Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Young Lady's Tribute to the Beauty and Magic of Music

FOREWORD :  This was published in the May 22, 2011 issue of the Bohol Chronicle in the Lifestyle Section as a feature article without a byline so people would, for all their lives, wonder who wrote it... except for those who read my blog, that is.  I'm saying this because, yes, I wrote it.

What's awesome was the fact that we didn't need to pay a single cent to have it published.  I'm certain they haven't seen anything like that in long time and, as fellow lovers of art, the section managers were very happy to take it in--consuming an entire page.

Anyway, here it is.


What would an average 16-year-old girl want to do during the hot summer days of March through May?  Get a tan at the beach?  Hang out with friends?  Spend on popcorn and movies?  Go on excursions with the family?  Maybe burn hundreds of pesos at the arcade to get prize tickets?  Or go for karaoke at Time-Out, party all night at Lazer, Club Atmospheres, or Martin’s?  For some, the list would stretch to include other mundane things, but for one girl, there was nothing mundane about this summer.

Alec Cristi Migriño Mende spent her summer practicing over five hours every single day—training her fingers to reach for the right keys, memorizing and internalizing classical music pieces, sacrificing a huge chunk of daylight hours which she could have spent basking at the beach with her Canadian cousins.  An imposed predicament or self-laid challenge?  When asked, she needn’t open her mouth to give you an answer you could understand.

Yes, there were questions and doubts about whether it was someone else’s or her own love for music that caused her to push herself to take on such an endeavor.  However, these doubts all vanished last Tuesday, May 17th, 2011, at the Grand Ballroom of the Metro Centre Hotel, when Alec Cristi played solo in front of an audience of well over a hundred people in a premiere recital dubbed A Young Lady’s Tribute to the Beauty and Magic of Music.  Her swift fingers alternated on two pianos, completing ten classical music pieces that ranged from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and C.P.E. Bach of the Classical era to Ludwig Van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Claude Debussy, and Camille Saint-Saëns of the Romantic era, to Richard Addinsell of the 20th century modern era.  She even took on two pieces written by two famous Filipino classical composers—Francisco Santiago and Francisco Buencamino.

When was the last time Bohol saw one of her own children holding a classical music solo concert in her soil?  The most recent that comes to memory was also a premiere piano recital held in the mid 1990’s which starred Rose Dale Abapo, daughter of Atty. Tomas Abapo Jr and Atty. Roselima Cuyno Abapo, who were also present in the audience last Tuesday.

The hall was packed with some of Bohol’s intelligentsia—family and dear friends of Alec Cristi.  It even had its share of international audience members.  Other than Filipinos, there were Canadians, Britons, and Americans.  These were people from various walks of life—from students to independent artists to lawyers to judges to businesspeople to economists to agriculturists to priests to doctors to marine biologists to engineers to politicians and all sorts of public servants.  We were even favored by the presence of Bohol’s busiest man—an uncle of Alec Cristi who happens to be our very own provincial governor, Atty. Edgardo Migriño Chatto, who gave a short speech to honor Alec and the beauty of music.  It was a real treat for many, to count this as one of a few privileged occasions, hearing him speak not as a politician, but as a gentle and caring uncle talking to his niece—a real family man.

In the course of it all, nobody minded if Alec Cristi had committed any mistakes.  Nobody but she, her teacher, and few other virtuosos present could tell, anyway.  There wasn’t a hint of stress on her part when she sat down on that bench, removed her high-heeled sandals and started striking the keys.  It was like her body danced to the rhythm of the music.  With eyes closed, her fingers knew where to go and she hit each key with such precision.  You could see raw emotion and passion in her movement as the instrument relentlessly filled the room with the messages of the great men who composed such pieces from centuries and centuries ago.  Each piece was akin to a ride on a time machine and a visit to the inner dimensions of the self rolled into one—perfect for those in the audience who sought inner peace.  And why would we be surprised?  She has had a great tutor.

Alec Cristi learned such method of playing while under the tutelage of one of the living greats—Bohol’s very own Maxelende Ganade—whose words are sung each day by Boholanos the world over.  This woman is the very person who translated the Bohol Hymn to our very own vernacular language—Binol-anong Bisaya—turning it into what we now call Awit sa Bohol.  And for all her contributions to the field of music in and out of the province, she was honored in the same event with a small tribute.  None of it would have been possible if not for her guidance.

It was truly a night for music lovers—a very proud one at that for Atty. Peter Emman Mende and Judge Olivia Migriño Mende, Alec Cristi’s parents, who have been with her every step of the way.  It is no secret that both of whom have great influence on her and have inspired her to love music just as they do—possibly even more.  While Judge Olivia, or Bing as she is fondly called, possesses a golden singing voice that when listened to is a reward in itself, it is Atty. Peter, the father, who is the primary root for her love of the piano.  When asked, she answered, “Growing up hearing him play the piano every morning inspired me to take it upon myself, too.  It was when I mustered the courage to go near him to hear the instrument better when I got my first set of basic piano lessons.”

In an evening of music with histories that elude most people alive today, no one was left ignorant as this unique premiere recital saw two hosts of ceremonies—a master and a mistress, if you will.  Before each piece played, Joyce Fe Migriño Caseñas, Alec Cristi’s aunt, and Ludwig Bon Migriño Quirog, her first cousin, read a précis to tell the audience members what they were about to listen to—ensuring that everyone was well informed.

There were four other artists who came to play that evening.  While Alec Cristi was on intermission to rest her fingers, the evening also saw Jes Mari Josef Migriño Mende and Aivilou Noelle Migriño Mende, her younger sisters, play Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, from the German Baroque era, in a beautiful violin duet.  Dave Matthew Marmita Dumaluan and Kurt Benedict Nazareno also had their share of stage light during the second intermission in a guitar duet—the only non-classical pieces of the evening.

With all the beautiful music that Alec Cristi’s fingers produced, it came as no astonishing matter that she received two standing ovations.  What was surprising was the fact that pieces that caused everyone to rise from their seats to applaud her were the ones composed by the Filipino greats.  On the first occasion, it was for her solo rendition of Souvenir de Filipinas—a world renowned very hard-to-play piece which Alec Cristi had perfected at age eleven during her fifth grade recital at the Holy Spirit School.  Her reprise of the piece caused everyone to get on their feet for well over a minute, complete with whistles and howling from an audience that was obviously bowled over in awe.  The second occasion when everyone stood up was the finale that saw her in a duet with Bohol’s living musical legend, Maxelende Ganade, in a rendition of Inday.  This answered questions as to why there were two pianos on stage.  It was obvious perfection.  Such harmony and coordination earned a well-deserved standing applause—a perfect piano tandem to culminate such a glorious evening.