Bayanihan showcases Filipino culture, strengthens community bonds

On a cold and seemingly uneventful Friday night, an entire community came together on campus.

The 12th annual Mr. Bayanihan took place in the theater, Feb. 9. The event was held to celebrate the outnumbered male members of the Bayanihan club, as well as to showcase the unique aspects of Filipino culture. Co-President Jamar Dudley (12) won the crown by the end of the competition.

“We focus more on guys because there’s so few of them compared to the girls,” Dudley said. “Also, the men in Filipino culture are not represented as much, so Mr. Bayanihan is a way to give them the exposure that they don’t have in the Philippines.”

For this year’s show, 70 percent of the proceeds went to Gawad Kalinga, a non-profit  organization dedicated to ending poverty in the Philippines by 2024. The other 30 percent went to fund the club.

According to co-Activities Commissioner Karla Cando (12), this meant that the competition was not only a good way to expose people to Filipino culture, but also to help those in need.

Before the event, the club ran into a few logistical challenges. Since some of the executive team were new, certain duties made it difficult for them to plan properly and block rehearsals accordingly. With multiple cultural and hip-hop dances to perform, along with each contestants’ presentation and “talent,” planning had to be quick and efficient. Especially for the Activities Commissioners.

“Some of the obstacles that I’ve faced were getting everything organized, such as the setlist for the tech crew and getting all the costumes,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be this much of a responsibility.”

In a change from previous years, Bayanihan decided to invite the presidents of Filipino clubs from other PUSD schools, along with the club advisers, to judge. The judges were English teacher Jose Lucero, Mark Punzal from Mount Carmel, Julian Natividad from Rancho Bernardo, Gergio Ricacho from Del Norte, and Eric Palafox (’07), the first ever Mr. Bayanihan.

Inside the theater, there was much more than showy displays. Before the lights dimmed, people from all different walks of life, bound by the single thread of Filipino identity, congregated for that night to either put on or enjoy the show.

The first round of “culture talks” were given after a brief introduction of the contestants. “Culture talks” are presentations done by the contestants to give brief overviews of their individual cultural origins from the Philippines.

In one, Joey Litonjua (10) gave a presentation on the province of Batangas. He talked at length about the detailed history of his home province, including the Battle of Batangas, a major battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II. At the end, he said that his mother was his biggest influence, as she was a Mrs. Batangas back in the Philippines. This was met with cheers and heartfelt cries from the audience.

After this came the contestants’ “talents,” where they were given the opportunity to set themselves apart by performing in front of the judges.

RJ Badua (9), one of the contestants, gave his rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The Way You Look Tonight.”

Once the first few performances were over, a cultural dance called the Kappa Malong Malong was performed by all the contestants. The Kappa Malong Malong is an elaborate tribal dance from the island of Mindanao, where the participants stomp to the beat and move around with their sashes.

This cycle of “culture talk,” “talent,” and “dance” was repeated for each contestant until intermission. The first half ended with a waltz dance done by the contestants and their female escorts. The second half started with a song called “Mamang Sorbetero,” sang by one of the Activities Commissioners. Many in the audience cheered and sang along during the song, reflecting and thinking about their home. The contestants danced slowly and elegantly to the song, though the cheers did not die down.

After this, Dudley performed a talent that “stole the show,” according to the judges. He gave a speech on how he grew throughout his four year Bayanihan career, and sang his rendition of “I’m Not the Only One.” When he was finished, a thunderous roar came from the crowd.

After several more “culture talks” and “talents,” the judges were given time to tally up points and make their decision. During this time, contestants answered  questions allowing them to showcase different aspects of their personality.

The judges had two main categories to judge contestants on: “cultural talk” and “talent.” Both were graded for the subcategories of effort, creativity, and presentation, each being worth five points. Both categories were worth 15 each, and each contestant could only have a maximum of 30 points.

Comments were also written about the “fishbowl question” answers and taken into consideration when judging. Whoever was awarded the most points in each category and had the most compelling answers for the “fishbowl questions” won the title of “Mr. Bayanihan.”

When this was over, a hip-hop dance was performed, followed by the awards ceremony. The audience gripped their armrests as the contestants were lined up one by one and given sashes, indicating their awards. Some were small, like “Mr. Passionate” or “Mr. Hypebeast.” But the final sash, “Mr. Bayanihan” was the biggest one of them all. The gold medal. It was then given to Dudley.

Despite his victory, the friendly attitude remains the same inside Bayanihan. Especially for Cando, because it’s always been about the community both inside and outside the club.

“For me, ever since my freshman year, I’ve just loved being a part of this family,” she said.