Pinay Balikbayan Chita Wilcox Talks About Her Passion For Tango And Her New Discoveries In Manila
Many Filipinos dream of living abroad in search of greener pastures. Such was the case for classy explorer Chita Wilcox. She had been daydreaming about the chance to call the world’s city of love her home ever since she was 15. But now she's back in Manila, and she's finding many reasons to fall in love with the city again.
Life in Paris and Buenos Aires
What we’ve found to be quite compelling about Chita’s story is not just her top-notch Tango finesse but also her innate joy about being back in her home country. She recounts, “I got married, I had children, but with my husband, I made sure that we went to Paris every time we went to the States, so Paris, Paris, Paris. But then when I got divorced, I said, ‘Wow, it’s my chance, where will I go?’ We were living in Kuwait.
So I found a place in Paris, a small apartment first, and then later on my daughter who married a Frenchman asked me, ‘Mom, don’t you want a bigger place?’ So I found this place where I lived for almost 18 years, Quartier Montorgueil, a lovely, lovely area.” Her life over the last few decades was spent shuttling back and forth between Paris and Buenos Aires, Argentina as a passionate traveler and tango teacher.
Chita narrates, “When I was in Buenos Aires [teaching and dancing tango], I met a man who was about 80 years old and he had an apo. Let me tell you about this organization, he is a lolo whose apo has down syndrome, a girl, and then he started to teach tango to this little girl. Because I was in the tango scene, I was so fascinated. Apparently, he’s also met a lot of grandparents whose grandchildren also have down syndrome that were abandoned by the parents. So he started a tango school.”
It’s been proven and mentioned by experts that children with special needs benefit socially, mentally, and physically from the performing art of dance. Portia Abernathy, a Harvard alumna who works with the adaptive dance program of the Boston Ballet, points out that cognitively, children and adults have so much to gain from such an activity, saying, “Movement is helpful because it’s engaging, it’s grounding and it links learning on a physical level, but over time some of the social and emotional skills that develop are really applicable to areas far beyond the dance studio.”
Back in Manila
After 28 years of living in Paris and being an Argentinian resident and tango teacher, Chita decided to come back home and enjoy the vibrant Filipino lifestyle again. She longed to return and simply catch up on the years she missed back home and has chosen to enjoy an urban life in Makati City, where she loves strolling the busy streets and meeting new and interesting people.
Just a couple of Chita’s fab Argentinian Tango dancing shoes from Buenos Aires
Chita loves sharing her favorite drink, Mate, an herbal tea-like drink from Argentina
She speaks about Manila with such a sunny disposition. “Last year, I went to Manila and then I saw how much Manila has so many new things—beautiful things to discover. I find that the Filipinas now are all so industrious; they have businesses, they make a lot of money and they’re young. So I said I just want to integrate, and I want to know. So here I am,” she said.
According to Chita, tango shoes from Buenos Aires can cost over $100 USD, but they’re extremely durable and can take lots of wear and tear.
When asked about what she’s observed about Manila since her return, Chita could hardly contain herself: “All the young men and women I know, they’re all doing jobs, not just part-time jobs, they have businesses. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be part of that.' Everyday, I discover beautiful things of Manila. I was so, so fascinated because I found this jolly jeepney, and I became friends with her [the operator]. I was surprised that they make about Php1500 a day so I don’t cook anymore and I just buy food from them, I’m helping. I’ve discovered taho which is my favorite. I stay here [in the city] from Monday to Friday and on weekends I go to the farm of my brother.” Chita, who gushes with joie de vivre about everything that’s going right around them, is certainly a breath of fresh air amidst the hectic hustle and bustle of the city.
Thanks to her expertise on the dance that Al Pacino once made famous onscreen, Chita inspires confidence even in the most unsure tango beginner. The tango is one of the most powerful performances you can witness on the dance floor. So, she and a few friends have made it their advocacy of sorts to teach free tango classes soon for both men and women.
When you experience being taught the steps, however, you’ll find that to exhibit such power it requires the least amount of force and a lot of practice with posture; only grace, focus, and trust must remain. Chita points out it isn’t about trying to do it perfectly or being too complicated about it. “The tango is all about connection, enjoying and loving the music and your partner! Try and try again. Listen and try to understand the music until you appreciate it.”