Home | Bayanihan Folk Arts Foundation | Bayanihan Company  | Performing Artists | Milestones | Reviews | Feedback


BAYANIHAN'S BEYOND FOLKLORE  II  by Prof.Guillermo Gomez Rivera

Brings out Bits of Filipino History



At the opening of Bayanihan's Production Meeting of May 27 (2010), Executive Director Ms. Suzie Benitez observed that a good number of Filipinos don't seem to like Philippine History, particularly those who are now in the USA where the next Bayanihan international tour is headed." Maybe it's the way it is taught", she quipped. We immediately agreed with her as a History buff ourselves. And we added that it is now time for Bayanihan to really teach our people, and its world audience, the true history of the Philippines through dance and song. After all, we added, behind every Bayanihan song and dance, a bit of the Filipino's national history, culture and national identity is actually being brought to the stage with all its splendor. And, is this not what Bayanihan, as the National Dance Company of the Philippines that it is, precisely supposed to do? This must be the reason why Bayanihan is so unique and so fascinating.

Philippine History, for Filipinos in the USA in particular, is still something that is controversial. But then, some controversy is always good, we smilingly told Executive Director Ms. Suzie Benitez, so that people there will talk about Bayanihan and they will come to see and immensely and proudly enjoy it in the long run.

The Bayanihan repertoire is usually of four suites. (1) The Cordillera suite, (2) the Muslim Suite, (3) the Maria Clara or Hispanic Suite and the (4) Lowland Filipino suite. And Beyond Folklore II will keep a good part of this criteria but with recent accretions.

Bayanihan's Choreographer in Ferdinand "Bong" Jose has, however, expanded this criteria with the new material that has come his way. He observed, for example, the surprise of many an audience who saw the Habanera Japonesa de Pacô, a dance executed with fan and mask dating back to Spanish times but of marked Japanese influence. Most Filipinos only remember the 1942-44 Japanese occupation and simply don't know that during Spanish times, Japanese Christians immigrated to Manila, many of whom were lepers that were confined in the old San Lázaro Hospital at Dulung Bayan, ---which is today's Avenida Rizal. Those who were clean settled in Pacô, where up to now we find a Plaza de Dilao. After several generations some songs and dances were born out of this Japanese-Spanish-Tagalog community. One of them is the Habanera de Dilao beautifully staged with fan in one hand and mask in the other in a kind of Maria Clara dress that is a mix of Japanese, Spanish and Tagalog influences.

There are then the criollo and meztizo Spanish dances and songs from then Spanish City of Manila de Intramuros. The old walled City was not only known for its beautiful and ornate churches but also for its schools for both boys and girls. In all these schools Spanish music, Spanish songs and dances were naturally taught and performed by both Spanish residents and their creole progeny along with the Tagalog Principalia and the Chinos Cristianos, (the ones originally referred to as the mestizos who came from the Sectores de Mestizos or Parianes found in Manila and in almost every provincial cabecera..) The "Veladas Literario-Musicales" staged in every school and college auditorium, called Salon de Actos, inside Intramuros naturally spawned these Spanish dances as presently staged by Bayanihan in its Mestizaje y Criolleria suite.

EL CAÑI, among the CRIOLLO dances recently staged by Bayanihan, is one that calls the particular attention of some viewers who, with the vast majority of audiences that applaud it wildly, also appreciate but somehow question its provenance. Some viewers associate this old and slow paced CRIOLLO dance from Ermita, Intramuros, Binondo, Quiapo and Santa Cruz, with a still famous and fast pasodoble called "España Cañi" played in all ballroom dance competitions and even PBA basketball matches. But El Cañi is originally slow and executed in the seductive Zambra style as now aptly staged by Bayanihan..

As of Chinese influence, or the Meitizo Terciado influence in Filipino dance and song, Bayanihan has the El Collar de Sampaguita to show. It is really a song and dance in honor of a special guest after which the performing ladies give him the sampaguita garlands. Mestizaje is not only a mix of Spanish and the indigenous ( Indio ) or native. There is the Mestizaje Terciado which is a mix of Spanish, Native Indio Katutubo and Chinese.

These Intramuros and Extramuros dances and songs naturally look different from the rural and lowland folk dances of these Islands because they are more profoundly Hispanic in both their movement and projection. Mother Spain and the old Mexico of the Galleon Trade can be perceived in most of them. But then, these are dances that also enrich the broad Bayanihan dance repertoire that encompasses what is truly Filipino in song, dance and dress. And when translated to the stage by its multi-awarded choreographer in Ferdinand "Bong" Jose plus the music expertly supplied by Melito Vale Cruz along with the costumes produced by Isabel Santos ( Tita Bills ), the National Dance Company, Bayanihan, cant help but win in almost every world or international folk dance competition as proved by so many of its plaques, medals, banners and trophies.

All other Filipino Dance Groups have to learn from Bayanihan because it simply came first and continues to be first. And Bayanihan is also there to share its treasures with them and the world. With these abundant and original Filipino repertoire, Bayanihan will really go beyond folklore and keep on growing and advancing as it accumulates more and more forgotten dances from an Hispanic City like Intramuros which so many other researches cannot reach. There are so many other dance and song materials from places and regions from these wonderful 7,100 Islas del poniente that have been hidden by time and the ravages of past wars and the present foreign colonialism.



Filipino dance and music researcher, historian and Bayanihan Consultant for Spanish dances



Bayanihan, the national Dance Company, looks back at its triumphs as it moves onward with each new presentation. From Folkdance translated into the modern stage, Bayanihan carefully advances into Folklore, and beyond, with Filipino History and national identity as its guide. After all Bayanihan literally means patriotism or love of country, its root word being bayani (hero), - a kind of hero that renders personal service to his community which during Spanish times was known as polo and, or, falla. In this regard, we dare say that each one of those involved in Bayanihan are literally national heroes and artist who reiterate through dance, music, percussion, dress and action what is Filipino.

Bayanihan’s  Executive Director, Ms. Suzie Moya Benitez, a seasoned Bayanihan dancer herself, has aptly called Beyond Folklore this new presentation because it celebrates the Company’s triumphant New York debut some 50 years ago as it surges beyond folkdance when, through choreographer Ferdinand “Bong” José, Music Director Melito Vale Cruz and Costume Director Isabel Santos, forays into the Ilocano Zarzuela, into an E dance suite aside from an entirely new Intramuros dance suite that stages Filipino- Hispanic dances accurately titled, by the mentioned Executive Director herself, as “Bailes de la Calle Anda”. These Hispanic dance genre, which is as indigenous to the Philippines as the Singkil is to Mindanao, was frequently performed in the Grand Hotel La Mallorca, which then proudly stood by Calle Anda of olls Intramuros in the early 1900s.

Choeographer Ferdinand “Bong” José reveals himself as the great dance alchemyist that he is when he so skillfully restages these Intramuros Hispanic dances the Bayanihan way. Isabel Santos will now display her clásica modista skills with the timely revival of the cola serpentine as worn in Intramuros and in all the grandes salones de baile of these Islands from Apari down to Zamboanga and Joló. Lastly, the Bayanihan rondalla under the direction of Melito Vale Cruz has aptly met the challenge of playing with Flamenco style touches, the old Zapateado de Intramuros evocative of Granda’s old Sacromonte.

We are particularly glad that Music Director Melito Vale Cruz will have Bayanihan’s lovely soprano, and the usual male choir, sing the old Intramuros song in both Spanish and Tagalog. It is a lovely hymn to the original Manila as sang by National Artist for literature Nick Joaquin. Its words speak for tjemselves. Al oir el tañer de unas rondallas/ me ecuardo de Intramuros, la fiel,/ La ciudad que nacida entre murallas, / se expande por doquier./Fue España tu madre y Tu dueña,/ Ojalá, No olveden tu ayer, los que quiren ver tu enseña/ Levantada nuevamente./ El amor conocí en tu regazo/ me nutria de su ambrosia./ Eres tu el sueño de mi corazón/ Ay Manila, Fanal de amor. Sandaling dingguing ang aking awit/ At sa inyo’y aking issusulit, Ang pook ng tugtugan at awit./Maynilâ kong sakdal ibig./ Maynilâ pugad ka ng ligaya/ bawat puso’y nagagayuma/ Ang lahat ay umaasa/ Masilayan ka sa twina./ Maynilâ, puso’y koy maligaya/ Lagui kang naaalala,/ Nang pusong nangangarap ng lagui na/ Ang Maynilâ may ligaya. CANTO A INTRAMUROS ( Manila, 1941 )


Mestizaje by Señor Guillermo Gomez Rivera



When Suzie Moya Benitez, Bayanihan's executive director, wanted a name for the projected super-show involving Bayanihan and the visiting Folklorical Group from the Island of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the word "re-encuentro" (re-encounter) was given. She paused to think and found the word "warlike" for that is the word for "shoot-out" in present day Tagalog and Visayan. So "re-encuentro" would not do. The lady opted for another given word "Mestizaje" which means "fusion", "unity", "a dynamic step forward". She directed the use of "reencuentro" for the suite where both Bayanihan and Palma de Mallorca dancers do dances to the same music of the jota, the fandnago and the bolero.

And indeed, "Mestizaje" is the right word for this new meeting with folklorical Spain of the Mallorcan variety. This new meeting is the of shoot of Bayanihan's victory last year as the world's best folklorical group in a worldwide "concurso" held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

It is obvious that the word "Mestizaje" is kindred to that other word we all know in these Islands. Mestizo. And Mestiza if feminine. For us who were born in old native Cabeceras like Vigan, Malolos, Lingayen, Iloilo, Zamboanga and Cebú the "Sector de Mestizos" or "Pari-án" is a place familiar to us. But the mestizos there, or the "kamistisuha ng Par-ián", are not blood mestizos of Spaniards. They are cultural mestizos because Native and Chinese by blood but Christian Catholics by religion and Spanish by their language, their food, their songs and their dress. Thus the first mestizos were the children of a Chino Christiano father and an Indio mother.

And since the Chinos Cristianos were traders, usually involved in the Galleon trade, the "Sector de Mestizos" was an enclave of the rich and the educated who spoke and sang in Spanish and wore the "traje de mestiza" and lived in those big Vigan houses and those Malolos mansions, to cite but two examples. Those who ignore history rashly label these "Sectores de Mestizos" as "a gheto" when these are not enclaves of poverty and misery but precisely by opulence.

The hispanization by blood of these old "Sectores de Mestizos" became intensified when many Spanish government officials, employees, businessmen and military settled in the Islands and married into the families of these "Sectores" or "Pari-ánes". The offspring of these latter marriages were called "Mestizos terciados" because aside from Native and Chinese, they also had Spanish blood.

These dynamic fusion of Catholic Spain and the Philippines is Christian "Mestizaje" and the virtues of this fusion can be seen in all Christian Filipino dances which are classified into three kinds: (1) bailes criollos (the creole dances). These are dances that directly came from the Spanish Peninsula and New Spain (Mexico) but which were later indigenized, (2) bailes urbanos (dances from the big cabeceras and ciudades), and (3) bailes municipales y rurales (rural dances). The pre-Hispanic dances were called danzas tribales ( tribal dances).

Bayanihan's multi-awarded Choreographer and Director, Ferdinand "Bong" José, has observed that many of our Filipino regional dances are very similar to the regional dances of Spain. This merely confirms our thesis about Mestizaje and the fact that under Spain, all Filipios were Spanish citizens or subjects.

But the Mestizaje of Filipino native dances is not only limited to what is Spanish and native but also to what is Filipino and Chinese (El collar de Sampaguita) and to what is Filipino and Japanese (Habanera Japonesa de Paco). These dances we have offered when the suite called Extramuros de Manila (Beyond the Walls) was staged with the 1873 Manila visit of Hong Kong Governor-General, Sir John Bowring, as the theme. While Intramuros had purely Spanish or creole dances, the arrabales beyond the walls, like Binondo, Santa Cruz, Quiapo, San Miguel, Paco, Ermita and Malate had their respective Mestizaje dances.

Some sectors of course did ask: What about "American Mestizaje"? And the simple answer is that there is no such thing as a fusion between native and American dances and songs. This never happened since Filipinos were never made, wholesale, American citizens. With English as our compulsory medium of education, no such fusion took place. We simply were made to adopt, wholesale, American pop culture with its Hollywood movies, popular jazz, blues and the cowboy square dance. Thus, although still under American suzerainty up to now, its either Filipinos sing and dance jazz, the charleston, the boogie-woogie, the swing as they are wont to do, or we change what folkdance means within the accepted concept of authentic Filipino dance culture.

This re-encounter with the folkdances from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, should prove to be an experience for Bayanihan and Manilas culturatti. It is a pity that with the destruction of Intramurso de Manila, the grand old Palma de Mallorca Hotel y Panadería, the cultural center then of old Intramuros and of greater Manila, has also disappeared. If not, Mestizaje, would have been also staged in its big function hall complete with a good sized stage. Bienvenidos a Manila, amigos mallorquines.




This is best viewed with MS Internet Explorer 4  and above.
You can set your video resolution to 800x600 pixels (16 bit/24 bit color/32 bit) for best results.

2003 Copyright © by Bayanihan