Whenever I hear the beautiful Filipino love song, “Dahil Sa Iyo”, I remember the time we danced before the Filipino President, Ferdinand Marcos and his elegant wife Imelda. It was her favourite song.
Just out of High School I thought I’d have some fun and learn Malay folk dances so I joined the Dance Group of the Ministry of Culture. The practice sessions were grueling but after some months we found ourselves performing at various cultural events organized by the Ministry up and down the Malay Peninsular. We even danced before the King and Queen.
But the real excitement came when we were told we would go international! We would perform at the Grand Palace in Bangkok before King Phumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, and at Malacanang Palace in Manila before President Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos. We who had never even seen the inside of an airplane were headed for faraway Thailand and the Philippines. As guests of Royalty no less!
A glittering banquet awaited us at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. After dinner the show began with fabulous performances by the Thai National Dancers followed by the equally fabulous Filipinescas Dance Troupe. And then it was our turn. We were very nervous indeed. During the “tari lilin” or candle dance I almost dropped the lighted candles fixed on little saucers I held in the palms of my hands. We got through all our traditional dances – Joget, Ayam Didek, Mak Inang and Zapin smoothly enough and with our dignity and “selendang” or scarves intact.
The King, the world’s longest reigning monarch, is a talented jazz musician and composer. I’ll never forget how he graciously played several tunes on the saxophone for us.
All too soon Bangkok was over but Manila was still to come.
Another night of splendour greeted us at the Malacanang Palace. Again there were performances by all three national groups. But I was truly mesmerized by the Filipinescas dancers. I thought they outdid themselves in Manila, performing before their President and his wife. The Filipinescas Dance Company today performs for audiences all over the world. What I would give to see them on stage again and to renew the friendships I had made.
Sadly my dancing years came to an end after the tour when I left for Singapore to continue with my studies.