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 or atmosphere for the San Diego community to appreciate Philippine cultural arts through dance, music and living traditions, all to enrich cultural diversity.


The Samahan Philippine Dance Company was organized in July 1974 under the direction of Lolita Diñoso Carter, Ph.D. Dr. Carter, a dance instructor at Grossmont College, El Cajon, CA. at that time, volunteered her services to organize a performing ensemble as a contribution to the growing Philippine Community of San Diego. Her knowledge of Philippine Dance and Music came naturally from her experiences growing up in the Philippines and being involved in all facets of Filipino life in a small town including activities of a large extended family, church & its numerous religious observances, school programs & community celebrations specially town fiestas. Formal education in Philippine Folk Dance at the University of the Philippines and classes with Francisca Reyes Aquino, eminent authority on Philippine Folk Dance provided Carter with a solid background in Philippine Folk Dance.

The Samahan Philippine Dance Company started out as part of the Youth Program of the Council of Pilipino-American Organizations of San Diego County. The purpose of the program was to provide Filipino youth opportunity to gain knowledge and appreciation of their cultural heritage. The name Samahan (meaning working together) was selected by the participants who were mostly students from area junior and senior high schools and San Diego State University. The educational and recreational program soon became an amateur performing group besieged with requests for performances from various organizations, institutions and individuals.

 In 1975, Ruby Pearl Chiong joined the Dance Company as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. Fresh from the Philippines, she brought with her a rich repertoire of dances reflecting her experiences with the Far Eastern University Dance Troupe and work with several dance companies in Manila. Her knowledge of dances from the mountain provinces of Northern Luzon and the Southern Philippines further enriched the Company’s repertoire.

In 1978, Samahan obtained status as a non-profit, public benefit corporation. Its founding directors were Grace P. Blaszkowski, Juanita F. Caccam, Ruby Pearl B. Chiong, Juanita C. Santos, Jesse G. Quinsaat and Lolita D. Carter. Soon after, it obtained its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts which was matched by Tawfiq and Rachel Khoury of Pacific Scene, Inc. In 1979, the Dance Company was invited to perform in the inauguration of the East County Performing Arts Center. The performance initiated annual performances in that theater which lasted for 7 years.

In 1979, Samahan initiated the Philippine Folk Festival which was held at the Scottish Rite Memorial Center, Mission Valley, San Diego. The Festival which lasted for six years was a showcase of Philippine Performing Arts in Southern California. The Festival, renamed Philippine Cultural Arts Festival, was revived and moved to an outdoor central location in Balboa Park in 1996 The Santacruzan was a special feature of the 1997 Festival which was held May 3 and 4 in the same location. A growing number and variety of guest performing artists makes the Samahan Philippine Cultural Arts Festival an outstanding showcase of Philippine Cultural Arts and a very important Philippine Community Event.

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.Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, master artist/teacher of Kulintang Music became a guest teacher and artist with the Company from 1989-1991 and 1994-97. Born in Datu Piang, Cotabato, he learned his music from early childhood playing with members of his family, relatives and townmates. He introduced Samahan to the authentic music of the Maguindanao people as well as to the music of the Maranao people. Together with the late Musiban Guiabar, a talented Maranao singer, he performed with Samahan at Sherwood Auditorium and the Educational Cultural Complex Theater. In 1995, Kalanduyan was honored as a recipient of the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award by the National Endowment of the Arts. He continues to work with Samahan as a guest teacher.

In 1991, George Ragaza joined Samahan as artistic director sharing responsibilities with Ruby Chiong. Under his leadership, Samahan performed at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts for four consecutive years. His collection of authentic and well designed costumes and exquisite accessories greatly enhanced the professional quality of Samahan’s performances. He premiered several new dances including “Kaamulan” – A Manobo Rite of sharing in 1993. In 1994, he presented an outstanding Gala at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts which gained him very good reviews by Anne Marie Welsh of the San Diego Union Tribune and Aurora Cudal of the Filipino Press. He also started Samahan’s active association with Young Audiences of San Diego.

In 1998 the name was changed to Samahan Filipino American Performing Arts & Education Center. There are four performing groups: Philippine Dance Ensemble, Kulintang Music and Dance Ensemble, Philippine Rondalla String Orchestra, and Polynesian Dance Troupe.

In addition to its busy performance schedule, Samahan has a strong educational and outreach program. It provides free workshops and performances in many area schools and is specially involved in multi-cultural programs. It has conducted two successful Neighborhood Arts Programs in two different neighborhoods in San Diego which are geared to youths at-risk and funded in part by the City of San Diego under a program administered by the Commission for Arts and Culture.


Samahan also provides performances for seniors, festivals and disadvantaged groups. Its theater performances include a Gala Performance, a Christmas Program and a program of original dances based on folk tales and legends of the Southern Philippine Islands. It has performed in many theaters of San Diego County including the City College Theater, Sherwood Auditorium, the Educational Cultural Complex Theater, Mayan Hall, East County Performing Arts Center, Mandeville Auditorium, Joan Kroc Performing Arts Center, and Lyceum Theater. Samahan recently performed at the Seattle Opera House as a featured performer in the Northwest Folklife Festival. The Samahan Philippine Dance Company takes great pride in its contribution to the preservation, development and presentation of tradition-based performing.



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.

At present, 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 Founddation 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.  Today, it benefits from the leadership of Frederick Embalsado, as music director and Dr. Juanita Caccam as the coordinator.


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.
  Rondalla & Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble

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.

Michelle Camaya

Contributing Choreographer

Michelle joined Samahan when she was 8 years old. She gives thanks to Dr. Lolita Diñoso Carter for con- ceiving Samahan and Ruby Chiong for continually sharing her talent and expertise. Michelle graduated from SDSCPA, earned a BA in dance from UC Irvine and performed in the musicals Fame, Swing, Kismet, The Lion King (Broadway), Sinatra – Dance with Me and most recently, Come Fly Away (Twyla Tharp choreogra- pher). She is certified in Bikram & Modo yoga and is a member and associate choreographer for Mark Stu- art Dance Theatre in New York City. Michelle holds the company of dancers, musicians and families of Samahan very close to her heart and is grateful to be a part of the annual gala concert as contributing choreographer, assistant director dance teacher and principal dancer.


Frederick Embalsado

Rondalla Music Director

Frederick Embalsado has been the Director of the Samahan Rondalla for more than two decades. With the assistance of Dr. Juanita Caccam as the music coordinator, he has led the Samahan Rondalla to its full po- tential as an outstanding string ensemble. Indeed, his arrival in the county has enriched Samahan, as he pos- sesses a rich Rondalla music background and experience. He has taken music courses in Rondalla at the Uni- versity of the Philippines, from Dr. Francisco F. Feliciano at the Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music, choir conducting at Santa Isabel College and attended a music camp at the Mt. Makiling School of Arts and Sci- ences. He was a music and Rondalla teacher at Bagong Silang Elementary School, Saint Claire Montessori School and Holy Rosary College in Manila. He has a degree in Business Administration and is currently employed with the County of San Diego.


Bernard Ellorin, PhD

Gangsa & Kulintang Director

Bernard Ellorin had his primary Philippine music training with Samahan’s Rondalla and Kulintang ensem- bles. At the age of ten, after learning in a month how to play the banduria with Dr. Caccam, he started play- ing with the Rondalla in providing live music accompaniment for the Samahan Gala Dance Concert. Since then he has been the principal banduria player of the Samahan Rondalla. Training with the Kulintang Mas- ter, Danongan Kalanduyan, and mastering several authentic Maguindanao and Maranao Kulintang music, Bernard became the principal Kulintang player and the Director of the Samahan Pakaraguian Kulintang En- semble 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 at UCLA, then graduate degrees 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 :            Lori Welch           Sheila Militar

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