Everything still seems like a blur to me.
The nature of how things panned out this year was both fortunate and unfortunate. Day by day, week by week, month by month would I find myself with this production as the only thing on my mind. And for the most part, I found myself alone. More often than not I would be met with moments of struggle to moments of reassurance.
Ever since the beginning, I struggled with finding acceptance of my position. I never realized the magnitude of my position, nor did I ever really feel any “glory” in being a PACN Coordinator. I was moreso dragged into the position and had to learn the ropes as I went along. I struggled to find the confidence in myself to do this, no matter how passionate about my culture and dance I was, having been heavily involved in it for a decade. My unfailing passion and love for culture is what kept me going.
I know at the end of the day, I will say that I know I could have done a lot better. As my own worst critic, the flaws are too blatant to me. Not only did this experience allow me multiple opportunities to grow, it also helped me to recognize my own strengths and weaknesses. And, unexpectedly, it opened a lot of doors for me that I thought I would never have been witness to.
Being a PACN Coordinator is heavy-duty work. You are an event producer. You are a coordinator. You are a director. You are a liaison. You are an event planner. You are a leader. All while you are a student at the same time. This position is no joke.
And, for the most part, a lot of the work you do will be kept invisible. As a leader who keeps the morale of the group going, any stresses or indifferences you show will reverberate within your group. It’s important to be that guiding light for everyone throughout the entire process.
What was unfortunate is that, for the first time, as you had hoped to be a Director or “Cultural Influencer,” you found yourself transformed into a simple Coordinator. Rather than having any creative influence, you found yourself being bombarded with all the logistical obligations such as meeting with several different funding committees to present presentations on why they should fund you X amount of money; booking room reservations, parking reservations, and working around the obstacles when they would cancel on you; setting up ticket designs and signing away contracts; meeting with venue directors to discuss funding guidelines, contract agreements, and things to be aware of; planning and facilitating weekly meetings to make sure your board is doing their job; pestering people to do better when you physically could not be there 24/7; contacting businesses and organizations to support your production; reaching out to outside organizations and groups to perform, setting rehearsal times and accommodating their needs; booking and hosting boothing locations; organizing your own programming; manually selling tickets in hopes of not losing money; making schedules for weekend rehearsals while struggling to keep crowd control; hosting and organizing two general meetings; and all the while serving on Kababayan Board as a full-time student.
It’s a full-time job. And it’s definitely not a job for one-person. It’s not all fun and games. Had the circumstances been a little better, maybe I would have been able to direct the focus of the group better for the production, rather than focusing most of my energies on making the production happen from the ground up (which is ultimately the most important since there would be no production if the paperwork is not done).
But, weirdly and strangely enough, this experience allowed me to see different parts of myself. It introduced me to new people. It allowed me to have a greater awareness of every single detail that goes into throwing a $27k production. It allowed me to see things from behind-the-scenes, when all I was ever exposed to were the mere surface details.
And, strangely enough, seeing things from afar is kind of a beautiful place to be. You see things unfold. You see your board members grow in ways they thought they would have never grown. You see mere students turn into leaders. You meet with a lot of professional people who work with you throughout this process, only to have them give you unexpected reassurance and guidance as a person. You have people older than you recognizing your strengths.
“It doesn’t matter the monetary wealth. What matters is the wealth of your heart. How good of a person you are. And people will be naturally drawn to you. People recognize when people genuinely care. I see that in you.”
You have people supporting your newfound interest in organizing and cultivating people and events:
“Let me know if I can help any other way and if you want to explore more in event industry, let me know anytime!”
And, you have people who genuinely admire the person you are–for being interested in what passing culture along is all about (in displaying and keeping under-appreciated forms of art and dance alive). These people recognize your abilities and strengths as a person, being genuinely grateful for the work you have done:
“Thank you for inviting us to share a bit of Filipino culture that isn’t really known. It was a privilege working with Rondalla. We had a lot of fun doing this. If you need anything in the future let us know. … Again thank you Rachel. It was a pleasure working with you. You were very professional and courteous which will take you far.“
Sometimes, being in the position to organize and allowing people to embrace and explore their own capabilities is profound in itself. Not a lot of people have the patience or kindness for people’s b/s. And yet, I attempted to take everyone’s skills to form one cohesive “vision.”
It was a rough year. But with my interests in culture, music, film, writing and now event-producing, I know what it takes to produce something. Even though I was held captive to the limitations of the system, I know what it would take if I wanted to produce something of my own, apart from the blog posts I create, the videos I publish, or the writings I hope can change or inspire someone.
To the cast of PACN 35: I hope this experience taught you to have a newfound appreciation of your Filipino/a culture. I hope this experience allowed you to step out of your comfort zone when performing; to feel a particular emotion that resonated within you when embracing a particular character or people; to realize the magnitude of the struggles of our people. I hope that you made a new friend throughout the process, and perhaps discovered a new part of yourself that you would not have otherwise known.
To the board of PACN 35: I hope this experience was entirely enjoyable, memorable, and worthwhile for you. Being a member of any board does require a decent amount of work, but I hope that throughout the process, you were able to have fun doing it all. You are the face of PACN and are the workers who made PACN work. This was your PACN and I hope you had fun doing it.
And, to the people involved in making PACN happen, i.e. staff, funders, sponsors and audience members: Thank you for your undying support and gratitude. Little by little did I see the pieces coming together as you put your talents together to create one cohesive production. As my newness to this all became a little overwhelming to me, I was absolutely in awe of the work that was created when we all put our hands in together.
Sometimes, at the end of the day, you have to realize that what matters most is that you gave the opportunity for people to find themselves. You allowed them the opportunity to see different parts of themselves. You endowed them with your trust, where you could have easily stepped in and taken over. Rather, you let them embrace, pursue, and find their skills. And sometimes, that’s all that really matters.
It was a fun ride, PACN XXXV. I have been hearing nothing but positive feedback about the story being something different, which particularly resonated with people; the dances were powerful and enforced the narrative (though I will always be critical of the laggy transitions and somewhat weaker performances). I will forever be grateful to you for allowing me the opportunity to see and explore parts of myself I thought I would not have seen. Not only have you helped me realize where my true strengths lie–whether it be in teaching dance, performing or developing connections–but, in the places where I could not take control, you allowed me the opportunity to see where I could be in control of myself. You let me see how much I enjoy working with people who may share the same visions or appreciations, or have the experience in what I aim to do. Organizing everything from the top only lets you see and be grateful for the work of the people willing to work with you; and that can go a long way.
Maybe working with people is what purely brings me the most joy. My ability to develop genuine connections with professionals, whether it be pre-show Eskrima acts, half-show Kaba Modern Legacy outreaching, outside event-organizing with Bren Staff, or being entirely personable and courteous to the best Rondalla club in Southern California (and them knowing my background work performing in a professional dance company), to pitching my idea of PACN to a funding board successfully… It’s kind of funny. It’s no wonder I’ve found myself meeting and sometimes befriending various entertainment professionals–from musicians to artists to managers–over the years. My love for cultural dance is what I know best. And so is making connections with professionals I look up to. I find that I always strive for a connection with people, whether it be through organizing a dance, song, or getting to know people as individuals. Maybe this all has a place for me sometime in the future. Maybe this be where I belong. Or maybe not. Who knows.
Kababayan’s 35th Annual PACN – Aming Pangarap: Our Dream
Produced by Rachel Ann Cauilan with JR Baruela
Video by Juice Box Media