Participants at Kaibigan's culture night. Courtesy of PSU Kaibigan

Despite challenges, Kaibigan shows unity at culture night

Kaibigan, Portland State’s Filipino American Student Association hosted their 16th annual Pilipino Culture Night (PCN) on May 22. As COVID-19 restrictions prevented the club from performing on campus as it had in the past, the Kaibigan executive board made the event entirely online, creating a three-hour show demonstrating Filipino culture. 


Kaibigan is named after the Filipino word for friend. Kaibigan’s mission is to “unite and empower Filipino American students through educational, social, cultural and political activities while celebrating the Filipino American experience.” 


Their culture night was meant to accomplish their mission through Zoom by showing a wide variety of video performances. Several traditional Filipino dances were performed in traditional outfits as well as other performances, such as contemporary song covers by Kaibigan members and a slam poetry presentation. 


The theme of this year’s culture night was “Isang Lahi Isang Puso,” which means one race, one heart. It had the goal of displaying the diversity of the Filipino identity. 


“For as long as you have the heart for the people, language, and culture, we are all the same blood and heart,” the program invitation stated. The program featured speakers from various walks of life and diverse groups, all united by the Filipino identity.


The biggest challenge of the event, according to the organizers, was changing its entire format due to COVID-19 restrictions. In previous years, the Kaibigan’s culture night was held at the Smith Memorial Student Union ballroom on campus and would center a play or other type of visual performance that would show the lives and struggles of Filipino Americans.  


However, they were unable to do that this year because of the campus shutdown. Instead, the culture night showed several interviews with current or former Kaibigan members speaking about their experiences with the club and as Filipino American students. The night also showcased traditional dances by Bailed De Jose and Tabilo Gals.


According to Kaibigan leadership, “Trying to transition that story to this virtual setting was hard, but we were able to come together and think of new creative ways to do that, and we thought we could best do that through the interviews, capturing as many different Filipino American identities that we could have included.”


Over 60 people attended the event, switching their mics on in between every performance to cheer and fill the chat with praise. Even though the pandemic has been hard on the social aspect of attending PSU, clubs such as this enabled people to find community. 


“With the Filipino culture we are very social, we love being around each other and hanging out with each other and partying sometimes,” said Kaibigan President Kim Louis Rollon. “I think that a big part of COVID-19 was that being taken away from us, not just for us but for everyone. One of the main struggles for me as a president was how to continue or keep a space of community for everyone even though we’re so far away.”