ZAMBOANGA CITY – It was so hard to give a “yes” to City’s invitation for the Silliman University Concert Band to be part of its Fiesta Pilar celebration last year. The main opposition came from parents of the student band members who thought of Zamboanga as “danger zone.”
This school year, the Silliman alumni groups of the entire Zamboanga peninsula once again invited the SU Concert Band to embark on a concert tour. Ipil, the town that made headlines years back with its historic bloody terrorist attack at its business district, initiated preparations for the concert. After getting the ‘go’ signal from the military, we managed to assure the band members that everything would be smooth and peaceful.
As the SU Band’s impresario, I could say that indeed, the entire concert tour from from Dapitan to Zamboanga City in the big island of Mindanao in southern Philippines was smooth and peaceful.
A Peace & Goodwill Tour of the SU Concert Band on October 18 to the Zamboanga Peninsula capped the first semester of this school year. It was a mission guided by a great promise in Joshua 1:9, to be “…confident and be of good courage for the Lord, your God, will be with you wherever you go….”
Our first stop was in Dapitan City, where we were ushered to Jose Rizal Memorial State College, whose president is our very own Dr. Henry Sojor, also president of the new Negros Oriental State University. Dr. Sojor’s staff showed us Dapitan’s hospitality and served as our “home away from home.”
The dynamic secretary of JRM State College Board of Trustees, Chalee Camazo, served as anchor host for the Sillimanians in the area. Another Sillimanian, Elena Abad of the local tourism office, helped mount the first performance at the City’s gymnasium.
Local high school girls were screaming with delight over the good-looking gentlemen of the SU concert Band’s jazz section. Before we left Dapitan, the ladies made sure they got the cellphone numbers and Friendster accounts of student-musicians Mark Beevers and Jude Lozada.
Day after concert night, I saw many school children imitating the vigoruos hand movements of Maestro Joseph Basa, the SU Concert band’s director. The kids loved the soundtrack themes from great movies like Superman, Starwars and Mission Impossible.
The legacy of great music and sweet memories came with a touch of history as we took time to visit the old Church’s “Mindanao Map” made by the national hero Jose Rizal, and the famous Rizal Shrine that was filled with tranquility. After the Dapitan tour, Elena assured us with a prayer that we would be safe.
Dipolog City was our next stop. United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Hilario Gomez, Outstanding Sillimanian in the field of Peace Advocacy, was there to keep the preparations moving. He officially declared the event as a “Concert for Peace” when he opened the performance with a prayer.
From the marches to the classical, to Philippine folksongs to the modern ballroom music, these were always capped by a thunderous applause from the audience who simply knew how to show their appreciation..
The town of Polanco in Zamboanga del Norte brought back scenes of Valencia with its huge shady trees and a nice green park fronting the church. The Singles for Christ there, as coordinated by Mrs. Jovita Ocupe, easily got the support of the parish. The men in the Silliman Band were housed at the convent, while the ladies were housed at the hilltop home of Mrs. Ocupe. The whole town was excited about the concert. Afterall, it was going to feature their favorite son, Ian Encarnacion, not only as instrumentalist but also as a vocal soloist.
And true enough, Ian brought the house down when he performed his Yoyoy Villame numbers.
If the townsfolk from other places were impressed by the performance of the SU Concert Band, the student-musicians were also impressed by the sense of organization over at Sindangan town. From the time of our arrival until the concert night, everything had the personalized hands-on leadership of Atty. Alanixon Selda, a crew member of the Luce Auditorium in his student days. Even with the limited technical features, the Sindangan National Agricutural School gym turned out to be a good venue for the largest gathering of people in this concert tour.
The lively audience was composed mostly of students from the various schools in Sindangan who would vigorously stomp their feet or sway with the music, and clap after each number to express their fun and enjoyment. Young as they were, they seemed to enjoy most the rock n’ roll medley.
For our musical performances in the towns of Labason and Liloy, the former Miss Young Dumaguete and Miss Silliman first runner-up Sandee Lim, with husband Benju Palanas were concert coordinators.
The organizers told me they considered concert like these as “cultural exposure.” Yolly Galicia, one of the hosts, expressed hope that they get other chances to sponsor such “very educational concert” for the local people. Mrs. Jean Lim said she was simply delighted that the audience loved even the classical set that included the Magic of Mozart. Former Congressman Angel Carloto expressed gratitude that the music of his time was alive once again and performed by very young Silliman performing artists. For him, it was an evening of nostalgia.
The fiesta in Titay had one great feature: the Silliman Band Concert was dubbed as the “Grandeur in Music.”
Councilor Ronnie Castillo, who as student played the trumpet for the SU Band, was the prime mover of the event. Again, the Singles for Christ were highly supportive--. from the stage design, to the jampacked audience. Among them, Silliman alumni came in almost full force-- and in red Silliman shirts. Our concert stop at Titay was indeed grand with the warmth and hospitality of town fiestas.
Technically, the best sound system and lighting for the concert tour was in Ipil. The magic of the municipality’s leaders, Eleanor Funda-Sardual and her daughter Ceejay led to a free concert.
The Band members were billeted at Roderic’s Resort, a natural beauty by a creek, enjoyed the partaking of the various sumptuous tasty cuisine at Montebello, and sampled the busy slice of Ipil nightlife at the Underground, their version of El Camino.
Ipil Mayor Rey Olegario, a Silliman alumnus, and his family made sure that the Silliman student- musicians would remember Ipil as the place where they had a great time! The Underground gave the Sillimanians a colorful evening reception after the successful concert. In addition, Zamboanga Sibugay Congresswoman Belma Cabilao, also a Sillimanian, gave the SU Band a love gift.
Our final stop, Zamboanga City was done with so much elegance. It was a blast! From the alumni usherettes in full gowns, to the SkyCable coverage at Marcian Garden Hotel, we were pleasantly surprised.
Zamboanga City Mayor Loreto Lobregat sat through the final set of the concert, and his mere presence surely made a lot of difference
Silliman alumna Myrna Cabato, dean of tthe College of Nursing of the Western Mindanao State University, led her fellow alumni in the production of this memorable night of music. Alumni president Willie Espinosa successfully paved the way for the Silliman Band to conquer Zamboanga.
In the words of the Silliman Alumni Affairs Director Prof. Jocelyn Somoza de la Cruz, “it was a successful mission of sharing the gift of peace and goodwill through music.”
It was an inspiring story of a place and its people who had so much peace to share. Like the music we shared, Zamboanga peninsula was indeed a beautiful and peaceful haven.
by: Moses Joshua B. Atega
Published on October 31, 2004