WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Bayanihan, the national dance company of the Philippines, succeeded in putting the country back on the American stage as it sang and danced its way into the hearts of its audience during its sold-out performances in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.
“For quite some time, the Philippines seemed to have been forgotten here in the United States and with its performances here, the Bayanihan was successful in making our American friends remember,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said. “This is cultural diplomacy at its finest.”
The performances of the Bayanihan at the Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. were upon the initiative of the Philippine Embassy and the recently formed US-Philippines Society, an organization made up of prominent Filipinos and Americans whose objective is to raise the profile of the Philippines in the United States.
The performance of the Bayanihan was the first cultural undertaking of both the Embassy and the US-Philippines Society, which was formally launched during the visit of President Aquino to Washington in June.
“I would like to thank the Bayanihan for bringing back to us a recollection of and a heightened awareness of the tremendous cultural richness of the Philippines,” said Ambassador John Negroponte, a former US envoy to Manila, who co-chairs the society with businessman Manny Pangilinan.
“I think this is especially important now that the Asia Pacific region is again becoming a demographic and economic center of gravity in the world and I think it makes enormous sense to devote more attention to the US relationship with the Philippines,” said Negroponte, former Chair of the National Intelligence Agency.
“Obviously in addition to the political, the strategic and the economic, a key element is cultural,” he added.
Ambassador John Maisto, President of the US Philippines Society, said the dance troupe, led by its Executive Director Suzie Moya Benitez, made an impression during its performances in Washington and New York.
“Our job is simply to elevate the profile of the Philippines in the United States across the board so that Americans can appreciate and understand and remember what the Philippines and Filipinos represent to the United States” said Ambassador Maisto, who also served at the US Embassy in Manila.
The Bayanihan’s performances in two prestigious locations took place as the East Coast began the process of recovery following the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy last week. The performances at the Allen Room at the Jazz at the Lincoln Center and at the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center were the company’s last US appearance until 2015.
The Bayanihan performed six dance suites in New York and in the gala and matinee performances in Washington D.C. that drew raves from the sold-out crowd of Filipinos and Americans alike.
Anna Gawel, Managing Editor of the Washington Diplomat, described the performance as spectacular as it offered non-Filipinos like her exciting insights into Philippine culture and history. “The range of costumes was visually stunning and the choreography and emotions behind the dances were riveting,” she said.
“Seeing the Bayanihan makes me a proud Filipino-American,” said financial analyst Miguel Leonardo of Morgan and Stanley. “Bayanihan celebrates the richness of our culture and it showed through the fantastic costumes, exhilarating routines, and masterful sequences that show the rich tapestry of what being a Filipino means.”
Leonardo’s American wife, Lindsay, said: “I love how gracefully the dances and music fused the so-many varied cultural influences together; it really showcased what a unique and vibrant culture the Philippines has. It was a spectacular show.”
Bing Branigin, Board Director of the Asia America Initiative who has been a Bayanihan fan for years, described the performance as totally awesome. “It was exciting to see a new repertoire. The costumes, music, choreography, and the performers were excellent,” said Branigin, who thanked Ambassador Cuisia and his wife, Ma. Victoria, for helping make the project possible.
“The Bayanihan never failed to enthrall anyone even with their more theatrical fiesta extravaganza in the finale, a graceful attempt to encapsulate all our vibrant and colorful fiestas in one production number,” said Grace Valera of the Migrant Heritage Commission.
The New York and Washington D.C. performances were made possible through the support of Philippine Airlines; Henry Howard of the US Education Finance Group; Loida Nicolas Lewis of Lewis College; Josie Natori of the Natori Company; Lin Ilusorio-Bildner of the Albert and Lin Bildner Foundation; Richard Lee of the Covenant Car Company; Henry Sy Jr. of SM Development Corporation; Vonage; ABS-CBN Global; Megaworld International; and Dr. Norman and Mrs. Lourdes San Agustin.###