By RAQUEL BERNAL-CRISOSTOMO
ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
The Bayanihan Dance Company proved that folk dancing is still a part of the Filipino when the group returned to Brussels for a gala performance marking its 50th year since its first international show.
The occasion marked five decades of successful performances before fellow Filipinos and an international audience.
The Bayanihan Dance Company awed the Filipino community, Europeans and members of the diplomatic corps with their heart-pounding dances such as Bangko, Tinikling, Singkil and Pandanggo sa Ilaw.
With the group’s graceful interpretation of the Philippines’ popular dances, Bayanihan captured the hearts of the Europeans in the audience.
But even with endless recognition, the dance company believes that reaching out to fellow kababayans is worth more than any prestigious award they have received.
In an interview with Suzie Moya-Benitez, executive director of Bayanihan, she emphasized that apart from international awards and citations, its role in promoting Philippine history thru dances remains the group’s greatest achievement.
"The biggest achievement of Bayanihan is to be able to bring cultural heritage of Filipinos to the world where we are able to tell the story of the Filipinos and the Philippines, and people of other nationalities are able to appreciate this. That also makes every Filipino proud of his own heritage. At least, his sense of identity is established", she said.
She also hopes that the younger generation will be more appreciative of folk dances compared with trendy and novelty dances.
"I hope more young people will look at traditional folk dances and see the beauty of their own culture and the beauty of the Philippines," she added.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Cristina Ortega of the Philippine embassy in Brussels explained that the embassy is more than committed to doing its share in helping Europeans better understand Philippine culture.
"Whenever we celebrate Philippine Independence Day,we want the culture of the Philippines to be highlighted and for the Belgians and Europeans to see this. I also want that it will be shown in Brussels because I also want Filipinos in Belgium to see it so they will be proud of their culture again", she said.
In 1958, responding to the request of then President Ramon Magsaysay, the Bayanihan Dance Company represented the Philippines in the Brussels International Exposition, where it was given recognition, earned respect from critics around world and bested 13 national dance groups from other countries.
A famous American dance impresario was so impressed with Bayanihan that he decided to bring the dance company to perform in the US. In 1959, the group performed for one month in the Winter Garden in Broadway.
Since then, Bayanihan has mounted major world tours to Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, US and the Middle East. It has performed in 6 continents, 66 counties and 700 cities worldwide.