“The lotus shares with abandon with the world the glory of its blooms unmindful of the mud from whence it springs.” These words were part of the opening remarks by former Consul General of the Philippines, Edwin D. Bael, as he introduced the Children of Mother Earth at the beautifully refurbished Santa Monica Library, chosen for this special event because it is a LEED-certified green building as well as Santa Monica’s general sustainable living mandate.
A group of dancers born and raised in Smoky Mountain, a garbage dump in Tondo, Manila, these young boys and girls, ranging in age from 14 to 21, comprise the 27-member touring dance troupe who dance to save the planet.
Children of scavengers who lived off the garbage of Smoky Mountain, this professionally trained dance troupe is the vision of Fr. Ben Beltran, SVD, Smoky Mountain parish priest, who in 1993 decided to create an ensemble that would depict the importance of taking care of the environment through interpretative dance. His hope was that he would raise awareness regarding environmental degradation.
Thus, the primary mission of this dance group it to share ideas and insights on saving Mother Earth with other youths whom they feel should be responsible for helping take care of this world and saving it from looming ecological disasters.
The heart and soul behind Children of Mother Earth, Fr. Beltran’s eco-friendly vision is further manifested in building Manila’s first nature-friendly church which will have solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, a water catchment system to collect rainfall for watering the garden, waterless composting toilets and natural air ventilation systems. The church will be built on the ashes of Smoky Mountain, the once gigantic pile of waste and “will stand as a monument to our determination to uplift the plight of the poor through technology and be a symbol of hope for the youth and other poverty-stricken communities.” When completed, the church will become the first environment-friendly, electronic church in the world and will provide education, including computer training, which is already in process, as well as work opportunities for the former scavengers and slum dwellers.
These spirited young dancers, wearing a wondrous array of colorful costumes, executed each of the 21 selections with precision, grace, and emotion, ranging from pure fun to deep sadness. On the fun side was “Tinikling,” a dance where the dancers, using bamboo poles, imitate the tikling, a long-legged bird trying to elude capture by farmers, and the very colorful “Kalasan,” a rooster dance with the dancers splendidly outfitted as roosters. The more serious dances included “Anak Ng Pasig,” which depicted how the Pasig River, a major waterway, is biologically dead like all the rivers in Manila, and “Panunumpa Sa Kalikasan,” a solemn dance to defend Mother Earth from further destruction and to unite and assure a sustainable future for coming generations.
For the finale, the dancers removed their glittering costumes, and a tearful ensemble sang a few songs including “Paraiso,” a song about the life of a child living in a garbage dump. The audience of friends and dignitaries, including Philippines Consul General Mary Jo Aragon, and Japan’s Consul General and Mrs. Kazuo Kodama, was visibly moved.
In his closing remarks, Fr. Beltran said, “We must learn from the tribal people how to live in harmony with the earth.” He continued, “We have to power down or we will steal the future of future generations who will not be able to live a decent life.”
For more information, contact Edwin and Betty Bael at [email protected]