What You Missed at the Philippines-Korea Cultural Exchange Festival

Long before Korean pop culture became part of Filipino mainstream consciousness, the Philippines and Korea have already been enjoying a friendly diplomatic relationship. Now on Philippines-Korea Cultural Exchange Festival celebrated its 26th year at Aliw Theater on September 9. Themed “길(Road): We Go Together,” the annual event hosted several activities that showcased the best of what both Filipino and Korean cultures have to offer through various activities and performances.

With Sam Oh hosting the event, the annual talent competition took place in the morning and the cultural performances in the afternoon. This year’s talent competition boasted of 12 singing contestants and eight dance performances. They had to go through several rounds of elimination that took place a month before the contest.

With the amount of talent showcased at the competition, we did not envy the judges for the tough decision they had to make. The judges included Korean Cultural Center director Lee Jin-Cheol, United Korean Community Association president Kang Chang-Ik, composer Ryan Cayabyab, Ballet Manila’s Ballet and Rehearsal Master Jonathan Janolo, and OFFROAD main vocalist Arkay.

While the judges were deliberating, last year’s first runner-up Anna Jean Fernandez and last year’s grand champions PHP hit the stage with their performances.

For the vocal category, the judges declared Anna Fe Padilla, who performed Lee Sun-Hee’s “Fate” from The King and the Clown OST as third runner-up; 10-year old Aaliyah Pizzara as second runner-up; and Merry Mia Sinaguinan, who had backup dancers as first runner-up. Coincidentally, both Pizzara and Sinaguinan performed So Chan Hui’s “Tears.”

As for dance, Cainta Sejong Hakdang’s fan dance won third runner-up. During the awarding ceremony, host Sam Oh revealed that the girls only learned how to do their traditional fan dance performance through YouTube videos and didn’t have any formal training. Second runner-up went to b-boying group Fraction, and BTS cover group Array took first-runner up.

Just when we thought that was it, host Sam Oh revealed that there was still an overall champion who was going to perform at the cultural show later in the afternoon. The honor went to singer Vernisse Nicole Siy, who impressed the audience and the judges with her rendition of Ailee’s “First Snow” from the drama Goblin.

While waiting for the second part of the program to start, everyone got the chance to explore the booths at the theater’s lobby. There was a danso (short bamboo flute) performance going on by the time people exited the theater. At the ShowBT booth, few lucky fans also got the chance to take selfies with the members of K-Pop group OFFROAD. Other booths sold goods and drinks such as carp bread, banana milk, strawberry milk, meat skewers, and ramyeon. One stall had a promotion wherein any purchase from them resulted in a free hug from any of their handsome male vendors.

The second half of the performances began with welcoming remarks from both UKCA President Kang Changsik and Korean ambassador to the Philippines Kim Jae-Shin. The performance also showcased several video presentations which talked about the history Philippines and Korea have shared. Singer/songwriter Freddie Aguilar, MYX VJ Sunny Kim, and Miss Korea first runner-up Hanna Lee all discussed how the long-running friendship between the Philippines and Korea impacted their lives.

The show included performances from Serotonin Drum Club and the Busan National Gugak Center from Korea, Ballet Manila, and NARA. The Busan National Gugak Center and local performing group Nara collaborated to perform a fan dance, while Ballet Manila and Serotonin Drum Club joined forces for an arnis performance.

This year’s talent show grand champion Vernisse Nicole Siy returned to the stage to perform her winning piece. K-Pop group OFFROAD took the stage as they sang Bebop, Headbanging, and Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby.” The show wrapped up with all performers coming up on stage to sing “Awitin Mo” in both Filipino and Korean.

There’s no doubt that the long-running friendship between the Philippines and Korea has impacted so many lives. If this is what the annual culture fest has to offer, we’re looking forward to seeing what is in store for next year.

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Photos by Trisha Yalung

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