Monday, February 29, 2016

Tribute to Mario Lanza: Tenor Nival’s moment in time

Nomher Nival on Mario Lanza:

“I love his voice. We took him up in school. I heard him for the first time around my second or third year at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. I love his ‘Because’ because he sang it passionately. He was so romantic and full of energy. He was one of those singers who sang full blast. Contrary to people’s impression that he was shouting, he was actually very intense.”

Read more: Tribute to Mario Lanza: Tenor Nival’s moment in time

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Atticus Finch as alpha dog

The author Red Ligot is my student in an English composition and literature class at the Community of Learners. Topgether with my team teacher Ruth Katalbas, the class studied Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird for much of the second quarter of schoolyear 2015-16.

Red is that young quiet writer brimming with mature insights. Nothing makes a teacher's heart swell more than a student who really gets it! And Red consistently does. While some of his classmates write apologetic little notes to the teacher that they didn't understand the point of the book or had little time to read it thoroughly, Red reads with comprehension and thus always aces our closed-book quizzes. His essays are consistently good, too.

Sorry, stage teacher here. Read on!

Atticus Finch as alpha dog

Original cover of the novel

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mango magic

Mmmmmmmmango crepe as prepared by a cook who deserves to be kissed, Pablo Molina

My friend Joseph Uy and I tasted the first mangoes of summer at the Molina residence in Quezon City last week. During the days and nights leading to that Saturday lunch, Joseph and I exchanged heated text messages about how we imagined the mango crepe to be prepared by tenor-vocal coach Pablo Molina would taste in our mouth. Everyone from the Viva Voce ensemble who had tried it was raving about it and making us envious.

At one point, Joseph waxed poetic and musical and said the scent of the Grand Marnier being cooked was enough to make him hit a high C.

Our SMS conversation took a turn for the ridiculous when Joseph tried to push our trip to the Molinas to an earlier time just in case we could be served dessert first. He texted: "How about we leave at 9:30?"

"Too early," I texted back. "How about 10:30?"

We were early in the end, waiting for lunch to be served while Camille Lopez Molina wrapped up private lessons with two students. I thought Joseph was becoming gaunt from his ravenous hunger.

When the healthy Mediterranean fare was brought out from the kitchen (seafood pasta, chicken and vegetable kebabs and salad), we hungry hippos quickly dug in. I don't know how many servings we each had, but Joseph had to ask for Coke Zero to be bought at a nearby grocery so we could all burp and create some space for the crepes.

Pablo was the perfect host. He gave us extra squeezes of cream for the dessert worth crossing several cities and enduring Saturday traffic for. Thank you, Molina family! We ask only to be adopted by you.

Seafood pasta (top) and kebabs paired with yogurt. The Molina family truly knows how to eat...and by extension, live to the hilt!

Joseph Uy (top) in a satisfied and contemplative mood and top chef Pablo Molina Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, February 22, 2016

Yay for retirement

Olmedo relaxes outside the classroom.

Yay Padua Olmedo never thought that her best years were just about to unfold when she retired from her executive position at San Miguel Corporation.

Among the renewed purposes she found for herself is teaching what she loved doing: marketing, advertising, public relations and communication at an international school in Las Piñas. Her targets are, she said, “yuppies who have no idea what to do in the corporate world.”

She describes her post-retirement job as energizing. In between this grandmother has found time to write three OMF books: Going Up? Making Right Choices at Work; Grandparenting: Happiness and Hard Work; and the latest, Now That You’re Boss: Timely and Timeless Lessons for New and Experienced Leaders.

She said in a forum of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, “When I retired, I thought my productive days would be over because I’d seen how some of my co-retirees faced a blank wall the morning after retirement, having built much of their identity around their positions and careers. Never did I realize that my best years ever — my mochachino grande with its frosted creamy topping—were still to come.”

One of the things she does in class is to survey who among the students have experienced air travel.

She explained, “The first time I rode the plane, I was already a mother of two. I always poll my students when they first rode the plane. Almost all say they started traveling when they were babies. People nowadays also travel more. Why? Because the cost of travel has become cheaper. Today, you’ll see groups of teens and yuppies in backpacks flying overseas, seeing the sights as if they’re just going to Quiapo. Hong Kong or Singapore has become the new Divisoria. For example, our nephew’s elementary grade son from Sydney had their ‘immersion’ in Manila recently with Smokey Mountain as part of their itinerary. Flying overseas has become the new normal.”

She observed that because members of the millennial generation travel younger, they are also smarter consumers who are “exposed to more sophisticated products and brands, naturally increasing their quality standards, and making them more demanding even in the products or services they source domestically.”

Her caveat: “Even if you say your business operates only in the Philippines and your target is the local consumer, be warned. Juan or John, Juana or Joan have become more sophisticated and demanding, and exposed to a plethora of global brands.”

She added, “Of the students I teach today, some 30 percent have parents working overseas, or they are children of Filipinos married to foreign spouses. The Filipino is a global consumer.”

On the other hand, many millennial students have caused her to sigh in frustration. She noted how “their biggest problem for the day is not finding a parking space for their car. They don’t make an effort to learn. They lack motivation because they think their parents are already rich. Though privileged, they see no reason to excel.”

She continued, “They’re used to getting things from the Internet and think that they have all the answers. They can’t analyze and synthesize or think of themselves.”

During consultations she’d have this kind of exchange:

Olmedo: “How can you pass this subject?”

Student: “By working hard.”

Olmedo: “What do you mean by working hard?”

Student: (No answer)

What the teacher has tried to do is to understand how the millennial student’s mind works. She said, “It’s a generation of multi-taskers with scattered or divided attention.”

One way she asks these business communication majors to express themselves at the start of a schoolyear is to introduce themselves by using food as a metaphor. “Are you an ice cream?” she’d ask. Or “are you coffee, tea or kare-kare?” She said this works because “you’re using word pictures that they can imagine.”

On the other hand, she warned that a generation reliant on word pictures alone “can be easily fooled by the flashy imagery of politicians.” This is why she strongly encourages her students to read, starting with slim books like “The Little Prince.” She adds a game of “What if?” for the ending to draw out creative responses.

In her work, Olmedo feels that she is “growing as a Christian” as she gets her students excited about marketing and advertising with no thought of pleasing their parents alone as goal. She said she’s practically shouting at them, “Hoy gising (hey, wake up)! You have a life ahead of you.”

Her books have become her platform for her seminars in churches and in the corporate world. She said some of her talks are focused on “finding your purpose, having the dream and having the integrity of heart to pursue that dream.”

Of her fairly late start in writing books, she said she realized that “God is the best product in the world. He’s the product that never fails, and I want to write about that product. In a human world, sometimes products and companies fail, disappoint or disappear. God has never disappointed me so I want to walk in the Lord.” - Text and photo by Elizabeth Lolarga, first published in Sunday Biz section of Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb. 21, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pure, unplugged

Prof. Arturo Molina leading the 90-year-old Manila Symphony Orchestra, the oldest in the country and in Asia

The new performing arts venue at the Circuit Makati (formerly the Sta. Ana racetrack) allows for instrumentalists and vocalists to perform without anything to enhance the sound. "Pure, unplugged" was how Jeffrey Solares, executive director of the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO), described the sound when the MSO played its final run-through this Saturday before the concert "Love in the Time of Opera" started.

Billed as a pre-Valentine concert, the event came to be within less than a month when an MSO concert was postponed and something had to replace it since some musicians are full-time salaried people and had to be involved in something. Solares sounded out Camille Lopez Molina, artistic director and vocal coach of Viva Voce, because he believed that an opera-based concert was the easiest to sell.

She was game, and the team-up with the orchestra was set in place. It was also an opportunity to help raise funds for the travel and living expenses of the two Viva Voce members, sopranos Myramae Meneses and Renee Michaela Fajardo, when they fly to London in August as scholars of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. (Incidentally, MSO bassoonist Ariel Perez is a Guildhall alumnus and full scholar, too.)

Also in Viva Voce's favor was the availability of tenor Arthur Espiritu and baritone Noel Azcona. The same went for stage actors Nonie Buencamino and Teenee Chan who waived their fees and gave their all for love of music. The universe was conspiring for this show to succeed.

The audience was treated to steamy love duets, all the more amazing because the singers-actors could twist and turn their bodies while not losing a beat, not affecting their voices' volume. There were physically unusual pairings like the one between the towering hulk of a tenor in Mark Bautista and the sweet and petite Iona Ventocilla, who has the role of Mimi down pat, in the timeless "O Soave Fanciulla" from La Boheme. But then opera is where suspension of belief is called for. The role of tubercular Mimi is more often than not sung by a robust soprano.

As Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, Lopez Molina had the build and dignity of age to match Azcona's Count Danilo. Theirs was a subtle battle of the sexes that ended with love triumphant.

Glenda Liao (in orange gown) is Monica and Raymond Yadao is Lukas in their duet "Makikiliti Kang Totoo" from the Severino Reyes zarzuela Walang Sugat.

But the duet that blew my head away was not between a man and a woman in the throes of passionate love but the obvious affection between two girls walking by a river and gathering flowers: Lakmé, daughter of a Brahmin priest and played by Meneses, and servant Mallika, played by Fajardo, from Delibes' French opera Lakme. This famous flower duet has been sung by superstar pairings from Korea's gift to the world Sumi Jo and Ah-Kyung Lee to Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca to grand dames of opera Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne. Now we have a Meneses and Fajardo to hold a candle to them.

It was the MSO's and Viva Voce's first time to perform at the ProMac Spotlight Center. Surely, this is a sign of more enchanted evenings to come. Kudos to everyone involved in this production!

A choral rendition of Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" served as the encore after the concert closed with Bernstein's "Tonight" and balcony scene. Among those in the picture are Meneses, Chan and Anna Migallos. Photos by Pinky Lolarga Susi