The Filipino Young Professionals of Houston hosted their annual Filipino Street Festival at Rice last Saturday. Tucked behind Rice Stadium were rows of tents offering a variety of handmade crafts, delicate trinkets, and most importantly, good food. 

Astage boasting cultural performances was the centerpiece of the festival. These included live singing and traditional dances from people of all age groups. Dozens of people gathered around the stage to watch and record the various performances. There were plenty of smiles as singers and dancers showcased their talents. Toddlers, sitting on the shoulders of their parents, waved the white, blue and red flag of the Philippines between performances. 

A style of folk dance called tinikling, where sets of bamboo sticks were laid down on the floor, was one notable performance. Dancers kept these sticks in constant motion, which required them to coordinate their movements to avoid hitting the sticks. The dancers moved both between the two sticks and outside of them, sometimes dancing solo and other times interacting with other dancers. The beat of the bamboo served as the beat of the song and dance. The use of bamboo sticks kept the audience engaged and developed beautiful rhythm and motion. 

The performances highlighted not only unique dances like tinikling, but also traditional Filipino attire. The women wore large, colorful satin skirts paired with black tops and shawls, and for one dance they carried lace parasols. One of the men who sang for the crowd wore a long, embroidered tunic called a barong tagalog. His gravelly voice betrayed his age, but he sang with genuine enthusiasm, happy to share his voice with those around him. The positive reaction of the crowd – cheering, clapping, and laughing – echoed the spirited performances. While the rest of the festival goers were dressed casually, a few wore skirts with colorful tribal patterns.   

Truly experiencing the Filipino Street Festival came not just from seeing the performances, but tasting the food. Dishes included lechon (prepared by roasting an entire pig), adobo (chicken) and pancit (thin noodles). For dessert, many tent vendors and food trucks offered halo halo, a Filipino rendition of shaved ice that includes condensed milk, taro and flan. 

The Filipino Street Festival was a fun, lively way to learn about and celebrate Filipino culture. Some Rice students attended, but they made up a small portion of the festival goers, many of which included families and young children. The day-long festival indicated a strong presence of the Filipino community in Houston, and the various activities and events attested to the community’s willingness to share its culture with the wider Houston area in a representative way. 

The mission of the Filipino Young Professionals of Houston, as stated on their website, is to “foster unity, culture, friendship, networking and philanthropy within [their] local and global community.” By organizing this festival, the Filipino Young Professionals showcased their culture in way that highlighted the vibrancy of the Filipino community and enriched the knowledge of Filipino culture for those outside of that community.