a weaving of digital media, visual art, and embodied storytelling by four collaborating Filipino-American artists
Tagong Yaman is a choreographic and curatorial work by Anito Gavino, supported by MAPfund Grant 2020 and Painted Bride. This was performed at an old grocery store in West Philadelphia, which turned into a makeshift performance and gallery space. The space itself simulated an anthropological museum gallery: altars of ancestors and unsung heroes were displayed, holiday lanterns made by Filipino-identifying community members hung on the storefront window, and collaged images of the Philippines printed in textiles were exhibited. This is a two-woman act that undertakes the journey of a Filipina mother asking, How can a mother pass culture to a child growing up in America? The duet interweaving dance, song, film, and poetry, performed by Gavino and her daughter, Malaya Ulan investigates the historical erasures of the Filipino consciousness due to colonization, indoctrination, and migration. Through comedy, dance theater, jazz, contemporary, and folk dance modalities, Anito journeyed down the memory lane of childhood.... remembering joy, laughter, dancing, barkada (friendship), and tsismis (oral history but can also mean gossip).
Meet The Team
Multidisciplinary movement artist, Director, Choreographer, community organizer
This project began in 2019 after the success of Patawili, another performance installation I presented with the support of the Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists and Asian Arts Initiative and Leeway art for change grant 2019. Patawili was inspired by a Panayanon indigenous practice of gathering after a harvest with music, dance, and food. The reimagined Panayanon ritual became Patawili, a performance installation merging a communal breaking of bread, films played on a loop, poster installation of lost gods and goddesses, song, dance, and prayer. Over 100 Filipino/API community members attended the performance. In this process, I realized, stories shape how we see ourselves and how we place ourselves in the world. So many Filipino-Americans are disconnected from the stories of our ancestors, of our motherland. Instead of seeing mirrors of ourselves in society we get fed white-centered stories. Aspects within Patawili challenge these dominant narratives. I danced the story of Bighari, who lost her path to home, similar to how Filipino/a/x migrants lose their identities, traditional rituals and pride due to acculturation (identity loss in the process of assimilation).
The performance made me see the need for first-generation Filipinos to connect to ancestral culture often erased due to assimilation. Soon after, I received my very first MAPfund grant. Unfortunately, the pandemic brought my original vision to a halt, and thus, I had to reimagine what a community-engaged performance would look like. I took this time to interview fellow scholars and activists on the West Coast, Dr. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, KulArts director Alleluia Panis, Parangal Dance Director Eric Solano, Jay Carlon, and Christine Ferrer. I dug into the writing of Carlos Bulosan's, America's in Heart, E.J.R. David's Brown Skin, White Minds , Jose D. Fermin's 1904 Worlds Fair, the Filipino Experience. I learned of the many ways Filipino resistance in the US intertwined with the Black experience and communities throughout history, a solidarity often not talked about. Thus, choosing to present in West Philadelphia, a Black community where we reside and are in the community, is the best location to speak to this ART-ivism.
Since 2019, Malaya and I have been accumulating poems (thank you, Velocity Fund, for supporting this). We then created our own take on choreopoems inspired by "For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf" by Ntozake Shange. Some of the poems we use in the performance come from her ELA ( English and Language Arts) project assignments and some from her poetry book ala Audre Lorde's books of essays and poems. We used these methods in 2021's Philadelphia Fringe Festival performance, Nanay, a performance honoring Filipino mothers and our struggles post-migration.
Mic and I met at Patawili, after seeing my posts on Instagram. After that, we were instant kaibigan, instant kapwa. As Filipino mother artists, we also found commonality of wanting to be seen within the arts arena. She has invited me to collaborate with her especially on her work with NExSE in bringing forward the sampaguita flowers made of Manila Paper. It was lovely to bring her sampaguita project into Tagong Yaman.
Brandon and I met during his preparation of his own art show at Marginal Utility Gallery called Coconut Palace and a Bamboo Mansion. Since then, we have become instant pamilya here in Philadelphia. We check in weekly, go to Asian American events, and have even travelled together to the motherland.
This past summer, Brandon, Malaya, Kidlat and I went back to the motherland. We spent time with a young boy named Patrick who we met on the streets of Intramuros. We took him to the anthropology museum, lunch, and shopping. During our "field trip" he kept saying we have so many hidden treasures or Tagong Yaman.
He is a hidden treasure, an epitome of that Filipino childlikeness, genuineness, openness, curiosity, kindness, and joy amidst struggle and poverty. Our experience with him glued the essence of this production...is this even a production?
We dipped into the mud and planted rice with rice farmers, experiencing what our ancestors were called to do... experiencing the labor that initially took us to the West Coast of the US as migrant farm laborers, the Manongs, and to Hawaii, the Sagayans. Farming tells us that our will and action will reap abundance and benefits, however, why is it now perceived as less than? Why are we removing oursleves from our indigenous ways of living? Why are we diminishing the power of cultivating our own natural resources?
When we came back to the US, we began to lean on community, ancestral memory, healing, and joy. We began to question care and process within art making.
What is community? What is growing up like in the motherland?
What is contentment? What is remembering ancestral wisdom?
What is anticolonial anti-capitalist community engaged work like? What is Filipino-American? What is support? How does art-making bring together community and healing? How can we be authentic and not be a buzzword or a categorical box in an identity checklist? How can we pass on stories to the next generations? How do listen to past stories when there's no one passing the stories to us? How do we undo the whiteness embedded in us after generations of assimilation as a survival method. The questions go on and one.
Mic Diño Boekelmann, Ani|Malayaworks, and Brandon Aquino Straus will be collaboratively activating the Painted Bride Art Center’s new space. Their work is unified by a shared Filipino American heritage. In Tagong Yaman [Hidden Treasures in Tagalog], the history of the performance venue’s new building comes full circle.
BRANDON AQUINO- STRAUS
The site is a former grocery store turned into a shoe store and now a community art space. Filipino American Multimedia Artist Brandon Aquino Straus has created a temporary installation within the space that draws inspiration from the Sari Sari, which in the Philippines is the corner store where daily essentials and packaged foods can be found. It is the Southeast Asian version of the bodega or convenience store. Familiar products have been scaled up to unreal proportions and are projected throughout the space. The package designs have been altered with messages of solidarity, strength and humor. Brand names have been replaced with jokes, protest signs, and familial wisdom– ultimately inviting the viewer to examine the ways that we interact with the agro-industrial complex. The installation serves as an interactive stage for the performance of Ani|Malayaworks.
Filipino American contemporary artist Mic Diño Boekelmann takes the iconic golden Manila envelope, a mundane office supply, and transforms it into organic paper sculptures. The envelopes, originally made with Manila Hemp/Abaca which comes from a native banana plant of the Philippines, is an ninvitation to discover the multi-layers of home. At the Painted Bride space, they will take on the form of the Sampaguita or Jasmine, the national flower of the Philippines, which is commonly sold as garlands. They will be used throughout the space to welcome guests and as an offering, symbolizing affection, pureness and divine hope.
Multidisciplinary artist, choreographer, and storyteller, Anito Gavino collaborates with her poet, filmmaker, and dancer daughter, Malaya Ulan in unpacking identity loss for Filipino Americans. Together, they collaborate as Ani/MalayaWorks in an embodied storytelling of joy and resistance.
Recognizing that the body is a container and transmitter of memories, they connect to ancestral memories, call upon indigenous dance rhythms and create new ones authentic to their Filipino-American experience. They will begin the performance with co-participatory tasks such as parol-making (Filipino lanterns made and displayed during the holiday season) led by Anito’s dad who created a How To video before his passing in August 2022. Malaya Ulan will lead a writing of I AM poems, written to distant family and friends (perhaps imagined ones or relatives we have never met). Each letter will be dropped into a BalikBayan Box to the Philippines. ( Balikbayan box is a corrugated box containing items sent by overseas Filipinos known as "balikbayans"). This will lead into experimental forms of storymaking, shadow play, dance, drama, communal dance as a practice of archiving our often untold memories.
This research-to-performance process began with a MAPfund proposal which received funding in 2019. This three year process involved research interviews of Filipino American artists on the West Coast such as Dr. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Alleluia Panis, Eric Solano, and more. Another part of their methodology is to read Filipino written academic books such as Jose D. Fermin’s 1904 St. Louis Exposition, E.J.R. David’s Brown Skin, White Minds and Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, all three unpacking the reasons for migration from the Philippines to the US. They engaged in dialogic methods with family members in the homeland, and formed new familial relationships with Filipino/a/x artists in the East Coast, such as the artists they collaborated with in this multidisciplinary performance, Tagong Yaman.
The Program Notes
3:00- 4:30: Participatory and experiential installations; Samahan at niraranas na "installation"
Installation 1: Performance Stage Filipino /Tanghalang Pilipino
Located at the store front window are Filipino-Americans doing mundane things such as looking through cellphones, reading a book, dancing to music etc. Here we confront and question our audience what its like to perform our Filipino-ness especially when Filipino is not a monolith. Because Filipino-Americans suffer from erasure brought about about a binary Amerikkka, we find ways to display our complex stories, our loss, confusion, and celebration. We reflect upon St. Louis exposition and what that was like for Filipino's to be brought to the US to be displayed as human zoos in the many World Fairs.
Sa bintana, makikita natin ang mga Pilipino-Amerikano na gumaganagana, tumitinging sa cellphone, nagbabasas, sumasayaw, at iba pa. Hinaharap natin at tinatangon ang manonood kung paano ba natin ginaganap ang pagiging Pilipino, lalo na kung magkakaiba ang bawat Pilipino. Dahil binubura tayo sa Amerika, humanap kami ng oportunidad na itanghal ang aming kuwento, ang kalituhan at ang katuwaan. Iniisip namin ang mga tribong dinala sa Estados Unidos upang gumanap na "human zoo"... parong hayop sa zoo .....sa St. Louis Exposition.
Installation 2: Anitohan /Portal to Spirits
This installation refers to altars found in many Filipino households, some families display idols of the European religions, but some maintain indigenous rituals trying to connect to ancestors by displaying their photos and offering food or Itang in the Ilocano culture. Mic Diño Boekelmann takes the iconic golden Manila envelope, a mundane office supply, and transforms it into organic paper sculptures. The envelopes, originally made with Manila Hemp/Abaca which comes from a native banana plant of the Philippines, is an invitation to discover the multi-layers of home. At the Painted Bride space, they will take on the form of the Sampaguita or Jasmine, the national flower of the Philippines, which is commonly sold as garlands. They will be used throughout the space to welcome guests and as an offering, symbolizing affection, pureness and divine hope. Mic's work will merge with Malaya' Ulan's painting on a rice winnowing basket, the Bilao.
Dito sa Altar, makikita natin ang mga pag-aalay kagaya ng mga European idolo na dala ng mga Kristyano, dito mayroong sinang-unang pagaalay-mga litrato ng ating ninunong naglaban sa mga resistenya. Mayroon ding pag-aalay ng pagkain o atang. Sa altar ay inaaly ni Mic Dino Boekellman ang kanyang arte- mga samgagita gawa ng Manila paper, isang papel na galing sa puno ng saging at tintawag din na Abaka. And samgauita ay ang national na bulaklak ng Pilipinas at binibigay alay sa mga bisita upang maghandog ng pag-ibig, kadalisayan at pag-asa. Ang handog ni Mic ay magsasama-sama sa alay ni Malaya, mga painting sa Bilao.
Manila folders were originally crafted out of the yellowish-brown fiber from a type of plantain called Abaca plant or “Manila Hemp” found only in the Philippines. The stout fiber was also nicely woven into cordage called “Manila rope” and fashioned into “matting” and “Manila hats.This plant and manila fibers made the Philippines known in the international market in the early 1700s to 1900s through the exporting of this valued material. Later because of its durability, it was discovered that they could also be used to create thicker and more hard-wearing types of paper. So, manila envelopes, initially, were as heavy as cardboard when they were first commercially manufactured in the 1800s. No longer plantain-based, the manila folders and envelopes we use today are made of heavy tan paper, designed to evoke the natural color of the versatile plantain fiber."(Blogcrunch, 2019)
Atang (food offering) is an indigenous ritual for the dead in the Northern Philippines. The Atang ritual is thought to be a part of the cultural and religious contexts of the Ilocano people (Jeff Clyde Corpuz, 2020). Anthropologically speaking, atang offers an interesting similarity between Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrated in Mexico and in other Latin American countries and the veneration of ancestors celebrated in China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. The essence of atang is the claim that there is communication between the living and the dead. Steadman, Palmer & Tilley (1996) claimed the “universality” of 114 ancestor worship. Sociologically speaking, atang provides a deeper and continuous bond between the living and the dead. The hybridity of such beliefs allows them to be transposed, incorporated, and materialized into different rituals, practices and socialization (Beck, Bolender, Brown & Earle, 2007; Bourdieu, 1977; Sewell, 1992)
The Bilao is a round and shallow basket tray traditionally made of bamboo splits (used for winnowing rice or carrying food). In this installation, Malaya Ulan painted memories of the Philippines on this basket.
The first painting is of a bangka. Bangka is an indigenous Philippine boat originated from the ancestral canoes of the Austronesian peoples, which themselves evolved from catamarans (Mahdi, Waruno 1999). The geographical span of Austronesian was the largest of any language family before the spread of Indo-European in the colonial period. It ranged from Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa to Easter Island in the eastern Pacific. Hawaiian, Rapa Nui, Māori, and Malagasy (spoken on Madagascar) are the geographic outliers. Thus, this painting symbolizes our connection to Africa and neighboring Pacific islands before the fragmentation and Nationhood created by the colonial oppressors.
The second painting is of a sungka. Sungka is a game that is played in the Philippines by passing cowry shells into each hole in this carved wooden piece. Sungka is believed to date back to around BC 1400 and are thought to be the oldest games in the world seen in the Asian and African diaspora. Malaya's lolo taught her how to play the sungka. He passed last August 15, 2021. He is with the ancestors now, hopefully still enjoying a game of sungka.
The third painting is of community.This depicts how we come from a Baranggay culture (village) and live within the ideas of Kapwa (come together in unity and shared identity).
The fourth painting is of a Bahay Kubo. The Bahay Kubo is a national shelter indigenous in Philippines, a pre-Hispanic shelter created to adapt to the tropical climate. The materials are all made of nature such as anahaw, nipa and bamboo. Natural breeze enters the home without a need for electric fans or air conditioning. Artificial temperature changing devices that requires electricity and therefore, money came after colonialism specifically the United States and its capitalistic ideologies. The Bahay Kubo requires us to work hand and hand with nature.
Installation 3: Parol Making
In the Philippines, we celebrate the holidays by decorating our houses with lanterns in the shape of a star. The word paról is the modern Filipino spelling of the original Spanish name farol, meaning "lantern" Parols are traditionally constructed using bamboo and Japanese paper, and are illuminated with candles, oil lamps, or carbide lamps (Villanueva, George 2013).
4:30-5:30: a 2 woman show (mother-daughter) + community
Dalawang babae (mag-ina) at kapwa
This is a mother daughter storytelling of past, present, and future Filipino/a/x experiences in the homeland and abroad. Anchored from Malaya Ulan's poetry, we devised movements inspired from Ntozake Shange's work of using autoethnographic poetry as script. We used embodied research to archive sounds, gestures, lost histories, and new evolving histories. We collaborate with Brandon's digital work and images of his own memories of the homeland.
Lyrics to the song:
Ili ili tulog (Rock a bye baby, sleep now)
Wala diri imo nanay (your mom is not here)
Kadto Tienda (went to the market)
Bakal Papay (to buy bread)
Iliili tulog anay (Rock a bye baby, sleep now)
I chose this song because I sang this as the eldest cousin amongst the cousins, reminding me of how we function as a village, we care for our young. We don't keep to the insular mother, father, child family structure. Titas and Titos (aunties and uncles),Kuya at Ate (older siblings and cousins) are all part of the caregiving of a child.
by Malaya Ulan
The rain feels like a light mist. Coating my skin- silky, cool, salty tears. The rain pours drenching my skin, absorbing my body. It cradles me. Comforts me. Covers me. It masks the tears that soak my flesh, washing away the salty ocean into a river.
Ulan is warm in the Philippines. Ulan is joyful. Soaring through the clouds as it crashes to the ground. Soaring into my soul, pouring itself into me, replacing the pain. Yet, Ulan is fierce and angry. Ulan battles the strong coconut trees. Shredding homes and life. Yet, Ulan is life. Ulan streams into us. It's water cascading down waterfalls. Flooding into oceans. Watering life with its very being.
My name is Malaya Ulan, yet Malaya Ulan is someone I need to become. Not someone I am. I am not Malaya, free. I do not soar or pour myself into others like Ulan. I am like ice. Frozen, restrained, foreign to the Philippines. Yet, I am growing. My wings… defrosting. Ready to become- Me.
Poetic essay for Tagong Yaman film
In 1887, Jose Rizal wrote the novel Noli Me Tangere, a novel that inspired the Katipeneros to revolt against Spain after 400 years of oppression. In this realistic fictional novel, he created characters that represented Filipino society and one of them is Sisa.
Sisa was raped by the highly respected priest, Padre Damaso. She was lured by the promise of religious freedom and spiritual salvation only to find herself a victim . With this, she also lost her sons, Crispin and Basilio to the Spanish government. They were children imprisoned for stealing from a church’s coffers.
Many mothers lose their children to the system. Many mothers loss their children to the illusion of a better life abroad. Many mothers loss their children to the pull of the American dollar. My mother lost me to our oppressors, the US when I left 2000, disconnected to land, I never realized what consequences there was for me and later, for my daughter. I was my mother’s Crispin, Basilio.
Rizal saw trauma before we even had a word for it. I think about Gregoria De Jesus, our revolutionary leader who fought hand in hand with Andres Bonifacio against Spain. She too was raped but this time by a kapwa, a fellow Filipino fighter who sided with the colonists. I think about the generations of women after them, stored in our DNA contains abuse fused with resiliency and power. I think about myself as a mother raising a young Filipina in the land of my own oppressors.
Denying myself of this truth will not ground me. Denying myself of this uncomfortability will not set me free or prepare me to mother and empower. It will steer me away from my shadows…running away…lost, confused, floating, assimilating, never knowing what safety means. Never knowing what self-knowing means. Never knowing what home means.
by Malaya Ulan
Melodic sounds, faint in my memory. Words are not words but lyrics of a Philippine anthem. A language I could have spoken. A language I should speak. My vocabulary is limited.
Songs on replay for hours hoping for a miracle. Hoping to understand.
Why didn’t I learn? Why didn’t I try? I learn the language of our colonizers before I learn our own. I learn the language that twists my name that's like the free Philippine Eagle into a cage that holds me tight. I learn and I speak the language that prokes, probes, picks, punctures, penetrates, and pierces my ears. Learning, relearning, unlearning, relearning, unlearning, learning.
Dear God I hope this isnt my path
This is a trap to a never ending wrath
After decades, its crystal clear
Days turned into years, and I'm still here
A dream turned in a nightmare, thinking there's nothing else out there
I dreamt of America
I made a home with no stars
when I used look up, I could see what could have been Mars
and now, home is simple a vacation
my lineage gone through castration
chasing what its like to be liberated
5:30- 6+ : Karaoke and community writing (Saturday), Filipino food + talkback/tsismis/question and answer/debrief (Sunday)