Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Diwali Mela at Mall of Asia

I made a pilgrimage to the SM Mall of Asia last Sunday to celebrate Diwali with our Indian-Filipino brothers and sisters. Diwali, also known as Deepavali or the Festival of Lights, marks the victory of good over evil, and uplifting of spiritual darkness. Symbolically it marks the homecoming of goodwill and faith after an absence, as suggested by the story of Ramayana. It is a special occasion to worship Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, and the Goddess Lakshmi. In certain parts of India, Diwali is considered the start of the new year.

(This event made me realize that, hey, there are a lot of Indian-Filipinos. That yes, they are as Filipino as you and me as many of them were already born here, and therefore, wouldn't it be nice if we could all hang out every now and then to enrich each other's Filipino experience?)

I'm a huge fan of Indian culture so it was easy for me to decide to go. The fact that Pinikpikan was also the featured band was icing on the cake. Speaking of cake, the event was also an excuse for me to wolf down authentic Indian food from Queens and Kashmir restaurants, like vegetable samosas, chicken tikka, and roti chanai (ok, this last one is actually Malaysian). Sarap!

Pinikpikan played four songs as the largely-Indian audience trickled in. They weren't their energetic selves maybe because of the crowd that probably haven't heard about them, but I really liked when they did an Indian song. I thought that was it for the band; it turned out it was just warm-up for the guys. The national anthems of the Philippines and India were played afterwards, followed by a lighting of the lamps ceremony. Several Indian dances performed by Filipino dancers followed, though I wished Indian nationals did it instead because I think Filipino dancers are too graceful for the frenetic body and hand-eye movements that characterize Indian dances. Pinikpikan then took the stage again for a scorching rendition of Kahimanawari and Maski Diin, accompanied by the dancers doing both Indian and Filipino dances. The audience liked it a lot.

After a short fashion show, then came what I would call the Bollywood Diva Showdown. Eight girls went onstage to take turns imitating popular Bollywood actresses like Aishwarya Rai, Madhuri Dixit, Sushmita Sen, Kareena Kapoor, and Priyanka Chopra. My reaction was, no, you're not Aishwarya Rai. It came this close to being hideous, but the audience's enthusiastic response to the girls saved the number (which went almost as long as a Bollywood film).

There was a very mom-and-pop feel to the program, like when there's a family celebration and the children are forced to sing or dance in front of everybody. Even the decorations seemed home-made. It feels like an authentic Indian celebration, and I feel privileged to be there.

Pinikpikan came on again, after being fittingly introduced as the best band in the Philippines (cue applause from three people including me). They launched into Una Kaya, which most of the audience took as their cue to stand up, not to dance, but to head for the food stands or make chika or beso to the other guests. The children were more appreciative, as some of them went onstage to dance with the band. The band played several more songs until finally they brought out the gangsas for Kalipay, dancing and playing among the audience.

A fireworks display followed, as I stuffed my mouth with more Indian food, a perfect way to end the night.

Or so we thought. As we were all leaving, Sing India took the stage and before we knew it, a bhangra par-tay was in full swing.

By the way, the Indian Chamber of Commerce distributed free CDs of a mix labeled Diwali Mela 2007. If you have a Multiply account, get the sounds for your next masala party HERE.

Happy Diwali everyone!

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