|Members from the Philippine Cultural Dancers group perform a traditional dance (tinikling) [Image: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz]|
It has become a tradition for students at Kensington Elementary School in Kensington, New Hampshire to attend the annual Cultural Passport program to learn about and honor the heritage of other students and residents of the town. The event has been running for 14 years, exposing students to the cultures of various countries, including China, Korea, and Australia. This year, the program brings another Asian country to the community: the Philippines.
Students were introduced to different Filipino dialects and Filipino food, such as coconut water and biko—a type of glutinous rice cake with coconut milk and brown sugar, often served as dessert or mid-afternoon snack in Philippines. They also tried dancing the tinikling — the National dance of the Philippines. To do the dance, two people sit at opposite sides of two bamboo sticks, tap the sticks on the ground and against each other in a fast rhythm while others dance by stepping over and in between the sticks. At the event, the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association also came to perform Filipino folk dances. Other activities included tribal mask making, jewelry making and animal study.
The purpose of the event is to expose the Kensington community to foreign and less-well-known cultures. Asian Americans only make up 2.6% of the New Hampshire population. The third largest ethnic community is Filipino, accounting for 10% of the total Asian American population. However, in the United States in general, Filipino immigrants make up the largest Southeast Asian immigration group and second-largest Asian group after China.
Anh Pham is a Research intern at the East West Center in Washington, DC and Master's Candidate in International Affairs at the School of International Service, American University.