Southeast Asian culture takes center stage at Newman Center

By Sara Blankenheim

People of all ages and cultures filled the basement of the Newman Catholic Student Center on Friday night to celebrate Southeast Asian culture.

The night began with a Buddhist blessing ceremony performed by several monks from Rockford.

The monks also read palm leaves in languages representative of their cultures.

Susan Russell, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, gave the opening remarks.

“This is an event we do three or four times an academic year,” she said. “We do these to introduce people of NIU to the different cultures of Southeast Asia.”

Dinner was served, buffet style, from Rockford’s Phai Nam Restaurant.

The food ran out quickly because the turnout was bigger than anticipated, but more was served an hour later.

“I’m here to hear the music,” said Kristin Glidden, a senior music major. “Although, that food looks really good.”

Jorai Tribal Gong music from Vietnam by Dr. Han’s Troupe filled the air while the audience ate dinner.

Thai dancers from Chicago performed a dance that later was followed by a Filipino love song and a Burmese performance by the NIU Burmese Students.

The Burmese students described their performance as a type of “Burmese rap” that touched on issues such as the budget crisis in Illinois and and the possible war in Iraq.

After the Burmese performance, a show displaying the typical dress of Southeast Asia cultures was displayed, including outfits from countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

People representing the ethnic Chinese had a sing-along love song, with words on the screen so the audience could participate.

NIU Malaysian students did a candle dance, representative of a romantic story.

The night ended with another dance by the Thai Dancers of Chicago and a Thai traditional song called, “My Beloved Full Moon.”

“I think the night went really well,” said Martin Mercado, a sophomore industrial engineering major. “The food was good, and I really enjoyed the Malaysian dance and the [Burmese] rap.”