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Loyola’s Kapwa Competes in Annual Battle of the Bamboo

Seven competitors, eight minutes to perform and one shot to make it count.

Hundreds of audience members waited in line at the Hilton Chicago hotel to watch the 14th Battle of the Bamboo (BOTB) where 78 members of Kapwa, Loyola’s Filipino and Filipino American club, competed Feb. 25.

The word “Kapwa” is a Filipino psychological term that embodies the ideas of togetherness, unity and brotherhood.

Focusing on the traditional Filipino folk dance, BOTB is a cultural dance competition that welcomes participants across the Midwest ranging from high school to collegiate levels.

Hosted by Filipinos In Alliance at the University of Illinois Chicago, this year’s theme was “KulTuro: A New Era,” which is a combination of two Tagalog words: “Kultura,” meaning culture, and “Turo” meaning “to teach.”

“A New Era does not refer to something new, but rather to remember the past and look forward to the future,” said BOTB Principal Coordinator Marc Anthony. “Battle isn’t just a competition; it’s an emphasis on the Filipino culture.”

For Kapwa’s 10th year of participation, Cultural Co-Coordinators Lauren Phuong-Anh Ho, Melody Beltran and Jennine Lomibao chose to represent the Mangyan people and the story of “The Legend of the Banai.”

Out of the eight tribes of the Mangyan people, four were represented: Tadyawan, Tau-buid, Buhid and Hanunuo. The tribes believe that there are evil forest spirits called “Labong” that feast on the souls of the unfortunate who cross their path. One forest spirit, “The Banai,” is not as devious nor scary and takes an interest to children. Banai is a beautiful woman that lures children away from their village into the forest and protects them from harm.

Loyola’s performance featured an array of props including bows and arrows, staffs and sticks, wicker baskets and plates and bamboo staffs.

While Loyola took second place, behind only Northside College Preparatory, participants were overjoyed and filled with pride for their work and were met with two standing ovations at the end of their performance.

“Although it’s such an honor to win second place, we couldn’t even focus on the trophies because we really didn’t care for them; we already knew we were winners walking out,“ said Lomibao. “They felt our heart out there, and the emotion and pride I felt in our team and what we put out there is all that mattered.”

Co-president and Loyola senior Charles Espedido said Kapwa welcomes all students and provides both branches for physical activity and philanthropic events.

“Kapwa is multifaceted in its efforts in order to enrich our members in the Filipino and Filipino American culture,” said Espedido. “No matter what you’re involved in or what your background is, Kapwa is a place and environment for our members to call home.”

During the past five weeks, Kapwa spent more than 60 hours preparing for their performance, learning choreography, making costumes and learning music.

“It was a very time-consuming task, but at the end of the day it was well worth it,” Loyola first-year Kevin Ferrer said. “Even though we’re not in our homeland, we’re still representing our tribes and islands back home.”

While Ferrer was new to the competition, Ho has participated in six Battle of the Bamboos and has years of cultural dancing experience under her belt as a Loyola senior.

“Our main goal is authenticity [on stage]. It’s scary because these videos go up on YouTube and are shared with the actual tribes,” Ho said. “Our job to represent them correctly.”

In the final weeks before BOTB, Kapwa alumni were welcomed back to help adjust and fine tune the performance.

Loyola graduate Maralea Achacoso spent time with Kapwa and BOTB throughout her college experience as a participant and coordinator.

“It’s a lot of work, but by the end of it, all of those things you run into, they’re all small compared to the reward you get, ” Achacoso said.

Editor’s Note: Marc Rosales II is a member of Kapwa and competed in the Battle of the Bamboo.

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