By Myra Colis
Contributors: Yvonne Belen & Christine Moncado | Photo credits: Sophie Lonogan & Sam Saad
MABIKAs Foundation, the Philippine Cordillera Connection in the Netherlands, sounded their gongs and beat them to the rhythm of merriment and pride as they officially represent the Philippines and the Philippine culture during the recently concluded Embassy Festival in The Hague on September 1, 2018. More than 60 countries were represented during the 2-day festival, which was marked by a wave of global cultures spotlighting a variety of activities in the area of music, food, art, cultural performances, and many more!
Known for its cultural diversity, the international city of The Hague is also the seat of the Dutch government and a home to the royal family, parliament, Supreme Court, and foreign national embassies (including that of the Philippines). Thanks to the recommendation of Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands, His Excellency Honorable Jaime Victor Ledda, and endorsement from the Philippine Embassy in The Hague, MABIKAs Foundation had the privilege to highlight one of the many vibrant and exotic cultures of the Philippines during this global festival of cultures by performing the Igorot dance.
In an interview with GMA News (a major national television broadcast in the Philippines), MABIKAs Founding Chairperson Myra Colis reiterated the importance of remembering one’s roots and why it matters. “To many of us who have gone abroad and left our home country for a long period of time, we tend to forget where we come from. We don’t want that to happen, that’s why we are here… and as indigenous people ourselves from the Philippine Cordillera region, we are happy and proud to be showcasing our exotic Igorot culture. That way, we keep our indigenous identity and cultural roots alive.”
Truly humbled and honoured, the MABIKAs team of performers presented a cultural dance, kicking off with an indigenous song entitled Danum (which means water in English). Performed by singer and MABIKAs constituent Mercedes Dewalan, the song speaks about freedom, comparing one’s self to a strong and mighty flow of water heading towards the sea of freedom.
Led by main gong players, Andrei Angnged and Janet Barcena, the live gong music that followed after the song number sets the sounds and rythym for the Ballangbang dance, strengthened by the beating of more gongs and accompaniment of many women dancers. Ballangbang is a popular community dance originally from the western municipalities of Mountain Province in the Philippine Cordillera region. The eastern version of it is called Pattong.
To bring the performance to an end, all women performers wearing the Benguet dress performed the Bendian community dance, as MABIKAs Foundation’s elder, Cesar Taguba, narrate what each of the 8 steps mean. The local term bendian literally means dance until you get tired.
Takeaways after the performance
Not only did the 12-minute performance sparkle interest among the international audience but it also did bring joy and delight to the performers themselves and pride to the Filipino community in the Netherlands.
As Jack Cervantes, President of the Filipino Migrant in Solidarity (FILMIS), posted on his social media channel, “We salute MABIKAs for a successful performance at the Embassy Festival! We wish more cultural groups will be formed not only in the Netherlands but also in some parts of the world to promote our unique culture as a nation.”
When asked how it feels like for the performers, MABIKAs performer Yvonne Belen felt nostalgic.
“When I heard the rhythm of the gongs on stage, it brought me back to my childhood in Bontoc Poblacion, where I used to hear these sounds coming from our village. Back then, I just watch the women dancing, but now I am the one dancing! My feet were itching to dance on stage. With my arms stretched out and feet seemingly jumping out of joy, I could have danced more if only time permits.”
To another performer, it is ‘bitin’ (a Filipino expression that when uttered means ‘I want more’).
“All I felt was contentment and positive energy,” shared Renijune Abaya, who also said that she surprised herself for being able to beat the gongs in public and in-tune with the rest. “I love what we just did, had a great time, and because of that, will keep learning more! The non-stop hopping and heeltapping may hurt and make our lower legs big and muscled, but it doesn’t matter. Besides, having big, muscled legs is already a known mark of the Igorot women.”
In the eyes of the spectators, it’s a successful performance. As photographer and MABIKAs constituent Sophie Lonogan put it, “the commitment and efforts made by all who performed the Igorot dance have apparently made it all a huge success.”
The Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands and his wife were also pleased with the Igorot dance presentation, thanking and congratulating each of the MABIKAs performers for a job well done. In return, MABIKAs Foundation re-expressed gratitude to the Ambassador and all staff of the Philippine Embassy for the opportunity to do our part in showcasing the Philippine culture here in the Netherlands and beyond.
Cheers and thanks to the organizers, PROOST!
Special thanks to PROOST, the organizer of the Embassy Festival, for this initiative to bring different countries and cultures together and have everyone appreciate and enjoy the beauty of diversity. In close cooperation with the Municipality of The Hague’s Department of International Affairs and many foreign national embassies located in The Hague, PROOST has successfully been lifting up global cultures since the beginning of the Embassy Festival celebration in September 2012.
A 3-in-1 celebration for MABIKAs Foundation
The eventful day was a fulfilling one for MABIKAs Foundation. It’s a 3-missions-accomplished-in-one day!
1. Cultural performance as contribution to the success of the Embassy Festival 2018. Done!
2. Team building activity for MABIKAs constituents. Done! (It’s an accomplishment because coming together remains a challenge due to distance- everyone comes from different parts or provinces in the Netherlands.)
3. Celebration of MABIKAs Foundation’s 2nd year anniversary with a sumptuous dinner at Full Moon Express. Done!
MABIKAs Foundation was born in 2016, when a few of indigenous people from the Philippine Cordillera region surprisingly found each other during the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day in The Hague. From the 1st to 3rd, and to 8th encounters of fellow Igorots now living in the Netherlands came the 30th, the 40th… and counting, but most importantly came the need to re-connect with one’s cultural roots and indigenous identity. The result so far is MABIKAs Foundation, the very first Igorot or Philippine Cordillera organization ever established in the Netherlands since the coming here of early Cordillerans over 30 years ago.
Moving onwards and upwards
Unified by the passion and desire to help preserve indigenous knowledge as well as to keep showcasing the beauty and diversity of the Philippine culture anywhere possible, MABIKAs Foundation has been performing Cordillera dances at its original form since its conception on the 3rd of September 2016.
The team finds it a pleasure and an honor to have been able to perform in the past celebrations of the Philippine Independence Day– both in Spaarnwoude and The Hague, also during the ARK Festival Mundial in Utrecht, Earth Day celebration in Amsterdam, the International Women’s Day celebration in Rotterdam, the recently concluded 6th Embassy Festival in The Hague… and now looking forward to more!
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