Monday, February 25, 2013

Meeting His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Dharamsala

"My experience with meeting The Dalai Lama is one of the most unforgettable moments. His simplicity and compassion to the people led him to have a remarkable name in the world history of Spirituality. His message of enlightenment  is significant in today's time and truly a timeless piece of wisdom dedicated to mankind and the future of the world."

For a few days since I arrived in Dharamsala, I have been accustomed to the unique culture and tradition of the people, most especially the Tibetans-in-exile living in Mcleod Ganj. It is a community that is vibrant with the presence of spiritual people living in a serene environment;  in the cold breeze of mountains beneath the Himalayas.

Although the Tibetans of Mcleod Ganj have been living in an asylum for several decades, still they have made an effort to preserve their culture and continue to improve the living condition of the thousands of refugees. They may be far away from their motherland but they are fortunate for the achievement of freedom in exile. I have found peacefulness and spirituality in this sacred place in The Land of the Tibetans in Dharamsala: Closer to Heaven

The simple way of living of the Tibetans is truly admirable. They remain to be content with the blessings they receive and make the best effort to develop their lives utilizing the valuable teachings and philosophies of their Spiritual teacher and leader, His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama who has been vested the authority to rule his people has shown the capacity to lead and transform the lives of the Tibetans-in-exile. At his age, The Holy man still has got the energy and vigor to protect his people and to become a man of love and compassion that the world has known.

The Dalai Lama, being the head of state of the Tibetans is the most popular and respected Buddhist monk, yet His Holiness describes himself as a simple monk who was chosen to lead by the Tibetan people. He is not secluded in the hill station of Dharamsala since He is a well-traveled man. He has met a lot of foreign dignitaries for spiritual and peace talks and received numerous awards and recognition from all over the world including the Nobel Price award for his peaceful means of fighting for the sovereignty of Tibet against the Chinese communist rule.

The main teachings of His Holiness are for humanity to live in simplicity and contentment while cultivating a loving and compassionate nature. I am not a Buddhist, yet I could say that his teachings are beyond religion. It is still relevant to everyone regardless of religious beliefs and merely a universal philosophy that was started by a Holy man in the conquest of enlightenment thousands of years ago.

I have read some of The Dalai Lama's books when I was in Delhi last year. One of my favorites is the book entitled "The Art of Happiness" and the book about the four noble truths. Reading his works gives some encouragement to live a better life, to find inner peace and happiness, and to seek enlightenment in a troubled world.

Since visiting The Dalai Lama's temple on my first day of the visit, I have known that he will be giving a lecture on the 25th of the month, about the teachings from the "Jataka Tales". It is a story based on the life and rebirth of Buddha. There was no registration on this event and so I decided to attend for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet The Holy man.

The Tsuglagkhang Complex

A day before his scheduled lecture in Tsuglagkhang temple, I had the chance to visit some places around and the nearby sightseeing in Mcleod Ganj. From the place I am staying at Snow Crest hotel in Naddi Village, it took me one and a half hour trek to reach the 4 km distance going to Mcleod Ganj. On the way, I was delighted to see the natural wonder of Dal Lake and passing by the Tibetan Children's village, just a few-minute walk from the lake. For the second time, I visited The Dalai Lama's temple to pass around the prayer wheels and to observe the monks in their afternoon rituals. The temple is quite busy in preparation for tomorrow's event and a lot of pilgrims started to arrive, so I went ahead and take some 'Kangra tea' at the famous tea house--moonpeak espresso cafe as recommended. I did not wait for the sunset and came back to the hotel so I could reserve my energy for the next day's event.

On this day, the 25th of February, I woke up early to prepare and go to The Dalai Lama's temple. The cab driver upon request pick me up at 5:30 a.m. and reached the temple before 6 am just a few minutes before sunrise. The guard at the entrance was strict and no cameras and cellular phones were allowed inside. I left my things in the nearby coffee shop and carried a handbag with a notebook and a pen for taking notes. The man in the shop was so kind and I told him to get it as soon as the lecture is finished.

Now that I am free from restricted gadgets, I passed by the two security checks before heading to the Namgyal monastery just above the checkpoint. I went to the right section to find my seating place which is reserved for English-speaking people. At the time I found the right place overlooking the Holy man without barriers, the monks started to gather and pilgrims from around the world are in excitement to see The Dalai Lama.

The residence of The Dalai Lama 

At around 6:20 a.m., The Dalai Lama is set to leave his residence to have his processional ceremony. The monks and pilgrims including myself were rushing to get to the nearest place where the Holy man will pass by going up to the Namgyal Monastery which is adjacent to his residence. As the procession started, he was guided by the Namgyal monks and guarded by the security men. The entourage followed the footstep of the Holy man who waives his hand to greet the thousands of people gathered in his temple.

For about an hour and a half, The Dalai Lama together with other monks performed an early morning ritual of sacred chants and mantras. At 8 a.m., His Holiness along with his entourage went down and proceeded to his lecture place which is an elevated rectangular platform with Tibetan decorations in it. Another 20-minute chant and mantra have been observed before The Dalai Lama started to give his lecture in the Tibetan language at 8:20 a.m.

The whole complex is filled with an audience mostly Tibetans who understood the message very well. Some have brought an FM radio since the lecture is also translated in the English and Chinese language in a specific radiofrequency. I did not have one so I just listen to the original message in the Tibetan language. The Dalai Lama's voice was clear and calm and he even cracked a joke to the crowd.

The Namgyal Monastery

The lecture ended at 10 a.m. followed by a recessional going back to his residence which is just a few meters away. The audience witnessed the Holy man's last walk before he is gone out of sight. The people along the aisles were lucky to have shaken hands with The Dalai Lama while others started to walk down the temple to return back to their respective places or destinations.

My experience with meeting The Dalai Lama is one of the most unforgettable moments. His simplicity and compassion to the people led him to have a remarkable name in the world history of Spirituality. His message of enlightenment is significant in today's time and truly a timeless piece of wisdom dedicated to mankind and the future of the world.

The Dalai Lama is committed to serving humanity and not just the Buddhist Community. The world has been constantly changing and there is no such thing as permanence. The Dalai Lama is a Holy man, but ordinary people are capable of achieving enlightenment given that There is Certain Holiness in You.

I am grateful for another day full of learning and energy. I am hoping to see His Holiness The Dalai Lama at some other time if given another opportunity. From now on, what is important is to live with the message of love, compassion, and inner peace--The Dalai Lama's way.

© 2013 Del Cusay

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Land of Tibetans in Dharamshala: Closer to Heaven

It is always nice to have a vacation in a faraway place; to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. It is a great time to relax and become one with yourself while enjoying the soothing ambiance of the place.

Since I am in India for the second time, It was surprising to receive an invitation to visit the Northern State of Himachal Pradesh, particularly in the highlands of Dharamshala--the place of the Tibetans-in-exile.

From the Tibetan Colony called Majnu Ka Tilla in Delhi, it took approximately 12 hours to reach Dharamshala. The bus departed at 7 pm on the 22nd and I arrived at 7 am the following day. It is the longest land travel on a single journey that I have experienced so far. 

At the boarding point in Delhi, I got the chance to talk to some people about the history and culture of Tibet and its people living in the upper Dharamsala called Mcleod Ganj. The bus got delayed for an hour and a half so I was lucky not to get bored while waiting. It was a pleasant conversation, and I have instilled the knowledge I gained at that moment.

In the bus stand of Dharamsala, It took approximately 10 minutes to reach the hotel at Naddi Village--about 3 km. from Mcleod Ganj. It was not a tiring journey since they have a good quality road linking the northern state. When I stepped out of the bus, it was so cold as the temperature reaches near zero degrees centigrade. The whole day was rainy and the whole place is covered by fog and the wind is chilly.

I had time to set my things and prepare myself to go to Mcleod Ganj after I took breakfast and few hours to rest and contemplate. Back in Delhi, I already read about the popular tourist spots and the activities happening. I wanted to spend my time wisely and get the best thing that Dharamsala could offer, so it is nice to have planned ahead of time.

The Dhauladhar Range

Although it rained on my first day of the visit, I got to see the picturesque panoramic view of the Dhauladhar range which is widely visible on the balcony of a hotel located in the Kangra district. It is truly magnificent to view the snow-capped mountain range with the tall deodar and pine trees in the alps. The Dauladhar range offers a great view of the whole Kangra valley. At this time, the mountain is not open for trekking since the weather is unpredictable. 

I have planned to go trekking in the triund hill which is about 9 km. from Mcleod Ganj and it would take 2-3 hours to reach there, and they said it's a good place for sightseeing the frosty mountains and the alpine forest at the ridge of the Dhauladhar range. Since it is temporarily closed, I only get to see it from afar while imagining the life of the Naddi/Gaddi people living in the cold mountains and what is it like to be there at the snowline of the Himalayan foothill. I myself needed 3 thick blankets at night, and going closer to the snowy mountains would really be a great challenge to conquer.

I am in the Naddi Village and I have witnessed how they live in peace and harmony. In a place that is culturally preserved, they live simply with contentment and happiness. They are friendly people and seeing them early in the morning bringing their cows in a greener pasture of this hill road is a wonderful experience.

In the afternoon, I prepared myself to go to Mcleod Ganj to go to Tsuglagkhang temple--the place of the Dalai Lama. It was drizzling and cold but I dared to go for some sightseeing. I walked uphill and entered the temple that was full of monks and tourists.

I have felt the serenity of the place and seeing the pleasant smiles of the monks while roaming around the Namgyal monastery of the temple. I have been there for 2 hours to have a glimpse of the Tibetans-in-exile. They are peaceful and happy people despite the miseries they have suffered under the Chinese rule in Tibet.

The Tibetans in Mcleod Ganj have formed their Government under the leadership of the 14th Dalai Lama. I have met a Tibetan souvenir vendor just below the temple and had a brief conversation about their condition. It was then I have learned that the Tibetans fled to Dharamsala after the failed uprising that took place in 1959 headed by the current Dalai Lama. They have suffered cruelty and harsh treatment from the Chinese invaders and the best thing they did is to have themselves in exile. 

After 50 years, the Chinese Government has not given back their sovereignty which is what they have been fighting for for several decades. The history I learned from this encounter gave me the knowledge of the existence of the Tibetans in Dharamsala.

Adjacent to the Namgyal monastery is the residence of the Dalai Lama. The most surprising moment is when I learned that the Dalai Lama is in town and has been meditating in his room for that period of time. He will give a talk on the morning of the 25th. It is open to the public and there is no need for registration on this particular event only. My visit was good luck and I will be attending the lecture of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. I still have a day to explore the place before the lecture of the Dalai Lama, so I need to prepare myself to see and meet the Holy man.

It was raining in the afternoon before I left the Monastery so I decided to have a cup of cafe latte in the nearby coffee shop. I stayed for a brief period to warm up since I can't go out and bear the downpour of rain. I thought of not getting sick and reserve my energy to see the Dalai Lama, so I bought an umbrella and started to walk going up to the square center which is the central area of Mcleod Ganj. 

Along the way, I passed by some souvenir shops, bookstores, tea shops, restaurants, and numerous hotels. It was still raining when I standby to wait for the cab driver to go back to the hotel. I planned to stay in Mcleod ganj until 8 pm, but since it was raining and cold, I decided to have some rest and be ready for another journey the next day.

Bearing the extreme temperature is a challenge. I am used to a tropical and humid climate, but I am now becoming tolerant with cold weather that at some point reaches a negative degree centigrade. In a few days I will be leaving in this heavenly place and what I would be carrying is not a thing, but a collection of memorable experiences from the finest places of the sacred mountain and the wisdom from the great people.

© 2013 Del Cusay

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chilly Winds of India's Wintertime: A Reflection

"India could be a land of contrast, but I have witnessed and learned how they persevere and raise the bar towards excellence making them achieve economic progress and rising power. There may be some serious challenges confronting them, but with faith, unity, and goodwill, then India could gain something it deserves."

The wintertime in India is about to end, yet early morning is still misty and foggy while late-night gets chilly. In the daytime, the weather is a bit warm especially in the afternoon, but it is fine and favorable weather. A few days ago when I arrived on the evening of the 16th, the temperature is quite tolerable, and that I did not wear a thermal jacket compared to last year when I arrived for the first time in November when the weather is cold and chilly.

I left India in the summer of mid-April last year. It was about ten months ago and now I am back for the second time. I had a pleasant experience on my first visit since the people were nice and friendly. The warm acceptance and welcoming smile is their way of showing hospitality to visitors, and this is what I felt like when I arrived a few days ago; in return, greeting people in an Indian way 'Namaste' is a good start of embracing their culture and beliefs.

Misty and chilly morning in Dwarka, Southwestern Delhi

I never imagined that I would go to India and become exposed to its cultural and social norms. Back in the Philippines, I learned the Indian salutation 'Namaste' but later I learned its spiritual significance. It is not just a normal greeting but it means that when two or more persons meet 'the presence of God in me, meets the presence of God in you' is the real significance of this sacred word. In a philosophical context, it is right since God is present in everyone and it only needs recognition of this fact. 

People of all ages greet 'Namaste' whether at home, in the street,  in a social gathering, and even on the phone conversation. Bowing of head while putting hands together in the center of the chest shows courtesy, friendliness, love, and humility. This simple yet graceful gesture is significant even in today's time, however, I have observed that the use of this salutation is declining due to the influence of western culture. Saying 'hi and hello' is what I have been receiving. Last year, when I was in Mumbai, I have seldom greeted 'Namaste' and what I have been hearing most of the time is 'hi and hello'.

I remember when I was in elementary, we used to greet our teachers and visitors in a Filipino way 'Mabuhay' but before the 20th century ended, it was changed to 'hi and hello' which is both a formal and casual way of greetings in the west. 

In India, 'Namaste' as a form of salutation feels like being at peace with someone even without using the bowing and the hand gestures. Just uttering the word is already a humble experience like no other in the world. 

for someone who is not used to cold weather especially the winter season, it is not easy to wake up early in the morning. The good thing is that I had my winter clothing kept here when I went back home to Manila last year. Morning walk is possible but could not do jogging or any vigorous exercises on the street or else I get chilled.

Foggy streets of Dwarka in Southwest Delhi

On a foggy and misty morning, people start their day bearing the cold. They wear 
thick clothing usually made of wool while riding on a bicycle. I have seen some students chatting while patiently waiting for their school bus. It is obvious that they are tolerant of the winter season and they have nothing to complain about but to bear with it.

In Mumbai and the rest of southern Indian states, they don't get this kind of weather that northern India including Delhi is experiencing. The Himalayan region of India is very cold at this time and could even have some snow in the mountain range. The place called Dharamsala is one of the most visited places in India and most popular among foreign travelers.

In the cold weather, it is nice to have a cup of hot tea with milk or they call it Indian chai. I have learned to make this kind of beverage and it has a warming and soothing effect. Tea is a staple drink in India and the country is among the top producers of tea in the world. I like the Indian chai rather than drinking a regular tea, however, I could not miss drinking a cup of coffee since I drink it regularly any time of the day. I am in India, so I can enjoy both beverages that they can offer.

I am also grateful to been taught how to make their staple food called 'chapati and paratha'. Both are plain bread that is made from whole-grain flour, but cooking differs in thickness. I also learned to cook the 'dum aloo' which is a dish made of potatoes and some spices and it complements with the 'paratha' or 'chapati'. I eat rice as my staple food, but since I am in India, I have to learn to eat the Indian way.

It is always good to learn something new. To learn the culture and the tradition of another place is not just a wonderful experience but wisdom. In a land that is multi-cultural and diverse, there is nothing to be ignorant about, but to understand and accept its norms, beliefs, and social standing.

India may be a land of contrast, but I have witnessed and learned how they persevere and raise the bar towards excellence making them achieve economic progress and rising power. There may be some serious challenges confronting them, but with faith, unity, and goodwill, then India could gain something it deserves.

Wintertime in India is about to end while spring/summer is fast approaching, and it is like the rebirth--the restorative phase. It is the most wonderful season when the sky is clear and the weather is warm with the blossoming flowers around. I hope I could witness their celebration of the 'Holi festivalwhich marks the beginning of the spring. For now what is important is to be grateful for the learning that the winter could bring, until such time that it will come to an end--then comes the season of rebirth.

© 2013 Del Cusay

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent 2013: Embracing Christ in Our Lives

"The journey may be quite long, but in the process, we reflect on our Christian living, we renew our religious vow and we enjoy a happy beginning of a renewed self  by embracing Christ in our lives forever."

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season among Christians and its denominations throughout the world. This is a very important annual liturgical event to commemorate the journey of sacrifice and penitence of Christ for 40 days where he endured the suffering and temptations towards his destination.

The ash is made of burnt palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday. It is usually mixed with holy water and put on the forehead of the faithful marking a sign of the cross as soon as it has been blessed after the homily, and it will remain until it wears off.

The ash is not an ordinary symbol of the Christian faith. It is a reminder that we came from ash and from there shall we return in accordance with what is written in the book of Genesis. It also reminds us of a spiritual conversion to become re-united with Christ and having Him as the center of our lives.

The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene

The celebration of Ash Wednesday is significant to everyone regardless of religious affiliation and faith. It sends us the message for repentance from our faults; to penitence by sacrificing something for God's glory, and to do fasting as a means for self-sacrifice. It may sound doable, but it would take courage and a deeper understanding of the essence of this religious rite.

Like Christ, followers may have done a sacrifice that is relevant in our time. To fast would mean to give up food by not eating too much resulting in gluttony which is considered a sin in the Christian law. The budget for food on this day may go to someone who needs it the most. I remember in college the teachings of our Professor in Religious education about the corporal works of mercy which include feeding the hungry. It is not just a one-day practice, but any day is the best time to give something to others in need.

In today's homily, we are reminded to give our ultimate sacrifice even for a single day. Some would give up their meal, others would give up vices and some would donate something to the needy. In a deeper perspective, this is significant since we are taught not to be attached to things that would give us harm and trouble later on.

Our little sacrifice would remind us that some people are truly suffering while others are enjoying the luxuries in life. There are so many people left hungry, while some would have wasted their food. This is the time to reflect on our life's purpose as Christian--that everything we have is not permanent.

The beginning of the lent is just the beginning of our sacrifice, tolerance, and survival. This is like the observance of Christ's passion, death and resurrection for 40 days until Easter. The journey may be quite long, but in the process, we reflect on our Christian living, we renew our religious vow and we enjoy a happy beginning of a renewed self by embracing Christ in our lives forever.

© 2013 Del Cusay

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Celebrating Chinese New Year 2013: A New Beginning

The celebration of the Chinese new year is based on the belief of the lunar calendar month--also marks the beginning of the spring season. It is widely observed by the Chinese in many countries of the world where they have formed a community known as the 'Chinatown'.

Chinese new year brings hope, good luck, and prosperity among people. It is the beginning of another year full of positive aspirations to achieve for self, family, and community as a whole. The colorful festivities in dominant red are known to bring abundance and to spare negativity in any form. On this special day, people wear a red color shirt and make home decorations in red that symbolizes prosperity. Since the majority of the Chinese are engaged in a business, they always put something red in their buildings to attract wealth for the new year and beyond.

In Binondo, one of the busiest and populated districts of Manila is the place for the Filipino-Chinese community or popularly called 'Tsinoy'. Although they are found in various places of the Philippines, the major population and highest concentration of their population is located in the Chinatown of Binondo, Manila.

Lion dance along Ongpin St. Binondo, Manila

I was lucky to have witnessed and celebrated the event with the 'Tsinoys' in Binondo. My trip started with a little prayer in the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz or known as the 'Binondo Church'. This is where the 'Tsinoys' of the Christian faith usually go to pray and strengthen their spiritual life.

Few steps from the church are where the journey commences, in the old street of Ongpin. There is a variety of Chinese merchandise offering products and services in this busy street. Gold shops of high quality can be found in this narrow yet vibrant place. Restaurants are catering to authentic Chinese cuisine and one of which is the 'President's Grand Palace' and the 'President's tea house' to relax your senses. 

Shops are catering to Chinese delicacies like the famous 'Eng Bee Tin' that produces tikoy and hopia in different variants and flavors. I've seen people falling in a long line just to satisfy their cravings for this food that is said to bring good luck. The 'tikoy' is made of glutinous rice flour which is sticky, thus symbolizes a family and relationship that is well bonded according to Chinese norms.

Red lanterns in Chinatown mall to welcome the new year

The most common business in Ongpin is the lucky charms and decors. There is so much jewelry for different purposes depending on form and color. One has to wear a particular bracelet or necklace to attract prosperity and to drive away bad luck. For home decoration, there are red lanterns in various sizes and forms to symbolize wealth and good luck.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts is to witness the lion dance. This mythical Chinese creature dances gracefully as it is maneuvered by several dancers. They perform lion dances from one shop to another for an opportunity to receive angpao or the red envelope with money. They have never failed to entertain the business owners in a presentation that is well-rehearsed and choreographed.

There is also a dragon dance, but it is quite long and carried by several dancers. Like the lion dance, it is also a powerful mythical creature in Chinese culture. It is to spare negativity in business, the house, and the environment. Both dance presentations are seen throughout the new year's celebration in Binondo, particularly in Ongpin. It is colorful, entertaining, and attracts a crowd.

In a traditional Chinese family, 'angpao' is given to the unmarried and usually children. The little kids fall in line and patiently wait for their turn to receive 'angpao' from the elderly or their grandparents. They are expected to greet the happy new year in the Chinese language as they receive it, but they are not supposed to open the red envelop until they ran away from the giver.

In The Chinese new year, there are several ways of greetings; in a language known to them. Whether you hear the greetings 'Kung Hei Fat Choi', 'Gong Xi Fa Chai', or 'Kiong He Huat Tsai', it is an all valid form of new year greetings. It does not literally mean 'Happy new year' but it means congratulating and wishing someone for prosperity. 

Giant red lanterns are legendary Chinese handicraft that symbolizes good luck

In the Philippines, the common greetings are 'Kung Hei Fat Choi' and it has been made standard greetings in media and other printed publications. It is a Cantonese greeting, usually spoken in Hong Kong and Macau, but the 'Tsinoys' speaks 'Hokkien' and prefers the greetings 'Kiong Hee Huat Tsai'. However, no matter what language or dialect is spoken for greetings, there is a spirit of understanding and it sends a single message of 'Happy New Year!'.

The Chinatown, mall is where I have witnessed cultural presentations from different groups. They have presented charming Chinese folk dances, the melodic choral, and the exhibitions of Chinese martial arts like 'Wushu' and Tai Chi'. There is also some modern Chinese hip hop that captures the attention of the younger generations. It is a day-long event until the countdown for the new year is observed and fireworks are witnessed to lighten up the evening. 

The Chinese people love to preserve their heritage and they have a greater influence on culture, food, social norms, and beliefs. In the Philippines, people are familiar with the 'Feng Shui" and this is attributed to good luck, happiness, and prosperity in businesses and houses. There is also the 'horoscope' where people consult their luck or destiny on a particular day, month or year depending on the zodiac sign and animal sign you were born. Also, Filipinos are fond of eating noodles and soups brought by the Chinese since a long time ago.

Although the world constantly evolves and the culture of peace and freedom is changing, there are so many things we should learn from the Chinese. Perseverance and endurance at work accompanied by humility and gratitude are what made them achieve success in the family, career, and life in general. 

The Chinese culture has its own uniqueness and their customs being extraordinary makes us multi-cultured people. Our beliefs should not be restricted to what has been instilled since birth. Open-mindedness and acceptance in faith and cultural differences bring a peaceful and vibrant living. We learn from each other and the wisdom gained is what truly brings good luck and prosperity in our lives no matter who and what we are; and no matter who we will become.

© 2013 Del Cusay

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pasinaya 2013: Rediscovering Philippine Arts & Culture

In today's modern times, I still recognize that the past is interrelated to the present and what we are today is the result of what has transpired from the past, hence our artistic abilities and cultural heritage are something that should be preserved and passed on from generation to generation.

The Philippine culture has bestowed us a glimpse of the glorious past through various artistic rendition that makes us feel the unity and camaraderie of being a Filipino. It is in our culture to be creative and artistic as a means of emotional expression. It is something that bridges the gap between loyalty and colonial mentality. It creates solidarity as a nation and everlasting bliss in the hearts of Filipinos living throughout the world.

To enliven the Philippine culture and arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines created the Pasinaya festival to fulfill the desires and passion of Filipino artists and cultural enthusiasts in various genres. "Pasinaya" is a Filipino term that means a formal opening. This year's theme gives tribute to the influence of Chinese arts and culture in our lives as Filipinos.

The Chinese have long been part of the Philippine history and culture and their massive influence remained until the present times. It was a great opportunity to have witnessed and embraced the Filipino and Chinese arts and culture through the Pasinaya festival.

Dubbed as the largest national multi-arts festival, the 'Pasinaya' presented memorable cultural presentations and art exhibits in almost all of the CCP venues. The main theater lobby was full of visitors mostly students and professors from different schools patiently waiting for the next event at the 'Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo' where the resident companies of the CCP is doing their shows, including the Philippine Madrigal Singers; The Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company; Ballet Philippines and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

There were several presentation and activity in genres' like dance, theater, music, films, visual arts, and exhibits and was presented by thousands of Filipino artists in different regions of the country. There were a variety of shows like lion dance, fan dance, and modern hip-hop dance along with the closed street venue of the CCP.

There were also workshops in dance, music, and stage drama for children and adults to learn and enhance their skills.

In the main theater ramp, several groups presented folk dances. Their graceful interpretation in colorful costumes has entertained the crowd of both local and foreign audiences. It was a great moment to watch the young performers across the country showcasing their dance skills in classical Filipino music. 

I remember when I was in elementary up to college that I was like them being a member of the school dance troupe and presenting different folk dances on stage. The joy felt while performing before the audience is quite reminiscing and the reason why I patronize Filipino cultural presentation and activities.

The main theater of 'Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo' is where I spent most of the time witnessing the performances of the resident companies. I was delighted to watch the 'Bayanihan Cultural Dance Company' when they presented beautiful folk dances. They have presented the 'Pandango sa Ilaw and 'Wasiwas', both popular Philippine folk dances that made me proud of being a former folk dancer who happens to have presented those two dances way back in high school and college.

The Philippine folk dance is truly an epitome of grace, grandeur, and refined ways that are becoming obsolete in today's modern living.

The Performers of the Pasinaya Festival 2013 during  the gala night
The presentation and rendition of the Philippine Madrigal Singers is truly soulful singing that captures the emotions of the audience. Their company is undeniably one of the world's best and most awarded chorale. It has won prestigious awards and recognition from international chorale competition. The 'Madz' as they call it sings in a semi-circle without the aid of a conductor. Their soft and angelic voices deserve applause from the audience regardless of musical genre; from classical and folkloric music to contemporary music.

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra rendered an enchanting melody of some classical symphonies and even modern popular Filipino music under the baton of their music director Maestro Oliver Ochanine. They received numerous applause from the audience who appreciates what authentic music should be. Their mastery of musical instruments is majestic and producing rhythmic sounds that are stunning. My regard for classical music and symphonies will remain as my appreciation for this artistic musical masterpiece.

The 'Pasinaya Festival 2013' brought lessons and new learning. Our culture is diverse and rich it is a heritage. Thus, there is a need to preserve and protect as well as to love, care and respect. Our arts and culture are what we are as a Filipino people and it is what we ought to show to the world.

© 2013 Del Cusay