In love with singing | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

In love with singing

I have mild-to-moderate cerebral palsy. I’m told that when I was born, I had water and blood in my brain. As a result, at six months I still could not sit up straight. The doctor checked me. The finding: The cells in my brain that controlled movement in my legs, arms and eyes had been destroyed.

Those cells don’t grow back, said the doctor. But physical therapy (PT) can teach the remaining cells to work double time and try to do the work of absent cells.

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Well, I have been going through PT for as long as I can remember. I have also gone through several surgeries on my legs and eyes. Now, I try to live as normal a life as I can.

Normal, as in indulging my love for… singing! I do not have to be able to run to sing, solve calculus problems, or have the best comprehension ever.

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I know I just need a passion for singing and a sharp ear for notes—and music is mine forever.

To pursue my passion, watching concerts is a big help. While I watch, I move to the edge of my seat and study the singers’ techniques. For one, I observe how the singers open their mouths to reach high and low notes.

The truth is, I live to sing.

When I was younger, I sang pop songs. Later, my repertoire included Broadway, and, even later, I moved up to classical, though I suspect Broadway songs suit my voice best.

I started liking singing when I was three and began taking formal voice lessons when I was nine. At 16, I developed a natural vibrato from singing Broadway songs a lot.

When I was five, I bravely sang for an audience of almost a thousand Shriner’s Hospital drivers and nurses in the United States “A Whole New World” from Disney’s “Aladdin,” as well as “When I Fall in Love.” I was a new patient at the Erie, Pennsylvania, unit of Shriner’s, and they were having their annual celebration at the auditorium.

I was used to my Mom giving me a cue to start every time I sang. When I couldn’t see her while I was onstage, I knew—as cold as my hands were—that I was in trouble. Thankfully, a lady from the hospital looked at me and nodded with a smile. Aha, that was my cue, I thought, and started to sing!

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I got a standing ovation. More than that, I was inspired. I knew from that point on that I was put in this world to become a singer!

“Keep honing your voice,” my Mom urges me. “You might just be able to sing on an even bigger stage abroad again, someday!”

Not only singers Lea Salonga and Jose Mari Chan inspire me to sing well, but also unlikely persons—nonsingers such as that amazing Filipino figure skater, 17-year-old Michael Christian Martinez, and American actor Emilio Estevez, who played the role of the ice hockey coach in the movie “D2: The Mighty Ducks.”

Now, the person I idolize is Martinez, who awed me as I watched him do his triple axel in competition at the Sochi Olympics.

I know I can achieve, just like Martinez, if I keep trying. Even if Michael fell on the ice once, he got up and continued skating. I’ll never forget that Valentine’s Day as I watched him on TV.

Actor Estevez’s advice, as coach of Team USA in “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” said: “We all have special skills, we have to refine them. If we fall, we get up and try again. No matter what happens, we’re going to work together to overcome every obstacle.”

I also take to heart singer Jose Mari Chan’s piece of advice: “When we sing, we tell a story as if to a child, only through song.”

This is why when I sing, I try to make my words clear. My cousin, also a singer, e-mailed me some time back that “some people scream when they are lonely, frustrated, or happy. You and I can do more than that. We sing!”

When I’m happy, I sing happy songs. When I’m sad, so are the songs. After singing my good or bad feelings out, I feel so much better! Singing, really, is my therapy.

I may not have strong legs, as I need hand crutches to walk. I dropped out of college after the first semester as I could not cope with the academics. I may not have a boyfriend—never had one—at my ripe old age. But I may have something better: a best friend who is there for both the happy and sad moments—singing!

No boy at this point, I think, can do more than that.

Erica Denise G. Perez is turning 23 this month. She takes voice, piano and French and Korean lessons; reads a lot; and keeps a daily journal.

Stories from the young Filipino

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TAGS: Cerebral Palsy, Jose Mari Chan, Lea Salonga, Physical Therapy, singing
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