PACN Presents Artistic Insight Into Filipinx Culture

By Aneesah Akbar and Chelsea Pan

On Friday, May 11, UCI’s Kababayan Club hosted the 39th Annual Pilipinx American Culture Night (PACN) in the Bren Events Center. The theme of this year’s performance was “Ingat, Anak,” or “Be Careful, My Child,” and showcased the theatrical, vocal, and dance talents of the club’s nearly 300 members.

Kababayan recently celebrated its 44th anniversary, and is a cultural club on campus aiming to preserve Filipinx culture at UCI. Kababayan translates to “fellow Filipino, countrymate, or townmate.” Despite the name, the club is not exclusive to Filipinx students, and has many non-Filipinx members interested in learning about the culture.

All year, Kababayan members fundraise, plan, and rehearse for this event, practicing as late as 3 AM the week before the show. Each year, PACN participants are divided into different suites corresponding to the type of dance or scene they were involved in, with a separate “logistic” suite for students handling behind the scenes, advertising and tech elements. The countless hours of effort pay off as thousands of eager audience members fill the Bren Events Center.

Gillianne Delos Angeles is a first year student who has been involved in Kababayan since fall quarter. “Growing up in Long Beach, I was never really around a lot of Filipinx, so being involved in Kababayan was a great experience,” she said. Delos Angeles also emphasized  how invaluable Kababayan is for Filipinx students because of the little academic representation of Filipinx history and culture in UCI’s curriculum.

“Ingat, Anak” consisted of a single cohesive storyline with twelve different scenes broken apart by a number of dance and choir performances complementing the overarching plot. Over the course of the twelve scenes, the show covered the themes of mental health, colorism, politics, and Filipinx history. Each scene dealt with a different challenge that Filipinx youth face in modern American society, such as the stigma around mental health and recent changes in political climate. “Ingat, Anak” especially focused on the dynamics and cultural differences between Filipinx youth and their parents. The scenes were set  in both the past and present and included a special performance from Kaba Modern, the renowned hip hop dance crew originating from Kababayan.

The show began with cast members recreating the day of the 2016 Presidential Election, expressing their disbelief, fear, and frustration as Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected. The scene appropriately transitioned into an emotional choir performance of Sam Smith’s “Pray” as the first vocal performance of the night. In the dancers’ grand finale, performers rhythmically beat and tapped bamboo poles against each other and the ground to engage in an authentic Filipinx folk dance called “Tinikling”, or “Bamboo Dance.” Club members had to audition to be included in this challenging piece, as performers step over and between the poles while  the tempo progressively speeds up throughout the dance number.

“Ingat, Anak” ended with a poignant speech asking the loaded question: “Who would you fall for?” Presenters declared that, “if one [of us] falls, we all fall.” Mothers, fathers, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and those who lack the privilege to pursue a higher education were all listed as ones to fall for.

Each year, PACN aims to address political and historical issues that Filipinx in the Philippines and Filipinx Americans face in society, and to showcase rich Filipinx artistic elements. For instance, one part of the show portrayed former Filipinx dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ enforcement of martial law and the consequential hardships citizens faced under his brutal rule.

Delos Angeles performed in several PACN dance numbers and testified, “There are about a thousand small islands in the Philippines, and both my parents are from Manila, which is one of them. [Being involved in PACN] taught me a lot about the culture in other parts of the Philippines. It was an eye-opening experience to see what my parents and grandparents had to go through.”

Note: To avoid only using the masculine form (Filipinos), Kababayan refers to Filipinos and Filipinas collectively as Filipinx.