Gonzaga University’s Filipino American Student Union (FASU) performed at the Lunar New Year celebration in downtown Spokane at the convention center this past weekend, joining in the holiday celebration to showcase the unique Filipino culture.
The event, organized by Rise Up Spokane, featured dancing, live music and even fireworks as it celebrated the different Asian cultures represented in Spokane.
The large-scale city event was the first hosted in 89 years and was meant to highlight the deep historical legacy and contributions of Asian Americans in the city, dating back to the first Chinese immigrants in the 1800s.
“The Chinese community have been here since the 1800s,” said Charity Doyl, the main organizer for the event. “The Japanese community have been here since the 1900s, followed by the Filipinos which was a third wave of migration. It’s important to show that we’ve been here. We didn’t just come yesterday, but we’ve been here for over 100 years. And it’s time to remind the community we’re a part of Spokane, always have been.”
The Lunar New Year event was the second performance by FASU this school year as the club prepared for its signature event, the Barrio Fiesta. For its first event in October, FASU members put on a series of cultural dances at the Fil-Am History Celebration, another community event.
While other cultural groups performed at the event, FASU’s performance highlighted the significance of the Lunar New Year in Filipino culture. FASU performed three dances at Spokane’s Lunar New Year event, all of which had been performed at the Fil-Am event earlier this school year.
“I think one of the main things FASU is trying to do is integrate itself with the Spokane community,” said Dawson Oen, senior advisor for FASU. “As much as we love being a part of Gonzaga, we realize that being in Spokane, there’s a lot more to Spokane than just Gonzaga. So as much as we can we try to involve ourselves with events like this or make connections with other organizations around the area.”
The dance Maglalatik is a fast-paced dance performed only by men. It is meant to be a war dance, having its historical roots in a fight between the native Filipino Muslim and Christian communities over latik, a product obtained after the coconut milk is boiled.
The dance Tinikling is also a quick paced song, meant to represent the tikling birds that run throughout the islands of the Philippines. Imitating these birds, FASU members danced their way through bamboo poles that moved with the fast beat of the song.
The Cariñosa is a popular folk dance meant to represent courtship between two people. First introduced on the island of Panay in the Visayas region by the Spaniards during the 16th century, the slow ballad is a cornerstone of Filipino culture.
“I think for us, as well as the many other cultural clubs, we are using this as a way to help show this is what our culture means to us and why it’s so special,” said Justine Villamante, FASU’s public relations officer.
In addition to the three dances, FASU’s showcase also included two performances, a new addition to the club’s repertoire. Justine Villamante performed a song in Tagalog, a language he said he is almost fluent in.
Dominic Pe Benito also sang a song which he said reminded him of his cultural roots.
For Villamante, it was important to sing a song for his performance that would be familiar to the community while also being meaningful to him. He said the song “Dahil Sa’yo” by Inigo Pascual became popular in the Philippines while he was in high school.
“The song is very well known for people around my age because it came out while we were in high school,” Villamante said.
The solo and dance performances from FASU, according to Oen and Villamante, demonstrate the club’s love for their culture and eagerness to share it with the community. Oen said the club’s pillar of family was embraced in the holiday celebration performance.
“Family is one of our biggest emphasis at Gonzaga at FASU,” Oen said. “We feel like the community of FASU is our second family away from home. We do a lot of the same things, speak the same languages, eat the same foods. It’s fun for us to come together, demonstrate and then share that family that we have with the greater Spokane community, too.”
Oen said he is grateful for the opportunity for FASU to perform at the Lunar New Year event and hopes that members of the GU and Spokane communities attend the club’s Barrio Festival in March.
Noah Apprill-Sokol is a news editor. Follow him on Twitter: @noah_sokol03.
Claire Sparano is a contributor.