Arts & Culture

Classical music takes back seat in PPO Iloilo and Antique tour

In a program that came as a mild shock to Iloilo City’s seasoned music lovers, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under Herminigildo Ranera highlighted its recent Iloilo outreach concert with pop and disco music sending its audiences cheering and stomping feet with VIP guests swaying on their seats Friday night at the Iloilo Convention Center.

With one popular piece after another, the PPO easily hypnotized its audience which gave the orchestra a shouting standing ovation.

“This is PPO’s visit to Iloilo after 22 years,” said Sen. Franklin Drilon who welcomed the 3,500 guests that filled up the Iloilo Convention Center.

Sen and Mrs. Franklin Drilon lead standing ovation for PPO at the Iloilo Convention Center. Next guest artists:the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Photo by Joseph Vidal.

The ecstatic effect of Rossini has not died down when the orchestra started its main course of pop and disco music starting with Frank Sinatra Medley to Phantom of the Opera and on to VST and Co.’s popular “Awitin mo at Isasayaw Ko.” The 70s hit song nearly transformed the symphonic concert into one big, fiery disco evening.

A day before the Iloilo concert, the PPO performed at the San Juan de Nepomuceno Church in Anini-y, Antique before a crowd of close to 5,000 cheering the orchestra.

The disco music was so inviting Senators Loren Legarda and Sonny Angara and many in the crowd ended up dancing to the tune of VST & Co’s “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko.”

Present in the Antique concert were National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) chair and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy of the Presidential Communications Office

Legarda and Angara made the Antique and Iloilo concerts possible with Senate fund releases.

The PPO at the newly-restored San Juan de Nepomuceno Church in Anini-y in Antique. Sen. Loren Legarda made concert possible. Photo provided by Nick Lizaso.

With the Antique program making a repeat in Iloilo, the president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso said it’s time we bring music close to people in the countryside.

“We need to connect with the ordinary music lover,” said Lizaso who explained to Iloilo musicians Gilopez and Corazon Kabayao the reason for the blatantly popular program with no signs of Bach and Beethoven to showcase its symphonic sound. “We do it two ways –we bring people to the CCP and we bring CCP to the people.”

The couple pointed out a symphony orchestra must play Bach and Beethoven to be worthy of its name. “Any rock band can play those pieces and besides live classical music is rarely heard in Iloilo. Why bring something heard every day on radio and television? With good programming, popular and classical music can co-exist in one concert.”

The CCP president promised the Kabayaos the PPO will come back with a more balanced program.

It might be noted that violinist Kabayao won the Magsaysay Award for bringing classical music to people in the countryside.

Meanwhile, Drilon said the visits of the Manila Symphony in August last year and now the PPO will help bring back the cultural glory of Iloilo City.

“Iloilo was synonymous with zarzuelas and stage plays and distinguished musicians and it’s about time we bring back our city where it belongs in the cultural front in the South,” said Drilon who also announced the forthcoming visit of the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

Drilon said his impresario work with last year’s visit of the Manila Symphony Orchestra was pure blood, sweat and tears. “With so many things to coordinate and with so many sponsors to tap to make these events happen, it’s no joke to bring in a symphony orchestra with so many musicians to transport and to feed. But ending as it did with wide audience acceptance, last year’s MSO concert only made me realize that Ilonggos are so hungry for good symphonic music.”

Front row at the Iloilo Convention Center PPO concert: violinist Gilopez Kabayao with pianist Corazon Kabayao with CCP president Arsenio Nick Lizaso. Photo by Raul Asis.

For the record, Iloilo City is the birthplace of distinguished tenor Otoniel Gonzaga, the first and last Filipino to sing Verdi’s Otello. Ilonggo pianist Ma. Luisa Vito first placed the country in the classical map when she emerged as the country’s first prizewinner in the Van Cliburn Competition in the middle 60s.

Also becoming visible in the city’s arts scene is the association of Ilonggo artists under the guidance of Rock Drilon. “The Ilonggo artist is passion-driven, and his outlook sets him apart from other artists. What is good now is that they help each other connect with Iloilo arts patrons,” said Rock who joined his fellow Ilonggo artists in an informal talk with media at the FitStop Bites and Bikes Gallery.

Present in the forum were Ilonggo artists Liby Limoso, Arel Zambarrano, Jai Javier, Norman Acedera, Tyrone Dave Espinosa and Kristoffer Brasileno who briefed visiting media men about the latest in the Iloilo arts scene.

With a population of 1.9 million as of 2015 census, Iloilo City is a natural home for the arts with one school for every square kilometer with 27 tertiary institutions including eight major universities producing 20,000 college graduates in the fields of business, education, arts and sciences, medical and health related fields.