Meet the Ensemble Series: Reina

Next up in the Meet the Ensemble Series is one of my favorite dancers from Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts and Education Center: Reina Chiong-Quenaon.  She is pictured here.


Reina comes from a family of dancers.  Her mother, Ruby Pearl Chiong, was a dancer with Far Eastern University Dance Troupe in the Philippines and in 1975 joined Samahan as choreographer, dancer and teacher.  Auntie Rubie is still the choreographer to this day.  Reina and her sister JD have been Samahan dancers since about 1989 and have trained under both their mother and Samahan’s founder, Dr. Lolita Carter.  

Training under my mother was different from Dr. Carter. Although they both had the same high expectation, they taught very different[ly]. My mom was very patient and laid back. She danced side by side in order to ensure the student understood.

Dr. Carter focused on discipline and technique and was not afraid to correct and criticize. Dr. Carter left a very lasting impression on everyone she taught/knew and… molded me as a dancer and a professional. She taught me discipline and respect – something I hope to teach my children and future dancers of Samahan.

Samahan boasts a varied repertoire and so I asked Reina, if she had to pick only one, which was her favorite.  The answer: the “Rural Suite.”  If you’ve ever been to Samahan’s Gala or Festival, both held annually, you would probably agree.  The Rural Suite mimics the simple day to day life of farmers and the Philippine countryside and includes tinikling, one of the most well-known of Philippine dances.

I enjoy the liveliness and colorful costumes. Our older audience can relate to the rural suite and [it] brings back memories for their life in the Philippines. I enjoy the festivals and showing that the most simple games were the most fun.

As wikipedia succinctly put it,

The tinikling is a pre-Spanish dance from the Philippines that involves two people beating, tapping, and sliding bamboo poles on the ground and against each other in coordination with one or more dancers who step over and in between the poles in a dance.

Music and dance – these are things by which many Filipino-Americans connect with their heritage because they are passed down from generation to generation.  Filipino-Americans have a high rate of assimilation in the U.S. and fluency in Tagalog and other Filipino dialects tends to be lost among second- and third-generation.  

Thank you again for your time Reina!

Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa

Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa

Susie Ibarra: Kulintang for the New Millennium

Susie Ibarra on the cover of Tom Tom Magazine in 2010.
Susie Ibarra on the cover of Tom Tom Magazine in 2010

If you’re trying to learn about kulintang, you’ve probably been hard pressed to find information in your local library. Perhaps you’ve lucked out and managed to find youtube clips of kulintang competitions in the Middle East, Philippines or U.S – out of 7,000 youtube videos only roughly 1,000 are high definition. Its music you’re after but it’s not easy to find; I’ve tried. And then suddenly you hit upon what seems like a goldmine.

Susie Ibarra is a composer, percussionist, improviser, TED fellow, NYFA fellow, humanitarian. She trained in kulintang under Master Danny Kalanduyan and can be heard on over 40 CDs/records. Her own projects include Electric Kulintang, Digital Sanctuaries, and Song of the Bird King. She’s been featured in the New York Times.

All About Jazz says “With expansive soundscapes, funky/jazz rhythms and exquisite melodies, Ibarra has created a Kulintang for the new millennium.”

Please have a listen to Duyog by Kalanduyan Family, The Cotabato Sessions.

Have a taste of Electric Kulintang’s Cotabato City. Its sweet!

Meet the Ensemble Series


Pictured here are me and my younger sister Mary Grace Nievera. Photo credit: Joal Pike. Taken at Cholula Hall at San Diego State University.

We are excited to present The Meet the Ensemble Series, introducing you to the cast and characters that keep traditional folk arts alive and well in our community. You’ll get to know the Samahan dancers, such as Reina Chong and Jelynn Sophia Rodriguez. They started dancing together in Samahan at age 9 and have made a lifelong commitment to the arts. I will be also interviewing some of the founding members of PKE, like Mary Talusan and Eleanor Lipat, to learn more about why PKE holds a special place in their hearts.

If you ever wondered who is behind the blog, the day has come for you to find out. My name is Andrea and I’m a long time friend of Bernard’s. This blog started as a modest effort to share his research in the Philippines. He has travelled to PI and studied amongst the Kulintang masters themselves. He’s presented his research at ethnomusicology conferences around the world.

I am Filipino-American – Kalinga (father’s side) and Waray (mother’s) – and though I’m not a musician, dancer or ethnomusicologist, I do love the arts and appreciate my heritage. Mary Grace is my younger sister and since 1996 I’ve been a stage mom of sorts, shuttling her to Samahan practice on the rare occasion there was no carpool available and scurrying backstage during rehearsals and productions. I’ve had a soft spot for gong-chime music since I was a kid. My family was once a very active member in BIBAK and the sight and sound of my uncles playing gongs are among my fondest and earliest childhood memories.

When I learned that Bernard played gong-chime music and brilliantly at that, I was floored. Playing gongs were a talent reserved for my father’s generation or older.

I support Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble because the work they do speaks volumes not only about the rich history of the Philippines but of how deeply they respect our ancestry. PKE aims to educate the public on the history of Kulintang, dispel the myth that Kulintang is part of the “Muslim suite” and – through research, practice and presentation – preserve this ancient tradition.

For more information about BIBAK please go to their website. (You can expect more information about my own experience with BIBAK in subsequent posts.)

Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble turned 10!



Pictured here are (top) Guru Danny with members of the Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble and the Palabuniyan Kulintang Ensemble. The bottom photo is of Bernard Ellorin. Photo credit: Chris Feraro

#throwbackthursday #flashbackfriday

Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble celebrated it’s 10th birthday last year and is looking forward to the years ahead. Without a doubt, we must thank the late Dr. Lolita Carter for insightfully and capably bringing Samahan Fil-Am Arts and Master Danny Kalanduyan together in 1995 by securing a grant with the National Endowment for the Arts.

We encourage you to visit Samahan’s website.

Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, master artist/ teacher of Kulingtang Music became a guest teacher and artist with the Company from 1988 to 1991 and 1994 to 1997. He introduced Samahan to the authentic music of the Maguindanao people as well as the music of the Maranao people. Kalanduyan was honored in 1995, as a recipient of the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award bt the National Endowment of the Arts. His patient guidance resulted in the development of Bernard Ellorin, one of his students, as a Kulintang player of great promise. The group eventually adapted the name Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble, merging with the group formed by Bernard and his UCLA music student colleagues.

PKE seeks a Writer

The Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble is seeking a writer to help with our blog as well as grant-writing and press kit preparation activities. In this position, you will gain ample experience in nonprofits, writing, outreach, and fundraising.

Ethnic studies major preferred with demonstrated experience in blogging. Excellent communication skills are a must.

Please send a sample of your writing no longer than one page in length, CV or resume and a cover letter to If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

A $200 scholarship will be awarded at the end of a 6 month commitment. I anticipate that this commitment will take no more than 3 hours a week, for both discussion and writing.