Traditional Filipino music is alive and well in Brooklyn, provided long-term care by a duo of Marine Park nurses working at Beth Israel Brooklyn Hospital at 3201 Kings Highway.
Maria Bella Soriano-Locsin and Ruth Manligoy formed the Filipino Arts and Music Ensemble (FAME) in 2003 and recruited family members to take part in the rondalla – which is a group of musicians playing stringed instruments. For that, the pair and their work were profiled by the Daily News.
The group took off in Brooklyn’s Filipino community and has grown to include more than 60 musicians and dancers who meet weekly for practice sessions at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, at 1315 East 28th Street in Midwood.
“The Friday sessions have become a family thing,” Manligoy said. “Everyone brings food and we eat together. Family is very important in our community.”
Soriano-Locsin and Manligoy came to Brooklyn after being recruited by officials from Beth Israel Medical Center (then known as Kings Highway Hospital). They joined a Queens-based Filipino music group, and realized the younger generation of Filipinos in New York were not exposed to traditional music.
“The old people may still be playing traditional music in the Philippines, but the young people are not hearing it. We saw it was important because this music, even in the Philippines, is a dying art form,” Manligoy told the paper. “Once we played for a Filipino dignitary who said he has only heard a rondalla in New York City.”
The group has branched out not only across the five boroughs but to places like Boston and Connecticut, performing traditional Filipino songs as well as modern music, including their own Lady Gaga/Katy Perry medley. Soriano-Locsin’s husband, a patient-escort at Beth Israel, serves as choreographer. Though the group has expanded, the emphasis remains on family. At least half of the group’s members are children of Beth Israel employees.
“By starting FAME, our children and Filipino children in this country have started to learn about their heritage,” Manligoy said. “So we can safeguard this part of our culture and preserve it here, in this country.”
To book a performance or donate to the group, see the website, www.FAMENYC.org.