Thursday, April 30, 2009

The 98th General Commencement Exercises of UP Diliman

   The past week offered me the opportunity to be a marshal at both the College and University graduation ceremonies at UP. Both proved to be very memorable and sentimental occasions, as I proudly stood at the sidelines and watched former classmates go onstage with their parents.

   Was it only a year ago that I myself graduated? One year... I marvel at how this span of time can simultaneously seem like centuries ago... and at the same time, seem like mere weeks.

   I do not know if I will still be called upon to serve the college or the university next year to act as a marshall. But I would be glad to do so. Despite the demands on our free time, it is worth it... if only because it allows us an opportunity to reminisce and rekindle the fires that burn within, the ones that fuel our desire to be of service to our community and to our country.

~ ~ ~ ~ 

I do wish that those activists had chosen a more opportune time to demonstrate, instead of ruining the climactic U.P. Naming Mahal song at the end of the ceremony.

Like what Rio Alma said in his speech:

Laging armadong pakikibaka ang nása isip na tanging alternatibo. Ang hindi mahilig sa armadong rebolusyon ay nabibitag naman sa pagiging cynical at pagwawalang-bahala. Ano’t anuman, napopoot man o nagwawalang paki, nalilimot niya ang paggálang sa tungkulin bílang mamamayan at ang pagkilála sa mga paraan ng pagmamahal sa bayan.

Ganito ang pakiramdam ko kapag nakakikíta ng mga sulat sa pader ng UP na: “Ibagsak si GMA!” “Mabuhay ang NPA!” Ekspresyon ito ng politika ng poot. May karapatan ang sumulat na ipahayag ang nararamdaman niyang galit kay GMA at paghanga sa NPA. Ngunit, at magagalit sa akin ang mga kaibigang tibak, bakit kailangan niyang sirain ang pintura ng kalinisan sa pader ng UP para ipahayag ang kaniyang politika ng poot? Hindi ba’t sinisira niya ang pera ng bayan na ginastos sa pintura at pagpipintura ng pader? Wala bang ibang paraan para ipahayag ang kaniyang poot? Para sa akin, ang gayong pagsulat sa pader ng UP ay hindi nalalayô sa totoong nakasusuklam na gawain ngayon ng mga trapo na magpagawa ng mga karatula’t istrimer para maipagmalaki ang kahit isang munting serbisyo publiko na ang totoo’y ginastusan ng pondo ng bayan. 

~ ~ ~ ~ 

   Let me end by quoting from the Graduation Message of UP President Emerlinda Roman, which I found most inspiring:

   "To you, the batch of 2009, I saw now: UP is flawed, as all human institutions are; but it remains the best that your country can offer. And a UP education was offered to you as a gift from the Filipino people, in recognition of your own gifts and your willingness to submit to a discipline -- both intellectual and physical -- more demanding than what you might have found elsewhere.

    Use it now to good purpose. Use it honestly, and humbly, and bravely. Use it to help others rise above the poverty of their circumstances and the narrowness of their imaginations. Use it in the service of a country that will require every man and woman to do more than their best if it is to survive in these troubled times."


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Interrupted Mass

   These images are seared in my mind:

   Half-devoured steaks and untouched drinks left on top of tables.
   People running with soaked handkerchiefs covering their noses.
   Shop assistants carrying their most valuable merchandise out of the stalls.
   Families huddled in groups, positioning themselves near the doorway and breathing in precious fresh air.
   Children crying as they looked for their parents.

   But above all:

   The smoke. A white thick monster that menacingly claimed its territory... inch by terrifying inch.

   And it all took place in one of the "safest" malls in the Metro: Rockwell, Powerplant.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   We were hearing mass in the Chapel when it happened... in the middle of singing the "Our Father," we heard the Commotion. People talking loudly. Running footsteps. Security guards on radios sprinting towards the chapel personnel, gesticulating wildly.

   And then we heard the frantic whisper: "Fire."

   So many thoughts ran through my mind... my first instinct was to run but then I remembered that most people who die in fires do not actually die from being burned, but by being trampled in a stampede, or by asphyxiation from the smoke.

I was also scared, more than I've ever been afraid before in my entire life.

But my heart grew calm as I gazed at the priest, who continued on with the mass 
after giving the short announcement that there was a fire, that it had been put out, 
that we were being asked to evacuate the premises because of the smoke, 
but that he would finish celebrating the mass. 

"You can leave if you wish," he said, and up rose 90% of the congregation.

I looked to my father, who calmly said, "We'll finish the mass," and my heart beat 
turned to normal as I looked at the composed faces of my mother, sister, and brother
...and we raised our voices loudly as we sang aloud with fervor:

"Do not bring us to the test... but deliver us from evil..."

The thought that was loudest in my mind was a prayer of thanksgiving: 
Lord, thank You, for we are together as a family. COME WHAT MAY, WE ARE

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Events like these make one think of one's mortality. And of course, the most
important question of all: "Will I go to Heaven?"

So.... how was YOUR Saturday evening?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Welcoming Address for the UP College of Music Graduation Rites : April 23, 2009

Aside: I was given only four minutes! Hehe so this was what I managed to cram into that small amount of time.

Good afternoon everyone! On behalf of the faculty and staff, it is my honor and privilege to welcome you to the 2009 Commencement Exercises of the UP College of Music. On this historic day, we are gathered to witness one of the greatest rites of passage that Life has to offer… Today, you young men and women entered this hall as students, and will leave as graduates.

I look on at this promising batch with great pride. For such a small number of graduates, you have in your midst 10 cum laudes and 6 magna cum laudes. And each individual amongst you has passed the rigorous demands of the finest music school in the country. Be proud of your achievement, for not everyone has the talent and brains to pull off what you have accomplished.

Each one of you has gotten here through a mixture of hard work and sheer hard headedness. But despite all your individual efforts, you would not be here today if it weren’t for the unfailing love and support of your family. Graduates, please rise and join me in giving your number one fans – your parents – a standing ovation.

A year ago, I stood in your shoes. I was still feeling relief at completing that final recital, and at the same time, I felt apprehensive at the uncertain future that lay before me. For when I was a student in the College of Music, I lived in an ideal world full of unselfish people, where hearts overflowed with generosity and where musicians helped their fellows out for altruistic reasons. Everyone had his/her own place, and I felt safe, loved, and comfortable in mine. Graduation, however, meant facing ‘reality’ and for the first time, I felt insecure about my place in the world.

I’m sure you’ve had experiences of people asking you about your course, and when they learn that it is Music, they usually say one of two things: 1) So, magaling ka kumanta? And 2) Anung trabaho makukuha mo pagkatapos ng college?

If today’s society places little or no importance in our calling, do not be disheartened. It is a sign of how far our current society has fallen. For as Venezuelan musician and pedagogue Jose Antonio Abreu says, the world is now suffering from a spiritual crisis, and only religion and music can offer proper answers to humanity.

Dear students, you are so much more than world class composers, conductors, performers, scholars and teachers. Every time you conduct 30 strangers put together to form a choir, every time you coax young fingers to play an instrument beautifully, every time you successfully record or create an addition to the body of Filipino musical works… you achieve a small miracle made possible through coordinated effort and a common vision. You are agents of social change, of social development in the highest sense. Through your efforts, you transmit the noblest values of solidarity and unity. In this world of apathy and chaos, you are ambassadors of compassion and harmony.

You carry with you our hopes and prayers. Go forth and show everyone that UP Music graduates can change the world. Never stop believing in the promise that the triumph of the human spirit is inextricably linked to the transforming power of art. Be not afraid to set new standards of excellence, and to define greatness for your generation.

Graduates, we salute you!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Bella e l'Alba" as sung by Radu Marian, the Romanian/Moldovan male soprano

For some reason or another, I am currently fascinated by male sopranos. My favorite is Radu Marian, hands down. Such a beautiful voice, and such beatific music in this video! Am rendered speechless.

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