Sayaw sa Bangko student performers dance in Olympian High School's Filipino Culture Night. (Photo by Vicente Almazar)


Olympian High School hosts its first annual Filipino Culture Night 

The first ever Filipino Culture Night was held at Olympian High School in San Diego, led by Filipino Language teacher Grace Almazar on April 21. During this showcase, Filipino classes and clubs in the Chula Vista community united to present traditional dances, food, and history in a dynamic manner. Student Edison Purog said he felt…
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June 3, 2023

The first ever Filipino Culture Night was held at Olympian High School in San Diego, led by Filipino Language teacher Grace Almazar on April 21. During this showcase, Filipino classes and clubs in the Chula Vista community united to present traditional dances, food, and history in a dynamic manner.

Student Edison Purog said he felt cultural events like these are important to the community because they celebrate and encourage individuals to embrace who they are. 

Principal Dianne Huslin began the night by saying she especially appreciated the Filipino Language program’s emphasis on the teaching of Filipino culture. 

Olympian High School’s Filipino 5-6 class first performed a lively dance on stage to the song “Magandang Gabi” by Nonoy Zuñiga, while all wearing colors of the Filipino flag to demonstrate unity. They later performed the read-aloud poem “Kami ang Pilipino.” 

Olympian’s Filipino 5-6 class reads “Kami ang Pilipino” as a class. (Photo by Sheila Grace)

The poem described how proud they felt of their dual-identity as Filipino Americans. Grace Almazar said she collaborated with the President of the Filipino American Educators Association in October to create this poem.

Performances by the Olympian High School Filipino Dance Club included Sayaw sa Bangko, Pigapir, Bulaklakan, and Tinikling. The Dance Club teaches various dances as they meet almost every day to rehearse for school assemblies and community performances, Almazar says. For example, Almazar added that FDC performed at a welcoming ceremony for the new mayor of National City, organized by a Filipino organization.

Two students complete the traditional Tinikling dance. (Photo by Vicente Almazar)

Tinikling was one traditional dance shown with two people tapping bamboo sticks on the ground, on opposite ends. At the same time, two dancers stepped into and out of the sticks using simple, yet quick foot movements in coordination.

Pigapir was another cultural dance performed by the ladies of the Filipino Dance Club. This traditional dance is commonly performed by a small group of women with colorful fans, which they move in a calm manner to illustrate mystery and high class. 

One student from the Filipino Dance Club, Jillian Deasis, said her favorite dance learned in the club was Pigapir, as she uses it as a form of self-expression.

She added that believes this event was the most memorable performance of hers because she was able “to connect with other dance groups.” 

The event, however, was not limited to Olympian High School performances. The Otay Ranch High School Pangkat Sayaw Dance Club presented a traditional Filipino dance called Tiklos. The performance consisted of complex foot movement that matched the rhythm set by traditional string instruments.

The group also demonstrated the dance Sakuting, originating from Abra, Philippines, which is performed with sticks. The dance consisted of intricate combat-like movements.

Rizalyn Cruz, the Otay Ranch High School Filipino Teacher said she believes diverse events like Filipino Culture Night helps citizens better “understand other cultures, accept other cultures and be able to expand our horizon globally.”  

Thus, she encourages the Sweetwater district to host an “after school program that teaches Filipino language and culture.”

Almazar, who imagined and organized the night, says she wishes the city of Chula Vista would establish a day for the Filipino community “to showcase our culture, our traditions.”

Filipino Culture Night coordinator Grace Almazar (Photo by Vicente Almazar)

After many exciting dances, the night transitioned to singing performances. Olympian students like Natasha Songco, from the introductory Filipino class, sang a powerful Filipino song entitled “Akin Ka Nalang” by Morissette.

Natasha described that although she was very nervous before performing, she said she was motivated to step out of her comfort zone. She said she valued experiencing this cultural event she can relate to because Filipino families are often unified through music.

For example, student Erin Laxamana said Harana, musical Filipino courting where men must sing to the women they like by going to their homes, was one element of Filipino culture that was well presented tonight. 

Toward the end of the event, a short fashion show was held where many Filipino students gathered to model various Filipino clothing. Laxamana shared that her favorite part of the night was the fashion show because she long wished to see herself wearing traditional clothing. 

Almazar said that as a language teacher, she had amassed a grand collection of traditional clothing for her class to try on. She said she wanted her students to “experience” wearing Filipino clothing seen on celebrities, like Miss Universe Philippines wearing a Filipiniana. 

Almazar said she was able to host the event, solely with the help of students, parents, and clubs. However, she said there is still much work left to be done. Because she wants to make this an annual celebration, next year she plans to assign students individual roles to optimize the organization of the event.

One parent shared they felt cultural opportunities presented in the community help Filipino students become well-rounded individuals by learning Filipino values and passing it down to future generations.

Similarly, one audience member said they believed Filipino Culture Night was an important event to help young Filipino Americans preserve their unique cultural values and traditions in “the Western culture” of America. They said they enjoyed learning about their Filipino culture in a modern way, as both popular and folk music were played during the performances. 

The attendee added that it is important for the community to appreciate the artistic traits many Filipinos hold instead of limiting them to strict professions. 

Student Edison Purog said he greatly admired how the Filipino dances showcased tonight portrayed a story to the audience and hopes to attend again next year.

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