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Penn State Filipino Association's 25th-annual Barrio event showcases Philippine culture, tradition

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The Penn State Filipino Association's 25th-annual Barrio is a testament to Filipino culture and community on campus.

The welcoming and learning environment PSFA tries to foster is exemplified by this end-of-the-year showcase.

PSFA’s Barrio is a time for members of the club to be part of a performance in which they show off the fruits of their semester-long labors. It features traditional dances and Philippine culture, as well as modern music and dance that may be more familiar to a non-Filipino audience. This year, the event centered on the theme, "Crazy Rich Filipinos."

“I would love if people could expand upon their cultural awareness,” PSFA’s co-cultural director, Jasmine Forsberg, said. “Just because I know that we are a predominantly white university and being able to get in touch with things that are not just in the United States, being able to be knowledgeable about things other than your own background, is really important and special.”

PSFA welcomes all students, regardless of ethnicity, and wants to help students learn about other walks of life, specifically a Philippine experience.

“Sometimes you just feel weird when you’re not a part of that ethnicity, but being open to new things and trying new things is a big deal,” Forsberg (sophomore-musical theater) said. “Especially in our climate nowadays, the more knowledge you have, the better.”

Adelaide Abdool described Barrio as a "really great time."

"People might underestimate how open the Filipino club is, but they truly are open, we have a lot of non-Filipinos in the club, whoever wants to join, they should join,” Abdool (junior-biology) said.

Throughout the night, the audience was encouraged to “hoot and holler” to cheer on the performers on stage, which they did with wild abandon. The spectators didn’t hesitate to call out to performers by name, crack jokes, yell compliments and cheer their friends and family on.

Family is an important component of the Barrio. Students often invite family members from near and far to watch them perform.

Ellen Peck, for example, has driven over an hour the past three years just to be a part of this crowd and community.

“I miss the Philippines, you know, because I don’t go home very often,” Peck said. “This time I was able to watch the full rehearsal and I enjoyed it, I loved it, and I don’t care if they start half an hour after 7:00, I’m still gonna enjoy it.”

PSFA hoped to not only impress its audience with a myriad of talents, but to also impress upon the audience a sense of community and open-mindedness. The interaction between new and old, learning and teaching, different and familiar appeared again and again throughout the performances.

One cultural dance featured was tinikling, a traditional Philippine folk dance in which two people tap and slide bamboo poles on the ground and two people step over and in between these poles in a dance.

“Traditional” and “modern” versions were performed by groups of eight dancers at a time, the former with more complicated movements and matching outfits, the latter featuring popular, modern songs including "Lemon" by N.E.R.D. and Rihanna; "I Like It Like That" by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin; and "Finesse" by Bruno Mars.

Original music was performed by many of the members of the club, with guitar, piano and harmonies being shown off alongside the students’ songwriting ability.

A famous Philippine folk dance displayed dancers’ skill and balance as they danced with a partner on narrow benches, stacked higher and higher as the song went on. This dance, called Bangko, was a fan favorite as audience members stood and cheered “Stack them up, stack them up.”

Dancers also performed magalatik a dance in which performers tap coconuts — in this case, plastic ones — in their hands against ones attached to their body to the beat of a song. They did so at first to an older, instrumental song and then to "Outstanding" by MadeinTYO.

Pangingisda, a traditional dance involving props and matching outfits, and Kawayan, which involved the rhythmic beating of poles, displayed choreographed storytelling elements in concert with traditional dance.

The latter dance also coincided with the night's theme, Crazy Rich Filipinos. Small skits, acting out scenes from the movie Crazy Rich Asians but with a culturally relevant twist popped up throughout the show and climaxed with the Kawayan dance, which played out parallel story lines in two different mediums, acting and dance.

PSFA’s hard work was displayed throughout the night, as well as its goal to introduce different walks of life to Penn State students.

“It’s a good way to make friends and celebrate the culture… and also learn the talents of each individual person,” JR Bocado (freshman-accounting) said.


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