By Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera
Filipino dance and music researcher, historian and Bayanihan Consultant
When Suzie Moya Benitez, Bayanihan’s executive director, wanted a name for the projected super-show involving Bayanihan and the visiting Folklorical Group from the Island of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the word “re-encuentro” (re-encounter) was given. She paused to think and found the word “warlike” for that is the word for “shoot-out” in present day Tagalog and Visayan. So “re-encuentro” would not do. The lady opted for another given word “Mestizaje” which means “fusion”, “unity”, “a dynamic step forward”. She then directed the use of “reencuentro” for the suite where both Bayanihan and Palma de Mallorca dancers do dances to the same music of the jota, the fandango and the bolero.
And indeed, “Mestizaje” is the right word for this over-all new meeting with folklorical Spain of the Mallorcan variety. This new meeting is the of-shoot of Bayanihan’s victory last year as the world’s best folklorical group in a worldwide “concurso” held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
It is obvious that the word “Mestizaje” is kindred to that other word we all know in these Islands. Mestizo. And Mestiza if feminine. For us who were born in old native Cabeceras like Vigan, Malolos, Lingayen, Iloilo, Zamboanga and Cebú the “Sector de Mestizos” or “Pari-án” is a place familiar to us. But the mestizos there, or the “kamistisuha ng Par-ián”, are not blood mestizos of Spaniards. They are cultural mestizos because Native and Chinese by blood but Christian Catholics by religion and Spanish by their language, their food, their songs and their dress. Thus the first mestizos were the children of a Chino Christiano father and an Indio mother.
And since the Chinos Cristianos were traders, usually involved in the Galleon trade, the “Sector de Mestizos” was an enclave of the rich and the educated who spoke and sang in Spanish and wore the “traje de mestiza” and lived in those big Vigan houses and those Malolos mansions, to cite but two examples. Those who ignore history rashly label these “Sectores de Mestizos” as “a gheto” when these are not enclaves of poverty and misery but precisely of opulence and good taste.
The hispanization by blood of these old “Sectores de Mestizos” became later intensified when many Spanish government officials, employees, businessmen and military settled in the Islands and married into the families of these “Sectores” or “Pari-ánes”. The offspring of these latter marriages were called “Mestizos terciados” because aside from Native and Chinese, they also had Spanish blood.
These dynamic fusion of Catholic Spain and the Philippines is Christian “Mestizaje” and the virtues of this fusion can be seen in all Christian Filipino dances which are classified into three kinds: (1) bailes criollos (the creole dances). These are dances that directly came from the Spanish Peninsula and New Spain (Mexico) but which were later indigenized, (2) bailes urbanos (dances from the big cabeceras and ciudades), and (3) bailes municipales y rurales (rural dances). The pre-Hispanic dances were called danzas tribales ( tribal dances).
Bayanihan’s multi-awarded Choreographer and Director, Ferdinand “Bong” José, has observed that many of our Filipino regional dances are very similar to the regional dances of Spain. This merely confirms our thesis about Mestizaje and the fact that under Spain, all Filipinos were Spanish citizens or subjects upon the acceptance of King Felipe Segundo as their “natural sovereign”..
But the Mestizaje of Filipino native dances is not only limited to what is Spanish and native but also to what is Filipino and Chinese (El collar de Sampaguita) and to what is Filipino and Japanese (Habanera Japonesa de Paco). These dances we have offered when the suite called Extramuros de Manila (Beyond the Walls) was staged, —-with the 1873 Manila visit of Hong Kong Governor-General, Sir John Bowring, as the theme. While Intramuros had purely Spanish or creole dances, (kri-olyo in old Tagalog), the arrabales beyond the walls, like Binondo, Santa Cruz, Quiapo, San Miguel, Paco, Ermita and Malate had their respective Mestizaje dances.
Some sectors of course did ask: What about “American Mestizaje”? And the simple answer is that there is no such thing as a fusion between native and American dances and songs. This never happened since Filipinos were never made, wholesale, American citizens like they were previously made Spanish Citizens. With English as our compulsory medium of education, no such fusion took place. We simply were made to adopt, wholesale, American pop culture with its Hollywood movies, popular jazz, blues and the cowboy square dance. Thus, although still under American suzerainty up to now, its either Filipinos sing and dance jazz, the charleston, the boogie-woogie, the swing as they are wont to do, or we change what folkdance means within the accepted concept of authentic Filipino dance culture.
This re-encounter with the folkdances from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, should prove to be an experience for Bayanihan and Manilas culturatti. It is a pity that with the destruction of Intramurso de Manila, the grand old Palma de Mallorca Hotel y Panadería, the cultural center then of old Intramuros and of greater Manila, has also disappeared. If Intramuros had survived, Mestizaje would have been also staged in its big function hall complete with a good sized stage. Bienvenidos a Manila, amigos mallorquines.
EN CCP Sept. 4, 8PM, Sept. 5, 3 y 8 PM, Sept. 6, 3 y 8 PM.