Annual Pilipino Culture Night canceled because of COVID-19 pandemic; group leaders weigh possible summer show if government social distancing guidelines ease up


Bayanihan Club members perform one of their classic routines during a March 11, 2017, Pilipino Culture Night. This year’s April 18 event would have featured a similar performance if it didn’t get canceled because of school closure stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. From The Accolade photo file

Alice Lee, Staff Reporter

While organizations like the ASB and Dance Production are posting video messages or performances on social media for Sunny Hills students or others to view because of their April canceled events, one campus club was considering something different.

Bayanihan Club co-presidents senior Russel Mallari and Kristen Del Mundo brought up the possibility of a summer performance of Pilipino Culture Night [PCN] back in March when they first made the announcement to their fellow club members about the nixed April 18 annual show.

“As of right now, we won’t be doing anything as an alternative, but we’re maybe hopefully considering doing the show in the summer,” Del Mundo said. “If things were to go back to normal by summer and if people’s schedules work out and the school would allow it, having the performance in the summer would be a definite candidate.”

Before that discussion, Mallari and Del Mundo had sent a text message to the club’s cabinet members on March 20 at 9:11 a.m.: 

“We just found out and confirmed this morning that PCN will for sure be canceled this year. Everything that’s been going on has been completely unexpected, so of course none of us saw this coming. 

“I just want to say that I’m truly really sorry to all of you and the rest of the club because I know that everyone’s been working really hard throughout the year for this show to happen. … Unfortunately there’s just no way around this at all, especially because we come back in May, which is the month that’s the most hectic for school in general.”

The two mentioned May because at the time, the Fullerton Joint Union High School District superintendent Scott Scambray had indicated that school closure would tentatively last until May 1, but that changed April 2 when Scambray sent a subsequent email stating that school closure would last through the end of the spring semester. 

While crafting the text message to inform the cabinet members about the news, the two presidents were on an emotional rollercoaster.

“[I had] various emotions. I was sad [and] happy,” Mallari said. “I was happy because I have more free time; meanwhile, everything I’ve worked for was pointless, which [made me] sad.”

The two presidents also spent some time and thought before finalizing their decision.

“We had a club meeting deciding whether to continue [to] practice or not, and we decided to continue when we got back in two weeks,” Mallari said. “But as more news came out, we came to the conclusion of flat out canceling it.”

Club adviser Mike Paris supported the two presidents’ decision.

“I’m disappointed that it was canceled but strongly agree with the decision to cancel it,” Paris said. “[The club members], too, are disappointed but understand the seriousness of the virus situation.”

Although senior Kayla Javanillo has performed in PCN since her freshman year when she first joined the club, she — like many of her senior peers — was also devastated at the lost opportunity to perform one more time in front of her peers and family members.

“When I first heard that my senior PCN was being canceled, I was heartbroken because I had been looking forward to it since freshman year,” Javanillo said. “Each PCN has been filled with so many great memories.”

Those great moments also had to do with her fellow performers.

“The club is important to me,” Javanillo said. “I met some of my best friends in high school through the club and have made some unforgettable memories.”

Despite the escalating news of the virus, the two presidents are pushing through the school year.

“The Bayanihan Club presidents, Kristen Del Mundo and Russel Mallari, have been doing a fantastic job this year,” Paris said. “They’ve had to deal with some very unique situations — first with the PAC construction and now with this pandemic.”

Expecting the Performing Arts Center [PAC] to remain under renovation in April, the club adjusted to a gym performance, but later in the school year, club leaders learned that the remodeling of the PAC was going to be finished before April. Once again, the PCN performers had to go back and accommodate their event for the remodeled PAC.

The club members started their practices in October and in the beginning, they had practices during the weekdays, but as PCN came closer, the dancers had additional practices on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Our club members had planned and practiced for PCN for many months,” Paris said. “These are some of the nicest, most dedicated young people around.”