Last weekend, my girlfriend and I found ourselves surrounded by the vibrant buzz of cultural music, tantalizing food trucks, and enthusiastic crowds at the Filipino Festival, held this year at Power Plant Live venue in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. As we wandered through the crowds, a profound realization washed over me. I have been so unaware of the richness of my own culture. I don’t speak Tagalog fluently, and my lack of cultural awareness clouds my sense of identity even further. Where does one even begin? As a musician, I delved into my musical roots. As it turns out, music articulates the essence of being Filipino as eloquently as our collective history.

Filipino music and life are intertwined, forming an indivisible whole. There are no isolated notes in traditional Filipino music, such as the Hagod style of singing, where the singer smoothly glides between notes. Like Filipino musical notes, Filipino people are inherently relational. We work in groups. A celebration that doesn’t involve the entire barangay (community) is hardly considered a party at all!

Many indigenous Filipino cultures perceive music as an intrinsic part of their existence. There are songs that mark every life event. The Kalinga, for instance, sing an owiwi to chronicle a child’s life or a dagdagay to prophesize their future. Songs accompany first experiences such as a child’s outdoor bath (dopdopit) or the first time a child dons a necklace (kawayanna). There are songs for married couples expressing gratitude, blessings, and love. The concept of life and death is also captured in songs like the Bontoc’s didiyaw. Music echoes in the fields too as the Aeta’s work songs duduru echo while they pray before planting, singing a panubad.

This holistic approach to music resonates with the scriptural concept of ceaseless prayer mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). This passage doesn’t imply praying every single second, but maintaining an attitude of prayer, ready to communicate with God at any time. It’s an integral part of maintaining a joyful spirit, being grateful, and fostering an intimate relationship with God in every situation.

Just as karaoke is an inseparable part of a Filipino party, let prayer and praise become synonymous with your personal journey with Christ. I encourage you to set aside time for prayer, praise, and worship today. Even better, share this spiritual practice with others.

If you’re seeking activities to meet like-minded individuals, feel free to check out our Events. Looking to do life alongside a supportive community? Connect with our Groups. If you need help or support, you can always contact Care. And don’t forget, the Asian Ministry is having another Community Discussion on June 23. I hope you join us. Let’s embrace our identity, celebrate our culture, and deepen our faith – together. Mabuhay!

A picture of my grandfather, Gil Pagarigan, on the keys (far right) with his students and bandmates. Circa early-1980s.