Houston, Houston, they’ve got no problem

Headliner for the event, Igorot rain dancers (L-R:) Fr. Joseph page, Fr. Andres Ligot, brothers Frs. Mark and Michael Gazzingan, Fr. Engel Gammad (Photo by Robin Barkin)

By Harvey I. Barkin

MILPITAS – When word got out that the Paring Pinoy of the Diocese of San Jose were going all out to do an Igorot dance, it spread faster than the faith.

The event was Tayo na sa Houston, the barrio fiesta fund-raising dinner towards the upcoming Third National Assembly of Filipino Priests in the USA set for November 7 to 11 in Texas.

Close to 400 parishioners, friends and guests came to dinner at the Pavalkis Hall of St. John the Baptist Parish in Milpitas. Proving that the Paring Pinoy don’t have a problem packing them in.

But their boss, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Rev. Msgr. Francis Cilia joked, “Of the almost 100 priests in the Diocese, there are now 33 Filipino priests. That’s like a third of the priests in San Jose. And we’re in trouble.”

Cilia also said that the sheer number of the diners proved their love and support for the Paring Pinoy. He added that “We all want to be home on a Friday but I want to be here.” Although he asked why there was no adobo.

The Paring Pinoy gave their all in performing different regional dances. The old guards who turned out to see if they were, indeed, going to perform in Igorot loin cloths were probably relieved that knee-length black shorts preserved decorum.

That night’s entertainment was not about the full regalia of Filipiniana pageantry. But the extraordinary spectacle of Pinoy priests shucking off the strictures of their collar and dancing to near abandon.

The Paring Pinoy served dinner, sang in Chorus, performed the Sarong Bangui, Igorot rain dance, Maranao, La Jota Manileña, Sayaw sa bangko, Curacha and Tinikling.

The Igorot dance group of Fr. Engelbert Gammad, Fr. Mark Gazzingan, Fr. Michael Gazzingan, Fr. Andres Ligot and Fr. Joseph Page bagged the Most Daring Costume award, natch.

Most Artistic award went to the Maranao dancers Msgr. Willie Manrique and Fr. Celso Singson.

Audience participation award went to Curacha with Fr. Jesus Tito Cartagenas, Jr., Fr. Eddie Obero, Fr. Edsil Emmanuel Ortiz and Fr. Chady Segovia.

Fr. Mark Gazzingan was cited for best individual performance in Tinikling. At Mass, a slight, soft-spoken, bespectacled clergy delivering no non-sense sermon. But let loose on the dance floor, more dervish than some ascetic Muslims.

The La Jota Manileña dancers consisting of Fr. Angelo David, Fr. Gener Geronimo, Fr. Vincent Pineda, Fr. Daniel Urcia and Fr. Anthony Uytingco placed third.

Second went to the spirited performance of the dueling Fr. Ritche Bueza and Fr. Jeff Fernandez in Sayaw sa bangko.

First spot went to the Sarong Bangui dancers with Fr. Ritche Bueza and Fr. Jeff Fernandez. Adding “grace and elegance” were the Augustinian Recollect Sisters.

The Paring Pinoy also boasted of crooners among their ranks who sang sets of two songs. Fr. Edsil Ortiz’s rendition of OPM tunes was near flawless. Fr. Eddie Obero’s love songs elicited teeny-bopper reaction from the ladies who wiped away his sweat and offered flowers. Fr. Jonathan Dumlao’s Lean on Me rocked the house. And Fr. Norman Segovia’s cover of Rico J. Puno would have given Michael Bolton inferiority complex. Fr. Dumlao and Fr. Bong Rojas are just two of a growing number of Pinoy priests who also sing in Italian.

Emcee Jorge Doctolero warned the ladies flashing iPhones and iPads not to post in Facebook. But most blissfully ignored it and sometimes blocked the audience’s view, wanting not to miss the once-a-year chance to see their beloved priests perform.