By Ethereal Violet Reyes and Jose Herrera, May 4, 2021
Cal Poly Pomona’s Filipinx club, Barkada, hosted its 31st annual Pilipinx-American Cultural Night with a drive-in event in Azusa, California on April 23 with the showing of its short film, “Sonder,” setting the tone for Filipinx clubs across Southern California by keeping the culture alive amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the event, the club shed light on the familial guilt first-generation college students endure and the pressures they face to make their parents proud.
“Usually, a PACN centers around a problem or an issue that Filipino Americans relate to or talk about like the social issues that have been going on,” said the club’s Culture Chair Alexandra Manzon, a fourth-year food science and technology student. “From past themes, it has been immigration, and another theme I can think of was Filipino War veterans and how they had been wronged by the government in the past.”
This year, Barkada welcomed guests with a student-produced film in replacement of its annual play. Through the experience, club members became full-fledged filmmakers to produce “Sonder,” tackling themes revealing that everyone has their own complex lives.
Isaac Haynes, a first-year mechanical engineering student and the lead of the play, shared how meaningful the script was to him and how relatable it is to the Filipino-American community.
Haynes’ character, Rey, is a Filipino-American student who lost touch with his immediate family after moving to college. After leaving his family, he grew more distant after his father’s death. When Rey is convinced by his Eskrima, national martial arts of the Philippines, master to visit his family, he discovers the hardships his family has faced during his time away. In a journey of rekindling broken bonds, the audience is taken through a story of valuable lessons about family and growing up.
“I think the whole act of putting on a show like this — not just my character itself but the whole production — is a really true way to describe the way we grow up as Filipino-Americans,” Haynes said. “They not only showcase the culture through dance or through song, but they also showcase it through theatre, which I thought was really amazing.”
The drive-in showing of “Sonder” featured a surprise live performance of tinikling, a traditional Filipino group folk dance that involves coordinated step dancing with two bamboo sticks.
Before the pandemic, Barkada held its Pilipinx-American Cultural Night in the form of an in-person play with 80 to 150 participants, offering the CPP community an evening filled with traditional songs, cultural dances, modern dances and passionate acting.
Last year, the show was canceled due to COVID-19 just two weeks before the performance. The sudden cancellation, however, served as motivation for the club’s executive board to make this year’s cultural night more memorable than ever.
“There was a big push for us to be like, ‘We have to keep on going, we can’t just let the culture die within the club,’” said Barkada Entertainment Company Coordinator Albert Andres, a fourth-year computer information systems student. “We really wanted to avenge the past PACN because it sucked when everyone got sad because they couldn’t perform. For the first years especially, we wanted them to experience it. Even if it was not the same as it usually is, we wanted them to experience the culture and what it’s like to be a part of a PACN.”
According to Manzon, Barkada’s legacy is often underestimated. She stated that Barkada has been around for 35 years, with its first-ever Pilipinx-American Cultural Night launched in the ‘90s.
Andres emphasized that being one of the older Filipino organizations in Southern California comes with the pressure to push the envelope with their events since other Filipino organizations use them for inspiration.
“We realized that a lot of clubs look up to us through our external representative that talks to the other schools,” Andres said. “We’ve heard people saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe Barkada is doing so much to keep their own traditions alive.’”
Echoing the appreciation for the club, Cal State San Bernardino’s Lubos Pilipino American Student Organization President Jon Ramos highlighted Barkada’s contribution in preserving culture despite the challenges raised by the pandemic.
“To be able to produce an event like their PACN with all the adversity we have all faced during the pandemic is definitely something that inspired me and motivated me to bring Lubos Pasos to their league someday,” Ramos said.
Lubos Pasos is Cal State San Bernardino’s student organization aimed to promote Pilipino culture with its campus community. As the club president, Ramos was inspired by Barkada’s effort to continue the cultural night tradition with an authentic experience.
“The videos felt professional. The plot was dramatic, and the live tinikling show gave me a big sense of cultural empowerment,” Ramos added.
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