AMONG the most prominent children’s choirs in the Philippines in the last 50 years is the Las Piñas Boys Choir (founded in 1969) and the Loboc Children’s Choir (founded in 1980). Both have performed in many festivals and won accolades nationally and internationally. It was not until Huni alumni Dennis Gregory Sugarol returned from his formal music studies in Manila in early 2000s that a homegrown children’s choir has joined the ranks as among the best in the country.
The Mandaue City Children ‘s Choir gained initial notice when it won first prize in the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) on Nov. 27, 2004. And there has been no stopping ever since, including its winning the Grand Prix of Choirs at the World Choir Championships in Gyeongnam Province of South Korea and, in July 2009, the top prize of the Georg Friedrich Handel Internationales Kinderchor Festival in Halle, Germany.
The group, which has evolved into the Mandaue Children and Youth Chorus, performed in June this year in the International Children’s Festival in Nha Trang, Vietnam and during the inauguration of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal 2.
Which brings me to another cultural group, the Philippine Barangay Folk Dance Troupe (PBFDT) that toured New Zealand with their Sayaw History Through Philippine Dances as part of their 70th anniversary celebration. I caught the performance of the group in Hamilton.
While the Bayanihan Philippine National Folkdance Company and the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group have better name recall, the PBFDT can stand on its own based on what I experienced.
Its first set were brave interpretations of Cordillera dances, including balambang, dap-ay and tachek. The second set of dances during the Spanish period were colorful and festive, while the third set of Muslim dances were magical and elegant. But it was the final set that had everyone smiling, as the dances told stories of hunting and healing (B’laan) and courtship (that included binasuan and latik) finally closing with tinikling.
The thesis written by Kanami Namiki in 2007 for the National University of Singapore recalled how Ramon Obusan presented “authentic” dances of “puro matatanda at matataba” dancers in the production number that closed the Asean Summit in Cebu, despite objections from the organizers who preferred younger and beautiful dancers in front.
Obusan was known to be perfectionist and head-strong and I guess that separates the masters from the rest. Masters such as Belmonte and Sugarol. And their works speak for themselves.