My tita once told me, “You are part of this family. This family is talented because we dance. And we are good! Trust me, you can dance!”
The warmth of the spotlight. I felt at ease. The music flowed with me and empowered me to keep the candles steady. Sayaw was how I expressed myself differently. It was a whole new perspective to life filled with such beauty and grace, but staying true to powerful movements in Filipinx dance. Dancing pandanggo sa ilaw during a Gonzaga Men’s Basketball half time on National Gonzaga Day, was a moment that brought me back to when I used to fear the spotlight.
When I was younger, I would shy away from attention because that’s what I was taught. It was so ingrained in me, I was ashamed to even participate in family grandeur. Filipinx parents and grandparents are notorious for making their kids do artistic activities, in hopes of one day becoming the next Filipinx artist(a). Apparently, I was born into a family of dancers.
My immigrant parents raised me that transitioning to being American, meant suppressing any differences. I shouldn’t do anything that would draw attention on myself because that would make me different. That false rationale how assimilation meant good and contrast meant outcast. WALANG HIYA came to be my mantra as I started college.
At the time, I didn’t know this, but I was slowly searching for what being Filipinx-American meant to me. That’s when Gonzaga’s FASU (Filipino American Student Union) entered my life. Surprisingly, I was cast for the female leading role in the annual FASU Festival. Festival is FASU’s largest event aimed at sharing the Filipinx culture with the school and the greater Spokane community. I learned traditional dances such as Tinikling, Binasuan, Subli, Bulaklakan, and Sayaw sa Bangko. Then, throughout my time in college, I soon became one of the choreographers of Festival. What was such a large production, became an invaluable submersion into the culture I missed out on as a child. I transitioned into the spotlight because of my involvement with Festival and there is no looking back. I look forward to the next time I get to perform.
Before, I let my insecurities and shame cloud my creativity. Sayaw filled a part of my life that I did not know was missing. I fell in love with what sayaw was. It is an interpretation and expression of the Filipinx culture. Everytime I dance, I turn into a better version of me.
Mary Binongcal (she/her/hers). Born in Dagupan City, Philippines but grew up in Seattle, WA. She graduated with her Bachelor’s of Biology at Gonzaga University. She is passionate about being a womxn with and for others while striving to preserve her Philippine identity. Her inspiration comes from her immigrant parents when they left farm life in the provinces of the Philippines to help her achieve her dreams of becoming a pediatrician in America. She found her Filipinx American identity in her involvement with her university’s Filipino American Student Union. Through her participation and leadership in the organization, she fostered her love of dance. Instagram