Loving American Idol

Now down to six, American Idol finalists never really caught my attention – not until today when they sung my favorite songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Seventeen-year-old David Archuleta remains my top bet after I heard him sing ‘Think of Me’ from the Phantom of the Opera. David Cook’s voice went well with ‘Music of the Night’ also from the Phantom. Carly Simon’s ‘Jesus Christ Super Star’ sounded usual at first although it can be recalled that these lines were originally sung by a male character (Judas) so it sounded really unique afterwards.

Among the six finalists, I was surprised Brooke White never learned her lesson. She was so tense and repeated the first lines of the song ‘You Must Love Me’ from Evita. She reached this far yet she didn’t conquer her fears. Syesha Mercado’s song from Starlight Express was really catchy. Too bad no one sung a song from ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ (I was waiting for that).

Now that AI has once again stirred my musical interest by featuring songs from the stage, I will tune in until one shall be named the next American Idol. By the way, I was disappointed on GMA 7’s Pinoy Idol. I’ll blog about this soon.

Hasta la Vista

Windows Vista will not completely replace Windows XP – that’s for sure!

When I bought my new laptop with Windows Vista Basic installed in it (about a year ago), I was very hopeful that this would bring about change in the way I do computer stuff from word processing to presentations. And it did! The user interface was definitely a plus point for Vista. The sophisticated visual style is fit for the modern age. A lot of features were added ushering an easier way of accessing files and images. The folder view wherein you can actually see its content without opening it became very useful. In terms of the Office versions, I needed to master some tools and familiarize myself with the new view style. In fact, during the time I acquired Vista, majority of the computers were still using XP’s, so the file extensions (.docx, .pptx, etc) cannot be opened in other computers. In the end, I found my presentations look better. But the new additions were not all that useful. In fact, it made the processing slow.

I hate it when the circular ring cursor (replacement of the hourglass cursor) appears. It signals the start of a very long wait – much like a ‘hang.’ When you open several programs at a time, the computer processing becomes slower. I tried deleting some files and removing some programs (such as games) with the idea that my laptop would run faster, but it didn’t. For now, I have to settle for Windows Vista as long as I can manage it. The major thing I hate about Vista is that it tests your patience. No wonder Microsoft has extended the commercial lifespan of XP up to 2014.

A website has been made for those Vista-haters (www.BadVista.com). I’m glad that Windows XP is installed in my office PC or else I have to wait for that cursor ring to finish ‘thinking’ before I proceed to another task.


While writing this entry, the volume of my music player is pumped while playing Kylie Minogue’s new single entitled Wow. For several years, I have always admired Kylie, her music and reinvention. Some call it a guilty pleasure – Kylie that is. I was able to catch the video of Wow while scanning through some channels one Friday morning. The rhythm is very fit for the summer season. When I first heard it, I was thumping my fingers over my lap. The video, on the other hand, was another signature video by Kylie. The dash of neon fluorescent lights with disco colors complemented her sexy moves. Launched formally during the beginning of this year, Wow already made it to the top twenty of the charts. The song makes me groove and the video is very enticing.

Corporate Summer
Mastering the art of corporate summer requires a lot of adjustments. After graduation, I was employed by a local corporation as an Integrated Communications Assistant. At first I had no idea what it was, aside from the fact that the HR department told me that it involves a lot of writing (which I certainly love doing). I took the job and here I am being paid for editing the company newsletter, making ad copies, grammar-checking brochures and making business cards for the 30+ companies of a known conglomerate here in Central Luzon. I find my office mates very interesting. Most of them boys, they are all very creative in their own crafts. Instead of spending my summer wearing board shorts, I am obliged to be in corporate attire – long sleeves and slacks. Well, although I find it amusing at times, I honestly enjoy it here in our office. Good thing I am not experiencing the scourging heat of the sun out in the open, but instead, I am enjoying the freezing air-conditioning system in our office.

Choir Boy
I found a group of people very similar to the group I left in Manila. These people love to sing and consider their colleague as family. I’m glad I am now one of them – a member of the Metropolitan Cathedral Choir of the Archdiocese of San Fernando. Aside from having a motivating drive when it comes to attending Sunday services, I found a new set of friends here in my hometown.

Summer for me has been very exhausting not because of the excursions and heat, but because of the new things I’m now serious about – work and church. Well, the tedious pre-employment was really tiring as well. For a week I had to visit several offices for my NBI Clearance, Community Tax Cetificate, etc. During those times cursed and hated government services for their low quality service and apathy. Well, all is done and I’m now employed. I just realized that with my new singing commitment plus my Monday to Saturday job, I have no more break. Good thing I still manage to get enough sleep and unwind at home. This is far better than college days and all I can say is… WOW!

High Society Issues

Blogging has come a long way.

Australian blogger Brian Gorrell claims that he is one of the victims of Pinoy socialite Delfin (DJ) Justiniano Montano II. Through his blog, a lot of issues were raised, not only about the supposed $70,000 that Montano owed Gorrell but also some revelations involving Manila’s high society – Celine Lopez, Tim Yap, Tina Tinio, and Marcel Cuerpo to name a few. My interest in his blog started when I read an article on the Sunday Inquirer focusing on the issue. I read his 133 posts which started a month ago (it was previously shut down due to legal matters). Now I get the picture – Gorrell wants his money back and he urges Montano to pay him and for this to happen, he has to involve other people to push Montano.

Third World High Society
I agree with Gorrell when it comes to all his observations about the Philippine society. At present, we are encountering problems with rice (which is our staple food) and we are fully aware of the millions of Filipinos who are suffering from poverty. How can some elite groups in Manila live so lavishly while beggars flank them when they come out of their bars and restaurants?

There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself with life’s perks, but there is a borderline. I know a lot of rich people who pamper themselves a lot, go to trips abroad, eat good food, drive luxurious cars and ‘live the life’ but these are people who earned their worth. People should spend their own money and it should not come from corruption, swindling or stealing. Gorrell is right. We should all look at the world unselfishly and see for ourselves that there are people around us – richer, greater and better – while there are those who are dirtier, poorer and more deprived. I am not impressed with the third world high society. If you are in New York or Paris, well done! But in the Philippines, wealth should be backed up with integrity and morals before you should be considered great (Metro Society Magazine should now trim down their list of socialites).

Gucci Gang and Drugs
It is true that the people involved in this issue are rich. No matter how they attained such wealth (passed on, business, or corruption), they are rich. But where does their money go? Gorrell claims they all sniff drugs (or ‘coke’ as he puts it). Drugs are worth hundreds of thousands of pesos and their addiction made them do anything just to get a dose of ‘coke.’ Because of their expenditures, glamorous lifestyle and drug addiction, their money cannot accommodate all their expenses (specifically that of DJ).

With Gorrell’s blog, one may think that Manila’s high society is just a bunch of trying hard spoiled brats. Well, not all of them, but at least some of them do not have breeding. One can also analyze why they have been like this. Maybe their parents did not raise them well. Pity them – all were raised in a Catholic country and entered Catholic schools. You’re right Gorrell, if only they would give to charity! In fact, these people should stand as role models for the Filipino youth, but instead, they entice budding young professionals to indulge in a life of clubbing, spending and sniffing (drugs).

Gorrell’s anger triggered his blog. He cannot do anything in the Philippines, he can be slain, or face a lot of libel charges. I admire his courage in terms of bringing out the truth yet there are flaws of course. I cannot blame his rage but he should not have gone overboard, specially tagging prominent figures in the country. But if this is the way he wants to fight, then so be it. In this age of technology, we are still unsure how powerful the internet is, how free we are whenever we write blogs, and how far our writings can go. Gorrell made a breakthrough, and it is up to the people involved on how to resolve this issue.

Brian Gorrell’s blog: http://delfindjmontano.blogspot.com/

Threat to Tradition

“Sorry to inform you – per our understanding with Apu Ceto [Archbishop Paciano Aniceto] and Msgr. Serrano [San Fernando, Pampanga], the usual violin group playing during Good Friday’s procession will not participate this evening. FYI. Thank you and regards.”
– Forwarded SMS from my violin teacher, Mr. Meynardo G. Lansangan from Dave Jimenez (March 21, 2008, 8:32AM)

My First Stabat Procession (March 29, 2002)It was supposed to be my seventh year to join the Mater Dolorosa procession during Good Friday and I was astonished that this yearly tradition will not push through this year. To my disappointment, I contacted my fellow violinist who is my schoolmate in UST and he was saddened by the news as well. Renowned local music mentor here in Pampanga and my violin teacher, Mr. Meynardo G. Lansangan, was also surprised on the decision of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga regarding postponement of the violin-playing which is on its 56th year.

‘Stabat Mater,’ a classical piece made for several voices in violin accompanied by a Latin prayer sung by a chorale is annually played during the Good Friday Procession around the City Proper of San Fernando, Pampanga. Tourists and locals join the five-kilometer route of the procession which starts and ends at the Metropolitan Cathedral. At around 5:30 in the afternoon, after the Mass celebrated by the Archbishop and after the popular Crucifixion Rites in Cutud, all roads lead to the Cathedral for the said procession. One of the highlights is the ‘Stabat Mater’ violin-playing accompanied by the Metropolitan Cathedral Choir.

Playing Stabat Mater for Archbishop Paciano Aniceto (March 29, 2002) In the past six years that I have been playing the violin for Mater Dolorosa, I have been aware of what the tradition is really about. It has become a ‘panata,’ or a show of faith. I am one of the youngest violinists playing ‘Stabat Mater’ taught by Mr. Lansangan. The other violinists include influential local artists and society figures in Metro Pampanga like Dave Jimenez, Pat Esguerra, and Atty. Cicero Punsalan. Younger violinists come from families of good moral standing to whom the Stabat Mater piece was handed down; these include young professionals who earned degrees from UST and UP Conservatory of Music, students from local Catholic schools, overseas professionals, families coming from as far as Nueva Ecija, and college graduates from Manila, all of whom come home to San Fernando every Good Friday to play the violin for Our Lady of Sorrows.

Did not meet halfway
Last March 21, 2008, I invited a friend from Manila to join the procession, expecting that I was going to play the violin. Although I was already informed that the violin-playing will not push through, I still went to the Cathedral at around 3:00 in the afternoon to hear mass. I brought my violin just in case a miracle happens and I will still play ‘Stabat Mater.’

At around 5pm, the ‘karosas’ and the people were all getting ready for the procession. My friend and I stayed in Church and waited for any news regarding Stabat. I waited there and no one came. It turned out that my fellow violinists were all in the nearby town of Guagua.

Ms. Shirley, who is in charge of the committee for the procession explained that there has been a misunderstanding between the leaders of the violinists and the Msgr. Serrano, Parish Priest of San Fernando. The elder members of the violin group requested for a ‘truck’ because they cannot play the violin while walking several kilometres. In fact, for the past two years (2006 and 2007) this has been the practice. But with the new plans, it was agreed upon that all violinists should walk, just like the way it was practiced 50 years ago.

An uncompromising deal followed, wherein problems of the Metropolitan Cathedral Choir was mentioned. The noise and smoke of the truck were disturbing for the choir members. On the other hand, the elder violinists insisted that they cannot walk anymore because two of them had undergone bypass heart surgery and three of them are already weak.

Options left closed
Stabat is also played in nearby towns of San Fernando and every locality has its own version. Other parishes allow another mode of transport called the ‘Tri-Wheeler’ for old violinists so that they can still join the procession. It is a noise and smoke-free vehicle that can be used. Another town had a ‘recorded’ Stabat because no one can play the music live. The use of the elf truck was another option which was already done in the past two years but this has posed problems. None of the options were taken into consideration.

Not broken for now

Alone playing Stabat for Mater Dolorosa (March 21, 2008)When I joined the procession at 6PM of Good Friday 2008, I had my violin encased in a back pack and I immediately went near Mater Dolorosa. One tourist asked me, “Ikaw na lang ba ang natirang nag-va-violin (Are you the only one left to play the violin?).” I plainly said that the violin-playing will not push through. But then, the President of the Metropolitan Cathedral Choir approached and asked me to play the first note of Stabat. The Latin prayer couldn’t be sung by the choir without an accompaniment. At first I didn’t want to because I know it would not sound good without the other voices of the violin, but they needed the melody. I opened my violin case and started playing Stabat. The choir sang, and I, alone, played the violin for Mater Dolorosa. Every after ten Hail Marys, one Stabat is played. I continued until the end of the procession. The tradition was not broken.

“God’s AM to you! Thank you Earl for standing up for your conviction and panata. At the end of the day, it is between you and God. May your tribe increase.”
– Ma’am Shirley, head of the committee on the Good Friday Procession (SMS Message March 22, 2008, 7:41AM)

Stop the threat
Every misunderstanding and differences should be set aside especially when tradition is involved. Moreover, the Good Friday Stabat Mater Violin-playing is offered to God and to Mater Dolorosa. I am very concerned because after the incident, there were rumors that Stabat will never be played in San Fernando again. The elder violinists are planning to move the tradition to nearby towns or other parishes. Personally, I am a Fernandino and I will start and end my panata for the Mater Dolorosa here in my own city.

(Photos are personal copies of the author)