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Talking Story 
by Polo


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 often.

"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 History Month.

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 years.

"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 Americans.

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 Philippine archipelago.

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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