An a cappella rendition of “The Other” by singer-songwriter Lauv fills the air. Clappers beat the ground with bamboo sticks while dancers hop over them. Two voices recite spoken word like slam poetry.
These are just a few of the many components that will make up Bayanihan’s student production this year.
The 28th annual Pilipino Cultural Celebration (PCC), “Malakas at Maganda,” will take over the Theater Arts Mainstage April 26 and April 27. PCC interweaves performance art styles to explore the relationship between the Pilipinx and LGBTQIA+ communities. Written, directed and produced entirely by students, PCC will inspire the audience to think critically about how members of different communities are treated. It calls attention to the harmful behavior bred by old-fashioned notions of gender roles and sexuality.
“The real question that we want our audience to ask themselves is ‘Is this something I’m seeing within my family as a Filipino or Pilipinx-identified person, and is there something that I can do about it?’” said fourth-year and PCC co-chair Greg Ocampo. “It’s recognizing that these are deeply rooted issues within our culture.”
Bayanihan poses these questions through a two-act play starring members of acting and improvisation group People Power. Dance numbers are sprinkled throughout the production, alongside vocal performances and poetry recitations.
The structure of the celebration itself is as unique as the community that has come together to make it. As a product of Bayanihan, PCC features several of the 12 aspects housed under the Pilipinx student organization, including three dance troupes, a Student Media organization and an a cappella group.P
“[The production] covers a lot of the internalized oppression that [LGBTQIA+ Pilipinx] individuals feel,” said third-year Erin Subido, one of PCC’s writers and directors. “That push and pull effect of not being able to belong in the LGBTQIA+ community or the Pilipinx community.”
Subido and her co-director, fourth-year Rodney Landaverde, drew from their own experiences to create the fictional narrative presented in PCC. The narrative focuses on protagonist Reina Mendoza, a college student forced to navigate her Pilipinx identity and role as an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. Though the tale is imagined, it reflects realities many Pilipinx individuals face every day.
Landaverde and Subido also incorporated the death of Jennifer Laude, a Pilipinx trans woman who was murdered by a U.S. marine stationed in the Philippines in 2014. Through the protagonist’s exposure to Pilipinx and LGBTQIA+ social justice issues, the audience learns about the role Laude’s death played in the Pilipinx community.
“It’s something that happens a lot,” Landaverde said of Laude’s death, “and we wanted to highlight that and show that this happens to those who identify as queer and that it’s dangerous to be queer.”
The title “Malakas at Maganda” is a reference to the Filipino tale of the first man and woman. They are known as “the strong one” and “the beautiful one” respectively. The opening scene of the play reanimates this creation story as a way of investigating how cultural beliefs can influence views around sexuality and gender identity.
While the story PCC tells changes each year, the cornerstone of the production is the display and celebration of students’ talents, ranging from technical production to acting. In addition to providing an opportunity for Pilipinx students to display their talents, PCC is a way for them to grow closer to their heritage.
“[Participating in PCC] is very humbling,” said Pagkakaisa Dance Troupe (PDT) co-coordinator and dancer PJ Claudio. “I actually feel one with my culture, instead of being someone who says, ‘I’m Filipino, but I have no idea what it is to be Filipino.’”
Part of being Filipino to Claudio is being able to share and participate in traditional Filipino dances. PDT will be performing Tinikling, Imunan and Idaw, dances from three of the five suites that make up Filipino dance.
From message to medium, PCC makes room for dialogue and involvement for those both in the Pilipinx community and those outside of it. It asks tough questions and answers them through art.
“We use this night as a showcase for not just everything we learned, but as a medium to express our history and our culture on our own terms,” said PCC co-chair Greg Ocampo. “We place a heavy emphasis on tradition and culture, but just because our tradition and our culture is important to us doesn’t mean that we can’t change it for the better.”
The 28th annual Pilipino Cultural Celebration will take place at the Mainstage Theatre at UCSC on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27. More information can be found at bayanihanucsc.org. Tickets start at $8 and can be purchased at tickets.ucsc.edu.