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OYFA celebrates their 35th anniversary

Students from the University’s Organization of Young Filipino Americans gathered around dance and theater at Barrio Fiesta.

Barrio Fiesta — meaning “neighborhood celebration” in Spanish — showcased the diverse cultures and backgrounds of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans at the University Saturday. In a day filled with music, food, art and theater, the Organization of Young Filipino Americans delivered a cultural exhibition that encompassed the spirit of community that the organization embodies. 

This year’s event theme was Maunawaan Ako, which translates to “understand me” in Tagalog. This theme and the overall message of community were present throughout the student performances of the night.

With over 7,000 islands and 150 spoken languages and dialects, the Philippines are home to a wide variety of traditions and a vast range of cultural identities. The background of each individual person varies, leading to differences in cultural understandings and representations — students in the organization come together in recognition of both these differences and similarities alike. 

Audience members watched the message unfold before them. Second-year College student Josh Amos went to Barrio to cheer on his friends. 

“The performances were an important expression of not only their culture, but also their identity, and it was really beautiful,” Amos said.

The skit that members performed embodied this idea of Maunawaan Ako at its heart. It told the story of two young Filipino women from different families, played by second-year Nursing student Franceszca Penaredondo and third-year College student Hannah Roldan.

The skit showed the perspective of both girls — one from a wealthy family with high expectations for her future and the other from a family struggling to maintain their small business. 

Though both families had close ties with their Filipino heritage, their values were expressed in different ways. 

Directors second-year Engineering student Cayla Celis and fourth-year College student John Le illuminated the vast differences in upbringing that can exist within those with similar cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, the directors brought light to other issues affecting the families, such as racism, gentrification, gambling addiction and family stress.

Though the girls were very dissimilar people, they were ultimately able to gain an understanding of one another despite their differences, with each one learning to embrace both their identities as individuals and part of a larger cultural community.

The importance of community reverberated throughout other aspects of the event as well. In addition to performing the original skit, members performed five student-choreographed dances and a live music performance.

Each dance drew upon either traditional Filipino dance styles or modern Filipino dance styles, giving audiences an array of choreography and costumes to enjoy. Second-year College student Carina Martinez took on a leadership role this semester for Barrio in addition to taking a role as a performer. Martinez performed in three dances, one modern and two traditional.

“[I danced in] Pangalay, which is a partner dance, and Dinagyang, which is our big, 40-person traditional dance,” Martinez said.

The live musical performance was directed by second-year College students Bernard Gonzales and Patrick Yuson, and featured songs and instruments accompanied by a music video shown on a screen behind them, featuring characters from the skit. 

The theme of togetherness that Barrio promotes made these performances even more moving, resulting in a performance that was not just a love letter to their culture but also to one another. 

“It’s about making the effort to understand each other and working as a collective group,” Martinez said. 

Performers like Martinez have been hard at work in preparation for the performance. Martinez said the performers increased their practices from one to two hours in length the week of the event.

The organization will continue providing a space of community for Filipinos and Filipino-Americans at the University next semester, with the induction of the 36th Board and Council taking place this week.