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The Directors

Artistic Director/ Choreographer
/Musical Director

Justin Mambaje

Justin grew a liking for Filipino folk dancing at a young age while watching his older cousins dance in their college's PCNs. In the summer of 1997, he performed his first ever folk dances for his Aunt's silver wedding anniversary: La Jota Isabela and Tinikling, taught by the same cousin he would watch during PCNs. This further sparked Justin's interest in folk dancing, which led him to research texts and web sites based on the subject. He became a folk dance instructor at his school, Santa Clara High School, his sophomore through senior years. During this time, Justin joined Kaisahan of San Jose Dance Company and within 2 years became a lead dancer and soloist. Throughout those two years, he continued to collect folk dance texts by Francisca Reyes-Aquino and the Philippine Folk Dance Society. Justin's collection of references broadened his knowledge of folkdancing. He learned the songs and dances from the books as a leisure activity when his friends weren't around to play video games or basketball and even taught himself how to play various rondalla instruments. Soon after quitting Kaisahan, Justin shared his knowledge of folk dance with his folk dancing buddies and eventually, they formed their own folk dance group as a "for fun only" type of deal. Thus, Hiyas was born. Little did they know that Hiyas would be what it is today.

Justin launched Hiyas through impressive milestones. Over 180 engagements to date, a tour to the garden island of Kauai, Hawaii and numerous workshops to train and develop his dancers, bringing him to "Sariling Atin", his first two hour theatrical production in December 2004 at the Montgomery Theater in Downtown San Jose.

One of his most outstanding accomplishments was to bring Hiyas successfully through the rigorous World Arts West auditions in January 2005, where over 100 groups endeavored for this highly sought after collaborative. Hiyas was one of 29 groups selected and the only company chosen to represent the Philippines. Justin endorsed a modified version of selections from his rural repertoire and with it, captivated panelists noted for their dance background, cultural expertise, reputation in the field, who are sensitive to world arts and cultures, and knowledgeable in dance/theater presentation. He guided this progressive group of performing artists to their festival debut at the world famous Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco's prestigious 27th Annual Ethnic Dance Festival on June 18-19 2005, reaching a pinnacle of success in Northern California's world of folk art and culture. No other Filipino dance group in San Jose can boast of this paramount achievement.

Justin's cutting-edge choreography and impeccable distinction in costume design are but only a few illustrations of his brilliance. His magnificent inclination to music is now realized and appreciated by their audiences. In his role as company music director, Hiyas again became the first and only Filipino dance troupe in the South Bay area to establish their very own music ensemble, providing the ethnic sounds of the Northern Cordillera and Southern Island dance suites along with the creation of their very own rondalla "Cuerdas ng Hiyas" (Strings of Jewels) providing beautifully orchestrated accoustic melodies for their rural and Spanish dance suites. He has attained in less than 2 years, what other dance companies have taken over 20 years to build. Hiyas is the Bay Area and notably Silicon Valley's most astounding discovery!

Born on April 5, 1984, Justin Kelly Mambaje is the son of Exequiel (Kelly) Ancheta Mambaje and Edna Pelayo Parks. After graduating in the top 4% of his high school class of 386 students and guiding the school's first ever boys volleyball team as captain, MVP, and SCVAL 1st team selection his senior year, Justin is now a full time student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where he is a senior majoring in Chemistry in hopes to someday be a polymer chemist. He lists Street Fighter II Championship Edition, Mortal Kombat, and Beach Spikers as his favorite video games, volleyball as his all time favorite sport, and Chemistry and Spanish as his favorite subjects.


Copyright © 2011 Hiyas Philippine Folkdance Company