Spring program aims to bring Filipino dance and music to the forefront in Ketchikan

A flyer advertising the Married to the Child program (Image credit: Alma Parker).

Traditional Filipino folk dance and music classes are returning to Ketchikan this spring.

The class is part of the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition program aimed at promoting the health and cultural heritage of the Filipino community. KRBD’s Raegan Miller details the program and the kind of classes dancers remember from years ago in Ketchikan.

Growing up in Ketchikan, Lyn Buendia McClendon’s parents enrolled her in traditional dance classes when she was about eight years old.

“We’ve done it for festivals and parties and cruise ships,” she said.

She remembers Tinikling dancing on bamboo sticks. The bamboo poles represent herons, she says, and the dancers represent how birds walk in nature.

“There’s even a candle dance,” she said. … We all have candles in our hands. And it was all female. Chinniklings were usually coeducational, so it was a boy and a girl. And it was usually done in pairs, like brothers dancing (together) and cousins ​​dancing.

And for young dancers, there was the Coconut Dance.

“They used to do it with coconut shells,” she said. “And they were always laughing and having fun.”

However, there are currently no public places in Ketchikan for adults or children to learn this kind of tradition. Philippine Community Center He closed in 2015. As such, the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition has applied for a grant from the Alaska Community Foundation. The grant will allow the organization to start Magsayawan Ketchikan, a series of traditional folk dance and music classes led by enthusiastic instructors.

Alma Parker, Health Equity Program Coordinator for the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, created the class grant. This grant is from ACF’s Healthy Community Program.

“A few people may put on traditional performances, but there is not enough consistency to instill the values ​​of Filipino dance and music within the community and convey the artistic skills needed to perform,” Parker said. wrote in a proposal, which she shared with KRBD. “Generational, fully trained and dedicated individuals to work with and teach Ketchikan Filipinos to foster this artistry and at the same time revitalize the historical and cultural significance of the Ketchikan Filipino community. We need professional dance and music instructors.”

From this spring, classes that adults and children can enjoy will begin. For the next generation, it’s a doubly important step in connecting with the culture.

McLendon now lives in California with his children and hopes that one day they will be able to learn the same dances he learned growing up in Ketchikan.

“I really cherish and love those memories in that we were a part of it. Now my kids are starting to ask questions,” she said.

Gina Kaplan started traditional Filipino folk dancing when she was in elementary school. Her parents moved from the Philippines to Ketchikan and gave her her study enrollment.

“My parents introduced me to it by saying, ‘Hey, it’s really important to learn the cultural dances of where we’re from and try to pass on the traditional dances.'” “And you know, as a kid, you were like, ‘Oh, that’s great.

She currently lives in Oregon. But looking back, Kaplan is grateful for the opportunity. She is still friends with many others she took classes with over 40 years ago.

“And it reminds me of when we used to get together as a community on weekends and it was always potluck style. It’s going to bring in things that look forward to, fun events.”

Kaplan hopes the class will be a way for young Filipinos in Ketchikan to connect with their roots.

“The first, second, and third generations born in the United States had very little to do with the Philippines and nothing to do with their way of life, traditions, or culture,” she said.

Ketchikan Wellness Coalition staff expect classes to begin in May and run through October for the final showcase for the community’s Fil-Am festival.

Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member of KRBD. Your donation, matching our RFA grant, helps her keep writing articles like this. Please consider making a tax deductible donation at KRBD.org/donate.

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