The Council of Asian Pacific Americans (CAPA) marked last May 13 the celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with an opulent banquet and staging of “Splendor of the East” (SOE), a production extravaganza, at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.
CAPA President Angela Wang, CAPA’s board members, past presidents, advisory board members and youth volunteers from various high schools pooled their energies together to present one of the most magnificent CAPA events, which is its signature SOE musical.
For the first time, CAPA also hosted a fund-raising, black-tie dinner in an exquisite banquet room of the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center with the guests donning their best formal and ethnic wear.
The celebration kicked off with a VIP reception for the corporate sponsors, government officials, diplomatic dignitaries and top Asian community leaders. The dinner was a sumptuous meal of 10 dishes which were representatives of the unique Asian cuisine.
The guests took delight in partaking Korean, Japanese, Indian, Filipino (lechon) and Thai food. Trained high school students wearing made-to-order CAPA T-shirts volunteered as waiters and waitresses during the lauriat-style dinner. The ethnic dishes were served in a sequence that allowed the guests to savor each country’s specialty food.
Robin Murdoch, Channel 2 Fox News weekend morning reporter, was the emcee, proudly mentioning that her Asian roots were from Thailand as her mother hails from that country.
The dinner festivities opened with the opening speech of Senator Debbie Stabenow who congratulated CAPA for achieving its mission of uniting Asian Pacific Americans through culture, education and community service. She thanked CAPA for its contributions to the well being of ethnic communities in Michigan.
The program featured the giving of awards to the two major sponsors, GM and DTE, whose representatives received plaques of appreciation for their generous fund donations to CAPA over the years. The other sponsors were duly acknowledged and given certificates and gifts. They included Comerica, Toyota, JBSD, 168 Asian Mart, Fuji Japanese Buffet, Marriott Eagle Crest (in Ann Arbor), Pangborn Design, Page Toyota/Honda, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Vibe Credit Union and Chrysan.
Another highlight of the dinner program was the awarding of scholarship grants to outstanding high school graduates. This year, Filipinos took pride in Filipino student Maegan Cedro who received a $1,000 scholarship grant which will be remitted to the college of her choice.
The dinner gala was capped by a special “Fashion Walk” participated in by guests wearing stunning outfits, costumes and evening wear which were representatives of the popular outfits of the models’ respective countries. Among the Filipinos who proudly paraded with their designer clothes were Imelda Hum, Lenlen Jenks, Lavinia Mateo, Adelina Navarre, Loida Moses, Aris Moses and Fe San Agustin.
After dinner, the guests trooped to the theater to watch the SOE with the theme, “Celebrating Asian Festivals.” The production management was headed by Sharon Dow, CAPA vice president, who was ably assisted by CAPA’s cultural committee chair Phoung Nguyen.
One highlight of the show was the acrobatic stunts by guest performers from Taiwan’s Formosa Circus Act whose members come from different artistic worlds. They included acrobats, stunts, dancers and theater performers who combined their arts to create spectacular numbers that showcased modern circus. The group received an outstanding audience ovation.
This year’s version of SOE included dance, musical and instrumental numbers that originated from China, India, Korea, Philippines, Polynesia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Filipino segment was a dance entitled “Pagdiwata,” which was choreographed by Annabelle Cudilla and artistically produced by Toni Martinez. The Filipino performers were Breanna Sygrit, Syke Logan, Bella Logan, Gabby Logan, Evin dela Paz, Matteo dela Paz, Jaiden Magat, Aiden Slagenwhite, Becky Tungol, Amy Risvold, Espie Armandi , Josie Palu-ay, Lulu Rodriguez and Boots Gabarda.
Another Filipino number was performed by hula dancers led by Flor Penner. The dance, “Luau/Ho’ike Festival,” was performed by Penner, Marissa Radowick, Dee Juco, Merce Gooding, Becky Tungol, Olga Pajarilaga, Lizz Lemmer, Gale Miles, Nina McCaulley and Sally Noveras. Acting as tourists in the Hawaiian scene were Alex Sitchon, Antoine Gosioco, Stephanie Merecki and and Alyson Podwoski
The Filipino community, mostly represented by the Philippine American Cultural Center of Michigan and the Filipino American Community Council, was clearly visible during the affair with 50 Filipino guests at the banquet.
Dr Ernie Mac, who had been a long-time patron of the event, sponsored a table and was among the advisory board members, past presidents and corporate sponsors who presented flowers on stage to the choreographers at curtain call. More than 30 performers participated in the production and several Filipino community leaders were members of the planning committee headed by this writers who is past CAPA president. Past CAPA executive director Becky Tungol recruited most of the Filipinos in attendance in the banquet and stage production. Current CAPA board member Billie Belen took charge of ticket registration, food for the performers and production staff.
Lavinia Mateo assisted in setting up the Philippine cultural exhibit. Lenlen Jenks led in the preparation of the Philippine cultural table. Jeff Vedua, CAPA treasurer, managed the budget and expenses. And former CAPA board director Tony Kho prepared the name badges for the VIP guests and helped in the preparation of the publication of the program book.