Oral Histories

Interview of Joel Jacinto

Co-founder of Kayamanan Ng Lahi, a Filipino folk dance and music ensemble. Executive director of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans.
Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California
Asian American History
Cline, Alex
Jacinto, Joel
Persons Present:
Jacinto and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Cline's home in Culver City, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research. Cline has spent a considerable amount of his career as a jazz drummer/musician in Los Angeles.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Jacinto was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and make corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
5.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California series focuses on both immigrants and second- or third-generation Asian Americans who have continued East Asian or Southeast Asian musical, dance, and performance traditions in Southern California. Some preserved their art form by adhering to the traditional forms of their disciplines, while others incorporated elements from Western arts and culture.
Jacinto’s parents move from the Philippines to San Francisco, where he is born—His father, Jaime Jacinto, and his father’s family background—His mother, Luz Bertha Angeles—Jacinto travels with his mother to the Philippines at age ten—Identity issues due to Jacinto's physical appearance being viewed as “Chinese”—His mother’s family background—Other family members who followed Jacinto’s parents to California—His older brother and two older sisters—His godfather and basketball coach, Morris Baker—The impact of Hawaiian culture, especially dance, on Jacinto—Baker’s influential coaching and nurturing of the young Jacinto in San Francisco—Baker moves to the Kona Coast of Hawaii, were Jacinto travels to spend time with him during summers—The degree to which Filipino culture expressed itself in Jacinto’s family—The impression being in the Philippines and in Hawaii made on young Jacinto—Catholicism in his family while growing up—His experience of the linguistic foundation of hula in Hawaii—The Philippines’ inherent lack of cultural purity—More on identity issues due to Jacinto's more “Asian” physical appearance—Perceptions of the Filipino community in San Francisco by non-Filipinos—Jacinto’s mainland versus local Hawaiian sense of his own identity—The influence of pop music and Hawaiian music on Jacinto—The importance of basketball on his development as a person—Baker’s talent in basketball—Interest in girls as a teenager and how the notion of masculine grace influenced Jacinto as a young man—The large number of Filipinos involved in hula dancing—The “polykinetic” nature of Filipinos in dance and movement—Life at home upon the family’s relocation to the Balboa Terrace neighborhood in San Francisco—Lowell High School.
How Jacinto began his training in hula during summers and winters in Hawaii as a teenager—Filipinos at Lowell High School—His first month as a student at UCLA becomes a hugely pivotal time in his life—Attends a Samahang Pilipino student organization meeting, where he meets his future wife, Ave, and begins his cultural awakening—He connects with Hawaiian students on campus—A class in the Filipino American experience proves extremely influential to Jacinto—The awakening of his student activism at UCLA—He eventually settles on kinesiology as his major—His involvement as a performer and director with Sayaw Ng Silangan, the performing arts component of Samahang Pilipino—Support he and his colleagues received on campus from Judy Mitoma—His experience in kinesiology—How his immersion in student activities slowed his academic performance—Graduates from UCLA in 1986—Both Jacinto and Ave begin dancing in Hawaiian dance groups in Southern California during the mid-eighties—The genesis, evolution, and significance of Pilipino Cultural Night at UCLA and beyond—Involvement performing dance of the Philippines with the Silayan Dance Company in Southern France—The quest for training in authentic Filipino dance possesses Jacinto—His parents’ support of his activities at UCLA—Begins graduate study in exercise physiology at the University of Hawaii and continues his involvement and training in hula in 1987—Becomes friends with hula dancer Derek Nuuhiwa and accelerates his participation in Hawaiian dance companies while in Hawaii—After two years, Jacinto returns to L.A., secures employment, and ultimately marries Ave in 1990—His integration into service activities in L.A.’s Filipino community in the early nineties—He is hired as executive director of Seeking Inclusion of Pilipino Americans (SIPA) in 1991—The history of SIPA—The integration of the diverse elements in Jacinto’s life.
Jacinto’s desire to find and learn true Filipino dance leads him to the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group—Obusan invites Jacinto to study with him in the Philippines, which he does in 1990--Brings back with him the elements with which to start a dance and music ensemble—He and Ave meet Boi Angos and Barbara Ele, which leads to their founding Kayamanan Ng Lahi (KNL)—How the roles of the four principal members of KNL became defined—How KNL’s repertoire and membership was developed—KNL’s early outlets and venues for its performances—Its position in the community—He attends night graduate courses in anthropology at California State University, Long Beach, from 1995 to 1999 to deepen and apply his understanding of the cultural context of KNL’s performances—How KNL’s performance model was refined—Exposure to and influence from other world dance organizations in the L.A. area—How Jacinto came to emphasize narrative in KNL’s presentations—How his hula experience and knowledge carried over into his contribution to KNL—The picture of Filipino identity and culture that KNL presents in its performances—The importance of demonstrating kapwa, or shared humanity, in presenting the Filipino culture to American audiences—How the part-time availability of KNL’s members limited its ability to take fuller advantage of the booking power of some of L.A.’s performing arts organizations—KNL’s performance schedule throughout a year—Jacinto and Ave succeed in starting their own family in 1999—His commitment to his community and to future generations via KNL—Teaching ritual Filipino dances to at-risk youth at SIPA—The first half of the 1990s saw a proliferation of Filipino dance groups in the L.A. area—Reasons for the decline of some of those other dance groups—How KNL handles its finances—The influence of American pop culture on the younger generation of Filipino dancers—KNL’s distinctly American context for its folkloric presentations—Languages Jacinto speaks—The language issue in the Filipino American community—Japanese language skills in the hula world.
Non-Filipinos who have performed with KNL—How KNL welcomes and provides access to new members—Why KNL avoids recruiting performers based on its performance needs—Rise and fall of many Filipino dance groups in the L.A. area during the nineties—Challenges of maintaining the company and of serving an area as huge as Los Angeles County—KNL’s lack of dependence on grant-based projects and arts-based entities enhances its security and sustainability—The magnitude and variety of KNL’s repertoire—How KNL represents the American side of its identity as part of its cultural continuum—Strategies for passing on KNL’s body of knowledge and culture—The present-day need to begin focusing on company leadership—Inspiration Jacinto receives from first-voice contact and constant learning—The aim to increase cultural understanding and then to share it—Challenges in interesting young Filipino Americans in their cultural heritage—How Jacinto’s spiritual and cultural values inform his life purpose and sense of identity—Assessing KNL’s contribution to the L.A. area’s Filipino community—Addressing the absence of awareness of Filipino cultural identity outside the Filipino community—The unique opportunity the Filipino American community has to present itself to the modern multicultural American mainstream—KNL’s work in light of the art versus culture dilemma—Ethnicity’s lack of importance when presenting and sharing traditional cultural art forms—L.A.’s tolerant climate for multicultural appreciation and awareness—Filipino cultural education Jacinto and his wife Ave are offering their two sons—The extent to which he is driven by the desire to learn and to use that learning to improve the world—How he stays fit.