Last weekend marked the last of the 5th year series of “Salon! You’re ON!”. As another wonderful season comes to a close, we have much to be grateful for. First and foremost- we are grateful to all the incredible Bay Area talent that made this possible. With over 8 events, 400 people attending, and 60 participating artists, painters, writers, poets, film makers, songwriters, playwright, storytellers, public artists, musicians and dancers, and choirs we are so thankful to have created such an array of artistry. We can all feel so proud to be a part of this diverse cultural region known as the Bay Area.
Starting off the evening with loads of laughs Filipino style, Al Manalo shared memoirs upon the journey of cultural identity filled with plenty Pinoy innuendo. Hailing from Salinas where he learned the Latino ways like what he termed, the “airplane dance” he manuevered us in and around that ever close relations between Filipinos and our Latino brothers and sisters. I personally liked the “balut” vingette (pronounced: “baluuuuuut!” in the tradition of those ever present vendors that sell the half-formed-chick-embryos that go down so well San Miguel beer). I also liked his description of crowing roosters (at 3am in the morning). Al had many of the crowd in stitches… caught up in the contagion of laughter.
Her writing was elegant and graceful as she shared the poetic stories in a piece called “Wedding Dress”. In this piece she drew in sights and sounds of Filipino life, with images of  Manila, like Quiapo, the old town market district, images of old photos, draping fabric, stillness and moments, of beggars and saints, folk potions that cure forgetfulness. Aileen’s poetry is sensual and intimate as she draws her listener into personal views of family relationships, always honoring the matriarchy of mother and lola (grandmother). In her second piece she was joined by Paul, her husband for some tandem recitation of a poem titled: “Italian Wedding Suit”.
Sean San Jose & Rick Saenz:
Sean read from his work dedicated to his grandmother, his lola, “the one who taught us about “slow dancing, about memories, about tattoos ‘tik tik’ (grandmothers knick-name for the sound of a tattoo machine)”. Sean took us through two scenes. The first scene, back in 1948: Dance Hall Manila at makeshift social dance hall in a barn on a farm of beets and strawberries fields, of zoot suits and knife fights. The passion and fire between Latino and Filipino communities, from Guadalupe, CA to Intramuros, Philippines Sean moves us between worlds. The second scene flashes forward to current times, a young man trying to honor those who came before him with a commemorative tattoo. But what image should be chosen? He tells the tattoo artist: “You can start my tattooing memories… of Weddings, funerals, barong (shirts) and shoes… a tattoo of his grandfather’s lolo’s heart, and his lolas face”. Sean’s writing and delivery was poetic drama. Thank you to both Rick and Sean for this passionate performance!
Adding to the mix of entertainment, I dusted off an old favorite from former Asian American song-writing days and sang an original: “To The Manongs of Walnut Grove”. The song speaks of the community in the California Delta area where Filipino migrant farm workers live. These “Manongs” (respective term for elder brother, uncle or elder) who came to America in the 1920’s and 1930’s were a significant part of California’s booming agricultural economy. It was good to have my “manongs” in the audience listening, Bill Tamayo and Ron Muriera (my brother artists and community activists) who also witnessed the earlier years of Filipino American consciousness (International Hotel and the struggle of low-cost housing in SF; Fil-Am veterans rights movement, Asian American legal aide, and immigration rights movement).
Nara herself calls her work “painting with film” and “poetry of cinema” as she presented two pieces both earning this unique approach to film. The first piece, a film of a modern man’s encounter with “Pele” the goddess of the volcano in Hawaiian Mythos is a cautionary tale depicting what happens when a modern man (symbolized by a voyeur photographer) trespasses the realm of the goddess and offends her with a flash of the camera. Perhaps it was a statement about trying to “capture” spirit, rather than “experiencing” it. Nara’s visual sensibility was mythic and stunning.
Kulintronica is a term which implies the fusing of kulintang, the traditional gong music of Southern Philippines with synthesized music. Ron, who has studied the traditional music is exploring the outer edges of this genre by overlaying Filipino modes on top of “tracks” produced by soft-synth sounds of the laptop computer. With his initial foundation in traditional Maguindanaon *(one of dozens of ethnic groups found on Mindanao island) gong music Quesada has blended “trance” style sounds of popular Western culture with tradition.
For all the artists, audience members and volunteers that made this season a hit. We will open our 6th season in the Fall (dates to be announced). If you know of other artists, ensembles of any art form, please let us know. We’d love to include them in next years line up.