For the youth of the Cagayan de Oro Philippines Stake, it took more than two months of daily rigorous practice to perfect the cultural dance “Singkil”. The dance required strict discipline from all the participants. It required perfect timing in each and every step.
And on that perfect Saturday afternoon at the Cebu City Coliseum, in front of thousands of members from all over the Philippines, and most importantly, in front of President Thomas S. Monson and his counselor President Henry B. Eyring and the other leaders of the church present that day, they danced with their hearts – gracefully, regally, and with great dignity. The presentation was a culmination of all their hard work – a total display of their commitment and love. For after all, it was for the Prophet of God.
To be able to join the daily practices, the youth had to have money for fare, normally, 10 pesos each. To many, the amount is really not that much. But for a moment consider a family with 3 or 4 young men or women who were participants – it meant 40 pesos per day for fare alone. To many of the families of these youth, it was more than enough to buy a kilo of rice. A lot of sacrifices were made in those two months by all the participants – youth and leaders alike, just to be present daily.
For some of them, it meant walking from their homes to the Ramon Chaves Meetinghouse where the daily afternoon practices were held. To some, it meant doing their chores at home much earlier than the usual to give them free time for the scheduled practices in the afternoons. It meant sore hands, arms, and feet from carrying the not-so-light fans for the fan dancers; swords and armor for the warriors, and the bamboo poles for the bamboo clappers. For the two bamboo carriers, it meant readying themselves to carry the princess on the bamboo poles during the numerous runs per session. For the prince, the princess, and umbrella girl, it meant mastering their steps up to the last count so as to avoid being hit by the bamboo poles.
The leaders too, were there all the way. One leader who took charge of the daily practices and had to leave her store just to oversee the practices. Good thing that her husband helped too, by watching over her store while she was helping the youth. Ward Youth leaders took turns teaching and training the youth. They too, left their homes and jobs just to lend a helping hand. Prior to the actual practices, these leaders had to watch the instructional video over and over to familiarize themselves with the complicated Singkil dance steps. They executed the dance steps to the best of their abilities so as to show the youth how things are done. They made the fans, the swords and armors, the accessories, painted the bamboo poles, provided snacks and water, served as medics during emergencies, cooked the food during the actual trip in Cebu, and did many more that mentioning all of them here would take so much space and time.
Yes, many times the leaders’ patience was tested. There were times these leaders wanted to give up, and so did some of the youth participants. But, looking back now, they’re all glad they stuck it out and gave their best.
True, the youth did very well in their performance in Cebu. Tears rolled down their faces during their actual performance. There was even silence as the audience watched with awe as the dancers crisscrossed the clapping bamboos… and not one toe nor foot was harmed during the whole dance routine.
However, more than the satisfaction and happiness of having performed to the best of their abilities, the greatest blessings are these: that today, these young people are better friends to each other. The leaders had the chance to know the youth, and now more than ever, they have developed a fondness to each of them, or even greater than that, love towards each other.
Truly, it is what happens behind the scenes that bind people together. The youth of the church, as well as the leaders, are blessed to have chances like the Cultural Presentation, to work together, and bond together.
And this is what the Gospel is all about, serving each other and loving one another.