Walking down the steps of the University Center, I was uncertain of what the talent show I was headed to would be like. I didn’t anticipate that I’d be singing along to “Love” by Keyshia Cole by the end of the night, or that I would be completely unashamed of my failure to hit the vocal runs either, as no one could hear me over the sounds of themselves singing along loudly as well.
Last Thursday, the lounge outside of the bookstore on the UC first floor filled with music, dance, poetry, and art as Kasamahan held their annual GBM Jam, a talent show open to all USF students, to raise money for glioblastoma (GBM), a type of cancer that affects the brain and spinal cord.
Kasamahan held their first GBM Jam in 2016 to raise money for Kasamahan member Chris Carandang who was diagnosed with GBM and help pay for his medical treatment. After Chris passed, Kasamahan continued to hold the event. Proceeds from Thursday’s event went to the American Brain Tumor Association, a nonprofit organization that funds research related to brain tumor science and treatment.
Ben Abadilla, a second-year nursing student, captivated the audience during his rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra after jumping off of the stage and walking through the crowd. When he asked, “How are you doing tonight?” a mighty reception of applause and screams bounced back at him.
I was moved by Brian Hoy’s acoustic cover of “Cherry Wine” by Hozier, which changed the atmosphere of the lounge. His soulful tenor and the resonant chords he strummed grabbed the audience’s attention and ushered in a quiet moment, changing the pace from the loud sing-a-longs until that point.
Brandon Gagante, a fourth-year entrepreneurship major, following Hoy, expressed his “deep admiration for my Kasamas” as he took the stage. He read his poem, “My Filipino World,” and his delivery ebbed and flowed between moments of power, and moments of contemplation and reflection: “Our motherland makes sure we are warm no matter where on our palm we choose to rest.”
Gagante later returned to the stage with Nolan Gonzales, a fourth-year communication studies student, as dance duo “Hot Dog Water,” a name the two came up with on the spot. When a technical issue during their performance caused the speakers to stop playing Gucci Mane’s “Wake Up in the Sky,” Gonzales freestyled and the audience hyped him up. In an interview with the Foghorn, Gonzales said, “Dance is, overall, an outlet for me. If I need to get out emotion, or something I can’t express verbally, or through any other channel with creativity, I always turn to dance because that’s where my comfort zone is.” He continued, “Sharing that with Kasamahan, it’s always like a blessing, because no matter what they’ll hype you up.”
Malia Cruz, a third-year nursing student, said the space felt “community-oriented.” Cruz performed a poem called “Where I’m From,” delivering powerful lines like, “I am from calloused hands but not my own.” In her poem, Cruz spoke of her roots, her history, and what she is coming to understand of her own development.
Megan Ponce, a second-year design student, submitted two black-and-white digital illustrations for an off-stage art showcase. “Koi Fish Tattoo” showed two koi fish in a ying-yang composition. Her second piece “Window to Your Soul,” a three-panel set of eyes was “inspired by old comic book panels and anime art style” that “tell a love story” by showing what someone’s eyes look like at different stages of falling in love. Ponce said, “I felt very nervous to have my art up on display… [but] having a connection with a lot of people in Kasamahan has helped me be comfortable with sharing my art.”
With electric guitar in hand, fourth-year nursing major Jhon Solis closed out performances before an open-mic session. Solis’ riveting cover of Paramore’s “Still Into You” electrified the crowd. The audience rose to their feet, jumping and singing along with enthusiasm through “Still Into You,” The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” and Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom.”
Josh Dineros, a third-year politics student, performed his poem “One Filipino Rage” during the open-mic session. He said, “[My poem] was a reflection on SONA, the people’s State of the Nation Address, in response to the return of the dictatorship and regime of the Marcos family in the Philippines. It was a reflection about my anger, but also unity and community — being a part of a demonstration that is, in itself, by the people and for the people.”
On July 25, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. presented his State of the Nation Address, which according to Al Jazeera, “Thousands of demonstrators marched ahead of… calling for justice for victims of human rights abuses under the two-decade rule of Marcos Jr’s late father, a dictator who was deposed in a 1986 uprising.” Marcos Jr.’s speech soon faced criticism over failures to recognize and address human rights policies.
Christian Bowker, a third-year psychology student, ended the event with a unity clap, an act that began during the United Farm Workers’ Movement as a way to unite migrant workers across linguistic barriers. Starting with a single person, the clap began slowly then rapidly grew louder, consuming the lounge of the UC first floor, and ended with the yell “Isang bagsak!” meaning “when one falls, we all fall — when one rises, we all rise.”