The first week of my vacation in the Philippines glitters with multiple highlights deserving equal importance. But Feb 4th claims distinction for its offering of music and brilliant artistry in the performing arts. The University of the Philippines International Concert Corus staged its 60th anniversary extravaganza at the UP Theater before a fully packed auditorium. Music of various genres and dance combined for an evening of grandiose entertainment. While still in California and before my trip to the Philippines, I was asked by my niece Ritzi Villarico Ronquillo if I wanted to attend the concert. Without hesitance I said – yes, get me 20 tickets. So glad I did, because 20 members of my family thoroughly enjoyed the fabulous concert joined by some 200 voices of choir members and alumni from previous years, coming from various cities in the Philippines and countries abroad.
The concert was extraordinary– just as I remembered the group’s highly touted performance when my husband (now deceased) and I hosted the UPCC in Palo Alto and Mountain View, CA during their world tour in 1978, ’79 and ’81. Our involvement was because my niece Ritzi was one of the sopranos (she married the chorus bass member Robee Ronquillo) — and the group’s conductor Rey T. Paguio was a friend of my husband (from UP and church circles).
The Feb. 4th event recognized multiple luminaries who were alumni of the UPCC, like Prof. Edru Abraham, comedian Nanette Inventor, national artist for music Ryan Cayabyab. But special honor was given to Rey T. Paguio, under whose tutelage, musical genius and leadership the concert chorus first gained fame and awards in international music festivals nationally and abroad.
The performance at the 60th anniversary was exhilarating – profoundly uplifting – with historical sidelights of the UPCC that were quite informative.
The program started with an impressive and moving rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. I felt the hair on my arms stand at the solemn magnanimity of the movement that swelled to worshipful heights. The recorded music was accompanied with visuals of the singers’ faces on the screen, revealing the wide span in ages of those who participated in the anniversary concert.
The repertoire was perfect, a spellbinding mix of classic songs, old and contemporary numbers, English and Tagalog. The choreography for the lighthearted renditions carried some comedic nuances that brought much delight and enjoyment to performers and audience.
The classic pieces were awe-inspiring, like Thompson’s Alleluia conducted by Joel Navarro, and the dramatic musical interpretation of “Sama-sama Tayo’y Makapaniig” conducted by Janet Sabas Aracama. The pulsating drums seemed to fill every molecule of space in the auditorium, and when the featured drummer dropped the last powerful beat, a brief electrifying silence yielded to awed gasps followed by thunderous applause. For me, that was the most gripping and soul-stirring performance of the night.
The day featured other highlights. We enjoyed a sumptuous merienda cena at Microtel Technohub Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue close to UP Diliman. Equally enjoyable was the dinner after the concert at Microtel. Besides the delicious food, those gatherings, were graced by the presence of our eldest sister Betty, sisters Henriette and Chichi, brother Tzetzu and his wife Rorie, and many, many nieces and nephews – almost like an unplanned spontaneous reunion. It was a joyous treat to see and be with family members/relatives I hadn’t seen in years since the beginning of the pandemic. Like I always say, the bonus of travels is bonding with family and kinsfolks.
After the concert, back to Calamba, Laguna at the home of my nephew Siegfrid and his wife Gerlyn – to ready for the long drive to Bicol (Naga City and Legazpi). More on my travels at next post.