With Filipino-American History Month celebrations underway across the United States, the 26th Annual Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) once again brought the Los Angeles Fil-Am community together in celebration of Filipino and Fil-Am culture through the arts.
Presented by the Association for the Advancement of Filipino American Arts and Cultures (FilAm ARTS), the festival took place on Saturday, October 14 and featured over 50 Fil-Am artists, performers, and culinary vendors at the Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles.
“Are we proud to be Pinoys?” asked Black Eyed Peas’ Fil-Am member Apl.de.ap before his set on the main stage.
Titled SalinLahi (bridging generations), this year’s festival theme looked to bring together people from all ages in reconnecting with Philippine culture through music, food, and the arts.
“It’s reminding the new generation where they came from — from the food, the culture… What it means to be Pinoy,” Apl. de.ap told the Asian Journal.
“Pinoys are very family oriented, so we like to keep it together in community, and represent our culture,” he added.
Throughout the festival grounds were pavilions curated to provide attendees with hands-on activities.
At the Youth Pavilion, young festival goers (in age and at heart) got in touch with Philippine culture through stories, music, martial arts, dances, and games like pabitin.
Participants got basic tinikling dance lessons from the Filipino Cultural School, and got a chance to create traditional Maguindanaon sounds during the kulintang workshop led by the Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble.
Kids also had fun trying some moves of the Philippine National Martial Art and Sport, eskrima (also known as arnis or kali), with PaaMano Eskrima — rather than using the usual sticks, kids used pool noodles.
Gathering a crowd in the balisong booth were the balisong zippers who showed off their knife spinning skills. The winner was pronounced the Balifornia 2017 Champion.
For the rest time, FPAC also had a Wellness Pavilion. There, festival early birds participated in a morning mile walk or run, did some yoga stretches with Salamat Yoga, and got tips on how to adapt traditional Filipino wellness practices into their modern lifestyles with skincare company Herbalaria.
Being that FPAC is an arts’ gathering, festival attendees were able to look and purchase works by local Filipino artists at the Pilipino Artists Network (PAN) Pavilion.
Painter, illustrator, and designer Eza Barbosa, who goes by Eza Cheeza, had a table display of handmade Philippine ethnic-inspired jewelry, prints, and a vibrant portrait painting of the world famous Whang-od, who is the Philippines’ oldest tattoo artist and last of the mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist).
“A lot of inspiration comes from self knowledge and self awareness — digging into my cultural roots and finding about who I am,” Barbosa told the Asian Journal.
Barbosa, who was born in the Philippines but grew up in the U.S., used art to connect with where she came from and saw the festival as a platform for helping others do the same.
LA-based photographer Francis Gum whose fashion editorial photos of colorfully dressed models aboard an equally colorful jeepney, caught the eyes of many festival goers who were attracted to the photos’ traditional yet modern aesthetics.
“The whole team was Filipi- no,” Gum told the Asian Journal. Inspired by the concept of bayanihan which refers to the Filipino custom of helping each other out, Gum looked to use an all Filipino team from its fashion designers, wardrobe stylists, and models.
“These people I worked with, including me, are the new generations of Filipinos and we’re appreciative of our culture,” said Gum.
Other FPAC pavilions were the Literary Pavilion which featured works and performances of written and spoken talents, and of course, the Culinary Pavilion which had over 15 different Filipino food options from Benaddictz, Grublife, Kapamilya Restaurant, Stoked! BBQ, and the Ensaymada Project, among others.
Throughout the years, FPAC has featured many special guests like comedian Rex Navarrete (2002), Filipino rapper Bambu (2008), and Filipino opera singer Rodell Rosel (1994) to name a few.
Richie Menchavez, this year’s FPAC stage programming director and founder of TRAKTIVIST, wanted to not only provide entertainment for all generations, but to include up-and-coming talents who are paving new roads for Fil-Ams in music and aren’t often heard in heritage celebrations.
“I was extremely excited about this year’s group of performers because I believe they truly represent this year’s theme of SalinLahi or ‘Bridging Generations,’” said Menchavez.
He added, “The incredible talents ranged from traditional forms of dance, music, and martial arts, to the funky sounds of Manila Disco all while showcasing creatives in hip hop, r&b, pop, electronic, OPM (Original Pilipino Music), comedy, and even magic.”
This year’s famous headliners included singer Jessica Reynoso from “The Voice Philippines,” Los Angeles Laker shooting guard Jordan Clarkson, and Black Eyed Peas’ member Apl. de.ap who also performed at last year’s FPAC.
“I’m going to keep representing LA and the Filipino community,” Clarkson told attendees who packed the stage area.
Clarkson’s Filipina mother and grandmother (whom he called lola) went up on stage wearing Jordan Clarkson fan club t-shirts.
Jessica Reynoso, who wowed the coaches of “The Voice Philippines” with her rendition of “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys in the show’s first season, did so again on the FPAC main stage with her cover of Keys’ song “If I Ain’t Got You.”
“Who else here speaks tagalog?” asked Reynoso.
The singer, who moved to the U.S. a year ago, showcased her bilingual Tagalog and English speaking skills, before singing a sample of the classic tagalog song “Dahil Sa Iyo.”
On the final song of her set, Reynoso took a lucky audience member’s phone and captured a selfie video of herself performing.
Perhaps the most awaited performer for all age groups was Black Eyed Peas’ member Apl. de.ap, who started his set with a very relatable question.
“Is there any palabok left? I’m kind of hungry right now,” said Apl.de.ap jokingly.
The first song on his setlist was his 2016 Philippine Tourism Campaign song appropriately titled “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” which listed off many of the country’s cities.
Apl.de.ap, who has long been active in the Fil-Am community, encouraged audience members to visit the Philippines.
“You’ve got to see the Philippines and its beauty,” Apl.de.ap later told the Asian Journal.
“You have to see it and feel it, and then it gives you ideas,” he added.
Other favorite songs included in his setlist needed no introduction as crowd members immediately lit up at the songs’ first sounds.
Whether it was the Tagalog song “Bebot” or the English song “Where is the Love,” audience members of different age groups sang along to every word.
“I’m really thankful that our message still resonates for even the next generation. I’m very thankful that our message is still coming across,” Apl.de.ap told the Asian Journal on the timeless songs, especially “Where is the Love.”
For his final song, Apl.de.ap, along with other performers and special appearances, sang and danced along to the Black Eyed Peas’ party anthem “I’ve Got a Feeling.”
Other main stage performers included DJ Virman of Far East Movement, Kronika of Selection, Bella Fiasco, Joel Quizon from Disco Manila, and Anatalia Villaranda from the “The Voice” U.S. Season 12, among many others.
The five awardees at this year’s FPAC were the Pilipino Workers Center (Community Service Award), LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis (Public Service Award), Philippine Expressions Bookshop (Literary Award), the late Martial Arts Guru Richard Bustillo (Excellence in Arts), and NBC show “Grimm” actor Reggie Lee (Excellence in Arts).
Accepting Bustillo’s award was his wife Mary Bustillo, to whom Richard was married to for 57 years before his passing in March.
“He was so proud of his heritage,” said Mary. “He always wanted to promote the Filipino arts all over the world.”
Upon receiving the festival’s final award, Lee shared a few encouraging words at his first FPAC experience.
“We live in a time that is kind of fraught with political turmoil, with natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, and terrible acts of violence,” said Lee.
“There’s never a better time to come together than now as a community — as a Filipino community — to heal. And one way we can do that is through the arts.”