By PABLO A. TARIMAN
INDEED, Tondo has many faces but what you see in media and past film releases will probably discourage anyone not to visit the place.
For one, it is the birthplace of the country’s foremost revolutionary, Andres Bonifacio, National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio, the King of Comedy Dolphy and Filipino writer Bievenido Santos, among others.
The poor but brilliant Emilio Jacinto, the Brains of the Katipunan, was also born in Tondo in 1875. For the record, the Katipunan was also born in Tondo on July 7, 1892 when Bonifacio, with friends Ladislao Diwa and Teodoro Plata, founded this secret society on Calle Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue).
On the other hand, the place is the setting of many gangster films from Asiong Salonga to Boy Golden and its famous landfill called Smokey Mountain has since then been immortalized in Brocka films as symbol of decay in Philippine society.
But of the gangster films set in Tondo, Chito Rono’s “Boy Golden” — based on the life of Arturo Porcuna — captures a slice of Tondo hard to imagine these days. It featured a piano recital in an old mansion with the local godfathers planning an execution in the middle of a Beethoven sonata.
The late comedy King Dolphy once recalled the Tondo where music lessons were common and that students wore white coat and tie during the tutorial sessions.
We recall the musical Tondo when pianist Ingrid Sala Santamaria with the MSO Chamber Orchestra played Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in a special Independence Day concert in an ancestral house in the heart of Tondo.
But with the owner’s request for privacy, we cannot reveal the owner’s name and exact address except that it is just five-minute tricycle ride away from the LRT Tayuman station.
The house was built in 1932 a year after the Manila Metropolitan Theater opened in 1931. The son of the lawyer who owned the house used to play the clarinet in a San Beda jazz band.
Santamaria’s chance meeting with the lawyer’s son during a concert led to this special Independence Day concert where the National Historical Commission led by Ms. Carminda Arevalo also unveiled a marker naming the third floor of the ancestral house as the Ingrid Sala Santamaria Concert Salon.
Special guest during the concert and the unveiling of the marker was Hon. Michel Stanislas Villar from the Embassy of France.
A frequent Concert at the Park featured artist in the 70s, 80s up to the present, Santamaria said she is still obsessed with bringing music to those who can’t afford it.
When she finished her concerto CDs with the MSO, she decided to launch it with a mini-concert in the heart of Tondo.
“I had heard of a quaint house in Tondo built Bayanihan style by its neighbors, its interior magically transforming it into a fairly-tale-like Little Kingdom, its presence in the community making its neighbors stand proud and high,” Santamaria said.
The pianist was specially thrilled by a living balete tree that remains a silent witness to the ancestral house’s transmutations over the years.
The third floor atelier named after the pianist has a lounge with natural ventilation by a wide open window space. Part of it has been remodeled to produce a mini-concert stage visible in three corners of the floor.
And so it was in this setting that we witnessed the Independence Day concert of Santamaria.
In this part of the atelier where one is seated, the sound seemed remote but one heard a balanced ensemble towards the middle of the first movement up to the last.
Composed between the autumn of 1900 and April 1901, the concerto allowed one to reminisce the life and times of this historic Manila district.
Bonifacio was born in 1863, ten years ahead of Rachmaninoff who was born in 1973.
Some 11 years after this concerto was born in Russia, writer Bienvenido Santos was born in Tondo in 1911.
The 1920s were the childhood years of Dolphy in Tondo and the 1930s the decade National Artist Tinio was born in Tondo while another National Artist, Nicanor Abelardo was born somewhere in San Miguel, Bulacan.
Indeed there was intimate rapport in the rendition of the Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concertos (only first movement for the latter) one wished there would be more of this kind of music-making in this part of Tondo.
As the Andres Cristobal Cruz book “Ang Tondo Ay May Langit Din”) once proclaimed, there is a slice of heaven in Tondo waiting to be explored.
Pianist Santamaria and the MSO ensemble provided that heavenly component on that day the country was observing its 116th Independence Day.