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Traditional Filipino Folk Dance

I'm still learning.

August 6, 2009
Lawrence Pascua · Art Director

While I was in college, I joined the Pearl of the Orient Dance Company (PODC); my older brother already belonged. They performed at hotels and parties, and did fun, outgoing activities after their performances. At UH, I signed up for H. Wayne Mendoza’s Filipino folk dance class. He was the choreographer and an instructor for PODC. He eventually started his own group called Himigbayan, of which I was a part. Most of my tutelage in folk dance was under him.

My burning interest led me to research dances at both the Hamilton and Sinclair Libraries on campus, reading books and viewing dances on film from the Cordillera (North) and from the Philippine South—these were documented by the University of Washington. In searching for the traditional roots, I’ve noticed a marked difference between my research, and what I was learning from both my instructor and what I’ve seen presented by other Philippine folk dance groups in Hawai‘i.

My research led me to feel conflicted, because I could perceive a traditional nuance, and relate its differences to what I’ve been doing, watching and accepting outside of my personal research. So although accepting the tug of that allure for more commonly accepted presentations, I’ve since held my breath to find out more about traditional styles with respect to dances that come from the people of Bontoc, Ifugao, Benguet, Apayao and Kalinga, who built the terraced rice paddies in the North, and from the Muslims who continue to hold fast to the traditional culture whose confluence was joined to the Southern Philippines from places like Malaysia, Jakarta and Indonesia—before Islam. These dances, I’ve found, are not Muslim.

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Lawrence Pascua · Art Director

Mendoza is aware of the differences, and did his best to instill in me the reasons why certain accommodations are made to “enhance” dances—to make them more interesting and entertaining so as not to alienate the audience. Currently, in my own research, I continue to study about the marked differences between traditional dance practices and what is presented to us on the stage while being called “Filipino Folk Dance.” I continue to find many differences, which is alarming to me.

I currently teach a dance group called La Galería, and I am re-researching dances to keep them as true to their native nature as possible. We meet at Tuesdays, from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. at Hale Mahaolu Elima at 11 Mahaolu St. in Kahului. Our next enrollment is Aug. 11. Please join us! Visit www.pdcom.org for more information.

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