By Elsa Christiansen Janairo
August 1 through August 7, rondalla performers of the Iskwelahang Pilipino (IP) youth cultural school of Boston, MA, USA will come to Alberta to rehearse, collaborate and perform with the dancers and musicians of the Philippine Cultural Center Foundation in Calgary and the Filipino Canadian Saranay Association of Alberta in Edmonton, as part of the 2018 IP Rondalla Canadian Tour.
Iskwelahang Pilipino was born in 1976 when a group of parents in Boston, MA, USA,organized 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, IP’s Executive Director at the time, Cristina Castro, a UP alumna, developed a rondalla instructional program, in which musicians within IP – mostly the cultural school’s students, joined by a handful of parents – began to learn how to play rondalla instruments imported from the Philippines under the initial instruction of classical guitarist Michael Dadap of New York, 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 several Philippine presidents as well as a wide array of audiences across the U.S., Europe and the Philippines.
The Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla will be presenting their 2018 touring show, “Reveries and Rhythms” across Canada. The “Reveries and Rhythms” performance is a combination of traditional Philippine folk songs and folkdance 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.
Almost all of the rondalla members are second-generation Filipino Americans who have learned how to play the rondalla instruments at Iskwelahang Pilipino in Boston.
The 2018 Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla Canadian tour of Calgary,Edmonton, Toronto and Winnipeg is different from past IP performance tours because, in addition to the traditional performance schedule, it also has the goals of connecting the Filipino-American youth of IP with Filipino-Canadian youth while serving the local community.
“I am excited to perform with Filipino-Canadians because it’s fun to meet new people and see how they work with the music and find little differences and similarities that we both share,” said Frances Fadrigalan, 15, from Boston. Janrey Javier, 19, who also traveled on the 2013 IP Rondalla tour of the Philippines, explained, “I’m always excited to perform in different countries and meet people who share the same culture as myself. To be able to connect with other Filipino-Canadians through music and learn about their stories is what excites me the most.”
In Calgary, the youth from the IP Rondalla and from the PCCF Sinag Kultura Performing Arts Group will rehearse and later perform folk dances with live music together at the “Reveries and Rhythms” performance co-sponsored by The Consulate General of Calgary and PCCF on August 1, 6pm, at the Marlborough Park Community Centre, 6021 Madigan Drive, NE, Calgary. The IP Rondalla will also have the opportunity to connect the PCCF Rondalla members during a joint music workshop.
In Edmonton, the Filipino Canadian Saranay Association’s rondalla and the IP Rondalla will come together for a workshop and to play the overture of “Emma, the Musical”, an original work by Chie Floresca and Erica Cawagas, which debuted in Edmonton on July 7, 2018. “Our rondalla enjoys playing different genres of music on the rondalla instruments, and it is a new experience for our youth to play a musical. They can feel the pulse and the emotion of the ‘Emma, the Musical’ overture and can’t wait to play it with the musicians of Saranay!” stated IP Rondalla Alumna and Program Director, Elsa Janairo. Both groups will also perform at the Philippine Pavilion at the Edmonton Heritage Festival at Hawrelak Park on August 6.
Sabrina Lane-Smith, an IP Rondalla performer and IP alumna who now lives in Toronto but remains connected to the rondalla in Boston, explained why touring with the IP Rondalla is so memorable and meaningful 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.”
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 hope that the audience truly believes that we all love what we do and are actually having fun while performing. I have been performing for a very long time and this is one of my favorite shows because we just have so much fun with it. In almost every song we have added our own personalities into it, and sometimes you really have to look for it, but it is there. We try to put in as much of us as possible, whether that be through looks we give each other or certain dance moves we have added in. We want the audience to know each and everyone of us as much as they can,” said Hollie Lane-Smith, 18, who will be moving to Canada next month to attend the University of Victoria. “I believe we do a good job of showing who we are as people, as well as Filipino-Americans.”
The IP Rondalla of Boston “Reveries and Rhythms” performances will occur at the following locations in Alberta:
August 1, 2018 at 6pm, Marlborough Park Community Centre, 6021 Madigan Drive, NE, Calgary.
August 6, 2018 at 1pm, at the Philippine Pavilion at the Edmonton Heritage Festival at Hawrelak Park, Edmonton.
Contact person for Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla of Boston: