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AniMalayaworks is a collaboration between Filipinx mother, Anito Gavino and budding filmmaker daughter, Malaya Ulan. Together they actively create anti-colonial performance art as a portal to connecting to ancestral land, spirit, and community. Through collaboration, the mother-daughter duo invites artists from where they perform the work, to partake in the performance, allowing the stories to morph by creating a more dynamic and ever-morphing storytelling practice. Through a merging of contemporary and folk dance, poetry, and film, they work to empower the nuanced Filipino-born immigrant and Filipino-American voice.

In the Tagalog language, Ani translates to harvest and Malaya translates to being in a state of liberation. Thus, our mission is to harvest and resurrect stories of our ancestors and celebrate the ever-evolving Filipino identity as a path to our personal liberation.

*In 2022, Ani renamed herself Anito (meaning spirit or ancestor) as a way to connect closer to her father who transitioned into the spirit realm.


Ani/MalayaWorks + Sugod! Dancers is a collective of Filipina/x, Asian-American, Latine, and Black movement artists working to imprint and empower indigenous diasporic stories into the ether of American contemporary performance art.  These dancers began working with Ani/MalayaWorks during the performance, Tagong Yaman presented by the MAPfund2020 and the Painted Bride in December 2022.


Currently, Ani/MalayaWorks hopes to continue the work of merging history, holistic non-western anthropology, and psychology with dance. The name Sugod is added to the group's name because Sugod in Tagalog means "to CHARGE!" Thus, through this process, we aim to for each dance artist to charge towards embrace one's heritage, undo one's own colonized mindset, and process together through movement, art, and community building.


Indigenous to Panay island, artistic director, Anito Gavino aims to create anti-colonial narratives and solidarity as performing artists from the Global Majority.  To dismantle fragmentation within Western performance, they/siya utilizes dance, film, literature, and collaborative practices with other Filipino/a/x creatives.


Her recent work, Tagong Yaman merges with installation art by Brandon Aquino- Straus and Mic Dino Boekellman.

And the SUGOD! Dancers

Athena is a second-generation Filipino-American dancer and therapist based in Philadelphia. Athena began seriously training in dance as an adult, and has primarily existed in the dance for social change spaces, working first with Artivism Dance Theater in New Orleans, before joining Ani/MalayaWorks for their production of Tagong Yaman. Additionally, she has collaborated on a number of independent projects with other artists to produce music videos and short films. Athena is rooted first in contemporary floorwork and release technique, though she has expanded into other movement styles, such as salsa, Waacking––and through Ani/MalayaWorks––Filipino folk dance. She has also delved deeper into the healing power of dance through coursework in Dance Movement Therapy, and hopes to pursue that further.

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Meena Chen is a mixed race, Asian American, multi-media artist who expresses the multiplicity of their experience across dance styles. They are trained in classical Bharatanatyam dance and bring out this influence in their movement. They are a guitarist, tattoo artist, and cartoon enthusiast. They recently graduated from Swarthmore College with a major in Environmental Studies and a double minor in Religion and Dance, and center their work on healing and community building through spirituality and the arts.


Malaya Ulan (Freedom Rain) is a fourteen-year-old first-generation Filipino-American international artist. Malaya Ulan utilizes art mediums such as poetry, dance, film, and visual art to share and empower her voice. She has received awards from Mighty Writers and participated in Scribe and WHYY programs/internships. Ulan has performed in spaces such as Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Movement Research at Judson Dance Theatre, Barnes Foundation, Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Outlet Dance Festival, Swarthmore University, Multicultural Education in Counseling through the Arts, and a dance concert at Festive Walk (Philippines). She performs with her mother, Anito Gavino, in a dance company, Ani/MalayaWorks Dance. Malaya Ulan has also co-produced a collection of poetry and writings, De-Scribing, with her mother. She recently has just released her solo poetry collection, Ulan- When my Tears Turn into Roses, won the Gary Smalls Award for her film, She Said: Art As Activism and won the Scholastic Art and Writing gold key award for her poetry collection.

Growing up disconnected from his Filipino and Chinese roots Kidlat Fajardo Canlas is excited to dive deep into research and conversations start strengthening those connections. When not teaching middle school ELA or researching, Kidlat loves spending as much time outside as possible, practicing Kali, reading, and finding the best snacks in the city. 


Aquilla Lee Black and Filipino, lover of arts and learning, based in Philadelphia. Growing up, Aquilla has had her struggles with identity and her connections to her roots as a Black person, as well as a Filipino. Aquilla is continuing in her journey to delve deeper into herself, always questioning what being Black and Filipino means to her, and seeing where these pieces intersect and meet as one. She recently graduated from Arcadia University in 2021 with a major in Criminal Justice, and double minors in Sociology and Studio Arts Foundations: Concentration in Ceramics. Although Aquilla is not a trained dancer, she has recently started taking dance classes regularly to satisfy her inner child’s dream of being a dancer. Aquilla currently works in the child welfare sector as a case manager, but is still making time for her various interests which include: dancing, ceramics, cooking, being active, traveling, fishing, being in nature, etc. Aquilla has always had a love for learning, challenging herself, and expressing herself through movement; and she hopes to continue to bring this energy to Ani/MalayaWorks and their future projects. 

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MISSION ( From Anito's Notes )

I am a mother to a daughter who strives to guide a child who seeks her place in the world.  I am a foreign-born Filipinx immigrant whose life work has been centered on uplifting the Filipino history and Filipino-American communities.   I am from the lineage of the Ati on my Lolo's side, of Chinese and mestiza mixed with Tumandok on my mother's side, I have tracing of Japanese lineage on my father's side and many other lineages of indigeneity still unidentified. My identity as a hybrid of cultures, colonizer and colonized, allowing  me to create complex narrative depicting stories of multiple shared diasporas. What was cross cultural dialogues look like? Can I imagine this through art making and community based experiential new materialities. 


My art trajectory has been to ensure that my first generation daughter does not fall into the traps of identity and cultural loss, that even raised in the US, she will know who she is and remains connected to our history and family. Now, I see my parenting in her own work as she dives into journalism, poetry writing and film; here she often chooses to highlight Filipino stories. This activism is my wish for many Filipino-Americans who often fall into the traps of the model minority stereotype, subscribing to the “don't rock the boat” stereotype,  resulting to a suppression of voice and identity. 

Highlighting these perspectives through art can hopefully offer a new sense of care for the environment and culture...seeing nature as divine, as our animist ancestors did. Perhaps an authentic uncovering of truth, of self can be a communal journey for myself, my daughter, the SUGOD collective and the community and audiences that follow us. That is my mission. 

Tagong Yaman Testimonials

"In Tagong Yaman (Hidden Treasures), the rain teaches me how to be a witness, as Malaya invites through her recitation. As this performance work continues, Anito performs monologic expression and movement of bodily, generational memory. She recalls her life story, beholden to what was once “The American Dream.” As she depicts her hopes, dreams, lived nightmares, and losses, I am reminded of water’s memory. As it evaporates, falls, evaporates, and falls, it picks up the curves of a riverbed and the deepest parts of an ocean. As it rains, perhaps water remembers the architecture of every snowflake it has ever been. Like the rain might recall the many snowflakes it once was, maybe the body remembers all who came before it. Perhaps the body remembers everything it once hoped for and everything it once lost. As Anito moves and recalls through performance, I am sure of this."

-Jorgie Ingram (

Tagong Yaman, for Gavino, is about kapwa: community. It's about the resilience and creativity of the community coming together to make something beautiful and true. It is also a response to colonization.

-Elle Gabriel  (thINKing Dance) 

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