As San Francisco celebrated the Rabbit with Lunar New Year, I reprised my role as guest artist with pan-Asian/Brazilian drum line Sambasia SF for an intimate performance in the Mission district at Eth-Noh-Tec’s “Salon You’re On!” It was truly a pleasure playing music with this open-minded crew of percussionists who are so eager to test the cross-cultural waters by bringing traditional Asian musics to Bahia via San Francisco Japantown. Also sharing their talent that night was Beth Grosman, Jenny Logico, Fay Chiang, and fellow live-looping-virtuoso-multi-instrumentalist Cello Joe.
This weekend show took place just days after I returned from a brief but beautiful trip to the Philippines where I encountered more kulintang paraphernalia such as this beautifully painted vintage (heavy) agung that lives suspended above a fruitbowl in a kitchen in Quezon City. Although the instrument is alone, it is played everyday at least three times a day before mealtime.
A side trip to the beautiful “City in a Forest,” aka Puerto Princesa in Palawan yielded many kulintang encounters on a large and lush limestone island. One highlight was a fresh Filipino seafood dinner suspended over the water next to a grove of mangrove trees called Badjao, a Sama-themed restaurant complete with a dining room on stilts and a wooden gong replica at the entrance.
At yet another dining establishment called Ka Lui’s I found these wooden painted gongs tucked away on the ends of some bamboo banisters. Ka Lui’s specializes in seasonal local faire with a daily menu and an art gallery atmosphere. The sizzling special was my favorite; it tasted like a spicy Filipino-Mexican collision far beyond your Bay Area sisig tacos.
Viet Villa is a village within Puerto Princesa where Vietnamese refugees made new lives for themselves after their rafts drifted on natural currents from Vietnam to Puerto Princesa via the famed Underground River in Sabang, Palawan. Displayed next to a beautiful temple were a drum and hanging flat gong.
Back on Luzon, the Bughaw Folkloric troup prepares for their weekly weekend lunchtime one-hour cultural program at the historic Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay. In front of the breathtaking backdrop of concentric volcano lakes the audience smiled as Bughaw expertly moved through the suite, with vivid narrations and professional-level execution including live gong instrumentation! I took a snaphsot of their gong setup just minutes before they took the stage. It was a wonder to witness.
While I wish I could share a Kulintronica story in the Philippines, sadly this short trip was not for that occasion. Still, a trip to the Philippines nourishes the Filipino American in a way that no other vacation can. The archipelago inspires me endlessly and I approach the coming festival season with these memories in my heart.