Staging the Often Misunderstood Filipino Experience

Andre Ignacio Dimapilis, Tagalogue's director, promises that this year's production will include collaborative pieces including song, dance, and spoken word "but with a twist." (Photo by Cesar Bustamante/Voices of NY)

A rehearsal of “Tagalogue,” which the director says will include song, dance, and spoken word “but with a twist.”

A group of Filipino-Americans will perform a collaborative mixture of spoken word, dance, and dialogues showcasing the different experiences and the history of the Filipino community in the U.S. starting Friday, October 18.

The performance series, called “Tagalogue,” stages works written and performed by Filipinos over the last year as an attempt to give voice to the often marginalized ethnic group.

“There isn’t a lot of [Filipino] representation on stage or film or TV. “Tagalogue” was meant exactly for that. To represent, to share experiences of being in America and to connect with the community,” said Precious Sipin, one of the original producers of “Tagalogue,” which made its debut in July 2012.

This year’s production, entitled “Within Us: A Tribute to Our Ancestors,” will examine the relationship between young Filipinos and the generations that came before them.

It will also touch on subjects of importance to the community including homophobia, gender relations, and the denial of benefits to Filipino WWII veterans.

“If it doesn’t hit all of the [Filipino concerns], it will hit a wide variety of the issues,” said Andre Ignacio Dimapilis, the director of this year’s “Tagalogue.” “And make you think critically about, ‘Wow, our ancestors went through all that so we could do this. And what are we doing in this moment to honor them? How are we perpetuating these issues and what are we doing now to attack these issues?’”

“Tagalogue” was launched to provide a platform for Filipino Americans to tell their own stories. The series presented two productions last year. This year will be the first time it will have a theme in an effort to tie the performances together.

According to the U.S. census, the number of Filipinos in the U.S. grew by 38 percent in the last decade, from 1.85 million in 2000 to 2.55 million in 2010. The community is largely concentrated on the West Coast, in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. In New York City, there are about 67,000 Filipinos.

“It’s only now in the recent years that I’m starting to see a growth of the Filipino community on the East Coast. So we wanted people to tell their stories to unite, to empower the community,” said Sipin, a Filipino-American actress and staff member at UniPro, a Filipino umbrella organization.

The Tagalogue performers vary in age, sex and background helping to show how diverse the experiences are within the Filipino community. (Photo by Cesar Bustamante/Voices of NY)

“Tagalogue” performances show how diverse the experiences are within the Filipino community.

According to Sipin, Filipino Americans have had a hard time solidifying a sense of identity, often being mixed in or mistaken for other ethnic groups. It’s an experience that the director of “Tagalogue” experienced first hand growing up in the South.

“When I was growing up I was always the only Filipino kid in class. A lot of people didn’t know what I was,” said Dimapilis. “They were like,‘Whatcha mixed with?’ So I would get, ‘What are you? Are you Mexican? Native American? Are you this, are you that? Some version of Latino?’ And I was always, ‘Filipino,’” said Dimapilis.

Dimapilis will address these themes in three shows over the next week. A dozen performers will tell their story through words, music and dance but the artists will also interact with one another to help show a common thread between what might otherwise seem like disconnected experiences and narratives.

Sipin hopes that by talking about the experiences of Filipinos from the past and how it connects with the diverse experiences of the current generation, it will help start a conversation on what it means to be Filipino American.

“Most people think that Filipinos are the nurses or in health care, which is all fine and good because there are and we rock at it,” said Sipin. “But it was only recently that I found that there were other artists, reporters, and entrepreneurs, people leading in every type of field.”

“Tagalogue Vol. 3” will play October 18 and 25 at The Directors Studio, 311 West 43rd Street, and October 19 at The Alchemical Theater Lab, 137 West 14th Street. Tickets are $20.

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