From The Asian Reporter, V26, #20 (October 17, 2016), page 7.
Filipino heritage in great sorrow and great joy
It wonít take you long into a performance of Philippines Historama to arrive
at a deeply painful and simply beautiful understanding of the tough and tender
peoples of the Philippine archipelago. It takes me about the same time, not
long, to see and feel the same way about Filipinos when I stay in their beloved
homeland. The same is abundantly obvious when either you or I visit any Pinoy
family in their warm American home.
The conclusion we reach is: These folks have suffered so much, so long. And
in equal opposite amount, these families seem to celebrate just as much, so
"Howís that even possible?" you have to ask yourself. After centuries of
cruel mismanagement by imperial Spain, then by the United States, then by Japan;
after 70 years of independence marked by alternating cycles of great idealism
and bad governance ó how can Filipino optimism still be so present? But then, on
second thought, maybe humbling personal sorrow balanced by infectious communal
joy, are actually essential if a people are going to stay healthy and happy.
Sure it is. And sure they are.
Celebrating national Filipino American History Month
Carmelita Salonga Tapia, founding producer and director of Philippines
Historama: A Celebration of Filipino Heritage, answers this central question
simply. "I am a Filipino. Take me for what I am," she says proudly. "Take me for
what I am because of this history." Sheís been saying so over four years of west
coast touring with the cast and crew of Historama, out of her new home grounds
of Victoria, B.C.
Madam Carmelita will be saying it again during Historamaís single evening
performance on Saturday, October 29 at downtown Salemís historic Elsinore
Theatre. Her all-volunteer production team of more than 44 artists, technicians,
and civic activists are sponsored by Oregon Filipino community elders Jaime J.
Lim and Dory Osilla-Lim, as a proud centerpiece to national Filipino American
The U.S. congress recognized the month of October as Filipino American
History Month in 2009, following the Filipino American National Historical
Societyís 1988 declaration of Filipino American History Month. Portlandís City
Council made the same official proclamation earlier this year.
Salemís performance will begin with an homage to the island nationís
indigenous peoples, followed by short plays, song and dance numbers representing
the arrival of Chinese and Muslim merchants and settlers; the arrival of Spanish
armies and priests; the successive struggles against ruling Spaniards, occupying
Japanese and Americans. Historama then continues on to the excesses of the
Marcos era; the sudden assassination of opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy"
Aquino; then the national optimism of President Maria Corazon "Cory" Cojuangco-Aquinoís
"Future generations will know"
Historama producer Carmelita Salonga Tapia says she is deeply indebted to her
co-writer, Philippines historian, national labor and trade attachť attorney
Bernie Julve for the historical fidelity as well as the steady reassurance he
provided in the development of the Philippines Historama project.
It is a Filipino community commitment reinforced by Jaime Lim and Dory Osilla-Lim,
by the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon (PACCO), and the
Council of Filipino American Associations (CFAA) of Oregon and Southwest
Washington ó all of them providing the local leadership necessary to bringing
their precious history to town.
"Philippines Historama is about portraying Philippine history so that our
present and future generations will know and remember our past," says Manong
Jaime. "Today, most millennials donít even know about the dictatorship that
Marcos inflicted on the Filipino people, because most textbooks teaching our
youth have not updated our history for 30 years." Those were 30 intense years.
And thatís a lot of history lost to Filipinos, to Americans and Filipino
It wonít take anyone long into Saturday nightís Historama performance to
arrive at a deeply felt understanding of the tough and tender peoples of the
It is a history of misrule by imperial outsiders and arrogant insiders. And
yet, all these excesses notwithstanding, the Filipino story is also one of
irrepressible idealism, responsive and responsible leadership.
Unspeakable sorrow balanced by contagious communal joy, itís all there ó itís
in Philippines Historama: A Celebration of Filipino Heritage, itís in the
Republic of the Philippines, itís evident in every last Pinoy household of the
Great Filipino Diaspora.
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