By Harvey I. Barkin
MILPITAS – When word got out that the Paring Pinoy (Filipino priests) of the Diocese of San Jose were going all out to do an Igorot dance, it spread faster than the faith.
The event was Tayo na sa Houston, the barrio fiesta fundraising dinner towards the upcoming Third National Assembly of Filipino Priests in the USA set for November 7-11 in Texas.
Close to 400 parishioners, friends and guests came to dinner at the Pavalkis Hall of Saint John the Baptist Parish in Milpitas proving that the Paring Pinoy don’t have a problem packing them in.
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Monsignor Francis Cilia joked, “Of the almost 100 priests in the Diocese, there are now 33 Filipino priests. That’s like a third of the priests in San Jose. And that is awesome.”
Cilia also said that the sheer number of the diners proved their love and support for the Paring Pinoy. He added that “We all want to be home on a Friday but I want to be here.” Although he asked why there was no adobo.
The Paring Pinoy gave their all in performing different regional dances. The old guards who turned out to see if they were, indeed, going to perform in Igorot loin cloths were probably relieved that knee-length black shorts preserved decorum.
That night’s entertainment was not about the full regalia of Filipiniana pageantry but the extraordinary spectacle of Pinoy priests shucking off the strictures of their collar and dancing to near abandon with great joy.
The Paring Pinoy served dinner, sang in Chorus, performed the Sarong Bangui, Igorot rain dance, Maranao, La Jota Manileña, Sayaw sa bangko, Curacha and Tinikling.
The Igorot dance group of Father Engelbert Gammad, Father Mark Gazzingan, Father Michael Gazzingan, Father Andres Ligot and Father Joseph Page bagged the “Most Daring Costume Award.”
“Most Artistic Award” went to the Maranao dancers Monsignor Willie Manrique and Father Celso Singson.
Audience participation award went to Curacha with Father Jesus Tito Cartagenas, Jr., Father Eddie Obero, Father Edsil Emmanuel Ortiz and Father Chady Segovia.
Father Mark Gazzingan was cited for best individual performance in Tinikling. At Mass, a slight, soft-spoken, bespectacled clergy delivering no non-sense sermon but let loose on the dance floor, more dervish than some ascetic Muslims.
The La Jota Manileña dancers consisting of Father Angelo David, Father Gener Geronimo, Father Vincent Pineda, Father Daniel Urcia and Father Anthony Uytingco placed third.
Second prize went to the spirited performance of the dueling Father Ritche Bueza and Father Jeff Fernandez in Sayaw sa bangko.
First spot went to the Sarong Bangui dancers with Father Ritche Bueza and Father Jeff Fernandez. Adding “grace and elegance” were the Augustinian Recollect Sisters.
The Paring Pinoy also boasted of crooners among their ranks who sang sets of two songs. Father Edsil Ortiz’s rendition of OPM tunes was near flawless. Father Eddie Obero’s songs elicited teeny-bopper reaction from the ladies who offered flowers. Father Jonathan Dumlao’s ‘Lean on Me’ rocked the house. And Father Norman Segovia’s cover of Rico J. Puno would have given Michael Bolton an inferiority complex. Father Dumlao and Father Bong Rojas are just two of a growing number of Pinoy priests who also sing in Italian.
Emcee Jorge Doctolero warned the ladies flashing iPhones and iPads not to post on Facebook. But most blissfully ignored it and sometimes blocked the audience’s view, not wanting to miss the once-a-year chance to see their beloved priests perform.