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Festival on the Move:
Dancing Culture and Performance of Identity Among Filipinos from the Central Philippines to Toronto, Canada


The need for investigating religions beyond their local borders and into the Diaspora has become increasingly critical in the twenty-first century, a period defined by massive migrations of people and their settling into and changing the cultural, social, economic, and political landscapes of host localities. Because of the steady and intense fusion of cultures in the Diaspora, religions that immigrants have brought from their home countries inevitably take on different religious and ideological registers. Yet in spite of the apparent urgency in understanding such religious phenomena, much of the scholarship on religious practices has focused on their original site and has simply employed the Diaspora as a point of contrast and comparison. Through a production of an ethnographic film, Patrick Alcedo’s research creation project differs from others by its zooming the lens of studying a particular religion on the Diaspora and using it as the site of origin rather as an angle for juxtaposition.

The Ati-atihan festival, celebrated by Filipino immigrants in Toronto, specifically the ones from the province of Aklan in the central Philippines, is a textbook case for this particular kind of transnational religious mixture and hybridity. Alcedo’s ethnographic film deepens the studies on Filipinos in Canada that have not concentrated on religion, embodiment, and performance, but predominantly on demographic spread, intergenerational conflicts and differences, and the problem of de-professionalization that most highly educated Filipinos face when they arrive in Canada.

Given that the heart of this research creation project is a festival celebration, articulating it through a visual medium brings to the viewer’s immediate experience Ati-atihan’s movements, sounds, music, color, costumes, choreographic design, and heightened atmosphere—festival elements that a written text is challenged in capturing at once. Alcedo structures the ethnographic film’s narrative using the stories that participants have told and includes footage which the participants themselves have taken. Such structuring enters into an intimate dimension of the lives of participants and their religious and festival experiences, a realm beyond the reach of Alcedo’s direction and videography of his production crew, even though they have established a strong rapport with the participants and are themselves insiders of the Diasporic community they are filming.  


Project Timeline: 2011-2014
Supported by: Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) | Research Creation Grant

Further information on the Filipino Youth Transition in Canada project:

For more information, contact Patrick Alcedo at alcedo@yorku.ca.

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