Arnaldo! Wins a 2008 New York Backstage Bistro Cabaret Award!
Seattle’s own drag chanteuse, wins a 2008 Backstage Bistro Award for his cabaret shows at The Duplex in New York and will be flying to New York to accept this honor at a special Awards Night Reception on April 7 to be held at Gotham Comedy Club on W23rd.
2016 FCS Bayanihan Award
The Filipino Community of Seattle's
Lifetime Achievement Award for promoting culture and arts
THANK YOU TO THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY OF SEATTLE
November 5, 2016
Thank you to the Board of the Filipino Community of Seattle and to all of you in the Filipino American community of Seattle who recognize and appreciate my work. When I found out about this award, I had to stop and ask ... sigurado ba kayo? (Are you sure?) I also want to thank my family and loved ones both here and the Philippines and also thank you to my chosen family and friends for believing and supporting me. Here tonight are my mom, Auntie Glory, my cousin Bengie, my sister Valli and my partner Steve.
In 1987, my 3 brothers and I migrated to Seattle to join mom and dad to live in Kirkland. When my friends in Manila found out that I was moving to the US, some of them said that I will never be successful because I will always be looked at as a second class citizen because I am not white and I am gay. Well I guess they’re wrong. Times have also changed and thank goodness for that – although we as a civilized society still have a lot of work to do.
In 1989, I joined the Seattle Men’s Chorus upon the suggestion of my cousin Bengie Santos -my mentor and role model - and I was also encouraged by my Aunt, Gloria Santos to join. I remember Auntie Glory when I told her I got accepted in the chorus, she said “Sige, sumali ka – akong bahala at kausapin ko si mommy mo.” (Go ahead and join. I will talk to your mom.) At that time, I just got my first full time job in Seattle and as a new immigrant, mom was concerned I will get distracted and not be focused on my new job. I share this story because often, it takes just one – or in this case – two people to believe in you so you can find the courage to move forward and grab opportunities as they come along. Needless to say the Seattle Men’s Chorus changed my life and a big reason why I am here today in front of you as it literally helped find my voice musically and socio-politically.
When I decided to perform in cabarets and do drag as a solo artist in 1995, I knew that it was a major challenge – it was like swimming upstream because at that time, homophobia was much more commonplace and drag was not as mainstream as it is today. One of the best advice I received was from then artistic director of the Seattle Men’s Chorus Dennis Coleman. He said “Arnaldo, people will say what they want to say. You don’ have control over that.” That advice set me free. I worked hard, took voice lessons, attended workshops, acted in plays, joined a dance class, etc. I continued to speak my truth through song and studied the music of Rodgers and Hart, Sondheim, Gershwin, Ella, Rosemary, Eartha, Judy and other materials of great singers and composers of the American Songbook, jazz and musical theatre. I also performed Filipino songs in my shows making my repertoire truly global – singing in French, Spanish and sometimes Portuguese, Turkish and Japanese as well.
Many ask why I do this. Certainly not for fame and fortune because I obviously have neither- I do it because I love to sing and to perform. I do it because, in my own small way, I want to leave a world where diversity is truly celebrated and embraced. I do it for my nephews and nieces and for the next generation who may grow up to be “different”.
And I do it to open hearts and minds through music one cabaret at a time.
Everywhere I perform, I stand in front of my audience as a proud gay Filipino-American from Seattle.
Whether I am onstage at Benaroya Hall, a small jazz venue in Paris, a museum in Tulsa, a chic club in San Francisco, the village in New York, a posh theatre in Manila, an out of the way club in Renton or in balmy Puerto Vallarta, if just one person in my audience will start to open his or her mind after one of my performances and rethink their biases, then I know did my job.
Again, thank you FCS for this recognition and let’s continue as a community to build bridges and not walls.
MARAMI PONG SALAMAT!