Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gangsa Style (not Gangnam Style)

With the help of BIBBAK Illinois members and family; we recently created the video, "Igorot GANGSA STYLE - PSY Gangnam Style Parody."  The following information expounds on its history, the filming process and its purposes.


Sometime in August, I received a facebook message from our present Vice-President of BIBBAK Illinois, Gerald Batanes, suggesting that we do the Gangnam Style dance at our BIBBAK-IL Christmas party.  The idea really didn't interest me at the time, but I kept it in the back of me head because we dads of BIBBAK-IL needed to come up with a performance that either met or exceeded last year's "Evolution of Dance" Christmas party performance.  Nearly three months passed and we still didn't have any ideas for the Christmas party, other than Gerald's suggestion.

On November 3rd, the officers of BIBBAK-IL had a meeting to begin finalizing our plans for the December 1st Christmas party.  Gerald brought up the idea of us fathers doing a Gangnam Style parody dance, but the timing was bad.  The dads who were part of last year's performance had conflicting schedules and we simply didn't have the time to adequately prepare for such an endeavor.

A week passed and we dads were still without a performance.  Then one day I sat down to watch the Gangnam Style video on Youtube.  As I watched it, ideas of us dads doing crazy things in our wanes / bahag (g-strings) danced across my mind.  With less than 2 weeks before the Christmas party, the dads who were available met at various times and locations to film footage for the video.


The first attempt to film footage was suppose to take place on the Metra train going to Chicago from the Naperville suburb, but only one person was there at the train station to meet me.  Needless to say, it was cancelled.  However, the Igorot in me refused to give up so I threw my wanes into my backpack, hopped on my bicycle, boarded the train by myself and headed out to downtown Chicago.  

It was 42 degrees at the time, but the lakefront winds made it seem much colder.  My first stop was at our famous Buckingham Fountain where I failed in getting strangers to participate in the video mainly because there were so few people out that day.  I biked 13 kilometer to the Jackson Park Pier where I changed into my wanes.

Only a fisherman and I were crazy enough to be out on the pier that day.  I set up the tripod and camcorder and waited for an opportunity to shoot some footage.  Eventually a man walked by me and I asked him if he had a moment to spare.  When I told him I would drop my pants down in front of him to reveal my native attire, his eyes opened wide as he looked at me like I was crazy.  Thankfully, he saw the humor in it and volunteered to stand there while I did my thing.  

The second attempt to film turned out much better.  Five of us dads, my son and his friend drove out to the Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton, IL.  When I asked staff member inside the stables if we could film footage, she had us wait until she could get approval over the phone from her superior.  When she asked me who we were and what we were filming, I told her we were a group of native Indians who were doing a short documentary.

Fortunately, they had no problem with it.  In fact, one of the staff members engaged one of the other dads and I in a short conversation about our "tribe."  

"Oh, I love the native Indians," she began.  "What tribe are you from?"

"We're not as well known as the Appache or Mohicans, but we're from a small scattered tribe called Igorot," I quickly responded.

The conversation eventually led to whether we rode our horses with saddles or bare back.  That's when I had to come clean and tell her we were actually native highlanders from the Philippines.  Luckily, she became more amused and wanted to know more about us.

After filming at Danada, we drove to the Navistar corporate building in Warrenville, IL.  Knowing there were cameras and security guards inside watching our every move, we quickly darted out our cars and ran to the front where we shot some short but funny footage.  We all laughed as cars passed us on the road and honked their horns.  The day ended at the Korean Chodung Tofu Village restaurant, where we enjoyed great Korean food and more filming.

Our third opportunity to film took place on Thanksgiving Day where we BIBBAK-IL members participated in the McDonalds Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Chicago.  It was another cold morning in the mid 40's and it felt even colder wearing my wanes.  It was an opportunity we didn't want to miss especially since we knew there would be approximately 400,000 pedestrians watching from the the streets and nearly 7 million from their televisions.  

We were lucky to have had the opportunity to film footage with the well renowned Jesse White Tumblers, Barefoot Hawaiian dancers, a Star Wars Stormtrooper from the 501st Legion Midwest Garrison and fellow Highlanders from Poland; not to mention pictures with Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White.

We eventually made it to Buckingham Fountain to film more footage.  Other places included the IKEA store in Bolingbrook, IL, Bolingbrook Public Library and the VFW Hall in Berwyn, IL.

Music & Video

A couple weeks prior to our first filming of footage, I watched many Gangnam Style parodies on Youtube.  One after another, people were using the original Korean version of the song.  I really began scratching my head when a group of southern men, who calls themselves Rednecks, were also using the Korean version.  It just didn't seem right to be wearing our wanes / bahags and dancing to a Korean song. 

I contacted my cousin's son in California, Sam Malabato, to ask if he would create the lyrics of a new song in our native language, Kankanaey.  He not only wanted to do the writing, but he was also excited to sing.  According to him, it was a difficult task.  One night he messaged me on facebook saying, "Uncle it's hard!!!"  This didn't worry me because I knew he possessed the Igorot in him to persevere as he does in football. 

While Sam worked on the lyrics and vocals, I tried contacting a local friend, who is a professional sound engineer, to help with the music and sounds.  He was unable to help so I reached out to my son, Josh, to help.  He's only a senior in high school, but the things he can do with sound, video and graphics  just amazes me!

Not Just a Parody

If you watch all of the Gangnam Style parodies on Youtube, you won't see any that actually promotes something with substance; something that sends a good message out to people that will help them become the best they can be.  The closest one I saw was the one done by the U.S. Naval Academy.

I wanted to do something that can help people connect to their heritage, especially us Igorots.  All too often, I see young Igorots here in America get too caught up with trying to be "American" that they either forget or never connect to their heritage.  Those of you who know me by now, know that I feel strongly about drawing from the intangible and tangible qualities of our ethnic origins so that we can become the best we can be in all aspects of our lives.  

Even though, our video is filled with querky and funny footage, I hope it sends a message out to all Igorots that we have a wonderful culture that we can learn from and incorporate into our everyday modern lives.  I also hope it does the same to all ethnic groups.  

Igorot GANGSA STYLE (click on lower bottom right corner to watch on Youtube/full screen)



  1. Aye! mayamayat Manong Rex. I hope you don't mind if I share this video and your writings. I'm a great fan of yours. Thanks.

  2. Good job...proud of our god given talent...matago-tago tako

  3. I hope you don't mind if I share this:)


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