UC Santa Barbara’s Kapatirang Pilipino hosted Pilipino Cultural Night showcase for the first time in four years on May 20, garnering a nearly full house of attendees at Campbell Hall.
The showcase was the organization’s 32nd annual Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN), and the involved members of the showcase celebrated this year’s completion of this long-running tradition.
This year’s PCN was titled “Sino Ako?” which translates to “Who am I?” and the three-hour event featured a play and 10 performances, all run by students of Kapatirang Pilipino (KP).
The planning process for the production began in early summer 2022, with PCN Executive Coordinator and fourth-year communication major Janelle Tadeo leading the brainstorming process back in June.
“The more that I worked on it, the more I realized it was something I really wanted to do, because for the last four years I’ve been involved in PCN,” Tadeo said.
Tadeo said they wanted this year’s PCN to focus on the idea of imposter syndrome — the condition of doubting one’s abilities and competence and generally feeling like a fraud. She spoke to this condition from her personal experience of herself and others.
“There’s such a broad range with imposter syndrome in that people experience it in so many different ways with their identity and expectations,” they said. “Maybe you don’t feel like you’re succeeding the way your family wants you to succeed … or that cultural shock of going to the Philippines and feeling like you’re not providing enough for your family.”
“I wanted to try to get in as many different aspects of imposter syndrome as possible, so even people in the audience who aren’t Filipinx can see themselves on stage, connect with the characters in some way and feel like they’re heard.”
The PCN narrative followed the life of a main character named Angel Ferrer — nicknamed “BitBit” — who navigates through self-doubt about her career path toward the medical field amidst familial expectations. She progresses through the story alongside John De La Cruz, who defies family expectations to attend medical school to pursue the comic book industry.
“I wanted us to have multiple characters that can relate to lots of different people,” Tadeo said. “I feel like with imposter syndrome, that’s something that’s really difficult because you feel like you’re not heard … and that’s something I really wanted to combat with this year’s narrative.”
Third-year communication and sociology double major and PCN actress and scriptwriter Robyn Violanda spoke to the main character’s name having a dual meaning. Her nickname parallels Filipinx customs of nicknames typically consisting of two, repeating syllables, and her name itself means “to carry” in Tagalog.
“It has the cultural layer of having a name with some of that repeating sound, but also her being the star of the family but also having to carry so much because of that pressure,” she said.
The performances at this year’s PCN included Cariñosa, choir, Filipino martial arts, lyrical dance, binoyugan, modern dance, spoken word, pandanggo sa ilaw, sayaw sa bangko and tinkling. Tadeo said most of the performances this year were inspired by traditional Filipinx customs and performances.
“I wanted to do a lot of traditional Filipinx dances … and we would really look into the meaning of the dances, why they are performed and how they could connect to our storyline [in PCN] in any way,” she said.
Tadeo highlighted the various dance performances, particularly sayaw sa bangko, which was a homage to their PCN experience in the performance as a first year. The performance consists of dancers jumping off of stacked benches in group unison.
“You have to do a lot of group trust … and I wanted to build the family relationship, build trust in each other,” she said.
Tadeo applauded the high turnout of the production, saying it exceeded her expectations and eased their initial anxieties about the showcase garnering audience members.
“I just didn’t really know if people were going to come to PCN because it was the first in a while … and when I walked out on stage for the first time and I saw almost a full house, it honestly warmed my heart so much.”
Tadeo said reactions of the show were overwhelmingly positive, with many audience members resonating with the storyline and the characters on stage.
“Past KP alumni said it was one of the best that they’ve watched, and a lot of people said they really connected to the storyline and saw themselves in the characters, which was what I really was aiming for,” they said.
“We included a lot of Tagalog in our narrative, and it meant so much to hear our mother tongue blasted throughout Campbell Hall and get that representation,” Tadeo continued.
Violanda said this year’s PCN upheld the core mission of KP as an organization to create community and share the stories of Filipinx culture and identity.
“It’s not so much about whether or not we have experience putting on a production — it’s all about the authentic stories that we tell and that’s why I believe we’re able to do,” she said. “That’s why we’re able to share our community stories and unite the community because the stories that we tell are very genuine, and we’re able to bring the community together, which is what PCN and what KP is all about.”
Violanda expressed joy in hearing her own parents, who attended the showcase, be able to learn about the Filipinx experience from a college student perspective.
“I believe that they learned a lot about what it’s like being a first-generation college student, and they also felt seen as immigrants who try their best to give their children opportunities,” she said.
Violenda hopes that the audience was able to see the value in telling the stories about the Filipinx and Asian American experience.
“We all have stories to tell, and it’s easy to fall into cliches when there’s such little Asian American representation in the world,” she said. “But I think it’s important to remember that all the stories that we have are valid, and it’s important that they’re seen and heard.”
Tadeo said the PCN tradition is an integral part of her college career, and this year’s showcase was a great personal accomplishment.
“My first year, my community that I found in PCN is really what kept me going these past four years,” they said. “Especially at a PWI, it’s really easy to feel like you’re alone on this campus … but [my community] broadened my perspective so much, and I think to be able to showcase our culture on a public platform really means so much.”
Looking toward the coming academic year, Tadeo advises the incoming PCN coordinator to remind themselves about the importance of community throughout the entire planning process of the production.
“Even if it feels like all else fails, your community will be there to support you,” she said. “Everything will fall into place and those months of hard work and stress will be worth it on that night at Campbell Hall.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the May 25, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.