Tacloban City―Messages of grief and condolences continued to pour in via social media over the sudden death of cultural icon Jesus “Jess” De Paz, the founder of the world-renowned Leyte Dance Theater.
De Paz, who died on Sept. 28 after battling lung cancer, was at the forefront in showcasing the socio-cultural features of the region and the Philippines in dances through his Leyte Dance Theater. He was 71.
“Jess de Paz was more than a cultural icon. He was a visionary who saw the potential in others and the greatness in the culture that binds together the people of our region,” added Philip Jude Acidre of Tingog Sinirangan partylist in Eastern Visayas.
“His achievements especially that with the Leyte Dance Theatre account him as one of the pillars of our local culture, not only by preserving it but by celebrating it as a living and vibrant testament to who we are as a people. He may be lost to this life, but I am sure he will live on in his works and with the people whose lives he has touched,” Acidre said.
Local officials said the passing of De Paz has left a great void that will be difficult to fill in terms of world-class dance performance and choreography in Tacloban and elsewhere in the region.
“We will always remember his legacy and celebrate his extraordinary life devoted to the arts. The City Government of Tacloban extends its deepest condolences to the bereaved family,” said Mayor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez.
De Paz, who served as Leyte Dance Theater’s artistic director, “devoted his life and career in introducing Waray folk songs and dances to both local and international audience.”
“Stories of triumph and tragedy of Taclobanons were told through his music and dance,” the mayor said in a statement.
The local government of Tacloban recognized the dance troupe founded by De Paz for the honor it gives to the City during the 10th Sangyaw Awards.
Apple Anido Alagon, the president of the Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay, also recalled the talent and professionalism of De Paz to his student dancers and scholars.
“I was six years old when I first stepped into your ballet studio anxious and scared because that was my first official dance training as a kid. You changed all those by showing me your passion for dancing,” Alagon said.
“Every time I changed into my leotards, tights and ballet shoes, I always looked forward to learning a new ballet position, wanting to execute those pliés and jetés right even if it meant I’d slip many times over to finally get it,” she added.
“Ballet was my first dance and it paved the way for me to transition to many dances I loved as gracefully as if I’m still dancing ballet.
“Thanks, Sir Jess de Paz for being my first teacher who taught me so many things at such a young age. I know you are dancing your way, sharing your undeniable talent to those who wish to know it. Till we meet again,” Alagon wrote.
Tacloban Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin said that De Paz “brought so much honor and pride not only to our city and province but to the whole country as well.”
“His dance troupe’s performances abroad were always well-received and warmly applauded for showcasing our rich Filipino culture and heritage,” he said.
Rey Dacul, a former university student of De Paz now working in the United States, called De Paz “the real, true artist and ambassador of our country in the Field of Dance around the World.”
“You have touched many lives for the better by giving great opportunities. You took leadership to provide entertainment for all and appreciate dance as one of the arts,” Dacul said.
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