An appreciative audience of Koreans and some Filipinos cheered and waved flags as singers Kyla and Gian Magdangal and dancers from Ballet Philippines and the University of Cebu Dance Company interpreted the concept “Connected Diversities” in the official opening program in the morning.
Magdangal’s spirited version of Bamboo’s hit “Noy-pi” - with translations of the lyrics in English and Korean flashed in the background and giant flags paraded by dancers on stage and in the aisles matched by the smaller flags the audience was waving - and Ballet Philippines’ perfectly synchronized “Magkaugnay,” a contemporary piece with echoes of Ifugao and Muslim dance movements to Joey Ayala’s popular song, won high audience approval.
Led by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., the Philippine delegation, in eye-catching barongs, ternos and baro’t saya, paraded down the main street to the Expo Hall, where the Philippine flag was raised.
Lee Jeong Hee, commissioner of Yeosu Expo 2012, cited the Philippines for its role in international efforts to protect the environment, particularly marine resources as it is part of the Coral Triangle, the global center of biodiversity. He also affirmed the enduring ties between the two countries, and acknowledged with gratitude the Philippine participation in the Korean war.
For his part, Jimenez acknowledged Korea as the “strongest single market” for tourists to the Philippines, last year welcoming 925,000 visitors from Korea. He pointed out that, since the Philippines is an archipelago, oceans - the theme of Expo - “do not separate but connect people... and serve as (our) source of connectivity to the world.”
The National Day gala show in the afternoon confirmed just how much more fun it is in the Philippines. National Day project director said that the show “was really meant to be a fun experience, a party, as well as to show the connections between the Philippines and Korea,” while the morning official program centered on “national pride... proud to be Pinoy.”
Opening with a suite on the Palawod festival of Cebu, which celebrates a bountiful catch from the sea, the diversity of the country’s 7,107 islands was showcased in a dance-musical suite: “divers” in wetsuits, goggles and fins turned the stage into an underwater world in Alden Lugnasin’s “Flippers;” the Poi fire dancers brought the “World’s Best Island” (named by Travel& Leisure magazine) Boracay to the Expo Hall; “Magkaugnay” represented Davao and the unity of man and nature; a spirited “Kalesa/Limang Dipang Tao” captured the chaotic exuberance of Metro Manila, and ended with a rousing Sinulog from Cebu and Bohol.
Perhaps the strong bonds between the Philippines and Korea can best be found in arts and culture. “Pinoys ride the Korean wave” highlighted P-pop, K-pop and the Korean hallyu (wave), with performances by Kyla, Gian Magdangal and Pinoy Idol winners Down to Mars, an obvious crowd favorite.
By this time the energy level was through the roof, with the audience clapping and swaying to the non-stop pulsating beat as the finale, featuring “Tambol at Padyak,” a dance in bakya (wooden shoes), brought the show to a rousing close.
But the fun wasn’t over, as prizes were raffled off to lucky members of the audience: tour packages to Sumilon Blue Water Resort in Cebu, as well as air tickets from Seoul to Manila or Cebu courtesy of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.
Expo organizers noted that the Philippine National Day shows were among the best attended in the expo. A large crowd waited outside but could not be accommodated inside the hall. They had to content themselves with sharing the fun beat at the Philippine pavilion, where they could also enjoy premium coffee, dried mangoes, cornick, and the spirit of fun and hospitality that Filipinos are known for.
The Expo runs until Aug. 12 in the southern port city of Yeosu. Daily visitors average 110,000, but go up to 140,000 on weekends. Popular K-pop bands Super Junior, Big Bang, CNBlue, Girls Generation and 2Ne1 have performed at the Expo.