2004/01/08

The Music of my Life

I was retrieving my old personal files when I came across a crumpled paper that looked familiar to me. I realized it was the certificate I got in 1982 as the Musician of the Year. It was an award I received more than two decades ago--something that had slipped my memory. As I read the certificate, flashback of those events occurred. In what seemed like a fast-paced rewind, memories were brought to my mind until an image settled, surprisingly, on my being a member of the seminary choir. I recall these four instances.

In Second Year High School. The first time I was selected to the seminary choir was during our sophomore year in high school where I was one of the “tiples” of the Jeduthun Ensemble. It was my first exposure of a choral group. I was so proud then for the honor and privilege of being chosen to represent IHMS. Wearing the blue jumper paired with a white shirt, which was one of the concert costumes, was a kind of status symbol then. Among the repertoire were “Pipit”, “My Knapsack on My Back”, “Sa Kabukiran” and “Handel’s Alleluia”--songs that up to now have nostalgic effect on me. The first concert we had was at the Bohol Cultural Center. Then another one was held in Inabanga.

In Fourth Year High School. Again I was selected to join the choir when we were in senior high school. It was a mixed choir composed of high school seminarians and students from Holy Spirit School, the only exclusive school for girls in Tagbilaran. We were to join in the province-wide choral competition. Oh, every music practice was something we always looked forward to! Meeting our female counterpart was always an adrenalin-pumping experience. Even those who were non-members were as excited as we were, for it was one of those rare occasions when we could see and mingle with girls of our age. For those who were too shy to socialize, they were pleased enough to watch those lovely ladies from a distance. But those who were not contented with seeing from a distance satisfied their yearnings by looking up from dark, musty nooks at those goddesses perched high on the pedestal.

The team up of the two schools was thought to be formidable. But overconfidence ate us up for we performed poorly during competition day. We were only third among five contestants. Had we won the first prize we would represent the province in the regional level, and then in the national level. We all felt so down. We ended our team up with an outing at the then pristine Hinagdanan Cave where I saved one of the girls from drowning.

In First Year College. The dream of competing in the national level, however, surfaced again when we were college freshmen. It was at this time that a special choir was formed to compete in the regional competition--collegiate level. Deep selection was made from among the student body of the college department. Only selected individuals were asked to audition. From among those who auditioned were chosen the choir members. I was again so lucky to be selected as tenor. I felt so honored. The practices were rigid and frequent. Smokers were strictly told to abstain from smoking for the entire duration of the contest preparation. We were told not to drink cold water. Salabat was the prescribed drink. There were early morning activities when we would do our vocalization at Taloto Beach, dipping our body in the cold sea water. We spent so much time and energy practicing. Ten repertoires including the contest piece were prepared.

During the day of the contest we thought we were the sure winner because other contestants backed out leaving us as the sole contestant in our category. But the euphoria was short-lived because the judges (who were, by the way, all from imperial Manila) announced that we only got the second prize. Second to no one, in particular. The experience of dawn faded quickly as twilight darkened our feelings. It was a decision that until now I cannot understand. From hindsight, I think the decision was anomalous. For where in the world can a contestant be second placer in a contest participated in by only one contestant? By sheer default, we should have placed first. I have now the impression that it was deliberately done. Manila must have been intimidated. The Bohol Sanghimig choir had won the national competition thrice already. Probably they couldn’t believe that another choral group from an unknown school could sing so well. A potential threat. Yes, I would say we sang well. But then we had to come to terms with our frustration. We consoled ourselves by saying to one another that we did not lose but were simply cheated. (Months later, the choir of the head judge lost to a UST choir led and composed mostly of--guess who?--Boholano seminarians. Ah, sweet justice.)

In Third Year College. The last choir I joined was again the Jeduthun Choir. It was for a concert. It was held at the then Divine Word College gym. I was chosen to sing the solo part of the song “We Are The Champions” popularized by The Queen.

The same choir performed on February 2, 1983 during the CVRAA cultural night presentation at the Bohol Cultural Center. It was a whooping success. We rendered songs that pleased the crowd for the hilarity. We seemed so confident on stage. Our smiles were genuine and even innocent. In fact we were enjoying the crowd, too. The delegates from other provinces were entertained especially with our moving finale. They asked for an encore. We received hearty greeting and handshakes afterwards.

It was the last time I joined a choral group.

I miss being part of a choral group. I miss the music practices. I miss the fun of exercising the vocal chord by intoning “Ma-Me-Mi-Mo-Mu.” There may be frustrations for not being able to win in the competition, but over and above I felt a sense of fulfillment because I--and I believe the feeling was also shared by many--sang not only to win but simply to satisfy my desire for the love of music. As I put my award back in my old personal file, I felt like singing old songs again--songs I learned while I was at the IHMS.

I may not be in the mold of Arnold or TQ, as far as music is concerned, but I know IHMS has taught me not only to read musical notes and sing songs but more importantly to follow rightly the rhythm of everyday life. Thanks IHMS! (soc)