletic Director at Mira Mesa High School, Mr. Tony Olaes, the CEO of ODM and founder of The Filipino School, and Mrs. Maria Kristina Mercado, a Karaoke Idol Winner. In preparation for this event, all the classes and club officers workers very hard for this year's culture night to be as successful as possible.
Waves of Immigration
To truly discover what it means to be a Filipino, one must know our people’s history of resisting centuries of colonization and imperialism in the Philippines. After Abie Songco beautifully sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” Sam Cajayon, Dana Calderon, Maria Evangelista, Harvie Ocampo, and Alliah Petalber, followed with the famous “Lupang Hinirang,” the national anthem of the Philippines. Each of Mrs. Lapid’s classes portrayed a specific wave of Filipino Immigration to the United States through unique and elaborate performances.
One of the two Filipino 1-2 classes represented the first wave and told the story of Luzones Indios who were first brought on Spanish galleons as slave sailors. Many of these Luzones Indios jumped ship to escape their brutal Spanish masters and settled in parts of Louisiana, Mexico, and California. Their performance, as conducted by Marleina Rollon and Alhea Austria, was intense and very meaningful. They also had amazing props to go along with an insightful story.
The other Filipino 1-2 class, directed by Carianne Cantil, Marcus Frasier, and their choreographer Makayla Cayas, represented the second wave where each student performed as a plantation worker. In 1906, Filipinos called Sakadas were recruited to work on pineapple and sugarcane plantations in Hawaii, which was not a state at that time. In America, states on the west coast sought farmworkers, cannery workers, and domestic help.
The Filipino 5-6 class represented the third wave of Filipino immigration to the U.S. through an emotional performance. First, they showcased the story in which Filipinos fought for the U.S. Navy and Army against the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. They followed this with a beautiful waltz among the boys and girls. The significance of the finale of their dance was touched on because of the many men who brought their brides to America after WWII under the War Brides Act. Many Filipinos were then granted U.S. citizenship on July 2, 1946. This beautiful performance was pieced together with the help of Julius Neri and Mia Jacobs, period five’s class leaders, as well as Patricia Pineda, their choreographer.
To close off the waves of immigration, a combination of classes from Filipino 3-4 and 5-6 represented the final wave through an upbeat and modern Hip Hop dance, choreographed by freshmen Magnolia Casil and Kayzelyn Barrett. It demonstrated the lives of many professionals today, including doctors, students, teachers, engineers, and much more. In 1965, the Immigration Act was passed and quotas were released to 20,000 immigrants a year. Today, Filipinos represent economic and social diversity, along with various educational and professional achievements. Filipinos are all different in our own ways, but the Bayanihan spirit brings us together. The term “Bayanihan” can be used to describe communal unity. This period’s performance could not have been done without their class leaders, Isabelle Pineda, Jasminh Nguyen, and Angelo Penales.
Among the different performances showcasing the different waves of Filipino Immigration, there were other talented acts by students that further enriched the Filipino community, including a traditional tinikling dance performed by students from the Filipino 3-4 P2 class. Culture Night began with Benchmark, an ambitious and hopeful group where members Jericho Caluya, Ellison Espino, Jhonus Fernandez, Isabelle Pineda, Justine Cruz, and Gio Gonzalez performed a Bruno Mars medley which opened up the audience to a very modern and upbeat performance that everyone could engage in. The trio Alliah Petalber, Dana Calderon, and Sam Cajayan sang the catchy song “Narda” by Kamikazee, hyping up the audience for future performances. Next was Harvie Ocampo, who had an outstanding solo performing “Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko” by Moira Dela Torre. Kahmela Solano sang “It Takes a Man and a Woman” by Sarah Geronimo, touching the hearts of the audience with her raw talent. Red Rapinan and Ervin Pinlac had a sharp dance routine to the cover of Les Twins. All these performances we originally performed by Filipinos/Filipino Americans or showcased to represent the talent coming from these Filipino students.
The Closing Act: Babalik Ka Rin
The final performance was the most moving and heart capturing part of the night. Every student from each period came together and sang, “Babalik Ka Rin,” by Gary Valenciano. The song itself touches every aspect of the Philippines. Everyone will return home no matter where they are. It demonstrates how family is the foundation of Filipino life. Our ancestors have endured so much to get us where we are today, and it is important to acknowledge what they have built for us. Mr. Lardizabal says, “What really surprised me was at the end. One of my fellow judges Mr. Olaes and even my wife were so moved with the last song because of its meaning. It really touched them and that’s what was really cool.” One of the other judges Mr. Tony Olaes reacted to the last performance saying, “What moved me the most was what they were singing. The song, Babalik Ka Rin, is about “coming back”. To me, it was about all of our children of Filipino descent, who were born outside of the Motherland, coming back to pay homage to our ancestral homeland to help. This was my story.”
Many of the students that participated in Culture Night are the next leaders of the Filipino community. It is heartwarming to see the youth so enthusiastic and eager about spreading the love and history of their culture. Maria Evangelista, a board member of the MMHS FilAm Club says, “I really liked the dedication the classes put into their performances.” Mr. Ron Lardizabal, dean of students at Mira Mesa as well as the athletic director, noted, “Like me, a lot of you were born here in the US, and it’s important that we don’t forget our rich culture… how our elders migrated here via the Spanish galleons (as slaves), etc., and sharecropping in Hawaii. It’s important that we remember these. Events like last night help keep us alive.” Coach Eric Trieu added, “We are born to celebrate our culture.” Ken Vu, a tenth grader who watched the performances stated, “Me being not Filipino, it was cool experiencing a culture that I know close to nothing about.”
Mr. Lardizabal recalls, “I thought it was awesome. The kids worked hard and their skits were well choreographed. Each period, their choreography was great. Loved their outfits that they put together from scraps.” “Fourth period really blew it out of the water.” Other community leaders present at the event are Mrs. Briar Duco, Mrs. Analyn Thomson, Mrs. Genevieve Esmende, Mr. Michael Lapid, and Mr. Fred Zara. Mr. Eric Fischer was also there to present his robotics initiative project in the Philippines. The MMHS FilAm club supports this initiative through fundraising events.