NEFFA 2015

Mansfield, MA The day/week turned out to be unusually cold for a late Spring week. The 45 degree temps did not hamper the spirits of our dancers who were hot to perform at the annual NEFFA festl This year’s repertoire included ‘Gaway-gaway’ (Ilang-ilang), ‘Sakuting’ (Sampaguita), ‘Pasikat sa bangko’ (Rizal) and ‘Tinikling’ (Bonifacio).

Majority of the Ilang-ilang cast were newbies- it was a joy to see them backstage waiting at the wings with anticipation and raring to get on stage. At the last minute, some of the children pitched in when we lacked clappers for Tinikling and dance partners for Sakuting. It was a proud moment for Tita Marijo, Tita Beth and Tita Patty to see how the older kids eagerly volunteered to be tapped on the last minute. What a team!

Everything turned out perfect. And the performers knew they nailed it. As Tita Michelle observed the last minute instructions at ‘green room’ were heeded…  “nakikinig pala” (they were listening). The Tinikling dancers showed precision at their finale; the Bangko dance was elegantly performed with no falls; the Sakuting dancers did not miss a beat and the Gaway girls and Shem hit it on cue for every step. With photos to show- they all smiled naturally with a gleam of pride and having so much fun. Bravo!

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IP & ATASK together

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Saturday, April 4, 2015, Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

Iskwelahang Pilipino’s race team of 35 (ages 16 months – 80) joined over 200 runners and walkers at the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) annual 5K run around the reservoir. Geared with red bandanas to identify our participation, race bibs and denim patches made by the Youth Empowerment Prospect group (with messages like “no excuse for abuse”, and “victim blame is a shame”), the IP team ran/walked two loops from start to finish. The energy and enthusiasm of the IP children and adults impressed the ATASK council leaders who were wondering all these years “where are the Filipinos?” (in Boston). They finally met us!!

ATASK primarily serves Asian families and individuals in Massachusetts and New England who suffer from or are at risk of suffering from domestic violence.

Back in Boston after 31 years

September 20-22, 2014. President Benigno “P’Noy” Aquino III, was back in Boston for the weekend for a nostalgic visit. (He and his family lived in Newton, MA from 1980-1983). On Sunday, he had a whole day packed with various events lined up in his itinerary. It started with a lunch gathering with old family friends in Sudbury, Ma. After the private lunch, his convoy, which included several cabinet ministers and the security staff, proceeded to attend mass at the Parish of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Newton. The chuch was a stone’s throw away from his former residence. An estimated  crowd of 400 Pilipino Americans joined him for the Catholic service. He and the congregation then proceeded to the Robesham Auditorium at Boston College for his speech and to meet the Benigno and Cory Aquino scholars at BC. At a short reception thereafter, the President shook a few hands and posed for some “selfies”. At the end of the line, he saw the rondalla ensemble and gave them a quick wave- which sent an appreciative message of “I remember you guys!”. The rondalla played “Mabuhay” the official Presidential anthem to announce the entrance of the President at all public appearances (similiar to “Hail to the Chief” for the US President). On Monday, the President continued his hectic schedule with a visit to his old Commonwealth Avenue home before proceeding to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

President Aquino did tell the author during the reception that he remembers the command performance the Rondalla gave at the Malacanan Palace in July, 2013. He remembered that in spite of the sub-par acoustics at the Palace (referring to the low ceiling and floor), he enjoyed their numbers and was proud of the Filipino-Americans from Boston.

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The following post was written by Miguel Zialcita, blogger for Pinoy Jeepney, crew

It’s that time of year! With the dates July 25 to 27 circled on your calendar, there’s no escaping the Lowell Folk Festival. It’s an integral part of your experience as an IP student (Lowell to IP is like Mecca to Muslims), or parent for the matter, and isn’t that way without reason. Lowell is vital to our school’s funds and is the culmination of scrupulous planning, management and effort. In a way, Lowell has become an entity of its own, requiring our utmost care and attention.

Such events demand heavy preparation like The Workshop. Perhaps sacrificing a beautiful Saturday afternoon to stab strips of meat and slice vegetables isn’t the greatest trade-off, but it needed to be completed. Everyone assembled and worked dutifully at his or her station, sweaty elbows bumping, occupied in conversation. An early 4 o’clock release testified to the group’s efficiency. Some of us teenagers decided to savor the gorgeous weather right after and held our own basketball and tennis games. There’s nothing like unwinding.

Then came the Folk Festival: our Superbowl. Hungry and curious stomachs lined the street, eager to taste Iskwelahang Pilipino’s selection of aromatic foods, served onto paper plates by amicable youngsters. Customers who had never heard of the school inquired. Others showed loyalty, claiming: “This our xth year of eating here!”.

IP’s booth is always a hub of activity. The simple idea of serving customers food is much more difficult than it sounds, since a spectrum of jobs are required to accomplish the task. A hardy group of men operate between the grills, smoke billowing into their faces. Parents team on the pancit and rice, while a table row of Titas fold lumpia and turon. However, crucial to the schematic is the participation of runners, whose job is to bridge input (cooks) to the output (servers). Runners must deliver heavy loads of rice or pancit, a physical toll on one’s back. When a particular food is empty, runners become the lifeline to the servers and customers by updating them on the next batch’s status. Upon delivery, their arrival is similar to that of Santa Claus to a child, bringing the much anticipated and fresh goods. Servers, who interact with the customer, are the faces of IP. They represent the school and, in the case of Lowell, our Filipino culture. Servers are mostly comprised of students, whose youthfulness project a cheerful attitude. Their smaller, quicker physique allows them to handle plates with dexterity.

Any bystander looking past the servers and behind the scenes might refer to our operations as a soup of chaos, considering the innumerable amounts of tools, equipment and labor. Personally, I’ve always wondered how someone from the outside might view our practically makeshift restaurant. It’s fascinating that in a span of three days, we can lay down our tents and claim a section of a street as home, well beyond outfitted. Our section even dedicates a portion of its space to the workers! But with big ambitions come big costs. The Titos and Titas that’ve tackled Lowell’s logistics deserve a nice applause, and thanks to their diligent management, our school can stay afloat. Maybe it’ll eat a bit of your weekend, but everyone needs to contribute, and hey, we have food! IP’s site in Lowell is truly an experience for customer or volunteer.

2014 Lowell Folk Festival

July 25, 25, 27, 2014. Lowell, Massachusetts.

Year 26.

Another. Awesome. Year. The volunteers at IP did it again. Despite the morning downpour on Sunday, the customers kept the lines long and happy. All operations systems (new and old) done and gone good. The kids were empowered by their duties. The IP children and their parents took their tasks seriously- from buffet servers and cashiers, to runners, to meat separators, to lumpia mixers and wrapper, to water boys, to walking advertisements, to turon taste servers- to cleaning, to packing, no task was too small or big!

It does…did take a village. AGAin.

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IP joins Philippine Independence Day in Boston

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June 7, 2014- Boston City Hall Plaza, Boston, Massachusetts

It was a perfect day to fly the Philippine flag at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. The IP Rondalla troupe waited in queue for their turn to perform to a crowd of Pilipino residents in the New England area as well as passerbys walking through the Plaza and into the downtown crossing. Mabuhay ang Pilipino on this their 116 year of Independence.

Lowell Folk Festival 2013

Lowell, Massachusetts, Juily 2013

2013 was a banner year at the annual Lowell Folk Festival. What started as a one tent operation 25 years ago where pre-cooked food was brought in in coolers turned into a well-oiled machine with a multi-station kitchen: there’s the vegetable cutting table, the noodle prep, the wrapping station, the rice mashers, the fryers, and the grills.

The lure that creates the long lines is the BBQ grill smoking up the appetite and the fried turon (banana fritters) and lumpia (spring rolls) hot from the wok- people have to be warned NOT to bite into it immediately but to let it cool down. The “gawkah blockah” is the crowd in the front kitchen amazed at how the pancit (noodles) and sinangag (fried rice) are being tossed right in front of their plates. For three days, the volunteers work hard to keep the lines moving and happy!

The annual festival is IP’s biggest fundraiser. The 2014 calendar will be on July 25, 26 and 27.