Bayanihan performance helped FilAms cope with aftermath of hurricane: Amb. Cuisia

‘Sayaw sa Bangko.’ Photos by Elton Lugay and Troi Santos

The world-famous Bayanihan national folk dance company of the Philippines performed at the Jazz at the Lincoln Center on November 1, helping Filipinos cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The performance took place on the same night the lights reopened on Broadway, a sign that New York was slowly picking itself up from the destruction left by the superstorm just two days earlier.

“What makes the performance particularly memorable is that it took place while Filipinos in various parts of the East Coast were performing their own acts of bayanihan to help each other rise on their feet,” Ambassador Jose Cuisia, who was in the audience, said.

Cuisia cited stories received by the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. and the Philippine Consulate General in New York of how Filipinos have opened the doors to their homes to assist their kababayans in getting over the effects of one of the worst storms in American history.

“True to its name, the Bayanihan is a shining example of the can do spirit of the Filipino and that hope endures,” he said. “In its own special way, the Bayanihan was able to dance its way into the hearts of both Filipinos and Americans who came to see the performance.”

The Bayanihan performed five dance suites showcasing the diversity of Philippine culture and traditions before an enthralled audience which nearly filled up the Allen Room despite the difficulties posed by limited transport mobility resulting from the hurricane. These are:

• People Under the Sun, which captures the friendly sunny nature of Filipino country folk;
• Mindanao Mosaic, which brings to life the Arabian and Indo-Malayan influences that settled on this vast island as early as the 14th century;
• Intramuros of Memory, which depicts the pervasive echo of four centuries of Spanish influence on Filipino dance styles;
• Amorsolo, which is Bayanihan’s tribute to the first National Artist of the Philippines, Fernando Amorsolo; and
• Traditions Renewed, which breathes new life, meaning and feeling into ancient rituals in the highlands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

“It was spectacular,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Manila Frank Wisner who raved about the beautiful, creative, and energetic repertoire of the Bayanihan that was witnessed by other prominent guests such as Consul General Mario L. De Leon Jr., New York Deputy Police Commissioner Dave Cohen, Ma. Victoria J. Cuisia, Eleonor De Leon, Washington Z. Sycip, Loida Nicolas Lewis, Lin Ilisorio-Bildner, Doris Magsaysay-Ho, Rudy Villar, Ambassador Eduardo De Vega of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and Deputy Consul General Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega.

Lewis described the performance as “remarkable,” while Bildner said it was “wonderful.” The two echoed calls of other Filipino Americans in the audience for another show next year in New York where it first performed in 1959.

Founded in 1958, the multi-awarded Bayanihan has performed in more than 55 countries in six continents with its brightly colored costumes and breathtaking physical feats. It has the distinction of being the first Filipino group to perform on Broadway; the first non-American dance company to perform at the Lincoln Center; and the first Philippine cultural group to perform in Russia, the People’s Republic of China and throughout South America.

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