Arts and Culture

VIDEO | Bayanihan makes great leap for Philippine profile in US

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Bayanihan, the national dance company of the Philippines, succeeded in putting the country back on the American stage as it sang and danced its way into the hearts of its audience during its sold-out performances in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.

In a statement, the Philippine Embassy described the performances of the 25-member Filipino dance troupe in Washington D.C, on November 3 and 4 as well as in New York on November 1 as a tremendous success, saying the Bayanihan was able to help raise more awareness about the Philippines in the United States.

“For quite some time, the Philippines seemed to have been forgotten here in the United States and with its performances here, the Bayanihan was successful in making our American friends remember,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said. “This is cultural diplomacy at its finest.”

Members of the Bayanihan serenade guests during the reception that followed their gala performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, 3 November 2012. The performance was made possible through the collaboration between the Philippine Embassy and the newly-formed US-Philippines Society. Photo Courtesy of Bing Branigin, Manila Mail.

The performances of the Bayanihan at the Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. were upon the initiative of the Philippine Embassy and the recently formed US-Philippines Society, an organization made up of prominent Filipinos and Americans whose objective is to raise the profile of the Philippines in the United States.

The performance of the Bayanihan was the first cultural undertaking of both the Embassy and the US-Philippines Society, which was formally launched during the visit of President Aquino to Washington in June.

“I would like to thank the Bayanihan for bringing back to us a recollection of and a heightened awareness of the tremendous cultural richness of the Philippines,” said Ambassador John Negroponte, a former US envoy to Manila, who co-chairs the society with businessman Manny Pangilinan.

“I think this is especially important now that the Asia Pacific region is again becoming a demographic and economic center of gravity in the world and I think it makes enormous sense to devote more attention to the US relationship with the Philippines,” said Negroponte, former Chair of the National Intelligence Agency.

“Obviously in addition to the political, the strategic and the economic, a key element is cultural,” he added.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr., Ambassador John Negroponte, and Ambassador Maisto, are flanked by members of the Bayanihan dance troupe during a photo opportunity that followed their gala performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. on Saturday, 3 November 2012. Photo courtesy of Bing Branigin, Manila Mail.

Ambassador John Maisto, President of the US Philippines Society, said the dance troupe, led by its Executive Director Suzie Moya Benitez, made an impression during its performances in Washington and New York.

“Our job is simply to elevate the profile of the Philippines in the United States across the board so that Americans can appreciate and understand and remember what the Philippines and Filipinos represent to the United States” said Ambassador Maisto, who also served at the US Embassy in Manila.

The Bayanihan’s performances in two prestigious locations took place as the East Coast began the process of recovery following the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy last week. The performances at the Allen Room at the Jazz at the Lincoln Center and at the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center were the company’s last US appearance until 2015.

The Bayanihan performed six dance suites in New York and in the gala and matinee performances in Washington D.C. that drew raves from the sold-out crowd of Filipinos and Americans alike.

Anna Gawel, Managing Editor of the Washington Diplomat, described the performance as spectacular as it offered non-Filipinos like her exciting insights into Philippine culture and history. “The range of costumes was visually stunning and the choreography and emotions behind the dances were riveting,” she said.

“Seeing the Bayanihan makes me a proud Filipino-American,” said financial analyst Miguel Leonardo of Morgan and Stanley. “Bayanihan celebrates the richness of our culture and it showed through the fantastic costumes, exhilarating routines, and masterful sequences that show the rich tapestry of what being a Filipino means.”

Leonardo’s American wife, Lindsay, said: “I love how gracefully the dances and music fused the so-many varied cultural influences together; it really showcased what a unique and vibrant culture the Philippines has. It was a spectacular show.”

Members of the Bayanihan, led by Executive Director Suzie Moya Benitez, acknowledge the standing ovation given to them by the Filipino and American audience during their sold-out gala performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, November 3, 2012. Photo courtesy of Bing Branigin, Manila Mail.

Bing Branigin, Board Director of the Asia America Initiative who has been a Bayanihan fan for years, described the performance as totally awesome. “It was exciting to see a new repertoire. The costumes, music, choreography, and the performers were excellent,” said Branigin, who thanked Ambassador Cuisia and his wife, Ma. Victoria, for helping make the project possible.

“The Bayanihan never failed to enthrall anyone even with their more theatrical fiesta extravaganza in the finale, a graceful attempt to encapsulate all our vibrant and colorful fiestas in one production number,” said Grace Valera of the Migrant Heritage Commission.