Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘dance’

​Cultural Immersion: Baguio Weddings – A Kiss, A Gong, and A Dance

The sound of gongs is strongly infusing the festive atmosphere. The bride and the groom were greeting well-wishers who had attended their wedding ceremony earlier. Looking closer at the floor near the stage, a group of men playing gongs were formed in a circle. Old men in baseball caps, traditionally dressed elderly women wearing colored beads, young men in tuxedos, and ladies in satin gowns took turns in dancing traditional dances to the beat. In such a wedding feast in Baguio, no modernity can hinder the rhythmic culture their generations have embraced. 

In the definitive Filipino culture, weddings are held as a community event. Almost – if not everyone – in the community are invited to celebrate. The bayanihan system (a classic Filipino attitude where the whole bayan or community helps one another) becomes alive in such occasions. Neighbors would voluntarily help to cook, arrange, and even organize the wedding. While this tradition is slowly dying because more couples are relying on professional wedding coordinators, this concept is still being kept in many rural provinces and cities, including Baguio.

An example of the bayanihan system – locals form a line to pass food to one another in this large gathering at my friend’s wedding.

Every Filipino loves Baguio for its cool climate, strawberries, and many popular tourist sites. I love Baguio for its meek and courteous people. Some of them have become my friends and I have the privilege to taste their culture and their way of living.

I had two friends who have recently married at Baguio. Just like how the quaint townspeople of Bulacan would hold their weddings, they similarly hold their matrimony with a community celebration. My province, Bulacan, would have videoke as a form of entertainment while Baguio people would celebrate this occasion with dances and gongs. 

Gongs are considered an ancient instrument by city people like me. I am impressed that these people would not use them for production numbers alone. Both elders and youths would join together and strike musical rhythms on it. They are accompanied with traditional dances that love and courtship to mark the occasion. 

Food being served to the community at my friend’s wedding.

Usually, they would hold their celebrations the whole day, even up to the wee hours of the morning the next day. There is an abundant flow of food, mostly made of pork and chicken, rice, and pansit (a type of Filipino noodles) which the whole community would partake. Locals are not shy to share their talents while everybody would show their appreciation to them. Celebrations would continue at the house of the bride and the groom. Old men at night would chant to call the spirit of the anito (traditional deity) to bless the gathering. As the music and dancing continues, the bride and the groom danced along with everyone. And of course, the visitors are not exempted from joining in the fun.
For the first time, I played the gong. It was heavy for me, but the hypnotic rhythm of the instrument made me enjoy every moment I danced to its tune. I just think I look awkward while dancing. My Instagram post just proves that (sorry I can’t upload the video on this blog. So please click the link to find out. I am the lady in the white dress and black blazer in the video).

Baguio people are proud of their artful heritage, as they wear woven Kalinga skirts or intermarry these designs with modern fashion. They love their culture so much the rhythm of the gongs pulse through their veins, willingly dancing along every clanging beat without hesitation. Through the sound of their instrument they become one, bringing into awareness the legacy they carry as Igorots.

Celebrations would continue at my friend’s house the whole night

Manila, a fascinating city of sights, color, sounds, is nothing as unique as this. The mixture of various cultures has turned this central city of Luzon into a melting pot of obscurity. We have become more in tuned with modernity and Western civilization, losing into consciousness the beautiful, old songs that have been passed down to us through school. Looks like Madonna’s Crazy For You has become the local fixture in videoke sessions. 
I keep on learning so much from other cultures in my own country. With all regions having their own differences, it just proves that we are a diverse society. I’m glad we have Filipinos who still carry the pride of their heritage. The Igorots are teaching us that traditional hertages are not a myth but they are living, breathing, and are worth to be celebrated for their uniqueness.

You can check out the videos on my Instagram account @rhemapenaflor. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

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A Chase for A Tango

Dance before me
You shadow of fleeting dreams
Why run away so quickly
When my grasping hands meant no harm
I hate it when you tease me
Whenever I juggle nothing with my hands
Or when I stand immovable
Or asleep in my sacred hour
Why torture me with your presence
As if you like my company
If I invite you for a dinner tonight
Must you run away without taking a bite?
Tell me how can I make you stay?
I’ll be more pursuant than any lover
Even if I give up my last penny
To keep you is priceless beyond anything
Together let’s tango away
Away from this hopeless hour

Cultural Immersion (First Stop): Mt. Province

On a hike to the top of Mainit! :)

On a hike to the top of Mainit! 🙂

“Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.” (“Never be a stranger in your own land.”)

Here is a line always stated when we talk about culture and tourism. Just like most Pinoys in the central part of Luzon, I get only a limited view of the overall culture the Philippines have. But once I get out of my Manila domain, I’m just amazed at the variety of language, food, and culture that all these 7,000 islands contain.
I had a taste of cultural immersion in my own country when a friend invited

One of Mainit's public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

One of Mainit’s public hot baths. They refill these daily during morning.

me last two weeks ago to Mainit — a district in Bontoc, Mt. Province. For those who are not familiar with Mt. Province, it’s located in the Cordillera region, about five hours from Baguio (which is familiar to most of us).

Mainit quite known for its natural hot springs (“mainit” in Tagalog means “hot”, perhaps where the name came from). Just like any other towns in the Cordillera, Mainit has a lot of mountains to hike and explore (which I looked forward to). But the main event is a peace pact gathering of two families.
Now, it’s like a huge reunion of two clans (the other came from Abra, another far region in the North). Together, they reviewed and renewed their pact and friendship. But the most interesting part are the songs and dances that every family performed. But they did not do it with some cheesy,

The gathering for the "Peace Pact". Aside from the renewal of this pact, it's also a reunion of two clans.

The gathering for the “Peace Pact”. Aside from the renewal of this pact, it’s also a reunion of two clans.

upbeat, dance music with sexy dance moves (like what kids in the Metro or in our town would perform in yearly Christmas parties). They performed it traditionally.

I’ve seen Ifugao dances being performed only on big commercial events, special school programs, or only when your elementary school teachers prompt you for the sake of passing your PE exams. But these people are a natural. Wearing their traditional clothes, each group graced before the crowd without hesitation, dancing to the rhythm of gongs. Even the children themselves were not shy in dancing. I was amazed with the pride they held in upholding

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon's traditional courtship dance. It dosen't matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

Yours truly (in black jacket) dancing to the Ifugaonon’s traditional courtship dance. It dosen’t matter how you dance it; joining it would mean brotherhood to them.

their culture. But they would be more pleased when foreigners — like me — would join in their dances, even if you do your own version on the traditional “courstship dance”.

I’m impressed how these people in the far-flung provinces kept their songs and their dances for generations. I haven’t seen much preservation of the traditional culture in the Manila area. Manila is the melting pot of people from different regions in the country, but it’s rare to see each one carry an identity from their own provinces. Perhaps with the “globalization” instilled in this modernized area, we try to move to another kind of culture without upholding the old ones that our ancestors had proudly held. Sadly, it’s like regretting identities that we’ve never had in this industrialized culture. Or copying from the Western world.
After the children performed, the man holding the mike told the smaller

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

Teenagers dancing their traditional dances to the beat of gongs.

children to follow their example. I guess it’s better than teaching your kids how to doggie at school.

I’m proud that these Northern folks are my countrymen. I guess they are richer than most of us here in Manila who keep a wrong impression of who and what they are. We just need open eyes to see that culture is richer than wealth. It’s something that we can carry and can be identified with no matter where we tread.

To Dance in the Maddening Rain

Dancing in the rain
Such is what the weary keep in vain
For the sake of this silent hope
To water what remaining passion
Gagged by stress and pain
Silenced by pressure and competition
Strangled by envy and fear
Pick up these cluttered papers, I plead
To forget what was mauled by empty wisdom and vanity
Do endlessly throw them up in the air
So I can dance in the maddening rain

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