By Daniel Mariano
For 20-year-old Susy Ibañez, stage fright had always been an obstacle.
Because she had no prior dance training, Ibañez felt shy and uncoordinated. She never would’ve performed on stage or even auditioned for a dance until she became a part of SF State’s Pilipino Cultural Night last year and performed in front of a live audience.
“The experience helped me become less shy and exposed me to new things. PCN opened so many new doors for me. I ended up joining the Barangay Dance Company a few months later and now I’ve done all sorts of performances. PCN is a great experience,” said Ibañez.
Since 1972, SF State has celebrated Filipino culture with PCN, a production that showcases singing, traditional Filipino ethnic dances and skits that explore issues such as family, self-identity and history.
“I heard about PCN through PACE (Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor) and thought it’d be cool to learn about cultural dances,” said Ibañez. “To me, being a part of PCN was really special especially since it was my first.”
Frances Reyes, the PCN producer and PACE coordinator said this is not only the longest running event in the history of SF State, but it is the longest running PCN in the country.
“This event is geared towards the community at large but we really try to put more effort into bringing in the Filipino-Americans in order to really expose them to the issues, history, and culture of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans,” said Reyes, Asian American studies major.
Inner Sanctum, a group of student leaders, volunteer their time to push PCN forward through fundraisers, and Associated Students Inc., help fund the event through donations.
Those that work the event such as the stagehands — or “stage ninjas” as they are more commonly referred to — are mostly made up of volunteers.
According to the 22-year-old Reyes, preparation for the event varies among schools, as other campuses host their own PCN events, but SF State’s PCN prepares all year long, starting immediately after the end of the previous event.
Those that perform at PCN come under pressure during this time of year.
Rowena Cabanayan, 22, is a dancer and script writer for this year’s PCN and is feeling the stress.
“The preparation for PCN consists of three months of dance practice. You learn the basic moves, then the choreography and technique,” said Cabanayan, a criminal justice major. “It takes a lot of practice to perfect the dance but as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.”
Ibañez agrees that the preparation process is long and stressful.
“You have to promote it, set up meetings and practices, rehearse for hours, and sell tickets,” she said.
Despite long hours of the hard work leading up to the event, those involved said it’s worthwhile. Cabanayan credits PCN for helping her find happiness and her passion.
“To learn a Pilipino folk dance with my peers is a very intimate setting… and the reason it’s so intimate is because we share a bond,” Cabanayan said. “There’s a sense of community when I perform and I feel a connection to my ancestors whenever I perform a Pilipino folk dance. I am thankful that PCN exists at SFSU. I wouldn’t have found my passion otherwise.”
PACE will present their 41st Pilipino Culture Night, “Legacy of the Fallen“ on Saturday, May 4, 2013 at SF State’s McKenna Theatre. Matinee show starts at 12 p.m. for $15, and the later gala show starts at 6 p.m. for $18.