The presence of collective values on campus was exhibited at Saturday’s 22nd annual Lantern Festival, an event celebrating Asian American culture at Cal Poly hosted in the Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU) by Omega Xi Delta fraternity and Chi Delta Theta sorority.
“We set up the Lantern Festival every single year at the UU,” said Anil Thattayathu, a software engineering senior who helped coordinate the event. “All the cultural clubs and organizations set up their booths and sell food and perform. The idea is just to show the establishment of community, the diversity of San Luis Obispo and the diversity of the Cal Poly community itself.”
The virtues of community, diversity and working toward a common goal were ever present at this year’s Lantern Festival. Hundreds of minority students turned out for the evening’s performances, reflecting the culturally diverse community within the student body.
“I think it’s good to get recognition from all of the Asian American students on campus,” said liberal arts and engineering senior BJ Yebisu, who ran the Japanese Student Association food booth. “I know we have that stigma that we’re the white campus, but this helps show that there’s a lot of diversity amongst the students and that there’s a group for everyone here.”
The themes of inclusivity and interconnectedness were manifested in the Festival’s program. Walking along the food booths on Mott Lawn, every cultural club on campus was eager to explain what they were serving, and excited for newcomers to experience their culture.
Students received a cultural education with the variety of food to sample, such as Pilipino cassava cake, a nutty flavored root plant made into a sugary cake with coconut milk and wrapped in a banana leaf.
Students also sold Chinese oolong milk tea, a tea made with sun dried oolong tea leaves; Japanese spam musubi, a clump of fried spam and white rice wrapped in a nori seaweed roll; and okonomiyaki, a Japanese style “pizza” pancake that can be topped with anything from octopus to vegetables to mochi.
Another interesting sight was observing students try the Pilipino delicacy balut for the first time. Balut is a hard boiled egg, but with a more developed chicken embryo inside. To eat balut, students would crack a small hole in the egg, suck the juice out like a shot then eat the remaining embryo, which tastes like a hybrid between an egg and chicken meat.
A set of memorable performances began with the traditional Lion Dance. Students were dressed in red and green lion costumes with giant heads; this is commonly mistaken for a dragon suit but actually represents a lion. The lions bounced up and down, and crawled through the crowds, interacting with and teasing crowd members with traditional Chinese drum music playing.
The Pilipino choir Ating Himig performed romantic sonnets a capella and wowed the crowd, while Kahanee, the Indian dance troupe, surprised the crowd with a mix of traditional Indian dances and modern hip-hop hits.
Lambda Theta Phi, the Latino interest fraternity, performed a warrior chant roaring “Conquistadores!” along with the virtues of what it meant to be a man of the fraternity. The chant was somewhat frightening, but in an attention-getting and entertaining manner.
Take Out Kidz and Hip-Hop Choreo Club displayed the community built through teaching members hip-hop dance. And Lambda Phi Epsilon, an Asian interest fraternity, impressed with a series of step team chants that grabbed the crowd’s attention.
The night ended with a dance from the Tahitian Dance team, dressed in traditional Polynesian attire as leafy skirts and ankle bracelets shook to the beat of Polynesian beats and modern pop hits.
The various performances had the audience members screaming with support. The M.C.’s lightened the mood with humorous commentary, and many intermissions allowed for festival goers to wander the lawns and enjoy each others’ company. If one thing was evident, it was the sense of togetherness and joy in simply being in each others’ company that defined what Lantern Festival is all about.