‘Beyond Time,’ Beyond Expectations: Kapatirang Pilipino’s 25th Cultural Night

Gustavo Gonzalez/Staff Photographer

Gwendolyn Wu
Campus Beat Reporter

If you didn’t see Kapatirang Pilipino’s 25th Annual Pilipin@ Cultural Night (PCN), you were missing out on a sensory feast that went “Beyond Time.”

Hundreds of people flocked to the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Campbell Hall on Saturday, May 7 for the student-run PCN. Preluded with short films based on the experiences of Filipino students, the show, titled “Beyond Time,” tackled identity, culture and society, captivating the audience the moment they sat down. As one of the biggest cultural productions on campus, the group’s human power and finances shone through every step, word and color in the show.

Admittedly, PCN fell flat in its storytelling. The plot, in which three tribes emerged after “the Great War” with superpowers and it was up to protagonist Mar (played by fourth-year biology major Alvin Basilio) to keep another war from happening, resonated too similarly to a crossover of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter. It was simplistic in nature (perhaps best to fit the story into a production interrupted by dance sequences). However, Basilio delivered a wonderful performance, creating a believable character, as did his supporting cast.

The production shone most in its technical finesse. PCN’s direction could not have been any greater, given how carefully each dance sequence and scene was staged. Entertainers who were ordinary UCSB students by day performed backflips off of benches stacked five high, completing complex Filipino cultural dances and other urban formations.

The students who coordinated the production clearly had an eye for stage and graphic design to boot. Ushers handed glossy 40-page programs to each visitor, and you could tell how deliberate their lighting and costume choices were. Fiery, frustrating scenes bathed in an orange-red hue revolved around the red, white, blue and yellow of the Filipino flag. Costuming stretched far beyond color, as a delicate waltz sequence featured early 20th-century period clothing that spoke to the Philippines’s history of colonization.

As for the script, one of its greatest merits was the fluid use of Tagalog (which led to uproarious laughter from the crowd at times) and English to tell the piece. However, I was on the edge of my seat not for cliffhangers, but waiting to cringe if I heard “everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.” While the script was fine and error-free, you couldn’t help but recoil in horror every time a Frozen quote or meme made its way into a line.

The dialogue surrounding the role of love, friendship or goodness were not the most heartwarming and serious parts of the show. It was seeing such a diverse array of cast members come together to tell a story that not only speaks to Filipino-American culture, but to the multiculturalism of K.P. Students who didn’t identify as Filipino participated in the show. The group even invited Urban Dance Company to tackle a dance sequence that stunned the audience (even if it took two tries for the music to start right).

PCN even “transcended time” in its performers, inviting the Rondalla Club of Los Angeles to perform live music and asking UCSB alumnus Joe Sabado to participate in a cultural tribal dance sequence.

“This is what makes it — the community,” said Sabado, who performed in the first PCN and served as an advisor for five years after. “I’m so proud of it, and I’m glad the tradition continues. It’s just fun, and it’s community building and the value of these things is if you want to grow as a community leader, there’s nothing better than dealing with something like this.”

At its core, the song and dance spoke to the creation of a new identity. The PCN choir sang both the United States’ and Phillippines’ national anthems, along with original songs that called to question the issues that transcend national boundaries. This was particularly poignant in weaving a fluid fabric of the tight-knit Filipino (and multicultural) community on campus, a portrait of people who may not permeate mainstream campus culture, but have their own stories to tell.

Despite the shortcomings of the plot and script, Kapitirang Pilipino members put heart and soul into the event. Members had been practicing since January in the Arbor on Sunday mornings choreographing dances, but for a few the process stretches back even further.

“It’s been a yearlong process for some,” said second-year political science and sociology double major Christopher Smithour, who performed in the production. “Since we’ve been elected as core members, which are the board members in K.P., PCN coordinator Michelley Flores has been working since May … We really couldn’t have done it without everyone’s hard work since January. It’s crazy.”

Gwendolyn Wu is a third year double majoring in history and sociology, and is the 2016-2017 Executive Content Editor of The Bottom Line. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley and attended Cleveland High School, and is interested in pursuing journalism as a career. When not poring over history books, she's watching Cutthroat Kitchen and mentoring first year students.