The Filipino American Student Association’s Culture Night boasted a crowd that overtook the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium March 16. The evening consisted of a student-produced play — “Sa Pagitan” — and was followed by a traditional Filipino dinner highlighted by lechon, a full roast pig, and a plethora of other dishes. Doors opened at 4:30 p.m., but the line quickly wrapped around the Center before the show began at 5:00 p.m.
Several students and performers commented on the impressive turnout as well as the program’s success. Culture Night Chair Luigi Almirante ’21 produced the program and was a key orchestrator in the selection of the actors and dances. Almirante was thoroughly impressed with the final result.
“Getting to see some of the scenes from the audience, I was amazed by how well the actors did,” Almirante said. “All the hard work we’ve done the past four months definitely paid off.”
The English translation of “Sa Pagitan” is “the between.” The program dealt with the complex intersectionality of Filipino Americans. Such intersectionality has been a prevalent theme throughout many of the College’s productions this year. In the performance, main characters Adel Bituin and Mahalia Montgomery faced many adversities in their own lives and challenged their own identities as Filipino Americans, giving new perspective to audience members.
Audience members included FASA alumni and students — some of whom struggle with finding their own spaces within the in-between.
“Having the main character be mixed is very interesting, I am also mixed so I feel like I can relate a lot to that,” Megumi Matsuda-Riveio ’22 said. “[‘Sa Pagitan’] touch[es] on the whole subject of having too much culture or not enough, which I feel like is a lens that is not talked about enough.”
Megumi, alongside Brenda Henriquez ’22, came to watch Megumi’s roommate and other close friends perform. Both women claimed to be thoroughly impressed with the outcome of the months of hard work.
“‘Sa Pagitan’ touches a lot of themes that I am passionate about, especially how it documents the documentation of college students,” Henriquez said. “It is an interesting way to display [the issues] in a play, rather than just dances and speeches.”
Almirante and FASA have been working on the production since the spring of last year. During Culture Night, the club centers its focus on underclassman performances, which are typically organized by the FASA’s senior members.
“I have an acting and dancing role, but last year I was the culture night co-chair,” Ahlexus Bailey ’20 said. “Having this experience being behind the lines and not actually planning anything has been a lot different, but still very rewarding.”
Bailey reflected on the months spent rehearsing for the performance. While FASA hosts many events throughout the year, Bailey believes that the production of Culture Night is what knits the club closest together.
“Seeing everyone come together through this production has been one of the most amazing things to see while I have been here,” Bailey said. “I think it’s one of the best bonding experiences our club can have.”
Club member Brendan Boylan ’19 has spent his past years at the College as an active member of FASA. Last year, Boylan was on the executive board for Culture Night’s production, which focused on the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
“I was really involved last year; I was on the executive board, but this is my last culture night, and hoorah with the club, so I always sing the Filipino national anthem and have a lot of fun,” Boylan said. “This year, the production mainly involved the freshman and sophomores, and they put on an amazing show and are talking about issues that really matter to people in our community and to the wider country.”
According to several audience members, the performance’s overall message was heartfelt —whether they identified as Filipino-American or not.
“It shows the struggles of a culture are just as culturally relevant to history as it is today,” Noah Pelleetier ’22 said. “I thought it was really cool and very well done.”
Pelleetier was in attendance with roommate Clay McCollum ’22.
“I thought [‘Sa Pagitan’] was really cool. I enjoyed the dancing and am definitely going to enjoy the food now,” McCollum said.
Concluding the program, attendees and audience members mingled over a classic Filipino dinner of pancit, lumpia, adobo and lechon. Performers were adorned in flowers and served guests while chatting about the success of the program as well as the relief they felt that it had come together as well as it did.
“I thought it was amazing, I think it was the best Culture Night production thus far,” Almirante said.
According to students, the struggle of having either too little or too much culture is more prevalent than we realize, and it is performances like “Sa Pagitan” that bring these issues to light and teach us how to best address them.