Sep 30, 2008

Pamantasang Hirang: Memories are made of these

Pamantasang Hirang: Memories are made of these
By Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco
Friday, September 26, 2008

It was a concert that evoked memories of college life, strengthened one’s love and appreciation for the University of the Philippines (UP), and rekindled the sense of nationalism nurtured during an alumnus’ younger days at the campus. It was a show that made me brave the strong rains and floods the first time I watched it, and scrounge around for extra tickets to bring along my two UP Law classmates, lawyers Tips and Melva, the second time I did. It was a production which showcased the best of UP’s treasure trove of talents in the field of music and the performing arts, a testament to its tradition of excellence, which made us even prouder of our school. It was a grand and unforgettable way to celebrate the university’s centenary.

The presentation (at the University Theater in August, a two-performance repeat of the three-night run in June at the Cultural Center of the Philippines) consisted of several parts covering significant periods in the 100 years of the University of the Philippines, from its birth in 1908 up to the present. The depiction of the different stages in the history of UP, in parallel with contemporaneous events in the national scene, was beautifully rendered through song, dance, narration and visual footage.

All the performers were of sterling caliber, bar none. It could have been the first (and hopefully not the last) time that multi-awarded UP-based choirs, namely, the UP Concert Chorus (of which my husband Paul, UP Law ’83, and I are former members, and which my younger brother Fortune, UP Law ’86 and 1987 Bar Topnotcher, is presently affiliated), the Philippine Madrigal Singers, the UP Singing Ambassadors, the UP Staff Chorale and the UPLB Chorale, would be seen all together on one stage. The show boasted of the crème de la crème in the performing arts, all UP products in the persons of Jon Santos (who almost always stole the show in his scenes with his crazy but effective antics), Candy Pangilinan, Agot Isidro, Richard Gomez, Jeffrey Hidalgo, Eugene Domingo, Nanette Inventor, Bituin Escalante, Pinky Marquez and Ayen Munji-Laurel. Classical music soloists in the persons of sopranos Aileen Espinosa-Cura, Kitchie Molina, Katrina Saporsantos and Camille Lopez highlighted the early segment of the show on the creation of the various colleges of UP. Stage and TV stalwarts Ces Quesada, Malu de Guzman and Madeleine Nicolas were among the outstanding thespians featured in the acting parts. Even the narrators were stars in their own right; Winnie Monsod (my teacher in Economics), Tony Mabesa, Boots Anson-Roa, Che-Che Lazaro, Nelia Sancho, Jessica Soho and Prof. Edru Abraham were among those who lent their valuable time, voice and presence to this salutary undertaking for the love of UP. Amazing choreography from the award-winning UP Pep Squad (who made our hearts beat faster with their astonishing, and quite dangerous, gymnastic moves), the UP Dance Sports, the UP Filipiniana and the UP Dance Company (the latter two also did a world-class dance tribute to the Oblation) clearly showed that even in organized movement, UP is tops. The incomparable UP Jazz Ensemble also received wild applause for its lilting numbers. Like the momentous collaboration of the different UP choirs, it was heart-warming to find five iconic UP pianists playing altogether five grand pianos set up on stage. And to underscore that brains (inner beauty) comes packaged with physical pulchritude (outer beauty), there was even a reenactment of the uniquely UP Cadena de Amor ritual of old, graced by UP coeds turned beauty queens of national and international recognition.

The concert deeply moved me and even drove me to shed tears in some parts. Ryan Cayabyab’s rendition of his tribute composition Salamat, UP! tugged at my heartstrings, with lyrics (by his high school classmate, UP Law alumnus and former Rep. Ome Candazo) mirroring my sentiments. I cried during the First Quarter Storm segment, when names and photos of the victims during the Martial Law Era were projected on screen, at the wasteful sacrifice of youth, talent and promise at the altar of idealism. And my eyes were brimming again, this time with tears of pride, when we in the audience, in solidarity with the performers on stage, stood up at the end of the program to serenade and greet our alma mater dear, by singing our school hymn, UP Beloved/UP Naming Mahal, with our fists raised high and pounding the air.

Even as weeks passed since then, I am still reminded of the touching guitar-playing of Prof. Lester Demetillo and the haunting voices of Becky Demetillo-Abraham, Susan Fernandez and the great UP choirs as they sang the nationalistic and “radical songs” of the ‘70s. It has been almost 25 years since I left UP and I still see today the same problems plaguing society, with activists still disappearing and unaccounted for. It pained me to think that some UP graduates who are now holding top government positions have forgotten that we were taught the ideals of excellence, leadership and service; that, as Iskolars ng Bayan, we should stand up against corruption, human rights violations and poverty.

The artistic team should be commended for coming up with such a fantastic, extremely entertaining yet highly enlightening show (I enjoyed in particular the curious account of how the Oblation evolved to wear his proverbial leaf). Overall stage director Alex Cortez expertly wove together all the different segments, the various dances and songs, and the script that clearly came from the immensely creative pen of master-writer Floy Quintos into one amazing masterpiece. The UP Orchestra was more than ably led by Prof. Chino Toledo who also lent his stirring arrangements and compositions to the show. Special mention I must make of the Overture, which I found very appropriate in setting the mood for the show about to unfold. Kudos, too, to Eric Pineda who did the beautiful costumes. My favorites were the dresses of the can-can girls as they sang and danced to Yes, Sir! That’s My Baby! The lighting and set designers should also be congratulated for adding to what my friend Melva described as comparable to great Broadway shows. UP president Emerlinda Roman summed it all up perfectly when she remarked, “Memories and history are evoked more effectively by art.”

(E-mail me at or text 0927-5000833.)

Taken from Philippine Star Archives.>>

Thanks Tito F!

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