The staging of the Splendor of the East (SOE) on May 12 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn was remarkably different from past presentations, but it was a welcome change. It evolved from the past format of an entire cultural show to a talent contest appropriately called “Battle of the Stars.” Yet it was still spectacular, amazing and exciting.
Add to the mix the element of suspense, and you have a truly entertaining show. The suspense was palpable when the members of the audience awaited the announcement of the contest winners.
The format of SOE 2018 is similar to “America’s Got Talent” with the 14 contestants demonstrating different kinds of entertainment skills – ranging from ballet dancing to beatboxing, from regular cultural dancing to opera-like singing.
Shortly after the contestants had performed, members of the audience voted through their cell phones for the contestant they believed was the best. The five judges gave the contestants scores according to their performance and stage presence.
After the judges’ scores and audience votes were tallied, the three winners were announced.
They were: First place, Angela Chao who performed a swan-goose dance; second place, Aubrianna Lance who presented a lyrical dance entitled “Mother’s Prayer”; and third place, Mike Lee who did beatboxing.
Angela Chao, the first place winner, is 15 years old. She has been performing since she was six years old. She was trained in ballet and traditional Chinese dances. “Swan Goose” is a Mongolian folk song about Geese flying south to return to their homeland.
Second-placer Aubrianna Lance, a diminutive girl, is an 11-year dancer who has been trained in various classical forms of dance since she was four years old. “Mother’s Prayer” is a tribute to all mothers.
Mike Lee Born, the third-place winner, was raised in South Korea. He moved to Michigan at age 10. He discovered beatboxing five years later. His performance was dedicated to all mothers.
As the contest champion, Angela received a $1,000 prize. The second-place and third-place winners were given, respectively, $300 and $200 prize.
There were two Filipino-American contestants. One of them was Daniel Moen who was born in Manila in 1988 and was later adopted by an American family. He has been playing the Chinese yo-yo since he was 17 years old. He performed “diabolo juggling” to the tune of a song written and composed by Daniel himself. He titled the song “Dumaguete Reunited” which he dedicated to his biological family with which he was reunited in 2017.
The other Filipino-American contestant was Alyson Podwoiski, daughter of Simonette Podwoiski, who is the incumbent president of the Kiwanis Club of Metropolitan Detroit. Alyson began taking dance lessons at age three and played the piano at age 5. She was recently accepted to attend the AMDA College and Conservatory for Performing Arts in Los Angeles CA to study acting, dance, singing, music, and theater. She dedicated the lyrical dance she performed the piece to all “mothers in recognition of everything they do.” It is especially dedicated to “my mom for being the superwomen doing anything and everything for our family, and my No. 1 supporter.”
Filipino-American Fely Villegas sang the American national anthem. Fely is no stranger to SOE as she had performed several times, representing the Philippine American Community Center (PACCM). She is also a member of the Hoku Le’a Dance Ensemble.
The entire show was put together by Filipino-American Toni Martinez as the production manager and director.
Her parents are from Bacolod City, Philippines. She became a U.S. immigrant at age 17. Toni has been a volunteer for “Splendor of the East” since 2006 up. Three years later, she became the production committee chairperson until 2015. A current CAPA board member, she holds the position of cultural chairperson and 2018 “Battle of the Stars” production manager.
While growing up in the Philippines with polio, she persevered and with the strong support of her family and friends, she managed to live a normal life and fulfill her love for the arts. Her mother was an exceptional costume designer, and her three siblings who are professional performers encouraged her artistic exposure in dance and music.
She is a devoted community volunteer, mother of two children and grandmother of two. She also manages Hoku Le’a Dance Ensemble, a Polynesian-Filipino dance group under the direction of her sister, Annabelle Cudilla. As founder of Asian Pacific Cultural Movement & Entertainment LLC, she has booked her dance troupe (Hoku Le’a Dance Ensemble) for special events such as Campus Martius, the Army Reserves, Meijer Japanese Garden, PMAC and Outdoor Adventures Camp Sites as well as corporate and private parties in Southeast Michigan, Flint and Grand Rapids.
Another Filipino-American who played a key role in the staging of SOE 2018 was Arcie Gemino, who is a CAPA board member. She had done much to promote the show and coordinate with the Filipino community.
Also providing technical support to CAPA was Filipino American community leader Tony Kho.
Yes, we believe in the observation that the Filipino community is indeed a strong pillar of CAPA.