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The arts always beckon in science city of Muñoz

Without doubt the music event of the year in Science City of Muñoz, in Nueva Ecija is the recent performance of 18-year old violinist Jeanne Rafaella Marquez with pianist Dingdong Fiel.

Aug 28, 2022

Pablo A. Tariman

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5-minute read

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Without doubt the music event of the year in Science City of Muñoz, in  Nueva Ecija is the recent performance of 18-year old violinist Jeanne Rafaella Marquez with pianist Dingdong Fiel.

Violinist Jeanne Marquez and pianist Dingdong Fiel acknowledging cheers from Munoz audience. Photo by Kiko Cabuena.

The recital first week of August drew a full house at the PhilRice Plenary Hall with music lovers coming all the way from Gapan and Cabanatuan City.

“It was a great concert,” said visual artist Mideo Cruz who came with his family travelling two hours all the way from Gapan just to watch the concert. “The travel was all worth it,” he added.

Miguelito Herrera who took the bus from Cabanatuan City to Muñoz, was ecstatic. “First time I watched a classical violin concert and it felt great. The event was exceptional! Hoping more people should watch this kind of classical attraction especially if the performer is as talented as Marquez.”

The first live concert after two years of the pandemic, the violin recital drew a screaming standing ovation led by Science City of Muñoz Vice Mayor Nestor L. Alvarez.

“What a beautiful concert!” said the vice-mayor who is behind the invasion of performing arts in his city for more than two decades.

Full audience at PhilRice Plenary Hall in Marquez-Fiel violin recital.

He is the only city executive who has invited the likes of Cecile Licad more than four times with a full audience. 

The vice mayor outshone himself by inviting a full contingent of a 53-member Manila Symphony Orchestra just to hear the pianist’s live version of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

As it is, the place became the oasis of the performing arts with frequent visits of Ballet Philippines, Philippine Ballet Theater, Ballet Manila, the Philippine Philharmonic and an array of distinguished soloists among them Romanian violinist Alexandru  Tomescu with pianist Mary Anne Espina.

Alvarez makes sure a cross-section of Muñoz, city folks is represented.

In almost all his concert productions, he is able to gather an audience consisting of not just town executives, teachers and civil servants but farmers and fisherfolks as well.

Science City of Muñoz Vice Mayor Nestor L. Alvarez welcoming his constituents in the concert. Photo by Kiko Cabuena.

The good vice mayor even provided financial aid to cover vehicle rental and gas so people from as far away as Barangay Curba—14 kilometers from the venue—could watch the concerts.

In one Muñoz visit before the pandemic, we were treated to the komiks-inspired choreography of Gener Caringal featuring the Philippine Ballet Theater.

But the most refreshing finale was the dazzling numbers of the Bungkos Palay Dance Group subsidized by the city government since 2004.

The 13-year-old dance group is the brainchild of Alvarez, who continues to expose his constituents to the best in the performing arts.

“Some members of that dance group became members of Ballet Philippines, and one has made it to Hong Kong Ballet,” Alvarez said.

Moreover, Lolarga observed that distinguished soloists the likes of Licad has to forego concert protocol.

Science City of Muñoz vice mayor with Cecile Licad at Erap Estrada Hall of the Philippine Carabao Center in Nueva Ecija.

She reported of  one orchestral concert in Muñoz: “Several times in between movements, the audience clapped, and Licad turned to acknowledge the applause with a broad smile although she was not done playing the pieces yet. Later, after the concert, the New York-based pianist said she did not mind the interruptions because they came ‘from here,’ gesturing toward her heart.”

On his part, Alvarez firmly believed that “Ang taong walang kultura, walang kaluluwa (an uncultured person has no soul).”

Muñoz, is known as the first science city in the country and the second in the world.

It is technically a center of scientific research on agriculture thus the presence of the Philippine Rice Research Institute and Philippine Carabao Center along with the offices of the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension and the National Freshwater Fishery Technology Center.

Alvarez thinks the arts and research can peacefully coexist.

In the latest concert, Marquez and Fiel were surprised to see that teachers and office workers who attended the concert were still treated to a post-concert dinner in close coordination with tourism and cultural officer Dyan Santos. “She coordinated all that from inviting the artists and bringing in a cross-section of Muñoz, audiences,” said Alvarez pointing to Santos.

For Alvarez, the arts should be experienced and not just lectured in school convocations. “The visit of Cecile Licad here opened the eyes of residents that classical music is not an abstract idea.”

As it is, the vice mayor is the living example of a cultural worker who promoted the arts not just through textbooks and school convocations but by mounting live concerts with world-class artists.

Who do you want to hear next after Marquez and Fiel live in Science City of Muñoz,?

Vice-mayor Alvarez replied: “Of course my dream is to have international tenor Arthur Espiritu in Science City of Muñoz,.”

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