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Keeping the Filipino Culture Alive
Karolina Guzek


Chicagoland Cultural Clubs

            Throughout the Chicago area, Filipinos come together and organize clubs that focus on the richness and importance of their traditions, dances, and history.  When asked, many young Filipinos are quick to highlight the point that they fear the American culture’s dominance over their own. "[Some] seek identification with a broader Filipino American community through organizational affiliations." (Posadas 1999: 3) Just as their parents instilled within them a sense of pride and cultural responsibility, these students long to carry on the heritage (Gerard, 4/16/05).  Without such clubs, they believe that Philippine traditions, customs, and the utang na loob (notion of unrepayable debt) and pakisama/samahan (togetherness) based culture will fade into history (Lyle, 4/16/05).  Most of these clubs are created by young, college-age adults who witness the necessity for their peers to learn about this intricate heritage.  Whether treating audiences to colorful dance performances and poetry readings, or merely conducting group meetings, these individuals believe that it is their duty to spread awareness of their culture throughout their own and surrounding communities.


Dance:  The Tinikling dance is honored as the Philippine national dance.  The performers imitate the movement of tikling birds walking through grass, running over branches, or dodging bamboo traps (Noel’s Pilipino Folkdance Glossary).

Kaibigan Club dancers practice for the International Education Week Show in November 2004 (Kaibigan, Northwestern University: 2004-2005).     

            The Binasuan dance, as many Filipino dances, focuses on balance and complete control of movements.  During this performance, dancers balance 3 half-filled glasses of water or rice wine – one on the head and the other two in the palms (Noel’s Pilipino Folkdance Glossary).

The 2005 Battle of Bamboo winner, Northwestern University’s Kaibigan club (Filipinos in Alliance, The University of Illinois: 2004-2005).


                        Prominent Student-Organized Clubs of Chicago


The Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago

            The museum built by this historical society is the first Filipino American museum in the United States.  Its mission is similar to the goals of Filipino clubs.  That is, it longs to educate both Filipinos and those not sharing the ethnic background about the struggles, achievements, and traditions of the Filipino community, especially that of Chicago (Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago).  This pioneering institution preserves and communicates the history of this rapidly growing group of immigrants.  Being one of the largest Asian immigrant groups inhabiting the U.S., Filipinos should acknowledge their roots and connect with the larger Philippine family that transcends oceans and national borders.  This is the reason the Filipino historical museum sought to establish a cultural center within Chicago.  By advocating both pakisama and utang na loob, such cultural clubs and museums help immigrants and descendents of immigrants perpetuate Filipino culture.  With this helping hand, the Philippine traditions can survive the progressive American society.


The Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago Museum opened in March 1999 (Alamar, 2001: 128).

Celebrations of Filipino Culture

The Kultura Filipina dance troupe performing at the Kalayaan (Philippine Week) celebration at the Daley Center Plaza in  June 2000 (Alamar, 2001: 55).

This jeepney was used in the Kalayaan parade in June 1988 (Alamar, 2001: 100).

Secretary of State Jesse White joined the Kultura Filipina dancers in the Tinikling dance at the Kalayaan festivities at the Daley Center Plaza in June 1999 (Alamar, 2001: 104).

            Every year, Filipino Americans in the Chicago area partake in various cultural events that celebrate their rich heritage.  These public displays of Filipino pride help bring life to traditions and practices that originated half a world away.  Philippine immigrants are aware of the fact that if their traditions remain out of sight, they may very well fade out of the mind.  That is, one of the best ways to promote one’s culture is through performances that tease the senses.

            Some of the festivities Filipinos take part in annually are:

1.                  Annual Kalayaan (Philippine Week) celebrations in June

2.                  Taste of Chicago

3.                  Chicago International Film Festival

4.                  Skokie Festival of Cultures    


Continue to Language


Alamar, Estrella Ravelo and Buhay, Willi Red. 2001.   Images of Americans: Filipinos in Chicago. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publishing.

Bernaldo, Gerard. 2005. Interview. April 16th, 2005.

Bernardo, Lyle. 2005. Interview. April 16th, 2005.

Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago. 2005. 4/25/2005.

Filipinos in Alliance. 2005. The University of Illinois at Chicago. 4/25/2005.

Kaibigan. 2005. Northwestern University. 4/25/2005.

Noel’s Pilipino Folkdance Glossary. 2005. 4/25/2005.

Philippine Student Association. 2005. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 4/25/2005.

Posadas, Barbara. 1999. “Filipino Americans in Chicago.” Northern Illinois University: Department of History.

Samahan. 2005. University of Chicago. 4/25/2005.