Music strengthens our bond as a people | Inquirer Opinion

Music strengthens our bond as a people

/ 05:05 AM December 20, 2021

After almost two years of being mostly cocooned in the house, it was invigorating to listen to live music brought to our small town by an impressive assembly of four choirs. It was made doubly impressive by the fact the choirs were accompanied by a brass and wind ensemble, and led by no less than the conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO).

Our distant town, Alcala in Cagayan province, was feted to a free concert of classic Christmas songs for almost two hours. Numbering close to a hundred members, the four choirs that performed jointly were the Coro de San Jacinto (Tuguegarao City, Cagayan), Koro ni Santa Filomena of the Parish of St. Philomene (Alcala, Cagayan), Bullilising Choir of the Alcala local government unit, and the Holy Guardian Angels Parish Choir (Tuao, Cagayan).


The four choirs trained for the concert under Fr. Ranhilio Aquino. Despite wearing so many hats as a priest, law dean, university official, and professor of judges, Father Aquino’s consuming passion is music. He is the founder and choir director of the Coro de San Jacinto, a group of non-professional singers who simply love to sing. The group includes a judge, a municipal mayor, businesspersons, a doctor, engineer, nurse, other professionals, as well as students. Father Aquino is assisted by Joel Daquioag, an excellent pianist and a stand-out tenor.

PPO conductor Herminigildo Ranera came all the way from Manila, bringing with him a band ensemble from Sta. Maria, Bulacan. In addition to being the PPO conductor, Maestro Ranera is the resident conductor of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and a music professor at the University of Santo Tomas.


Father Aquino and Maestro Ranera share a commendable advocacy: bringing music to the provinces. Father Aquino had brought the Coro de Jacinto to perform in different provinces for many years before the pandemic. The choir has even performed in Italy, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Macau.

Maestro Ranera has been coming to Cagayan for the past few years to join the Coro in its Christmas performances. He also has a program of bringing music to the rural areas, with music groups likewise having performed in different provinces for the past several years.

The crowd that came to watch the concert in our town was quite substantial, considering the pandemic. And judging by how warm the applause was by our usually sedate town folk, there was evident quenching of thirst for quality cultural performance.

Except for the annual town fiesta, a few sports events, and religious celebrations, there are very few activities that bring town people together. This may partly explain why communal bonds have weakened among our people. There is a need for increased community gatherings in order to strengthen our sense of community. This is especially true because we are progressively experiencing societal challenges the solutions to which require strong communal bonds, such as climate disasters, health challenges like the current pandemic, and even our continuing problems on corruption, poverty, and criminality.

Supporting music and dance groups, subsidizing band ensembles or orchestras, and hosting regular musical and dance performances should be made core programs by all local government units. These are culturally enriching events, aside from helping strengthen the bond among our people.

The earliest written manuscript that describes the traditions of our people is the 16th-century Boxer Codex. In its description of the customs of the people of what is now Cagayan province, it narrates that a marriage celebration takes place for “twenty or thirty days during which the feast lasts, they do not stop dancing and singing, until some get tired and others take their place.” There’s no doubt that this abundant tradition of singing and dancing is shared by people in all of our islands; Filipinos are famously known abroad as inherently good singers.

We should sing and dance our way toward strengthening the ties that bind us as people.

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