A Cultural Stronghold: A Chat with Juliet Cheatle of Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival

In partnership with the Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival, we are excited to welcome Juliet Cheatle to Seattle Children’s Festival, where she will showcase the Filipino culture through rural dance, music and attire!

Also known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” the Philippines is a country located in Southeast Asia comprised of 7,107 islands. With a population of about 100 million people, the Philippines is rich with cultural tradition, familial values and a love for the arts.

Since 1987, this festival has spread the beauty of Filipino culture with Washington, through its annual festival full of music, crafts, food and community gathering. As a part of our Movement Series, Juliet Cheatle will be teaching our audiences some traditional rural Philippine dances. Get to know Juliet before you see her at Seattle Children’s Festival on October 8:

What is something our audiences can expect from your performance?

I believe the audience will expect to see a lively and festive Filipino traditional dance and wherein dancers are wearing colorful costumes. And also the audience will see and feel a glimpse of Filipino culture by watching  the dances and by  participating in the workshop and actually will be dancing holding a prop and doing the moves.

What do you think is one of the most beautiful or unique aspects of the Filipino culture?

The most beautiful aspect of the Filipino culture is no doubt its people, the Filipinos.

“Despite of the many influences and colonization from foreign countries, the Filipinos still hold strong with their culture.”

Strong family ties are very important, and [showing] respect for parents and elders is still a strong [value] in the Filipino culture. Filipinos are hospitable and love to smile. They are hardworking people but they also know how to have good fun; they love to sing and dance.

How do you hope to preserve the Filipino culture through dance and attire?

I hope to preserve the Filipino culture through dance, music and attire by “keeping on” doing it, teaching it and involving more of the younger generation in learning it so they can teach it, too, when teachers like me won’t be around to do it.  The traditional dances are endangered and it’s continued transmission should go on. I hope more of our younger generation will continue on the work in preserving it.

My hope for community is interest and support, such as like financial support, grants and provide free space to teach in order to continue the teaching and transmission of this unique form of art and culture. If there is no support and interest, then there is danger that all of this will fade away.

How did you get involved with the Pagdiriwang Festival?

The late Ms. Florie Motante, founder of the Pagdiriwang Festival, invited my group to perform in Seattle Center (probably 15+ years ago).  The reason I was attracted and started to get involved with it is because it is different from other Filipino festivals that I attended. Pagdiriwang Festival is not only a festival to attend and see entertainment, but it is also a festival wherein you can learn about the traditional culture.

“The Pagdiriwang Festival points out the importance of why the culture needs to be preserve and why it is celebrated.”

It is important for my group and I to go and perform in front of an audience who doesn’t take what we do on stage for granted. I want my audience to not only be entertained but also to learn, appreciate what we are doing, understand the cultural context of what we are performing and to walk out the event feeling proud being a Filipino.  I believe that the Pagdiriwang Festival is also an experience. You will meet all kind of artists who are passionate in what they do in teaching and sharing the Filipino culture.

Can you explain the meaning or story behind some of your performances?

The dance and workshop that we are going to be sharing during the Seattle Children’s Festival are the following:

Binasuan:  This dance originated from the province of Pangasinan in the island of Luzon. During festive gatherings, the women will dance by carefully and gracefully balancing glasses filled with sugar cane wine on their heads and hands before they served it to the guests.

Bulaklakan Dance (meaning Flowering Plants): This dance originated from the town of Bulacan in the island of Luzon. The town derived its name after “bulaklakan” meaning flowering plants because of the abundance of floral vegetation in that area. This dance is traditionally performed during the celebrations of  Santa Cruz de Mayo , a Catholic event honoring the Virgin Mary. But nowadays, it is performed at any festive occasion. Women dance, each holding an arch or ring made of rattan or split bamboo decorated with flowers and leaves.

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Exposing the youth to another culture and identity is teaching cultural diversity. They will be able to identify with other people no matter their [origin], beliefs, religion, language or values.

“Exposing our youth to various cultures, identities and people will teach them not to take their own culture for granted. They will learn and discover how valuable and how unique their own culture is.”

By doing this they will learn to be more respectful of another culture and identity. Exposing them is also like teaching them how to understand, and how to communicate with other culture and identity.

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

I believe that we can celebrate all this by incorporating it in our daily life.  At home, at work, in school, in the church, in the community or any place appropriate. 

I use food to celebrate my Filipino culture and other cultures.  When my children were growing up, I had them plan dinner with me, and I let them invite friends over to have dinner with us. We started by going to a market or grocery store to buy our ingredients. My children and their friends enjoyed the food and, at the same time, they learned about it. We talk about where the food originated, the certain kinds of foods that were used in a ritual, why the food is important in someone’s culture, etc.

I do the same thing in my workplace. We have Chinese, French, Italian, Nigerian [folks] in our office and every Friday, we have lunch where we order or we prepare different kinds of foods. Since our company has projects worldwide, our engineers travel a lot, too, and they share their travel experiences with the rest of us.

Anyone of us can celebrate arts, culture, heritage, diversity and identity in many different ways.

Let’s come together and celebrate our big neighborhood at the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival, happening on October 8 at Seattle Center. Pagdiriwang Festival’s special performance featuring Juliet Cheatle will be at the Armory Court Stage at 3:30 PM. A special thank you to the Armory Court Stage sponsor, KCTS 9!

Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

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