The 118th Philippine Independence celebration has become more relevant and historic…
An elixir to relieve us from our cultural tardiness…
by Rod Escobar Cantiveros
It is an extraordinary night when the eight divas and divos sparked the spirit of patriotism, lighting up the audience with familiar songs and dances, and lifting the spirit of Filipino cultural consciousness, leading to a standing ovation and thunderous applause as the singers were belting the middle of the medley of the patriotic songs with brilliance, The singers went down and engaged the audience with their songs.
Never to experience of this cultural journey for a long time, the riveting and visceral performance was sharper than a knife which punctured the hearts, mind, body and soul of the more than 350 Filipinos and Canadian friends who joined the cultural journey of the Philippine Opera Company, as part of the their 15th anniversary tour celebration. Uncontrollable outpouring of emotions as if the musical notes were locked up in the tears rolling down their cheeks; and its electrifying performance ignited the hair raising experience.
Yes, the engaged audience responded with an outpouring salvo, shouting bravo as it blended beautifully with the explosion of an unprecedented applause as the lilting voices of the eight professional singers were belting out the medley of patriotic songs,namely, “Paano Kita Pasasalamatan”, “Pilipinas Kong Mahal”, “Ako Ay Pilipino” and “Gaano Kita Kamahal”, even a person with a numbed feeling would shiver by its tingling meanings of the words. As if we were re-clothed by a a colorful cultural tapestry after many years of cultural nudity: adding more living colours of our Filipino cultural identity.
Indeed, the once in a lifetime performance is a compleat cultural journey to re-kindle our patriotic feeling isolated by many years of being away from our home country. And an extreme elixir to relieve us from our cultural tardiness.
For many years, thousands of Filipinos are away from home, away from the hustle-bustle of Manila and its environs; away from the rich cultural offerings which nourish the Filipino souls; away from the largesse of our native country; away from the richness of our nature and the smiles of the children; away from the squalor and filth of the esteros and squatters; and away from our intimate engagement with our beloved relatives and friends. And only this kind of a cultural journey would enliven our spirit of togetherness, would forge a strong fibers of our ethnicity in the Canadian mosaic, thus, rediscovering and redefining our cultural identify with a common denominator of our of dreaming big in our chosen and adopted country. Against this backdrop, most of us, we shy away from this cultural journey, leaving most of us in a cultural vacuum Sullied by our busyness in earning a dollar and probably, our less cultural upbringing, we miss the re-baptism of our cultural richness.
Notably, culture is the very soul of any progressive country. And for that matter, any ethnic community has to have this very soul of engagement to retain, maintain and sustain our cultural identity.
The stage backdrop is totally minimalist but the thematic designs of the gowns and barongs have added living colours on the stage, thanks to the creative hands of the designer, Zenaida Gutierrez who has an intense creative mind and intricate hands to weave the fibers of our cultural identity into the fabrics of our national costumes.
Very timely to re-awaken our cultural tardiness, the Philippine Opera Company has been touring in the United States and Canada to celebrate the 118th Philippine Independence and the company’s 15th Anniversary Celebration. And the more than 2-hour command performance last June 9th at the Portage Avenue Church started with enthusiasm and sheer expectation and ended with a real bang which exploded with veritable feasts of sights and sounds, re-igniting the very Filipino in us.
The high-powered professional artists, mostly graduates of the University of Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas schools of music and who had sung, acted and travelled all over the world to re-ignite or re-baptize the fire of our cultural richness, include Karla Gutierrez, Janine Santos, Marian Santiago, KL Dizon, Nazer Salcedo, Lawrence Jatayna, Noel Rayos and Elliot Eustacio.
The repertoire is properly arranged to have a seismic emotional effect, a crescendo of a towering spirit of nationalism, from ACT 1 composed of Katutubo, Maria Clara, Rural and Bukid Suites to ACT 2, from Contemprary Suite, starting with the inspirational and faithful rendition of “Saan Ka Man Naroroon” “Hindi Kita Malimot” and “Bato Sa Buhangin” to the Medley of George Canseco, Willy Cruz and Ryan Cayabyab; to the touching message of “Anak” by Freddie Aguilar and the “Panunumpa Sa Bayan”, a medley of patriotic songs which fully and soulfully affims our love for our home country.
The songs are composed by our noted composers, namely, Nicanor Abelardo, Leopoldo Silos, Francisco Santiago, Antonio Molina, A. Villanueva, Tito Arevalo, Juan Silos Jr. Manauel Velez, Minggoy Lopez, Potenciano Gregorio, Tomas Villaflor, Santiago Suarez, Dolores Paterno, Angel Pena, Restie Umali, Josefino Cenizal, Ernani Cuenco, Freddie Aguilar, Joey Ayala, George Canseco, Willy Cruz and Ryan Cayabyab. Each one had fire of nationalism which burst into an emotional and patriotic compositions, as nutirional nourishment of a living soul: a Filipino soul.
Rodel Olesco, our local talent, opened the show as he belted the Filipino songs with finesse.
Special thanks to Tribu Productions headed by Clifford Belgica, Dante Aviso, managing director, Tribu Winnipeg; Jose Nepomuceno, owner Vocal Arts Centre, provider of lights and sounds; Rodrigo Lopez,logistic officer in charge of transportation, host families and venue operations; and to the photographers, Henry Balanial of HB Photography and Alex Canlapan and NJ Amareco of Lente Photography.
An unconditional thank you to the two media sponsors, the Filipino Journal and Ang Peryodiko. And to the sponsors who believed on our cultural mandate to promote and sustain our cultural heritage and these are the following: Tess Newton Financial Services Inc. (Sun Life Financial) A1 Nutrition- Fely Grieve, Grant Shopping Centre; Anak Inc., Dimples Beauty Salon,Literacy Works, Lente Photography, Friends of Filipino Immigrants in Manitoba, Inc. Sun life Financial-Fred de Villa and Mila Tamayo; Dante Aviso, Sun Life Financial; Lokla’s Family Day Home, Gene Guevarra, Tyrone Pagsuyuin, Melos Balloon, HB Photography, Katrinas Bakeshop, and the food donors: Jemil’s Bakery, Mangkok International Cuisine, Jejomar Bakery, CB’s Restaurant, Pampanga Restaurant, Bisita at Corydon, and Charlee’s Restaurant.
“Phillipine Opera Company’s Harana is undoubtedly the best show we have in our community for decades. This is the evening where movements, great music and artistic talents are interwoven into one to create a nostalgia, pride and awakening to the audience. A must see to every Filipino”, says Tess Newton.
“Harana was an amazingly talented group of artists whose performance I found mesmerizing! I was especially moved with the performance of Freddie Aguilar’s ANAK! Powerful images combined with superb singing created a very moving experience. I was glad to have seen the show! I felt so proud to be Filipino!”, Councillor Mike Pagtakhan.
“It brought a lot of nostalgic moments of the times when I was back home. Always been proud to be Pinloy and last night made me prouder,” Joy Laud Lazo, Owner/Mentor, Highlights Performing Group; President, Filcan Arts Council; stage actor in the various Rainbow Stage production. Lazo added: “That every Filipino who will hear of their music and watch their stellar performance can truly connect and reconnect with their roots and that their charming and humble ways make them great ambassadors for our country.”
“This command performance has moved me so much, enjoying a Filipino opera for the first time. Through their songs, their dances, their costumes, the lighting, so beautifully done. I am grateful that I did not miss this wonderful cultural journey. Now I have known more about Filipino and being married to a Filipino, the more I look forward to understand more about the Filipino culture. Thanks for this experience, unforgettable,” said Jason Schreyer, City of Winnipeg Councillor, and the son of former Premier of Manitoba and Governor General of Canada, Hon,. Edward Schreyer.
“It was such an unforgettable experience to have witnessed the “Harana” presentation by these amazing artists. It brought out my Pinoy pride. I hope our children and grandchildren will have the chance to hear these songs and witness these presentations so that they will have the appreciation and love of their cultural heritage,”said Tess Comia.
Photos by Bryan Mesias, Alfred Gaddi and Star Roxas | Filipino Journal