LONDON - Filipino folk troupe Lahing Kayumanggi (LK) staged sold out shows in London to celebrate their 15th year anniversary of exhibiting Philippine culture in Britain and around the world.
The event, called “Gandingan”, was an informative and entertaining concoction of traditional Filipino dance and music.
Held at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone, the show encompassed a range of customs from across the Philippine archipelago, including rituals of indigenous people, colonial influences of Spain, and the Islamic heritage of Mindanao.
Embedded within the performances are traditional scenes of hunting, fishing, courtship, marriage, agriculture, community and family life, a glimpse of the diverse social and cultural history of the country.
LK performed a variety of native dances, such as tinikling, singkil, binasuan, banga/sayap and polka, whilst wearing a string of intricate national costumes like baro’t saya, barong, bahag, tapis, malong, kimona, and kamisa de chino.
The performances were complimented by authentic-looking props, including payong (umbrellas), pamaypay (oriental fans), bilao (rice tray), bamboo sticks, and swathes of fabric.
Traditional Filipino music was also prominent from beginning to end, played beautifully by musicians from the Barranggay Folk Dance Troupe using native instruments such as folk guitars, tong-a-tong, agong, and bangkaka.
There were vocal performances of recognizable Pinoy songs, led by recording artist Ima Castro, who delivered a touching rendition of ‘Bayan Ko’, the unofficial national anthem of the Philippines as popularized by Freddie Aguilar and Lucio San Pedro, originally written as a poem by Jose Corazon de Jesus in 1929.
Creative use of light and video projection completed the audiovisual spectacle, which reflected colors of the Philippine flag, as well as images of the country’s landscape.
‘The best show ever’
The shows received standing ovations, and were attended by diverse groups of people, including Filipinos and non-Filipinos, young and old, men and women, friends and families.
The multicultural audience responded positively to the performances, with one enthusiastic viewer announcing that “it’s the best show I have ever seen.”
Another audience member also commented on the educational aspect of the show: “I didn’t know about these things when I was in the Philippines, and now I do.”
Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Antonio Lagdameo, commended the group for their efforts “to entertain and educate the viewing public with its repertoire of Philippine dances”.
He added: “LK brings the richness and vibrancy of Philippine dance traditions to life. I wish them more exciting and colorful performances in the years ahead.”
As LK celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, they received a few special messages from both the Philippines and Britain, including greetings from the Philippine Embassy in London, and the Barranggay Folk Dance Troupe in Manila.
“Each performance is a wonderful showcase of Philippine culture and tradition for Filipinos abroad to take pride and joy in their cultural heritage,” said Raul Sunico of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Beth Cinamon, director of Westminster Arts Council, also sent her greetings: “I congratulate the company for continuously pushing creative boundaries whilst retaining such a powerful connection to the historical and social aspects of Filipino culture.”
Amid the festivity and celebration, LK Dance invited the audience to join a one-minute silence to commemorate the victims of the recent Maguindanao Massacre in Southern Philippines, where over 50 people lost their lives in one the most brutal mass murders in the country’s history.
The group also dedicated their anniversary shows to the victims of the massacre, choosing to end each show with elaborate performances of traditional dances from Mindanao.
LK continues to uphold the cultural and artistic traditions of the Philippines after years of creativity and hard work. Founded in 1994, they have performed to a wide variety of audiences, venues and events around the globe.
Supported by Westminster Arts Council, the group has become one of the most-established Filipino dance troupe in Europe, with dozens of members coming from different academic and professional backgrounds including nursing, media, travel, and IT.
In 2006, they received the prestigious Banaag Award from the Philippine government, in recognition of their excellence in community work and the arts.
“We are strengthening our education program and outreach work with other cultures and continue to earn our right to be called informal ambassadors for the Philippines,” said Ronnie del Barrio, Chairman, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of LK Dance Company.
Del Barrio is also “pleased” and “happy” with their achievements so far, and he hopes to continue all the work they are doing for many years to come.