I was part of the FANHS (Filipino American National History Society) East Bay and Fremont Library’s Filipino American History: A Celebration earlier today. The all-day event featured Filipino-American authors reading from their works and other wonderful performances that bear commentary.
Teri Bautista presented a review of the 400-year timeline of Filipino-American experience to counter what she pointed out as history “told from the point of view of the victor.” It’s a fascinating project to nail down critical events, especially of the last century, and identify laws and policies that shaped the Filipino community as nationals, aliens, and finally as U.S. citizens. A very lucid 92-year-old Manang Connie Santos, mother of FANHS East Bay president Vickie Santos, read from her Memoirs of a Manang – her 1929 ocean crossing from Manila to Seattle.
The American Center of Philippine Arts Rondalla, a string ensemble, played a number of beautiful songs, including the tinikling and the baso dance (dancer balancing glasses of wine while dancing). I didn’t catch the names of the instruments aside from the guitarist, but unlike the mandolin, they have 14 strings. Executive director Herna Cruz-Louie has been playing for 15 years, since the age of 16. She noted that when you have 30 musicians, the music is amazing. I thought that what the quartet did was pretty amazing. What a beautiful sound they made! Also performing was the Senkotiros International, which demonstrated “arnis,” or stick fighting. That demonstration was impressive, too. I’m glad I didn’t sit in the font row when they pulled out and starting flashing the big-blade knives.
I read a short excerpt from A Village in the Fields. I finally mastered the five-minute reading! A few people let me know that my reading was dramatic and well done. After a rattled reading from the book festival a few weeks ago, I felt that I can put that particular performance behind me now.
My favorite presentation was the showing of Harana: the Search for the Lost Art of Serenade. This documentary chronicles Florante Aguilar’s search for master haranistas – the practitioners of the lost art of Philippine serenading. I had heard about this movie for months, but I’d never seen it and was really looking forward to seeing it. Released in 2012, Harana has won numerous awards. I was thoroughly taken in by the music, the artists, their stories, the cinematography, and the many, many tender moments throughout the film. Wow. Of course, I had to purchase the DVD, the soundtrack, and two other CDs, which included harana songs performed on classical guitar. Watch the trailer. We listened to the music on our way back from Fremont. I kept thinking how my mother would have really enjoyed listening to the music, and I can picture her listening while looking out the window and remembering times past. But it also inspires me to want to get back to creating art again. One day soon!