Author Archives: Julia Virtue


Nicholas Virtue is a student at Quartz Hill High School and has participated in the tinikling dance team for two years. The Multicultural Club at QHHS hosts an assembly annualy, in which a variety of dances and cultural experiences from countries around the world are made available are performed for students. Some examples of performances have been hispanic dances, bollywood, tae kwon doe and karate. The tinikling dance team was put together for this assembly, and their performance is considered the most anticipated and well-loved of the assembly. Although he had no Filipino background, Nic started to participate in this dance his freshman year of high school, at 15 years old. Nic described the performance of the QHHS tinikling dance team at the Multicultural Assembly to me.

Tinikling is a Filipino dance, using 4 pairs of approximately 6 foot long bamboo poles. Each pair of sticks is used by two clappers and three dancers. The clappers clap the sticks together, keeping a steady beat throughout the song while dancers dance through them. It is perceived has a dangerous dance, because any fault could result in the bamboo sticks clapping on feet and injuring them.

The music has a ¾ time signature and no lyrics. Nic described their song as upbeat, using high stringed instruments. He also observed that the noise from clapping the sticks fits into the song, and becomes a part of it. About halfway through the song it begins to get faster, making it more and more challenging for clappers and dancers. The QHHS tinikling team wears the same clothes every year for the Multicultural Assembly performance. No one wears shoes or socks, either during rehearsal or performance. Guys wear red slims rolled up to the knee, a white v neck, and a red bandana around the neck. Girls wear a white v neck as well, but with no bandana. They each wear either green or red skirts, depending on their role in the dance. Typically, there is a different choreography for “girl 1” and “girl 2,” and the color of their skirt depends on their role in the dance.

Since the song is in ¾ time the clappers hit the sticks on the ground beats one and two, then clap them together on beat three. Consequently, the dancers must have their foot out of the sticks on beat three, otherwise they could be injured; leaving them time to dance between the sticks on beats one and two. Some of the basic dance moves include the single, half turn, full turn and front and back. Singles move dancers from one side of sticks to the other. Half turns rotate dancers 180 degrees and to the other side of the sticks. Full turns are complete 360 degree spins. Front and backs take 6 beats to complete, going to one side then back again, leaving the dancer on the same side of the sticks.

While dancers are responsible for their moves through the sticks, clappers are responsible for the movement of the sticks themselves. Stick transitions involve clappers and sometimes even the dancers to move sticks to different formations and have people dancing through the sticks while it is happening, or immediately after the transition is completed. For the most recent Multicultural Assembly, the tinikling team used 4 pairs of sticks, making the plus formation, a square, “ the death box” which resembles a hashtag and was described as the most dangerous and injury-infliction formation, and “the soul train” where all sticks are parallel to each other.

As a clapper, one of Nic’s favorite parts is stick passing. Executed in the plus formation, the inside clappers set down one of their sticks to the person on their right side, who would grab that stick and drag it across, while the outside clapper throws the stick to them (their left). The same thing is repeated in reverse, and sticks are passed in the opposite direction as inside clappers pass to their left and outside clappers throw to their right. All the while, dancers dance between the sticks and jump over them when they are thrown. As complicated as stick passing is to explain, it is even more so to learn and execute. It takes a heightened degree of teamwork to accomplish stick passing successfully. After stick passing, which occurs at the end of the routine during the quickening tempo, the each clapper lifts up the right stick, making four X formations for the final pose.

Nic exemplified the connection a clapper has to their set of sticks by describing each set and labeling one as his own. As stated previously, QHHS used four sets of sticks with four different qualities. Each set was marked with a different color duct tape, blue, red, yellow and white; possibly emulating the colors of the Filipino flag. Blue sticks are the heaviest, and the ones Nic claimed as his own, yellow are the most awkward with one stick too small and the other too large, red are the straightest and most comfortable and white are the lightest. This helps dancers and clappers know which sticks are theirs as they practice with them throughout the year. Nic said having his own set of sticks gave him a personal connection and reminded him of his part in the dance. Each set of sticks brings together a set of two clappers and three dancers (one boy and two girls) as they work together to prepare for the assembly.

Nic began tinikling his freshman year because he had heard it was a fun group of people. His desire to develop community and make friends drew him to tinikling, despite his lack of Filipino background. The challenges and high stakes of tinikling draw the community together in order to achieve their goal and perform at the assembly. Some of the stick transitions and dances require teamwork, exemplified by “the death box.” During this transition, two sets of clappers flip their sticks over the heads of the other two sets of clappers, laying their sticks in a hashtag across each other. The dancers then enter into this box, one after another. If clappers do not transition correctly or clap in time, or if the dancers hesitate and don’t enter the box on the correct beat, not only is the dance move ruined, but there is a high change of head or foot injury. The high stakes motivate dancers and clappers to work together, developing community along the way.

The following video is the QHHS Tinikling team at the 2013 Multicultural Assembly. The video with the opening choreography. Then the dancers and clappers switch positions and there is a transition from the plus stick formation to a square formation.

Quartz Hill High School Tinikling

Ring by Spring

Allison attended Azusa Pacific University, a Christian college located in Southern California. During orientation her freshman year, she encountered a phenomenon called “ring by spring.” The idea is that women who enter college should or will be engaged by the spring of thei senior year. It’s presented in as a joking tone, as a caricature of a crazed woman who must get engaged before she graduates from college. This co-aligns with the idea that women go to college to get an “MRS degree,” in other words, they attend university to find a husband and get married.

Although “ring by spring” is presented as a joke, it is a common enough occurrence that the joke has weight in the community. My sister noted that 3 of the 20 girls in her graduating class of social work at APU were indeed engaged. If a girl does in fact get engaged just before graduation, she may get a lot of grief from her peers because of this widely circulated joke.

Allison pondered the weight the joke has in guy culture at APU, but she didn’t have any insight into guy’s reactio the the phenomenon.

This idea and joke is widely heard in a Christian context. Allison first encountered this idea at a Christian university and has since heard other accounts from other Christian environments like Biola University. In fact, in my Christian sorority at USC, Alpha Delta Chi, there are currently 4 girls who are engaged and graduating now. In a Christian atmosphere like APU or Biola, girls and guys who share the same ideals and believe in the same things are in close proximity. “Ring by spring” is an acknowledgment of the fact that one might meet their spouse in such a context, and it might not be a bad idea to be looking for one.

Taco Night

Possibly the longest-running and most beloved traditions in my family is a monthly event called Taco Night. I grew up driving an hour to my aunt and uncles house in the San Fernando Valley the second weekend of every month. My family, including aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, cousins’ cousins and family friends close enough to be actual family, gather and catch up over homemade tacos. Knowing that my grandmother (my father’s mother) hosted Taco Night before handing it to her first born son, my uncle, I asked her about the history of this family tradition. In an email, she responded:


Fact #1:  Thelma Pender Wood, my mother and your great-grandmother, was born in Texas, and grew up in New Mexico, Arizona, and finally California–all places known for some very good Mexican food.

Fact #2:  While Thelma was in  high school, she lived with her eldest brother and his wife in Santa Barbara.  The wife, Beatrice Dale Pender, had an Anglo father, but her mother was a descendant of an old, somewhat wealthy Spanish land-grant family, and the Dales lived on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  That’s where Beatrice (nicknamed Jackie–why, I don’t know) learned to cook Mexican food.  Now here’s where the “sort of” folklore comes in.

Back sometime in the 1960s I was in Santa Fe with some friends, and we went to a highly recommended restaurant up on Canyon Road.  It was in a venerable adobe house, with a historical plaque by the entrance, proclaiming it to be the former home of the (Spanish name I can’t remember)/Dale family.  I recognized the names (then!), and told the owners of the restaurant.  They were excited that Mrs. Dale, Jackie’s mother, was still living, and asked me to find out what the original use was for a tiny, adobe, shed-like structure in back of the main house.  I called Aunt Jackie when I got home, she asked her mom, and it turns out the little place was the home of an Indian (okay, Native American) woman who worked for them.  She lived in that tiny space all her life, never married, but raised several children there.  She also taught Jackie how to cook Southwestern/Mexican food, and Jackie passed her knowledge along to Thelma, my mom, the year they lived together.


Fact #3:  I grew up eating wonderful, spicy food.  We had it at least once a week.  In Van Nuys, California–not yet Barrio Van Nuys in the 1940s–none of my friends had even heard of a taco, let alone eat one.  They were willing to try, though (my mom was a good cook–except for meat, which she turned into charcoal), and after a few dinners at our house, they became true believers.  Finally it was decreed that every Saturday would be Taco Night, and so began a tradition.

We kept it up as long as I lived at home, and after Papa Bill and I married and had Chris, we moved the whole thing to our house.  We continued with every Saturday, and pretty soon it was Chris, Tim and Jeff’s friends who were coming for tacos, and then friends of friends.  One night Papa Bill counted thirteen kids in the living room, all watching television and eating, and he didn’t know a single one of them.  Those were the days!  Bill also put “money to feed the taco night kids” on his Christmas list.

So…when Chris and Jina married, and Ashley was born, it wasn’t any hardship at all to turn taco night over to them.  (Every time I fix just one dish to bring, I thank them!)  For a while they went on with the every-Saturday routine, but that got to be too much, so it was cut back to once a month, and for some reason was changed to Sunday for a few years.  Ashley pointed out that if it went back to Saturday, she and the other college students (!) could possibly be there, traveling back to school on Sunday.  Smart girl!

Not long ago Stacey hung around the stove while Uncle Chris and I were cooking and stuffing the shells, and said because she’ll probably be the first of the sisters to marry (well, maybe), she’d better learn to cook tacos and take over Taco Night someday.  Hope she doesn’t plan to do fish tacos–your dad would never come again.

So, that’s the story.  Just think how many diverse people come.  We’ve had friends, and friends of friends, from England, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Brazil–where else?  It’s all exciting, and comforting, somehow.”


It is not as if my European-descended family has any ethnic ties to hispanic food; however, we have adopted it and structured a family tradition around it. My grandmother even shared the origin story of our adoption of taco- making in a time, the 1940s, when tacos were not particularly popular in the valley.

I believe it is an American tendency to adopt other cultures, since cities like LA are so diverse. Since my family has been in California for generations we are very familiar with the concept.

My grandparents began this tradition, which has been taken over by their children, who will soon have their children take it over for them.The tradition fosters a very strong sense of community, not only among or family with our diverse group of friends.


The Lord’s Prayer- Armenian

Hayr Mer, vor hergines yes,
soorp yeghitsi anoon ko.
Yegestse arkayootyoon ko.
Yeghitsin gamk ko
vorbes hergines yev hergri.
Ez-hats mer hanabazort
dour mez aysor.
Yev togh mez ezbardis mer,
vorbes yev mek toghoomk merots bardabanats.
Yev mee danir ezmez ee portsootyoon,
ayl pergya ee charen.
Zee ko eh arkayootyoon
yev zorootyoon
yev park havidyanes.


This is the Lord’s Prayer in Armenian, usually performed in song. Allison identifies herself as Christian and attends the “United Armenian Congregational Church” in Hollywood, known to be the biggest Armenian church in the US. The church plays a big role in her family life. Her grandparents and parents met and got married that the “United Armenian Congregational Church.” Every Sunday the family meets after church to go out to lunch, giving them an opportunity to gather and spend time together.

Allison described the importance of faith in her and her family’s life and as it relates to their Armenian culture. Armenia was the first Christian nation, and although only a small percentage of Armenia is Christian now, religion remains important to their family and reminds them of their cultural background. Each church service has one sermon in Armenian and the other in English. There are translators, and although Allison is not fluent in Armenian, she recognizes a few words and is able to learn more. Her family travels annually to Armenia on a medical missions trip. When they arrive, songs are sung to them, including The Lord’s Prayer. Allison appreciates this gesture, because the fact that the same prayer is said both in Armenia and at her home church in the US gives her a sense of connection between her community in the US and the nation it stems from.


The Lord’s Prayer is in the Bible, the book of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verses 9-13. The following is the New International Version’s translation of the passage, in English. For an easy viewing of this verse, as well as many others in many translations, visit

 9“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’


Siestas- Ecuadorian

Angie spent the summer of 2011 in Ecuador in to visit family, do “touristy things” and study the language. She already knew some things about the language because she had studied for four years with a professor who had lived in Ecuador. She visited cities and towns near the Andes, like the city Ambato and surrounding areas. She lived in Ambato, traveled to the Amazon twice, to the beach once and to the capital, Quito, once.

Angie learned the most about siestas in Ambato, where the downtown area would shut down almost completely between the hours of noon and two, called a siesta. (Angie noted a difference in pace between Ambato and Quito. While Ambato was more laid back, Quito was very fast-paced and reminded her more of an American town, generally without siestas.) Businesses in the city would close down, leaving open only cafes where families would gather to eat. Siestas are not as much about napping as they are about eating and spending time with family. Both food and family are very important aspects of Ecuadorian culture. Ecuador has a very family-oriented culture, with big, multi- generational families. During siesta, smaller units of families gather together to eat. Food is a very important export of Ecuador, with bananas, bread and roses being their main ones. It is even present on their crest. Lunch is the biggest meal in Ecuador. People get the most sustenance from lunch, eating meats and heartier foods in the afternoon. Dinner consists of fruit, bread and coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Angie also observed that people generally don’t return home until past midnight.

The importance of food is evident in Ecuador, as it instructs their pace of life and allows families to join together.