Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
|For more Asian American
stories in Wisconsin, click:
|UW-Madison's Filipino American Student
Association's RATED P:
Celebrating Filipino American Artists
By Marlon Eric Lima
The American dream is commonly framed among traditional Asian-American households to follow the career
routes of business or medicine rather than artistic endeavors.
However, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Filipino-American Student Organization (FASO) spotlighted
Filipino-American entrepreneurs in the arts with their annual two-day “Rated P” festival in mid-April. Both weekend
days began with two workshops and ended with evening events that highlighted student art work as well as guest
Friday’s event transformed a dim lit lecture hall into a humble stage for theater performances and Spoken Word
poetry. The night’s performances began with a brief one-act play by UW-Madison First Wave scholars Dominic
Nicholas and Jill Fukumoto.
Their 10-minute performance dealt with Nicholas and Fukumoto’s separate, yet similar experiences under an
Asian-American identity including issues of assimilation and estrangement from their immigrant elders.
The soaking of rice prior to cooking provided the motif metaphor for the Americanization process that reduced their
relationship with their elders as sharing only food on the table and blood in their veins.
Next, the community-based theater troupe from Chicago, Circa-Pintig, performed a brief skit that brought humor to
the intergenerational interaction between a mother and an adult son. The skit began with the two interacting
awkwardly at first then eventually bonding over the suspense of the mother’s television drama.
The crowd then witnessed two back-to-back spoken word performances about Asian-American identity from First
Wave scholars, Ittai Wong and Ashlyn Atkins. Wong’s instantaneous performance included an adrenaline cadence
expressing the difficulty of wearing “only the pigment of the Philippines” on his skin while still feeling distant from
the culture and history. Atkins poetry addressed her soul-searching experience as an ethnically mixed writer on a
scholarship through her clever wordplay and rhymes.
Circa-Pintig returned for a stage-read performance of Noel Alumit’s award winning one-act play “Mr. and Mrs.
LaQuesta Go Dancing.” Both nicely dressed protagonists engaged the audience as members of a get together by
telling stories and even taking flash photography of the audience.
The performance juggled between light-hearted humor and hard-hitting issues of child abuse and the difficulty of
acceptance for a homosexual son in a strict traditional household.
According to executive director of Circa-Pintig Ginger Leopoldo, the theater troupe promotes activism by provoking
dialogue about the issues addressed in the performance. In an interview Leopoldo, referenced German playwright
and theater director Bertolt Brecht in the group’s goal of “not trying to make the audience feel escape.”
The following evening FASO converted the Red Gym’s On Wisconsin Room into an illuminated outline of a runway
for the festival’s fashion show. Organizers split the room between the backstage and runway area with a divider
that held the Filipino flag at the center as a background to each striding model.
The show, “Breaking Barriers,” featured apparel from Zenxyth, InkRed, and the textile and Apparel Student
Association (TASA). The Night’s first designs by Zenxyth and InkRed highlighted the underground shirt printing
culture, which is “commonplace for young Filipino-American entrepreneurs” according to the Rated P festival’s
Three female student-models strut down the runway to calm reggae music outfitted in three screen-printed shirts
for the first label, Zenxyth. The label is managed by Atkins, the spoken word poet from Friday’s performance.
Next, five students leisurely strolled down the runway with a disinterested swagger modeling InkRed’s new spring
line. Each model climaxed their runway pose by facing the audience with their back to the photographers at the
“I’m really focused on people there for the moment,” said InkRed owner and UW-Madison student, Niko Tumamak
whose choreography for the models was meant to favor the people present at the show instead.
Once the DJ switched music to a heavy hitting hip-hop instrumental, the student-models blended the average
runway attitude of careless disregard of the audience with a street mentality most aptly summed up as a middle
finger to haters. In this half, models displayed new and older styles from Ink Red as well as street-styles such as a
bandana over the eye or mouth, black shades and a hat donned nearly over one’s eye level.
The fashion show’s final fashion strolls were made by all female student-models dressed in the designs of Yer
Lee, Punbraye Vang and Jordan Camille of TASA. Lee’s work included a silk duponi white dress with green ruffles,
a black jacket, a deep, v-necked green dress with lace
on top and an elegant white dress with pleated flowers. Lee described her work as having an “innocent, fun look.”
Although most of the fashions were products from their own classes as textile and apparel design majors, a few
were independent works. Vang noted in a post-interview that she made a studded belt for one dress less than 24
hours prior to the show. One eye-catching design by Vang included a dress made from belts.
The models held wide smiles as they strode down the runway to calm French music. Near the end models
became bashful, including the three designers who concluded the segment by power-walking down the catwalk.
The event concluded with a walkthrough of every model and even FASO members wearing their student
organization clothes before becoming a complete social event of congratulations and rap freestyling over the DJ’s
Friday’s workshops included a discussion from visiting theater troupe Circa-Pintig about their history and the use
of activism in theater. Friday’s second workshop was catered and hosted by the owner of a Filipino small
business grocery store, Mabuhay in Madison. The owner gave a brief discussion about the overwhelming
difficulties in running a small business.
FASO held Saturday’s screen-printing workshop and DJ workshop in a modest sized room in Memorial Union. The
DJ workshop flowed into the screen-printing activity as the facilitator introduced a short history of turntablism as
participants finished the final stages in screen-printing on their clothes.
The annual festival continues to grow with this third installment of honoring Filipino-American arts and artists.
FASO’s organizing and entertaining programming was only undermined by the potential for a larger turnout at the
Marlon Eric Lima is a student at UW-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication; a First Wave Hip-Hop
Theatre Ensemble - Scholar; and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
From left to right: Dominic Nicholas (left) and Jill Fukumoto (right) performing their one-act play "Forget It"; Circa-
Pintig's stage reading of "Mr. and Mrs. LaQuesta Go Dancing"; Jennifer Le modeling Punbraye Vang's "belt
dress" during the fashion show