By Opinions Editor Eliza Esquibel
The end of each school year traditionally brings powerful cultural performances, with emotional cheers from a captivated audience to accompany them. But for senior Ashley Babkirk, her last months of high school will not include the unique send-off that is the Cultural Awareness assembly. “It would have been my last time representing the Filipino culture at my school,” said Babkirk. “I was excited to make more memories with my group and have a fun time performing.” Babkirk had spent several weeks putting together a Tinikling, or Filipino folk dance, routine with a group before schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cultural awareness assembly has been a Timberline trademark since 1989. “There was a lot of racial tension at [the school],” said former cultural awareness club advisor Kimberly Patin Tennant. “The staff decided to form the Human relations council. From that, the kids decided that [they] wanted to have an assembly that showcased each of our cultural and social groups.”
Ever since that point, the assembly has impacted performers and audiences alike year after year. “This assembly allows for any person to give something of themself to others, especially if they feel there is nowhere else to do so,” said senior Anikah Chiguina, who would have displayed her Chamorro heritage at this year’s event. “Each chant or dance goes back many years, and for me, it is a way of [giving] honor to my ancestors.” Current cultural awareness club advisor Stephanie Bush has observed these effects. “This assembly in particular just seems to bring Timberline together and is a culmination of who we are as a Blazer family.”
Unfortunately for many seniors, they will not have their final opportunity to bring the spotlight to their cultures. Senior Emily Kim was hoping “to spark interest, and help widen the perception of Korean culture.” She had already begun rehearsing a traditional Korean fan dance for what would have been her third year in the assembly. Senior William Lafaele was ready to perform the Haka, a dynamic war chant. “[I wanted] to show the people how much we love our culture and how interesting our culture is. It’s more than just a dance.”
For those who had made the assembly a part of their life throughout their entire high school career, its absence in 2020 is especially heartbreaking. “Dancing is something that I’ve always done, so showcasing my culture really is important to me,” said senior Anisha Torres. She has represented Hawaiian and Tahitian styles in years past, and recently began dancing with a K-pop group. “I’m sad that I won’t be able to perform… it was [going to] be my last year, so I really wanted to show out,” said Torres.
Despite the loss of yet another significant event, Chiguina is staying positive. “I believe that it is important to share your culture with others, so keep on doing it. Biba Timberline!” (this roughly translates to “Bless Timberline!” in Chamorro)