By Troy Espera, ABS CBN North America Bureau

May 29, 2013

San Jose, Calif – Tinikling, pangalay, kapit tendong —just a few of the cultural dances that Filipinos in the U.S. strive to preserve. But on this stage in the San Francisco Bay Area, dancers stepping in tune with Filipino folk songs are not Pinoy.

“My name is Alejandro, I’m 11 years old. I’m Mexican,” one dancer introduced himself.

Alejandro is a student of Helen Moreno, who heads the Kaisahan San Jose Dance Company. She had spent the past 5 months bringing Philippine cultural dance into area classrooms made up of mostly non-filipino students.

“Most of my students this year are Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Puerto Rican, American, “ Moreno said, “I teach them the basic Philippine folk dance as well as the values of respect, appreciation of one’s culture.”

At this local theater, Moreno’s nearly 300 students took to the stage to showcase what they’ve learned and their new love of Filipino culture, which surprised some parents.

“We asked what are you doing? And he said we’re having a lot of fun,” said Zari Flores, Alejandro’s mother.

“It amazes me how the Filipino culture is. It explains what life is like over there,” said Alejandro.

Adult student Michael Vu who is of Vietnamese decent knows the feeling.

He said he never connected with his own culture in this way. After studying with Kaisahan for a year, he now says he’s hooked.

California’s artist in schools program has made all this possible for them. The program enables students in underfunded schools to get exposed to performing and cultural arts – something they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

And it’s all part of moreno’s mission—not only to promote her culture —but to build bridges with other cultures, starting with young people.

“Whatever they learn in my class or my residency would help them to become a better person and better citizens of tomorrow,” Moreno said.

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  • Lyon
    30 May 2013 at 8:09 am - Reply

    “Most of my students this year are Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Puerto Rican, American, “ Moreno said, “ I dare to think that she meant “caucasian” or of “European descent” when she said “American”. Everything else that she mentioned before “American” were ethnicities but in true respect these kids ARE also “American”.