Keeping the Filipino folk dance alive in Stockton

Keeping the Filipino folk dance alive in Stockton

Brian Batugo’s CrowdRise campaign aims to sustain The Little Manila Dance Collective

AS a people, we Filipinos are always proud of our heritage.  This is why there are many cultural events and groups who continue to thrive and teach the younger generation of Filipino-Americans the culture and arts.  However, not all have been fortunate enough to sustain projects and programs, as funding support dwindled through the years.

In the City of Stockton, the Fil-Am community is experiencing a disparity in its cultural, social, and educational services, compared to other kababayans in the Bay Area and Southern California.  Because of this, Brian Anthony Batugo decided to put up a funding campaign to help establish Stockton’s Little Manila Dance Collective for his 26th birthday.

Filipino Folk Dance has been part of Stockton’s history since the 1950s beginning with the legacy of the late Carmen G. Tomek’s Sampaguita Dance Troupe performing in Little Manila and continuing with many Filipino youth-led dance organizations that flourished in the city.   However, many of these dance organizations no longer exist because dance leaders retired, dancers found other passions, and members grew up and moved away.

“There are still pockets of dancers and cultural dance enthusiasts who practice from home.  Unfortunately, they rely solely on the guidance of folk dance videos on YouTube,” shared Brian.  “A Filipino folk dance program would not only provide better, more meaningful instruction for these aspiring dancers, but it would reignite a Filipino-American cultural presence that Stockton has not seen since the 1990s.”

(For those who are unacquainted, Little Manila is an area in Stockton where many Fil-Am agricultural workers made their homes in the 1930s.  These pioneers were called Manongs, the Ilocano word for first-born male and/or respected elder brothers.  These men built their own community south of Main Street—businesses and organizations—creating what became Stockton’s Little Manila.)

Brian was born in Stockton to Baltazar and Ligaya Batugo who are both from Ilocos Norte.  Although currently an elementary school teacher, he actually has a degree in Dance, Theater and Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.    He also co-teaches a Fil-Am history program for high school students through the Little Manila After School Program (LMASP) to empower and educate Filipino youth across the San Joaquin County.

But Brian’s passion for dancing is alive.   His time in Berkeley has developed his skills and talent as a choreographer in Pilipino Cultural (PCN) productions and connected him to a network of Philippine dance artists in the Bay Area.

“I have worked musically with RJ Payomo of Kawayan Folk Arts. I performed in one of Jay Loyola’s first major dance projects, Tagabanua (2012).  And I am currently part of Parangal Dance Company’s Artistic Team led by Eric Solano,” he said and added, “These mentors have fueled my relentless efforts to once again make Filipino Folk dance a relevant cultural art form in Stockton.”

He saw himself returning to Stockton, applying what he learned to facilitate cultural dance workshops with local student and community groups.

“I have taught Filipino folk dance workshops for the University of the Pacific’s Kilusan Pilipino, The Filipino American Heritage Association, The Little Manila After School Program, and the Binibini Dance Troupe for the past three years. Surrounding myself around individuals who are just as passionate about Philippine folk and indigenous art has made it possible to work towards a more sustainable cultural dance program in Stockton. I hope to model this program after the successful dance schools and companies I have had the privilege to work with in the Bay Area,” Brian said.

The CrowdRise campaign and what $6,000 can do

Currently, Stockton lacks a space where the Filipino community can come and learn folk dances, or even seek resources to cultural dance materials such as costumes and music.

“My community needs a space to establish a sense of cultural visibility through dance,” said Brian and added, “Supporting the efforts of the Little Manila Dance Collective will establish a central point where the community’s youth and elders can connect to the art practices and cultural knowledge that exists beyond our city.  I urge the Filipino-American community to support a dance space where people can properly train and learn about folk and indigenous dance forms so that we may be able to represent our Pinoy and Pinay identity through respectful and authentic cultural art in Stockton.”

So, for his 26th birthday, Brian is calling out to the community to do something about the dwindling presence of Filipino cultural dance in Stockton.   For the CrowdRise campaign, his goal is to raise $6,000 and he explains how that money will be spent.

“One-third of the money raised will go towards purchasing dance mirrors for the Little Manlia Center so that we may begin to train dancers with the precision and detail of that will respect folk and indigenous dance as a discipline and art form.

“Another third will go towards a preliminary costume budget to support the work of local and indigenous costumes designers in the Philippines.

“The last, and most important third, will go towards a Master Artist fund. All experts and native practitioners of folk and indigenous Philippine dance live outside of Stockton.  We hope to raise enough money to invite these Master artists to our community to teach community members proper dance technique and respect for folk and indigenous art forms,” he said.

Donations can be made online at

You can also donate to the Little Manila Foundation directly via Paypal at

The Little Manila Dance Collective

At present The Little Manila Dance Collective has 30 members and would like to open its doors to the community in the San Joaquin County.

“We have become a multigenerational alliance of different community organizations, dance troupes, and individual artists who share a passion for Filipino cultural dance,” Brian said.  “We are college students. We are high school students. We are recent college graduates. We are aunties, mothers, and grandmothers.”

The group is also seeking anyone motivated to practice or train in Filipino folk and indigenous dance in a structured, professional environment.

Adult and young adult classes (ages 17 and up) are on Mondays from 7-9pm. Our youth dance program will kick off on January 7, 2015. Youth classes (ages 5-16) will be on Wednesdays 5:30-7:30pm.

The Little Manila Dance Collective is located at Little Manila Center, 521 E. Main St., Stockton, CA 95205.

To sign up online visit, click on “Contact Us,” include your name, your email, subject heading: Dance Collective, and a brief introductory message. Or come to the Little Manila Center at 521 E. Main St. in Stockton on Mondays at 7pm.

Follow the the Dance Collective’s and other Little Manila Foundation programs on social media – Instragram: @littlemanilastockton, Facebook – Little Manila’s Dance Collective, Little Manila After School Program, and Little Manila Foundation.

For any questions about the Dance Collective or to have students from the Dance Collective perform at your community or private event in the Central Valley, email

(SF November 14, 2014 SF Magazine pg.2)

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