For their annual Culture Night this past Saturday, the Filipino-American Student Association performed a play entitled “Tatlong Daan, Isang Biyahe: Three Paths, One Journey,” exploring the theme of Filipino-American assimilation into modern society. The two-act play, filled with a number of traditional and modern-fusion Filipino dances, follows the interconnected stories of three people: Mae Kalinawan (played by senior Jen Tan), her brother Tony (sophomore Steven Enriquez), and Diego (senior Josiah Peterson), Tony’s former best friend. The primary figure and narrator of the play is Mae, who runs a Filipino cultural center in New York City.
p. Lately, Mae has been bogged down both at work and at home. With the former, she’s been trying to make ends meet by writing a proposal for badly needed grant money, while also preparing the choreography for a young community member named Michelle, who will make her debut in a traditional coming-of-age celebration at the Center. At home, she has to deal with both a distant, disapproving father and an aloof brother who is absorbed by his law studies and a looming ROTC service commitment. Diego is thrown in the mix as a man who had a falling out with Tony in high school and has since fallen in with a bad crowd. Nevertheless, he is doing everything he can to care for his sickly grandmother, Lola Ising, played by senior Danielle Espino.
p. While the plot unfolded with a number of foreseeable twists (like Lola Ising’s sudden worsening of health) and commonplace character dynamics (like the romance that builds between Mae and Diego), the production was held together by the colorful and sometimes intense dances scattered throughout the play. There was “Traditional Tinkling,” the national dance of the Philippines, where the performers carefully jumped between snapping bamboo poles. This maneuver served as an integral element to many of the night’s dances and, for one dance, was fused into a modern, hip hop-themed version, which made for an exciting pairing.
p. The highlight, however, was when the debutante Michelle, played by junior Maera Busa, made her first appearance toward the end of the play. The bamboo poles were deftly navigated by an ornately dressed Michelle, who was garbed in traditional Filipino clothing, as she simultaneously whipped fans around her body and maintained a dignified countenance. As the pace of the music increased, several other performers also made their way through the bamboo poles and joined in the dance. Though followed by a hip-hop finale and senior dance, this stylish routine was a vibrant peak for the production.
p. FASA’s Culture Night came together well. Despite some of the play’s cliches, it was an enjoyable event. Even when some of the more serious exchanges between characters fell flat or were strained, a consistent rapport between the actors and audience mitigated any theatrical awkwardness. The play was followed by a dinner that featured a number of delicious traditional Filipino dishes and desserts — a fitting way to end a night which celebrated the dynamic and varied traditions of the Philippines.