Asian Festival at Salinas Chinatown: Celebrating Chinese, Japanese, Filipino culture and preserving history

What warms this lola’s (grandmother’s) heart?  Seeing the next generation Filipino-Americans continue to learn and dance the “tinikling” at the Philippine Community Center — one of the venues for cultural performances at the 8th Annual Asian Festival in Salinas last month.

A popular Philippine folk dance, the tinikling originated in the island of Leyte and is named after the “tikling” bird.  The dance imitates the movements of the birds as they walk along branches and grasses, and how they get away from bamboo traps set out by rice farmers.

I remember trying this dance while in elementary school, and my worries of getting my feet caught (and smashed) in between the bamboo poles!

Filipino Folk Dancing Tinikling keep the beat

Little ones help to keep the dance rhythm by banging half coconut shells — and audience clapping / participation also helps to keep the bamboo pole holders timing as they slide and clang the bamboo poles for the dance.

The motion and footwork for the dances is also an entry for the WordPress photo challenge — though unfortunately, my camera settings produced a lot of photos also appropriate for the challenge theme of blur.

Note:  If you are interested in Philippine birding, see this article from Cornell Lab of Ornithology Getting familiar with Philippine Birds, including the “tikling” bird.  Excerpt with dance description:

In one of those convergences that make travel fascinating, we sat in a barnlike banquet hall at dinner and watched a local dance troupe perform the traditional Philippine tinikling, in which two people kneel and clap long bamboo poles together while dancers hop in and out of the poles in rhythm. The dance is named for tikling, the local term for a rail: dancers mimic the graceful, high-stepping gait of the bird as it walks through the marsh vegetation. In the Villa Escudero marsh the next morning, we saw several members of the Rallidae including Buff-banded and Barred rails, White-breasted Waterhen, White-browed Crake, and Watercock.

Aside from folk dancing, the festival is also a great place to sample authentic Chinese, Japanese and Filipino food.

At the Philippine venue, my favorite banana leaf wrapped item — the suman — as well as cassava cakes, puto, fried banana turons and halo-halo were among the choices for dessert.

But first, you had to get your chicken adobo, lumpia, pancit and rice combo packs…

The afternoon presentation at the Philippine venue showcased traditional Philippine formal wear featuring the Barong Tagalog — Filipino formal attire, and traditionally made of pineapple fabric or a type of fine abaca (musa textilis related to the banana plant) — and the changes throughout history in traditional women’s attire, influenced by over 300 years of the Spanish colonial era.

Philippine fashion show at Asian Festival 1

The malong garment — traditionally used by a number of ethnic groups in the Southern Philippines and the Sulu Archipelago — and its many variations was an interesting part of the fashion show.

A group of women who performed a folk dance earlier in the day also participated in the afternoon’s fashion show.

Filipino-American artist Elgene Ryan Tumacder was at the festival to exhibit some of his artwork…

Fil Am artist Elgene Ryan Tumacder at Asian Festival

You can see more of his work at the 2015 Capstone Festival, California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) on Friday, May 15th at the Visual / Public Art Buildings – 100 Campus Center, Seaside.

The exhibit by the Monterey Bay Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) is a must see, especially if you are looking to learn more about the Filipino community’s history in the Monterey Bay / Salinas Valley, and Filipinos in the context of the history of the United States.

I also add two random photographs taken at the festival because 1) the Philippines’ most famous athlete Manny Pacquiao fought against Floyd Mayweather last weekend and 2) I love the Tagalog word “makulit” and spotted a little guy with the word on his T-Shirt.

Makulit means one who is stubborn, or annoyingly asks questions that have already been answered…and hopefully the “makulit” person is toddler aged, when they ask the same thing over and over, and not an adult, right?  Though you can call anyone, regardless of age MAKULIT.

This year, children representing the Chinese community also performed at the Philippine venue stage.  Their dance delighted the audience!

If you missed this year’s festival and want to learn more about the  history of Salinas Chinatown, you can visit the Asian Cultural Experience (ACE) Salinas website.

Virtual Walking Tour Salinas ChinatownWhile there, be sure to check out the site’s historical timeline feature.

The timeline starts with the California Gold Rush, then the arrival of Chinese workers recruited to build the transcontinental railroad, and later as laborers to drain lakes and swamps that created 500 acres of farmland in Salinas, to the arrival of Japanese and Filipino immigrants to work as farm laborers.

The timeline feature gave me a better understanding of the struggles of Asian immigrants, and their contributions to the modern-day agricultural wonder that is Monterey county.

Historical Timeline Salinas ChinatownThe ACE Salinas website also features an oral history archive, conducted by California State University Monterey Bay students and faculty, as well as video documentaries about Chinatown produced by professional filmmakers and film students.

Oral History Archive

Click HERE to visit the Oral History Archive main page and here for the Filipino Community oral history archives.

And to learn more about the Monterey Bay Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society, click here.

I hope to see this festival continue grow in the coming years, and with the support of Monterey Bay residents, I believe it will.

WPC Walls 2: National Steinbeck Center Walls from Exhibit “Filipino Voices”

My second entry for the WordPress Photo Challenge theme…WALL (first entry, here).

Ever since I posted photos of John Steinbeck’s hometown for the WordPress Photo Challenge topic “Reward”, it seems he has been ever-present on my mind.

Steinbeck Exhibit Wall 4

I remember now that I never posted photos on my blog from an exhibit at the Steinbeck Center, focused on the communities that defined the Salinas Valley, including my own — the Filipino Community.

Steinbeck Exhibit Entrance

Although I did not grow up in this area (I grew up in the Philippines), I enjoyed participating in the process, and making new friends — all while learning about the deep roots of Filipinos in the Salinas Valley.

Steinbeck Exhibit Wall 2

I also learned so much more about the history of Filipino immigrants to the U.S., and Filipino-American farm workers’ brave fight for rights along with Cesar Chavez and the UFW.  (Also see Delano Grape Strike article here, or about the film by Marissa Aroy – Delano Manongs Facebook page.  Note: this film was shown at the 2015 Seattle Asian American Film Festival – Social Justice Shorts)

Maybe it was too busy then, or that I was not too crazy about the photos I took (I’ve learned so much more about photography since then, and got rid of the awful pocket camera I had).

But thanks to these WordPress Photo challenge prompts, and for my family history…I now add these photos to my blog of the walls, at the Filipino Voices Exhibit at the National Steinbeck Center.

The exhibit occurred during the spring / summer of 2012.

Steinbeck Exhibit Wall 8

To see entries for this weekly photo challenge, click here, and to participate, consider…

…walls you’ve erected and decorated, the halls you walk down each day, or the exteriors you’ve ignored or neglected. What do these walls reveal about a place, people, or you?