Images by Teddy Pelaez
Ever since I was a child, my grandmother had harbored a dream for me to become a pianist. But it wasn’t until my third year of high school that I mustered the courage to try learning it.
Surprisingly, despite music not running through my veins, I got to learn the basics of it – knowing the parts of the music sheet, reading the notes, and playing the right keys in order to play a song. I even got my own electronic keyboard. However, the learning ended there. I wasn’t able to touch the instrument ever since the pandemic happened.
As I was writing this article, I was actually listening to the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) performing the “Bathaluman Concert Overture” by Alfredo Buenaventura.
Don’t blame or judge me for not paying attention, but memories of playing the piano flooded my mind. I recalled the younger me, excited for piano class and receiving my own keyboard. The inspiring performance by Aidan Ezra Baracol, accompanied by Rodel Colmenar and the PPO celebrating 50 years in the music industry, ignited my passion for music once again.
The PPO, the country’s leading orchestra, has been a prominent presence in the music industry for decades. As the resident orchestra of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, it has nurtured and showcased the talents of numerous Filipino musicians across generations.
To commemorate their anniversary, CCP invited Manila Standard to witness the ensemble’s concert, celebrating five decades of extraordinary orchestral music.
It was a Friday night, and this was my second time experiencing a live orchestra performance. Previously, I had enjoyed watching the Manila Orchestra, but now, witnessing the PPO in action, I can promise you that there was never a dull moment. The night was filled with awe-inspiring moments as each orchestra member showcased their musical prowess.
Sitting just a block away from Alfredo Buenaventura, a composer, conductor, and teacher, I was captivated by the beauty of his creations. During the intermission, I had the privilege of having him sign my PPO anniversary catalog and ask him questions that piqued my curiosity. How did it feel to watch his masterpiece performed by a group he had worked with?
“Well, it brings back memories. But I hope that it’s interpreted even better. There are many nuances and expressions. When I conduct it, I can do better because it’s my own work. The composition becomes more exquisite when well interpreted…[however] it has been playing okay,” he reiterated.
His frankness was inspiring. He offered critiques, but one could understand why—he missed working with them. He missed wielding his baton in front of his orchestra.
“Well, this orchestra, of course, practically all the members are my friends. Most of them were my former students, who are now senior citizens. I congratulate the PPO and I hope they continue to improve. I miss them. I used to conduct them, and I miss all these things. But my wish is for a bright future, for beautiful performances, and for a harmonious bond,” Buenaventura concluded.
As the second part of the concert commenced, we were greeted with “Salut! Demeure e Chaste et Pure!” from Faust by Charles Gounod, performed by tenor Arthur Espiritu, accompanied by the orchestra. He also enchanted us with Augusto Espino’s “Kundiman ng Langit.” With each song, Espiritu effortlessly hit every note, leaving the audience on their feet with smiles on their faces.
The concert reached its climax with George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” featuring Raul Sunico on the piano and conducted by Hermingildo Ranera. They left us yearning for more, and they didn’t disappoint as they treated us to an additional performance.
Allow me to conclude by expressing my astonishment when we sang our national anthem, accompanied by the PPO. It was an honor to sing it with such a renowned orchestra. For some, it may seem insignificant, merely the “Lupang Hinirang” required to start an event officially. But for me, it represents ‘Lupang Hinirang’—a song that embodies nationalism, patriotism, and the commitment we have made to our country.