For the first time in their 42 years of existence, Filipino non-profit cultural organizations Magdaragat Philippines of Winnipeg and Iskwelahang Pilipino of Boston (IP) will join together to rehearse, collaborate, and serve the Filipino community through song, dance and community-focused service.
Both Iskwelahang Pilipino and Magdaragat are educational organizations that were founded in 1976 by Filipino immigrants in their respective new communities to preserve and share Filipino culture. Magdaragat will be hosting the IP Rondalla group in Winnipeg from August 11-15 during the IP Rondalla’s tour of Canada.
Iskwelahang Pilipino was born in 1976 when a group of parents in Boston, MA, USA collaborated to provide an environment for their children to learn about their Filipino heritage. The mission of IP is to strengthen Filipino American children, families and community by celebrating the rich Philippine cultural heritage in a structured and nurturing environment. A decade later, musicians within IP – some of the cultural school’s students, joined by a handful of parents – began to learn how to play rondalla instruments from the Philippines and they formed the Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla.
The first batch of rondalla players quickly found that they could incorporate dance and movement instead of being limited to a traditionally seated performance format, differentiating their ensemble from others. The combination of choreography with modern and traditional musical compositions has allowed the IP Rondalla to take to the stage on an international level, performing for Philippine presidents as well as a wide array of audiences across the U.S., Europe and the Philippines.
“When the IP Rondalla first began touring in 1990, it was an opportunity for all of the members to go to the Philippines, experience some of the things taught in their classes, and spend time with extended family,” said IP Rondalla Music Director Christi-Anne Castro. Castro is the only performer who has participated in every IP Rondalla tour since 1990 and is also a composer for many of the ensemble’s signature pieces. “Touring greatly expands the worldview of IP students, forces them to try to understand how others live outside the US, and lends a bit of maturity through the challenges of working together in sometimes difficult circumstances.”
The 2018 Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla Canadian tour of Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto is different from past performance tours because, in addition to giving performances, it also has the goals of connecting the Filipino-American youth of IP with Filipino-Canadian youth of Magdaragat while serving the local community.
“I’m excited to meet the members of Magdaragat because we are similar in that we are Filipinos not living in the Philippines, so we share that identity,” said Lilly Bolandrina, 16, from Boston. “It’s especially interesting because of the differences we will have because of where we live–them in Canada and IP Rondalla in Boston.”
Magdaragat Philippines Incorporated, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and propagation of the positive aspects of Philippine culture, was founded in 1976 by the late Dante C. Buenaventura. Magdaragat Philippines is known best for hosting the Pearl of the Orient Philippine Pavilion annually during Winnipeg’s Folklorama, Canada’s largest and longest running multicultural festival.
“We display the rich essence of our rich and diverse culture through song, dance and drama,” said Magdaragat Production Director Goldie Garcia. The group is composed of the Youth Development Council (YDC) ages 12+ and Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) ages 5-11 and is a frequent guest at various festivals across the United States and Canada, including Winnipeg’s Pan-Am Games opening ceremonies, Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Ottawa, visits from the Queen and Princess Anne in Winnipeg, and much more.
As part of this partnership, the youth from the two organizations will have the opportunity to rehearse and perform folk dances with live music together as part of the Folklorama Pearl of the Orient Philippine Pavilion (Petrus Hall, 2624 Inkster Blvd, Winnipeg, Manitoba) on August 13 and August 14. Both groups will also perform full shows for each other as a Filipino performing arts exchange, engage in volunteer work at the Pearl of the Orient Philippine Pavilion, and explore Winnipeg together while sharing their memories and recollections of life in the Philippines or life as a Filipino-American or Filipino-Canadian.
As explained by Goldie Garcia of Magdaragat, “This collaboration between Magdaragat and the IP Rondalla is a culture share of Filipino-Canadians and Filipino-Americans who have a shared interest in Philippine heritage and its preservation. We have so many commonalities. It will be a great experience for both groups and to make long lasting relationships.”
The Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla will be presenting their touring show, “Reveries and Rhythms” in Winnipeg. The “Reveries and Rhythms” performance is a combination of traditional Philippine folk songs and folk dance music, Philippine contemporary music, original Filipino-American compositions, and American contemporary music – all performed on bandurias and octavinas (mandolins), guitars and a double bass, with supplemental percussion to accentuate the rhythmic theme of the show.
Sabrina Lane-Smith, an IP Rondalla performer and IP alumna, explained why touring is so memorable to both the performers and the audience. “After every show I’ve performed for Filipinos, there has always been an audience member who has thanked us for bringing them a piece of home,” said Lane-Smith. “So many people haven’t had the chance to go back to the Philippines for many years, and some haven’t returned since they left. Being able to bring them joy and help heal their homesickness, even a little bit, makes me proud to be a part of the IP Rondalla and to be able to provide that for them.”
The young musicians of the IP Rondalla integrate dance movements and acting into every piece of music played and enjoy entertaining and interacting with audiences of all ages!
“I’m excited for my first tour because I get to play some traditional songs my parents grew up knowing, but also have the ability to perform some new songs and arrangements no one else has ever heard,” Max Bolandrina said. “Adding the dancing to it makes it even more enjoyable for us and hopefully for the audience too.”
The IP Rondalla of Boston “Reveries and Rhythms” performances will occur at two locations in Winnipeg:
August 12, 2018 at 7pm, Folklorama in the Park, Assiniboine Park Conservancy Summer Concert Series, Lyric Theatre at Assiniboine Park, 55 Pavilion Crescent, Winnipeg.
August 13, 2018 at 12pm, Portage Place Mall, 393 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg.
Contact person for Magdaragat: Goldie Garcia
Contact person for Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla of Boston: Elsa Janairo