Saturday, August 3, 2013

July 19th: PWU Music Jam - An IP Rondalla Perspective

PWU-JASMS Rondalla performing "It's a Hard Day's Night"
A wonderful arrangement and performance!
The Bayanihan Rondalla, one of the most talented
rondalla groups I have ever seen
After our short visit to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), we boarded the bus again to go to the Philippine Women's University (PWU), home of the Bayanihan Dance Troupe. Contrary to its name, the school opened its doors to men in 1992, which is why when we first arrived, we were all SHOCKED to see boys and girls! Just my remark. Anyway, we were greeted by two students from PWU who toured us through the Bayanihan costume room. We could definitely tell that the costumes these Bayanihan dancers wore were some of the most splendid and finely hand-woven pieces we have ever seen.

We were then led into the auditorium for the music jam. For us, a "Jamming Out" session means informally playing a few enjoyable songs. Little did we know, it was more formal than that! (Good thing we opted to change from shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops to the more formal wear we donned at our Malacanan visit). First to perform was the PWU-JASMS (Jose Abad Santos Memorial High School) Rondalla. They played two songs for us, "Mabuhay" and "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles. They had a full band, consisting of two bass players and two staggered rows of banduria, octavina, and guitar players! I enjoyed listening to their music, especially their contemporary song.

At the time the JASMS group was playing, our musical director, Christi-Anne was missing! Apparently, after our short performance at the DOT, she and her parents, Tita Cris and Tito Mabini (our bass player) were brought somewhere to eat and were stuck in traffic somewhere in Manila. We were all panicking because none of us knew what we were going to play! I was, perhaps, panicking the most because, by default, the kids put me in charge (for who knows WHY) of choosing two to three songs to play with choreography. And, if by chance Christi-Anne does not make it on time, I will be in-charge of queuing each of the songs. Luckily, we figured out what we would perform right before the JASMS group finished playing, "A Hard Day's Night." Alas, because of our dilemma, I didn't get to fully enjoy their performance.

PWU-JASMS, Bayanihan Rondalla, and IP Rondalla jamming out to "O Ilaw" while fascinated audience members took
pictures and videos on their cameras and phones (...I guess it's the Asian way, ha, ha, ha)

Next, the Bayanihan Rondalla ensemble performed for us. (Whew! This was also the time Christi-Anne showed up, so I could relax a bit) My God, the Bayanihan Rondalla were impressive and intimidating! They played a number of songs, including a superb rendition of Czardas and an old rondalla classic that they literally revived from the dust bin of Philippine history. Although our playing could never compete with their godly strings, our cute dance moves definitely made our performance unique, fresh and very entertaining to the audience. We played "Porbreng Alindahaw," "Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika," and "Maria Cristina" to the delight of everybody.
George & Mico, the long lost twins -
just look at their noses!
When we thought the performance was over, we were held onstage with the other two rondalla groups for the "Jamming Out" sesh that I told you about. Apparently we would all be playing "Mabuhay" and "O Ilaw." Luckily, I'm saved. I learned the harmony part of Mabuhay a few years ago, and I could somewhat manage to play O Ilaw since it's a song Luz and Marisa often played for us. Playing impromptu with the JASMS and Bayanihan Rondalla proved to be an amazing experience. It's true what Christi-Anne told me though, "That was the fastest version O Ilaw we've ever played."

After the successful jam session, our hosts invited us for a "small" merienda (snacks). Of course, Filipino snacks are never small. We had dirty ice cream (complete with the ice cream man and the intricately painted ice cream cart), pancit Malabon (a type of noodle dish with thick, tasty sauce), gulaman (cold gelatin drink), native desserts and much more. But before I could moved on to the next room to eat, I just have to take a picture of George and his "long lost twin," Mico. After a few snapshots. I finally wandered into the next room to meet and greet the other members of JASMS.

It was kind of awkward at first to find a seat, so I just plopped myself at a table that wasn't too crowded yet. I'm glad I chose that table, because I was able to meet Lev, Patrick, and Danielle. We talked and laughed about some of the weirdest things. It was a great way to unwind after having undergone three stressful weeks of performance after performance. With our hectic schedule, we only had a few occassions to talk to people our age since the first week, so it was really, really nice to make some new friends. Unfortunately, our time was cut always, since we had to board the bus once again for another performance elsewhere. Although we didn't get to stay for very long, I'll truly miss this experience.

Thanks PWU, Bayanihan Rondalla, and JASMS!

Sierra Jamir

Christi-Anne, talking to a Bayanihan member about their Rondalla instruments. For those not familiar with rondalla, it's
been our experience that getting hold of good rondalla instruments in the U.S., and even in the Philippines, is very
difficult. Many of us are looking to buy new, good quality and sturdy (doesn't crack with the dry, cold winter air of
New England) instruments soon! Hope Christi-Anne got good leads from our Bayanihan colleague.
The IP and JASMS Rondallas mingling together. It doesn't matter where we are, it's always fun to associate
and make friends with our Filipino peers.
I guess I didn't realize we were taking a picture together. Even, Tita Beth
who is all the way in the back, is giving a thumbs up.

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