BRINGING together culture and education through music and dances, “Fiesta Folkloriada” is the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Co.’s contribution to strengthen peace and respect for other nations’ customs and traditions, thereby encouraging unity in diversity.
A project of the Bayanihan Folk Arts Foundation, the international festival of folk dance held every December at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is now on its eleventh year.
Under the auspices of the Federation of International Dance Festivals, the Fiesta Folkloriada of the Philippines gathers a select group of five dance companies from the different parts of the globe to conduct cultural exchanges in various parts of the Philippines, teach and learn from each other and perform in a grand finale with the Bayanihan at the CCP.
The five dance companies serve as visiting ambassadors sharing their dance expertise, as well as their respective countries’ culture and heritage. In exchange, they also immerse themselves in Philippine life, which they share abroad, thereby becoming living testimonies of the goodness of the Filipino people, as well as the beauty of the country.
Fiesta Folkloriada is presented mainly in the city of Manila. It used to invite 10 top dance companies from around the world. But, for better management and programming, the participants have been set at a maximum of five countries at 20 participants each. It was held last December, when participants can enjoy a festive atmosphere, as it is the time when everyone prepares for Christmas, a very important local religious celebration.
The project director of the Fiesta Folkloriada is Suzie Moya Benitez, the local chairman for the Federation of International Dance Festivals in Asia. She is also the trustee and executive director of Bayanihan Folk Arts Foundation and serves as associate vice president of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU)’s Campus Life, as well as the Director of the Center for Culture, Arts, Music and Sports.
Every two years of Fiesta Folkloriada, Bayanihan holds a choreography competition among local groups, with the visiting foreign directors serving as members of the jury. The winning group takes home a cash prize and earns the privilege of performing with the foreign dance companies at the CCP. This project opens the doors of opportunity to local talents to be appreciated by an international audience here in the Philippines.
PWU and National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) President Dr. Francisco B. Benitez hosted the opening ceremony on December 13 and welcomed the guests. NCCA Executive Director Rico Pableo Jr. delivered the keynote address.
Bayanihan performed the “ritual of the water” with the participating countries’ representatives pouring water into one jar to symbolize unity and the breaking of the jars to symbolize removal of all obstacles to attain success for the Fiesta.
After the individual presentation of the participating countries, the groups wrapped up the event with mass dancing before proceeding to Barbara’s Intramuros for the welcome dinner.
According to Benitez, the opening ceremonies vary in setting, as it can be held in select destinations around the Philippines. Performances are also presented in select schools, universities, hotels, homes of esteemed individuals in Philippine society and business communities and in towns and cities near Metro Manila.
The members of Bayanihan serve as guides to the visiting dance companies to ensure that the guests get a taste of the richness of Philippine cultural heritage and an unforgettable six fun days of personal and professional enrichment and exposure.
Part of the itinerary of the various dance groups is the exploration of Philippine islands and tourist destinations. Boracay and Palawan remain to be favorite spots among them, according to Benitez.
This year’s guests for the Grand Finale of Fiesta Folkloriada at the CCP included the Inetnon Gef’pago from Guam, an award-winning program whose mission is to promote awareness and pride in the Chamorro heritage. The group has performed in many countries around the world and has won prizes in many international festivals.
Russia was represented by the Vihry ensemble, which was organized in 1968 in Vladivostok. Over the years it has participated in international festivals in South Korea, Beijing, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Japan and Greece.
From Serbia was the Zora dance group, which was established in 1992. The group has participated in more than 45 International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts-organized festivals from 2003 to 2017.
Started in 1961, Slovakia’s University Folklore Ensemble Mladost is a 12-time world dance top-prize winner since it started to compete in world festivals in 2002. It performed back-to-back with the Bayanihan.
A meet-and-greet with dancing at the CCP lobby concluded the evening’s program.
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