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Writer’s Recap: The seven thousand stars of LSDC Folk’s ‘Pulo’

The art of dancing is quintessential to Filipino culture and history. When oral tradition has been forgotten and pen and ink have eroded, it is through the flicks of arms and the rhythm in footsteps that preserve glimpses of how life once was in our homeland.

Staying true to its mission of keeping Filipino traditional dances alive among De La Salle University students, the La Salle Dance Company-Folk (LSDC-Folk) proudly presented its 10th-anniversary concert titled Pulo via an exclusive YouTube Live last October 15. Weaving together stories of Philippine history intertwined with the passion that LSDC-Folk has passed down from one batch to the next, Pulo is a cinematic journey into the Filipino heart, soul, and spirit.

The birth of stars

The curtains opened with LSDC-Folk’s own rendition of the Inim folk dance from Aborlan, Palawan—a harvest ritual dance calling upon the Diwata, their guiding spirit, on the night of a full moon. As the performance ended, viewers were greeted by Daphne Padasas, LSDC-Folk’s first company manager, who narrated the challenges the company faced during its humble beginnings back in 2013, when they lacked funding, members, and experience. Despite these setbacks, Padasas shared that the company persevered, knowing that their blood, sweat, and tears would plant the seeds for a bountiful harvest in the future.

LSDC-Folk then performed an enchanting and rhythmic interpretation of the Dugso, a ritual dance from the Manobo tribe in Bukidnon. This was followed by a display of mastery through a combination of Mindoro’s Pandanggo sa Ilaw and Pangasinan’s Oasioas, featuring the company dancers balancing candles atop their heads as they danced—indubitably one of the trademarks of Filipino traditional dance.

Much like the hope brought by the beat of the music and the light the dancers held, the message of Gabrielle Sajo, company manager from 2014 to 2015, told of LSDC-Folk’s growth and flourishing: the company’s members doubled in its second year, and they were able to attend more festivals, with the company even managing to produce a three-day concert.

Tiding through darkness

Still, the rest of LSDC-Folk’s journey was not one without struggle. Succeeding three skillful dance numbers—the Sagayan of Lanao del Norte’s Maranao tribe, the Maglalatik of Laguna, and the Sohten of the Subanen in Misamis and Zamboanga—was a retelling of a period of the organization’s history by Ty Flores, assistant company manager from 2017 to 2019, who explained that not everything began perfectly, as all good things need time to grow.

Pulo reminds its viewers that at the end of every conflict, there is a chance to start anew. Up next was a special guest performance by Gonò Yè Bong, a T’boli community performing group from South Cotabato, as well as an LSDC-Folk interpretation of the Bayluhan from Navotas, Rizal, and Obando, Bulacan. Caryl Lopez, company manager from 2019 to 2020, stood proud as she enumerated LSDC-Folk’s many accomplishments, such as participating in the ASEAN Youth Forum in Laos and bringing home the gold medal from the Asia Pacific Arts Festival in Malaysia. Lopez noted that all of this was made possible through the guidance of their alumni, and the discipline to keep moving toward their goals.

Nearing its end, Pulo put forward a set of energetic, graceful performances, namely the Ragragsakan of Kalinga, featuring women balancing baskets atop their heads; the Lapay Bantigue of Masbate, imitating the grace of seagulls’ flight; the famous Tinikling; and lastly, the Pigapir of the Maranao in Lanao del Norte. Felize Joves, company manager from 2020 to 2021, then wrapped up the segment by emphasizing LSDC-Folk’s commitment to uniting the youth through reliving the artistic traditions of our people to form a community of humble artists who “know so little about the world, but know enough to inspire others.”

A constellation of stories

The show ended with a grand finale featuring all of the company’s talents, celebrating the LSDC-Folk of today, who will continually serve as a guiding light for the generation of tomorrow. Raw, colorful, and authentic, Pulo pours its passion into its last dance, a wordless prayer for the continuous growth of not only LSDC-Folk, but also the appreciation of Filipino art and culture.

At its core, Pulo is a love letter to the starlight living in each and every human soul, fitting its nature as a fundraiser for public high school students. In spite of the different cultures and stories in each of the Philippines’ islands, somehow we all share a spirit that is one and the same. Be it through the story of LSDC-Folk itself, the testimonies of their previous leaders, or our country’s indigenous culture, Pulo highlights that all of us were once minute stars struggling to stay alight, simultaneously battling the darkness. Sometimes we may be overwhelmed, but by virtue of our own perseverance and the support of those around us, we emerge burning bright.

EDITOR’S NOTE: October 22, 2022
The following article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of an interviewee’s name. The publication apologizes for the oversight.

By Criscela Ysabelle Racelis

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