The world comes to Clark County

People of three cultures share beloved traditions

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If you go

What: Celebración de mi Gente (Celebration of my People), comprises three events focused on Hispanic culture.

When: April 29.

Where: Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way.

Events:

"90 Miles," a film portrait of Cuba, along with the story of one man’s escape — on his third try — from Cuba by raft; noon to 2 p.m. in the school’s Foster Auditorium.

Dia Del Niño children’s fair — crafts, food, music and bilingual readings for children; 5 to 7 p.m. at the Gaiser Student Center.

Peña Folklorica, a cultural celebration for adults with arts, food, dancing and poetry; 7 to 9 p.m. in the Penguin Student Lounge.

Admission: Free.

Information:http://clark.edu/news_center/releases/2011LatinoCelebrationNR.php.

If you go

What: Aawitan Kita sa Amerika at Canada, a look at Filipino culture told through dramatic musical vignettes

When: 7 p.m. April 29.

Where: Northside Baptist Church, 5201 N.E. Minnehaha St.

Admission: Tickets are $20 for general admission, or $40 for a sponsorship, with proceeds going to the nonprofit Filipino American Association of Clark County.

Information:http://filamaclarkcounty.community.officelive.com or call 360-574-6275.

If you go

What: Ke Kukui Foundation May Day Arts and Crafts Festival, with dancing, music, food and children’s events celebrating Hawaiian culture.

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 30.

Where: Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 3000 N.W. 119th St.

Admission: Tickets are $5 for age 11 and older, free for children under age 10.

Information:http://kekukuifoundation.org.

GLOSSARY

Spanish:

hola = hello

¿que tal? = how are you?

muy bien = very well or good job

gracias = thank you

Tagalog (spoken in the Philippines):

maganda = beautiful

magandang gabi = good evening

salamat = thank you

magaling = good; awesome; you’re talented

Olelo (spoken in Hawaii):

aloha = hello; goodbye; how are you?

mahalo = thank you

hula = dance

kukui = the state tree, which blossoms and grows a nut used for several purposes.

Hola, magandang umaga and aloha to you, oh multicultural city of Vancouver USA.

If you seek a quick tour of the globe without actually leaving our fair city, than this is your weekend. A trifecta of events and opportunities to learn about Hispanic, Filipino and Hawaiian culture begins today.

Get ready to grab a bit of pan dulce, enjoy some dramatic zarzuelas or watch the rhythmic movement of some kahiko hula. It’s all here, and you don’t even need a passport to attend.

Latino life

The festivities start off April 29 with Clark College’s celebration of Hispanic culture through three free events for children, adults and students.

The second annual Celebración de mi Gente, or “Celebration of My People,” came about after members of the school’s Spanish department started discussing misinformation in the United States surrounding the Cinco de Mayo holiday, said Erika Nava, a professor in the department.

The real holiday, which is mostly celebrated in the southern Mexican state of Puebla, is focused on a battle between the Mexican militia and France in 1862. It is not, despite common rumor, associated with Mexican independence, Nava said.

In an effort to clear up the confusion, the Spanish department decided to create its own local festival to give the public a more realistic understanding of Hispanic culture throughout the world.

“What we wanted to do was have a celebration of Latino culture, but with a different focus than what Cinco de Mayo has become in the United States,” Nava said. “So we built a complete day of festivities with all kinds of events.”

Cuban immigrant Braulio Garcia will host the first event, starting at noon April 29, by telling his story of escaping from Cuba to Florida by raft. His story will be followed by an airing of the documentary “90 Miles,” a portrait of life in Cuba.

The second event, Dia Del Niño/Dia Del Libro, begins at 5 p.m. and is focused on children. Dia Del Niño, or “Day of the Child,” is a United Nations holiday that’s generally celebrated on April 30 in Mexico.

“The U.N. created the holiday basically as a way to celebrate that children have a right to be children, that they have a right to grow up with play and learning and without having to work from a very young age,” Nava said. “So we created an event with music, crafts, food and bilingual readings.”

The holiday often coincides with Dia Del Libro, or “Day of the Book,” which is focused on encouraging kids to read, and the Clark College event will include activities that help children create their own small books, she added.

The adults can finish off the evening at Peña Folklorica, which starts at 7 p.m. The arts-focused event will include Mexican refreshments such as cafe con leche and pan dulce, while visitors check out Hispanic-themed art displays, dancing demonstrations and poetry.

Filipino flair

If musical drama is more to your liking, though, you might want to head over to Northside Baptist Church for the international premiere of “Aawitan Kita sa Amerika at Canada,” which also starts at 7 p.m. April 29.

The musical drama and travel show is hosted by Armida Siguion-Reyna, who could be considered a female Philippine version of 1950s TV icon Perry Como.

Vancouverites Lourdes Mashinski and Rita Schaljo have fond memories of growing up watching Siguion-Reyna on the TV version of the show, which ran for more than 35 years, as do many others from their home country.

The two women, both on the board of directors of the Filipino American Association of Clark County, pulled some major strings to get the newly formed stage adaptation to kick off its international tour right here in Vancouver.

“They had other plans, and cities ahead of us,” Mashinski said, adding with a straight face: “But those cities are lame, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York. We told them Vancouver is just better.”

In truth, Mashinski was able to convince the group by pressuring her cousin, Bo Cerrudo, who is an actor in the show, she reluctantly admitted.

The economy throughout the 7,100 islands that make up the Philippines is mostly based on rural farming. The country, which has high educational standards, tends to export workers to other nations, who then send money back to support family members that have remained, the two women said.

“There’s not enough labor for everybody,” Schaljo said. “Everybody goes to college, but once they graduate, they can’t find work unless they leave. One of the stories in the show deals with that issue. It deals with the problems of separated families and the issues of a husband and wife in that situation.”

The show’s three acts, called zarzuelas, each tell a different tale of modern life in the Philippines. They are told through music, singing and dancing. Most of the production will be in Tagalog, the main language spoken in the Philippines, although some will be in English, which is that nation’s second-most common language, the women said.

“We hope people will want to come and experience this as a bit of Philippine culture,” Schaljo said. “It’s sort of like a soap opera. And being able to see Armida Siguion-Reyna is a once in a lifetime thing. She’s in her 80s, and this is the first time they’ve ever toured like this, and probably the last.”

Hawaiian hoedown

As you awake the morning of April 30, no doubt revved up for more culture, consider making your way over to Thomas Jefferson Middle School to join in on some of the aloha at the Ke Kukui Foundation’s May Day Arts and Crafts Festival.

The event will feature Hawaiian dance, crafts, lei-making, games and activities and is keiki — or kid — friendly. It runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Not sure exactly what “aloha” means? Feel free to use it in just about any circumstance, said Ka’ili Tabandera, the festival chair.

“It means ‘I love you,’ ‘good job,’ ‘how ya doing,’ ‘hello’ and a whole bunch of other things,” Tabandera said with a laugh. “It’s a very, very versatile word.”

The Hawaiians have a slogan: “May Day is Lei Day,” and since the 1920s the 1st of May holiday has been thought of as a time to celebrate island and native Hawaiian culture, she said.

“Hawaiian culture — back in the old days it was all about community, about everybody working together as a whole, villages sharing resources, everybody trying to look after each other,” Tabandera said.

Parts of that culture changed, however, as missionaries and others made promises to the Hawaiian monarchy in exchange for land and labor, and then failed to deliver on those promises, she said.

“The Hawaiian people feel, just like the Native American people, that their land was taken from them, and they want some acknowledgement that they were wronged in the past,” Tabandera added.

That’s not to say that the celebration will take an overly political bent. It’s just that not many people realize that those issues even exist for native Hawaiians, she said.

The festival will mostly focus on cultural traditions and activities such as Hawaiian bowling and fishing, lei-making, Tahitian weaving and on creating Maori poi balls, which are used in dancing.

Visitors will also get to watch at least four kinds of hula, or dance, from various traditions, she said.

The main dances are: Kahiko, an ancient Hawaiian dance accompanied by chanting; Auana, a modern hula with live music, fancy dresses and hairstyles; Tahitian hula, which often tells a story through rapid hip movement; and Maori dances, which incorporate poi balls, singing and war chants, Tabandera explained.

The event will also have a variety of authentic Hawaiian foods, a scavenger hunt and storytelling.

“It’s a great place for children and adults to come and learn about Pacific Island culture,” Tabandera said.