Friday, October 11, 2013

A Special Day

fudan university shanghai china first filipino day shanghai world expo kontragapi philippine pavilionI spent almost half of my previous year in China learning how to speak Mandarin Chinese. I was one of the scholars of a foundation in the Philippines chosen to undergo a five-month training to learn about the language, culture and history of China. Every day, I will walk for more than twenty minutes from my dormitory to the teaching building in Fudan University. It was a long walk but I have no complaints as long as I get to eat my favorite Chinese bun every morning. After classes, I’ll have lunch with my classmates and then go back straight to the dormitory for my homework. During weekends, we’ll go to the church and then visit the must-see places in Shanghai. During my first few months, this has become my routine. It’s almost exactly the same every single day- until one day.

“Why don’t we organize a Filipino event?,” one of my fellow Filipino scholars suggested during a lunch time. “We are thirty-seven here. It is possible. We have artists, dancers and singers among us. I’m sure we can come up with something special to introduce the Philippines to everyone.”

Few months earlier than that, my classmates witnessed a presentation from the students from Mexico inside one of the buildings. Aside from some pictures, my roommate took home with him an overly sized hat that the Mexicans used as a prop during a dance. A few months passed, the Swedish had their turn. This time, they taught the crowd a dance for couples that the Swedish perform during festivities. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience the culture of other nations through those presentations. The amount of efforts they exerted fueled our passion to create our own "special day" for all of them.

A few weeks later, the Filipino Day was born.

A Special Day

“Avoid getting caught by the bamboos! Avoid getting caught by the bamboos!” my classmates cheered loudly for our foreign schoolmates who are trying to learn Tinikling. Tinikling is the national dance of the Philippines. It involves two people tapping a pair of bamboo poles on the ground and then together, while a male and a female dancer step over and in between them while avoiding getting their feet caught.

fudan university shanghai china first filipino day shanghai world expo kontragapi philippine pavilionSurprisingly, we never encountered any hardships at all to invite volunteers to try the dance during the Filipino Day. Our foreign schoolmates seemed to enjoy every bit of it and they will only return to their seats if they caught themselves gasping for breath or if their feet had already been caught by the poles a lot of time. We let our schoolmates experience our culture through our dance, music, games and food. It was a complete Filipino festivity back there on that place and everyone wears a smile on their faces. I believe we have created something truly remarkable on that day.

A Day of Peace

Coming to China, my only goal was just to learn as much as I can about its language, culture and history. I was just a foreign student, one among the many foreigners living and studying in Shanghai. Never did I imagine that I, together with my fellow Filipino scholars, will be able to create a special day that became a celebration of the culture and identity that we were proud of. We brought our culture to China for everyone to experience.

But the Filipino Day wasn’t just a about us, Filipinos. It became a day wherein different kinds of people from the different parts of the world, American, British, Chinese, French, German, Japanese and others, came together as one to partake in a celebration of a nation’s unique way of life. It became a day where each other’s differences were set aside and where everyone found a common ground, a common language,
fudan university shanghai china first filipino day shanghai world expo kontragapi philippine pavilion
through the use of self-expression- music, dance and other forms of art. It became a day of sharing, of building bridges and relationships, of laughter and fun and of appreciation of each and everyone’s uniqueness and diversity. It became a day of peace.

Once it was said, “Peace is the essence of our existence. It is the freedom to pursue our dream. It is our ability to express ourselves. It is the opportunity to relate with others with understanding, good will and cooperation.” Before the Filipino Day, I thought we were just ordinary students. I never thought that we can do more. Until today, I am still inspired that we have succeeded in creating even just a single day where young people from all over the world came to celebrate with us and discover peace through unity and self-expression.

I will always look back on that special day.

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