Around 8 p.m. Saturday evening at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, friends and family of Long Beach State’s Pilipino American Coalition suddenly broke out into Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” during the 33rd annual Pilipino Cultural Night’s 15-minute intermission period.
They were ready for the skit’s second act. They were ready for more traditional Pilipino dance. They were ready to celebrate.
This was just one of the many spontaneous moments that occurred during the special night meant to honor Pilipino culture and the Pilipino American Coalition’s dedication to practice for this night for the past three months.
For PCN Coordinator Xaelan Abcede, this year’s cultural night was not only his last, but also a moment to reflect on the road he’s taken since joining PAC.
“Going into this organization, not really knowing too many people kind of forced me to go out of my comfort zone,” Abcede said. “I feel like this club has really awakened me as a person and helped me realize what I really want in life and how I can get those goals in life. This really has done so much for me, so I love this show.”
Stories of personal growth through PCN involvement such as Abcede’s are what fueled the show’s skit this year. With this year’s theme of “Ang Aming Panahon” (Our Time), the more than 120 PCN cast members practiced tirelessly to present scenes of skit interweaved with traditional Pilipino dance performances and original music.
Following the death of his grandfather, the main character Phillip, a Pilipino-American college student, decided to grow closer to his heritage and community by participating in a PCN. Along the way, he developed lasting connections with skit characters Rizelle, Ligaya and Quinton, who also joined for their own reasons. The skit invited students to join cultural clubs, such as PAC, to embrace their own culture and feel comfort away from home.
From poking fun at the utmost responsibility that is saing, to calling attention to Pilipino parents’ tendencies to misunderstand the sexual orientations of their kids, the production’s most standout feature wasn’t the scenes of romance, drama or comedy, but the cast itself.Christopher Lopez, PAC archives coordinator and main skit lead for the character Quinton, said the group came out with no regrets after practicing often late into the night since February.
“In the beginning, we didn’t want expectations,” Lopez said. “We just overall, wanted a good show, and I hope we did that.”
After the show’s highly anticipated Tinikling dance performance, tears of joy were shed as the entire cast and crew gathered on stage to sing and recognize each of the seven dance suites, four committees, skit extras, skit cast, PCN board and MVPs throughout the production process one last time.
Along with Abcede, co-PCN Coordinator Jamie Gianne Caputol received a specialized mixtape of songs that represents the club’s “Sustainaboard” with personalized messages from each of them.
The event drew huge support from the crowd, which included class of 2018 human development alumni Sarah Longworth. After attending PCN last year with her former roommate Bailey Nelson, Longworth had to come again to see her perform Spanish dance this time around.
“The last song that they had, it feels very much of a reunion of a family,” Longworth said. “It actually makes me cry. I almost cried last year and the fact that I had friends doing it this year and being a part of it this year, it made me want to cry.”
Despite attending for her second time, Longworth said she developed a new appreciation for Pilipino culture once again.
“Being a human development major, it’s all about studying different cultures,” Longworth said. “Coming here for the second time was a no-brainer. I knew I had to come for so many different reasons, supporting friends and just being interested in different cultures.”