The Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla was established in 1986 by Cristina Castro under the musical direction of classical guitarist, Michael Dadap. Dadap, and his successor Christi-Anne Castro, guided the IP Rondalla into becoming a versatile ensemble capable of playing folk, popular, and art music, as well as contemporary compositions. Significantly, the first generation of players quickly found that they could incorporate dance and movement into their repertoire, a first for rondallas in general and a signature of the IP Rondalla to this day.
The IP Rondalla first toured the Philippines in July of 1990. The trip was an amazing cultural exchange, and the rondalla members were enriched by a wide range of experiences, from meeting young children from Smokey Mountain in Tondo to playing for then-President Corazon Aquino at Malacañan Palace. In 1998, with a host of new members, the IP Rondalla returned to the Philippines for the Centennial of the Republic. Though the most impressive performance took place at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, some of the students’ most fond memories are of hiking up a mystical mountain in Tayabas with local villagers and giving a benefit concert to help combat the ecological destruction of the mountain caused by illegal logging. In February of 2004 another generation of the rondalla returned for the first International Rondalla Festival in Bicol. The group has also toured Europe twice, first in 1994, performing in Belgium (including a concert at NATO), Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and England, and again in 2008, playing in Switzerland and Austria.
Their most recent tour took place in the summer of 2013, and the group was featured in many FIlipino newspapers and on several television shows. They played for President Benigno Aquino, Jr. in Malacañan Palace and at numerous universities and schools. Their concert at Resorts World gave the group a chance to perform with the musical luminaries Celeste Legaspi, Jon Joven, Jim Paredes, Ryan Cayabyab, and Maritess Salientes. (You can read more about the tour in the student blog found here.)
Through the years, the IP Rondalla has flourished as a truly Filipino American expression. The Rondalla regularly performs at colleges, folk festivals, and other Filipino American events, raising awareness about Filipino Americans and the Philippines and eliciting nostalgia for the homeland for Filipino expatriates through familiar folk music. Other highlights for the rondalla in the US include playing at the United Nations, twice performing for then-President Fidel Ramos, and devoting a concert to the Filipino maestro, Nitoy Gonzales. The rondalla also has two CDs, Crossing Over (1995) and Pasko sa AmericaI (2002), an album of Filipino and Western Christmas favorites.
As musical ambassadors, rondalla members develop a strong sense of Filipino identity and pride in their heritage, as well as a lasting connection to one another and the IP community. The love of music and lifelong friendships keep the alumni within the IP family and, as a result, teachers come from within the rondalla itself. Thus, one generation of students fosters the leaders of the next.