Unknown to most Filipinos, and even to some Dumagueteños, the 2nd International Rondalla Festival is presently being held here in Dumaguete. Eleven countries are participating, including of course, the Philippines. Among the participants are Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Iran, Russia, Mexico, Israel and many others.
I just came home from watching the concert, featuring artists from Iran, Myanmar, and our very own, the Celso Espejo Rondalla. Last night, I also watched performances by Thailand and Japan and another group from Cainta (Rizal, I suppose) composed of high school students.
What can I say? I actually got so much that I want to say that I cannot decide right now where or how to begin.
OK, let me start with this: I appreciate music. I like light classics. I love musicals - Les Miserables, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon are my all-time favorites. I can't take hip-hop but I enjoy pop and light rock. I love Josh Groban, Barbara Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, the Three Tenors, Queen, Lea Salonga ,,,, I'm sure there are more artist I like listening to, but just can't think of any of them right now. And oh yes! I love the oldies but goodies .... "sad movies, always make me cry!" ... that just popped into my head! I keep hearing that song over the radio on lazy Sunday mornings.
I became interested in the Rondalla festival, actually not because of my appreciation for music, but only because I was a member of a rondalla when I was in high school. I used to play the banduria, can you believe that? I find it hard to believe myself. Honest! It seemed a hundred years ago ... 27 BIG years (just counted that!) ... can you believe that??? I AM OLD! That can't be argued anymore. (sigh)
I am seriously digressing here ...
So, last night, I went with my aunt and uncle, Tito Carl and Tita Nini Cabrera to the Oriental Negros Convention Center to watch the concert, courtesy of another aunt, Tita Carman Cabrera who gave us free tickets! Bless Tita Carmen! I could not have afforded the P300.00 tickets for the show. I have another free ticket with me right now for tomorrow's concert, featuring a Russian quartet. I am really looking forward to that! Bless Tita Carman again! It's my 3rd FREE ticket!
Where was I? Oh yes, I was interested so when Abby's teacher asked me if I would allow her to watch the matinee on Friday, Feb. 23 with the rest of the students in her school, I said yes, and also bought another ticket for myself. I never thought of watching the nightly concerts because the tickets were expensive. But out of the blue, Tita Carmen asked if I wanted to watch ... free tickets!!!! ... ever saw that famous cheshire cat smile in Alice in Wonderland? That was how huge my grin must have been!
Last night, for the first time ever, I came to understand the following terms, and by that, I meant really, truly understood: "diversity of culture", "unique culture", "rich cultural heritage", etc. I also realized, for the first time ever, how different we Filipinos are from our Asian neighbors, and finally, my observation which I shared with David Atwood, a British friend whom I occasionally chat online with: "I never realized how fascinating we Asians are!!!" To which he replied: "that's why I'm here." I am actually looking at us Asians with new eyes! No wonder people from western cultures find us very interesting!
I am digressing again ...
I saw the Thai performance last night and I was mesmerized. The music was strange to my ears thus, I was not really able to appreciate it well enough, but I was dazzled by their rich costumes (the Filipino baro at saya seem boring and uninspired next to theirs) and I fell in love with their dancers. Their arm movements, down to their fingertips, were pure unadulterated poetry in motion! I was awed by the grace and elegance that they so effortlessly displayed. Pure beauty! I kept sighing with contentment as I watched the visual delight before me. Pity I didn't bring my camera last night.
The group from Japan were professional artists. They entered the stage acting and looking like ... the Japanese that we see in the movies, ha ha ha! what else? I thought of the samurai warriors with their ramrod straight backs ... all the musicians needed were swords to complete the picture. Strange music again. I am not going to put on some airs here, or pretend that I'm some cultured sophisticate with an innate understanding and appreciation for anything that cultured sophisticates are supposed to like .... I am just a small town housewife who just got exposed to different cultures and liking it a lot. (obviously, my previous travels abroad had not done that for me.) I liked the exposure, but I have to be honest, their 14th century music bore me to death. And their dancers! Oh my golly!!! Ok, let me put it this way ... as far as entertainment value is concerned, absolutely zero. BUt if you look at it as an artform ... it was exquisite! I am not gifted enough to be able to express here how it was, so just believe me, it was a revelation! I developed tremendous respect for those artists. I can just imagine the years of training and discipline they must have poured into that performance, for it to come out that way. They seemed to glide like ghosts on the stage. No individual or separate movement could be discerned, each motion flowed like fluid, a seemingly endless flow - motion without end or beginning. As I said, it was exquisite.
I had this stray thought entering my head as we were watching: if this particular performance is a typical traditional Japanese form of entertainment, no wonder the Japayukis became very successful in there!
The Japanese were followed by a Philippine group which showed a fiesta scene complete with maglalatik dancers. After witnessing living art in motion, the Filipino performers struck me as crude, clumsy, and shallow. I wondered: is this how we are as a people?
Tonight, artists from Iran and Myanmar performed. They were, again, strange. I appreciated having seen them perform, not because I particularly enjoyed their perfomances, but because it gave me a glimpse of how they are as a people.
The Philippine's Celso Espejo Rondalla got a standing ovation tonight. They gave us a world-class performance. After playing a medley of folk songs, which the audience truly enjoyed, they dazzled us with a very powerful rendition of the William Tell overture. I was amazed at how a classical music written with violin and other western instruments in mind could be reproduced with such beauty by guitars, bandurias, drums and a base guitar. It was spectacular. And the audience knew it! Believe me, we've had enough exposure to other rondallas giving mediocre to good performances! We knew immediately that we had a gem right before us.
Elegant and graceful Thais ... somber, disciplined, controlled Japanese ... festive and joyous Filipinos ... we are all so different from each other, each one unique, each one of us beautiful, even us pinoys - shallow and crude we may seem - but hey! what's wrong with that? We are a fun-loving people - just listen to our music! - and that makes us beautiful in our own unique way!