SAMAHAN Filipino American Performing Arts & Education Center, Inc.


The Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts and Education Center, Inc. was organized in 1974 by the late 

Dr. Lolita Dinoso Carter with the purpose of helping the Filipino American youth acquire pride in their cultural heritage, 

by providing them opportunity to participate and experience Philippine dance and music as a social and 

recreational activity,  as well as a first-rate professional performance venue.  

Becoming a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization shortly after 

its founding,  Samahan has endeavored for four decades to fulfill this primary purpose of advancing the 

Filipinos’  beautiful culture, reaching out to a large number of youth and  to the San Diego community.   

Samahan has continued to sustain a milieu for the San Diego community to appreciate  Philippine 

 cultural arts through dance, music and living traditions, all to enrich cultural diversity.

Click here to read the Story of SAMAHAN Performing Arts… 


The Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts & Education Center brings to every occasion a combination of lively Filipino folk dances and indigenous tribal rituals accompanied with live Rondalla and Kulintang music.  



Life in the provinces reflects the simplicity of the lives of the people who live close to the earth.  The landscape is of small towns and villages dotted with coconut groves, clumps of bamboo trees and the green or gold of rice fields.

Many dances are imitations of the movements of nature such as birds, animals, trees and the sea, are characterizations of various occupations or are created for various religious celebrations.  The bamboo is used in many types of dances.


The Spanish colonization of the Philippines brought many Western influences including religion, social customs, dress, dance and music.  European dances like the waltz, mazurka, the Spanish jota, paso doble, fangango and others were transformed to suit the climate and the temperament of the people.  The elaborate and formal costumes of the 16th century Europe were introduced and modified for the formal balls and other occasions in the homes of the wealthy and for the elegant government functions.

These costumes were later adapted as costumes called Maria Clara for the women, and Barong Tagalog for the men. A Spanish derived small string orchestra called Rondalla came into being with music played on the banduria, laud, guitara and banjo.



The influence of Hindu, Arabic, and Indo-Malayan cultures are reflected in the music, dance and costumes of the people who live in the southern Philippines – the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelango.  Included in this group are Filipinos who embraced the Islamic religion early in the 14th century.  Called Moros by the Spaniards, after the Moslem Moors, these people have resisted all attempts at Christianization.

The dances, particularly of the Maguindanao, the Maranao, and the Tausug, are largely ceremonial and are often accompanied by percussion instruments such as gongs, known as the Kulintang, and drums.  Kulintang music has been practiced since the 3rd century A.D., before the coming of Islam and Christianity.  It is celebratory music that brings people together, performed during weddings, festivities, for healing rituals, and to drive away evil spirits.  The music is never played in funerals or Islamic observances.


The Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, and Kalinga-Apayao people, now known as BIBAK tribes, live in the misty mountain provinces of Northern Luzon.  Because of their long isolation in landlocked mountain villages, these indigenous tribes have been able to preserve much of their tribal identity, rich culture and traditions.   Dances of the BIBAK tribes are expressions of their beliefs which are often nature-oriented.  Their dances are mostly community celebrations of the important aspects of life such as birth, wedding, death, and rich harvest.  They dance to appease and to pay tribute to their ancestors.  They also dance for their gods to cure their ailments, to insure the success of war activities, to ward off bad luck, and to pray that natural calamities may not do harm to their source of living and their everyday life.   Dance is also a form of socialization for these tribes like the Kalinga.  They often congregate in order for them to unload their feelings.  Some of their dances depict agriculture, from planting to harvesting, since it is their main source of livelihood.  Their dances are performed accompanied with musical instruments such as, flat brass gongs – Gangsa, drums, hard wood sticks, various bamboo instruments and flutes.



The rondalla is an ensemble of stringed instruments played with the plectrum or pick and generally known as plectrum instruments. It originated in Medieval Spain and the tradition was later taken to other countries. During the Spanish period in the East Indies, the rondalla was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards. In the early Philippines, certain styles were adopted by the natives, especially guitar and banduria used in the Pandanggo, the Jota, and the Polka. The use of the term comparza was common, however, during the American period in the Philippines, the term rondalla became more used.

Rondalla in the Philippines, refers to any group of stringed instruments that are played using the plectrum or pick.The Filipino instruments are made from indigenous Philippine wood and the plectrum, or picks, are made from tortoise-shell. Other stringed instruments composing the standard Filipino rondalla are the bandurria, the laúd, the octavina, the Twelve-string guitar, the Ukulele, the bajo de uñas or double bass, the Guitarrón mexicano, and other Filipino-made instruments modeled and developed after the guitar.

The musical components of Samahan were formed in 1980 with the assistance of Bayani Mendoza De Leon, well known Filipino ethnomusicologist and composer.  Under his expert tutelage, Samahan’s Rondalla, Gangsa, and Kulintang Musical Ensembles were formed.  A grant from Parker Foundation enabled the Company to obtain musical instruments from the Philippines.  His students who have continued to play with the Rondalla, Dr. Juanita Caccam, Sheryl Aguilar Rodriguez, and Dr. Carmen Galang, have become the foundation of the current group. The Samahan Rondalla has benefited for more than two decades from the leadership of Frederick Embalsado, as music director and Dr. Juanita Caccam as the coordinator.  They have nurtured the development of the next generation of Samahan Rondalla musicians, now led by Dr. Bernard Ellorin.


Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, master artist/ teacher of Kulingtang Music became a guest teacher and artist with  the Company from 1988 to 1991 and 1994 to 1997.  He introduced Samahan to the authentic music of the Maguindanao people as well as the music of the Maranao people.  Kalanduyan was honored in 1995, as a recipient of the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award bt the National Endowment of the Arts.  His patient guidence resulted in the development of Bernard Ellorin, one of his students, as a Kulintang player of great promise.

Bernard Ellorin’s talent and dedication to Kulintang music and his knowledge of authentic Maguindanao and Maranao Kulintang music as learned from the Master Kalanduyan has been vital to the growth of Samahan’s Kulintang Music Ensemble.  Since 1996, he has been the Kulintang player and Director of the Samahan Kulintang Ensemble which provides live Kulintang music for the Mindanao dance performances.  Original members of the Kulintang Ensemble besides Bernard, are SDSU alumni, Eric Abutin, Chris Feraro and Severino Reyes, who all went through the basic Kulintang training with Master Kalanduyan.  The group eventually adapted the name Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble, merging with the group formed by Bernard and his UCLA music student colleagues.

Bernard received his Bachelor’s degree in Ethomusicology, cum laude, from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles, his Masters of Arts in Music, majoring in Ethnomusicology and his PhD in Ethnomusicology from the Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa.  His dissertation was about the Bajau kulintang in Malaysia under the Fulbright Fellowship and Asian Cultural Center grant.  Read more about Bernard’s Philippine music career –


Founder – Lolita D. Carter, Ph.D.

Executive Director – Dina B. Ellorin
Artistic Director – Ruby Pearl B. Chiong                                    Music Director – Bernard Ellorin, Ph.D.

Ruby Chiong

Artistic Director/Choreographer

Ruby Pearl Bersamin Chiong joined Samahan as a choreographer, teacher and dancer in 1975. A Business Administration graduate from Far Eastern University in Manila, Philippines, she brought with her an exten- sive background of performances with various dance companies in the Philippines, including the Manileña Dance Company, the Mabuhay Dance Company, Bell Aloha Dancers and the ABS-CBN Dance Troupe. She has taught master classes for the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, the San Diego State Multicultural Program, and the San Diego Area Dance Alliance. She also con- ducted Philippine dance workshops for the San Diego City Schools and the Sweetwater School District. Since 1994, she and Dr. Lolita Carter have been associated with the San Diego Young Audiences in the presentation of Philippine Dance Programs in schools in San Diego County. She has choreographed numerous dances in cooperation with Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, Master Artist/Guru of Kulintang.

Bernard Ellorin, PhD

Music Director, Rondalla, Gangsa & Kulintang Ensemble

Bernard Ellorin had his primary Philippine music training with Samahan’s Rondalla and Kulintang ensembles.  At the age of 10, he started playing with the Samahan Rondalla after learning how to play the bandurria with Dr. Juanita Caccam.  Two years after, he trained with the Kulintang Master,  Danongan Kalanduyan, mastering several authentic Maguindanao and Maranao Kulintang music. Bernard became the principal Kulintang player and the Director of the Samahan Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble in 1996, leading the ensemble in providing the musical accompaniment for Samahan’s repertoire of Southern Philippine dances.  Consequently developing a keen interest in Philippine music, Bernard decided to pursue a career in Ethnomusicology, obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, then his Masters and Doctorate in Music at the University of Hawaii. To enhance his knowledge in the country’s indigenous music and dances, he participated repeatedly in the KulArts Tribal Tours, which involved “immersion sessions” in various tribal rituals and traditions in Southern Philippines. He attended a semester of Kalinga music, Rondalla and Kulintang classes at the College of Music at the University of the Philippines. He stayed for two months in 2008 in Tawi-tawi researching on the Kulintangan of the Sama and Tausog tribes for his Master’s thesis. The Ensemble has been invited to conduct workshops in colleges and universities in California.



Jhenice Villanueva

Reina Belle Chiong               Eleanor Edraisa

Vice Presidents

 Roselyn Munoz  – Secretary                     Irene Almoite – Treasurer                             Elly Aguilar – Public Relations Officer

Juanita Caccam, PhD               Bernard Ellorin, PhD             Rolando Munoz            Alexander Alcantara

Parent Coordinators :            Lorena Welch           Sheila Militar