Matt Tam (middle) and Lucas Geniza (right) sing together as the crowd moves along to the music. This was one of several performances at the first-ever Filipino Heritage Festival. - Staff Writer / Kristin Guglietti

Rowan’s first Filipino Heritage Festival kicked off Saturday night featuring dancers, musicians and a drag queen on stage at the Student Center.

The night was made possible by Rowan University Philippine American Coalition (RUPAC) and Rowan After Hours. Robert Victor Tanteo, president of RUPAC and a senior accounting major, and Lance Guzman, RAH co-sponsorship coordinator and a junior biomedical engineering major, emailed back and forth over the summer to plan the event.

“Everyone enjoyed it,” Guzman said. “It was good to see people come out, especially people not familiar with the culture. The dancing, food and music is rewarding for Rowan students.”

Along with being the first Filipino festival at the university, it was also Rowan’s 3D Dance Crew’s first performance of the year. The Dance Crew is a student-run group that takes pride in being diverse in its dances and members.

Despite technical difficulties such as the piano briefly not working during AJ Pingol’s performance in which he sang Drake’s “In My Feelings,” students and performers enjoyed the night. 

Pingol, a junior biology student, said that music is deeply rooted in Filipino culture in reference to the various performances throughout the festival.

Before Pingol went on stage, Rye Guether, a sophomore music technology student, rapped on stage under the pseudonym “G-therz” while wearing basketball shorts, a blue tee and a baseball hat. His music can be found on SoundCloud.

Matt Tam, a senior computer science major who also performed at the festival, said, “My favorite part was when Lukey [Lucas Geniza] pulled me on stage.”

According to Tam, he was worried about messing up prior to going on stage, however, it felt great to be surrounded by his friends and family. 

People jumped out of their seats to dance during Lucas Geniza’s set. The crowd jumped, swayed and shouted near the stage. At one point, people were doing the Electric Slide to the music.

One song was dedicated to Geniza’s friend, Lorenzo, who had passed away.

“I miss him dearly and just want to dedicate this song to him, enjoy,” said Geniza, a senior music technology major at Temple University. His music can also be found on SoundCloud.

Nate Aquino, the host of the festival and a senior radio, television and film major, said his favorite part of the night was when drag queen Zsa Zsa St. James danced on his friend Julian Salugao, a senior biology major.

St. James dressed as Maleficent and lip synced a part of Maleficent speech from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and then mid-speech she dropped it low to “Boss Ass Bitch” by PTAF.

Her Instagram bio reads that St. James is the “rice bowl queen of Philly.” There are two Asian queens in Philadelphia, but she is the only Filipino queen in the area. 

After performing as Maleficent, Zsa Zsa St. James took a break to change her outfit and came back out as Jennifer Lopez with long brown hair and a sparkling leotard. There were four costume changes total.

As well as watching the show, students ate traditional Filipino cuisines such as eggrolls, chicken, pork and rice. 

Other performers on stage included senior biology student Kristine Bulaong singing the Philippine National Anthem, a traditional Tinikling dance by RUPAC, a comedy sketch done by Rutgers Camden junior biology student Arianna Meara and a singing performance by Aaronrey “Arey” Ebreo, a senior biology and pre-med student at Temple University.

Aquino, the host of the festival, shared his thoughts of the event.

“Our president, Robert, had an idea to enlighten the community of Filipino heritage,” he said. “I had a great time entertaining.”

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