An interview with Major Julian, Director of Music, Parangal Dance Company from the 2015 Folkmoot Festival by Angela Dove.
Like the other dance groups that attend Folkmoot’s international festival, the members of Parangal are dedicated to preserving our culture and heritage through music, dance, attire, and folk art—in our case, we give voice to indigenous Filipino peoples in a world where they would otherwise not be heard. We love what we do, and I think our passion for preserving culture stems from discovering something new, learning from that, and educating others in hopes of inspiring them through both performing and fine arts.
We come from immigrant families (sometimes first and second generation), but we are continually learning. Our director finds indigenous tribes and asks them, “What do you want the world to know? Let us be your voice.” Then groups of us will go, becoming fully immersed in the culture of that particular tribe. We learn everything we can, and then bring it back and share it.
Performing for the public was also very rewarding. During Folkmoot, my primary role was as a musician—although I also dance, that’s what the group needed from me. It gave me the ability to really watch our reception. I love surprising an audience. When we performed in front of the courthouse, the audience was so appreciative. Sometimes people think, “The Philippines? I know those dances!” But the cultures there are so diverse—even we are still learning. Audiences always see something new, and when you are up there and performing, and you see that surprise on their faces. It’s still shocking to make those connections. It’s such a payoff. And that’s what encourages me to keep learning and performing.
As someone who is still exploring his own heritage, I really liked the camaraderie of staying with groups from other cultures. The Philippines were taken over and colonized at different times by different countries, and while our group only presents indigenous cultures, my maternal grandmother was a Spanish missionary. I am learning about that independent of Parangal, and one night at the Folkmoot building I danced a Spanish piece I had learned. People from the Chilean and Ecuadorian groups came up to me after, very surprised. A dancer for Puerto Rico spent time showing me similarities with some of their dances. And our conversations continue, in spite of differences in language—we’re all Facebook friends now.
I find it amazing that we can identify similarities in cultures with countries that are oceans apart. It makes me realize, though our cultures are very diverse, we’re all cut from the same cloth of humanity.