Life has suddenly completely changed during the past six months. It has been a very difficult period for all people on many different levels — the family, community, society, the country and the world. The main concerns have been — What will it bring? When will it end? Where will this lead?

We are learning to accept, adjust, and cope with the cancellation and decline of activities, the loss of jobs and income, and the illnesses and heartbreaking departure of loved ones. Work, lifestyle, relationships are all in the process of transition. It is surreal.

In the field of culture and the arts, there is a glimmer of light and hope. Armita B. Rufino, president of Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. (FHFI) said, “One thing for sure is, life has to go on. WE must move on, forward and up — and with hope. It is tough but we have to keep going. This is the way to do it with FHFI. We need to think and create ways and means to possess and carry on the many challenges. We must accept things as they are but believe that there will always be a better means to it all.

“In FHFI, our mission is to preserve and promote heritage. Is there a way to do it during this pandemic? Of course! Now is the time to use technology — for those of us who are fully aware of how to go about it, we should learn. For the Gen Z and millenials, that is the way. Technology is the key. We need to have that readiness and the acceptance to do so.

“Life is a continuous process of learning. We have to fast track the work to keep up,” she explained.

She mentioned the FHFI archives and the necessity “to enhance and give it a new look.” The current programs had to be adjusted for online posting.

Its current project is a “must-see” one-hour video, Sayaw ng Bayan. It is a tribute to the Philippines National Artists for Dance: Francisca Reyes Aquino, Leonor Orosa Goquingco, Lucrecia Reyes Urtula, Ramon Obusan, and Alice Reyes. The presentation will highlight their individual contributions to the development of Philippine Dance. It will feature testimonials and performances identifying aspects and examples of their works.

Choreographer Gener Caringal remarked, “It’s not why we need to do it. It is the passion, being an artist, and the commitment. It is a production the FHFI planned for 2020 but because of the pandemic, it was delayed and rescheduled for another date. A different medium of presentation had to be adjusted to the situation. The artistic group of the project comes up with something that will satisfy not only our viewers but also the people who work hard for it.

“As part of this project, all I can say is — Nothing can stop our passion.” 

Dennis Marasigan will direct Sayaw ng Bayan, with music by Jesse Lucas. The U.E. Dance Company with choreographer-director Gener Caringal are the stars of this tribute. Maritoni Rufino Tordesillas will be the host. 

At a brief and delightful interview, National Artist Alice Reyes shared her thoughts of the contribution of Dance to the country.

“Dance has always been a major part of my life. I danced with my father Ricardo Reyes during my Bayanihan days. My exposure to the various genres of dance brought the realization to do something more.

“I could say that I had to give importance to make dance reach its internationality; from folk, classical, ethnic, contemporary forms… Professionalizing dance in the country is the thing that I gave importance to. Dance is a career and a profession. Eight to 10 hours of work must be spent daily to be a good dancer aiming to perfection.

“Dedication, Commitment and Passion are keys to be a good dancer. One has to have the technique, the lyricism and emotion,” she declared.

“How this can be done is by providing the dancers salaries. Ballet Philippines pioneered it in the country. Dancers were paid salaries… It was tough but I was blessed with a good Board: Jaime Zobel de Ayala, (National Artists) Lucrecia R. Kasilag and Leandro V. Locsin, Teresa E. Roxas, Greta Yao Go and others.

“Dance must be supported not only by the government but also by the private sector. It was once believed … that ballet is just for the elite… I beg to disagree.

“The present day scenario proves that ballet…dance is for all!”

Congratulations to the producers, performers and benefactors for presenting this tribute. The people need good news and an uplifting show to boost the Filipino spirit.

Sayaw ng Bayan will be launched online on Sept. 30 at 5 p.m.

FHFI’s partners are National Commission of Culture and the Arts, Pagcor, and Security Bank. Online details will be announced soon.