Archive for September, 2011

Filipino Guitar Heroes

Posted in music on September 30, 2011 by gohelpyourself

These guitarists love to fondle their instruments. (Photo stolen from the CCP website. Sorry.)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

It is my first time to watch a guitar concert at the CCP. I am alone in my row. My seat number is N 13, and it’s smack in the middle of Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, or the CCP Little Theater.

The cameramen know that sweet spot, too. Fortunately, they have placed their two huge video cameras in the row just behind me. If I raise my hands and wave in the middle of the show, my hands would surely be labeled in the archives as the “Hands of the idiot on N 13.”

It’s a nice thought. Probably a good title for a novel. But I am there for the “Men with Guitars” concert of Ramoncito B. Carpio and Arthur Erskine M. Basilio. I don’t know them. I just love guitar music and it’s just the perfect opportunity to watch live classical guitar playing.

Carpio won 1st prize in the 2011 Philippine International Guitar Competition, while Basilio won the special prize “Best Filipino Guitarist” in the same competition.

Accomplished musician

As the lights dim in the theater and the audience suddenly goes quiet, Basilio enters the stage. He is wearing a white long-sleeved shirt, black coat, black slacks, but no tie. He takes the seat at the middle of the stage and fixes the unbottoned cuffs of his shirt, making sure they don’t get in the way of his playing.

Basilio is a well-accomplished musician. He studied guitar under Prof. Ruben Reyes at the University of Sto. Tomas. He won the UST Guitar competition in 2000, and he was 3rd Place in the 2006 NAMCYA Guitar Competition – Category C.

He writes music for the guitar, too, and has explored jazz, rock, and theater music. He is a member of the guitar faculty at the UST Conservatory of Music.

Basilio now takes his time fixing his clothing, and I take my time admiring his guitar, a splendid work of art by Filipino luthier Armando Derecho. The guitar is immaculate and beautiful. It’s something I would have wanted to caress myself. Basilio now fixes a wedge-like guitar rest. Maybe he doesn’t like using foot stools. He takes some deep breaths, fixes his sleeves a few more times. The ring on his right ring finger sparkles. I’m not sure if it’s a diamond, but it sure looks expensive. Then he examines the fingers of his right hand, as if contemplating to get a nail file to buff his fingernails. Too bad I didn’t bring mine.

Warming up

Suddenly he unleashes a flurry of notes. Wow. The sensuous way he fingers his guitar is awesome. The first piece, Capriccio Diabolico, sounded diabolic indeed. But there were bumpy parts.

He eventually warms up into his jazz pieces, and he becomes noticeably more fluent and relaxed. His genius comes into view. He becomes more natural as he plays the One Note Samba, whose music he arranged himself.

Finally, he performs his last piece Dawn of the final day by Francis Kleynjans. The haunting sounds make a few strands of hair on my arms stand. I expect more eeriely beautiful sounds from his beautiful guitar. But it’s the end of the piece.

A string of awards

It’s Carpio’s turn after the break. He wears basically the same outfit as Basilio. I learn from the program that Carpio earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Guitar from the University of the Philippines under the tutelage of Prof. Lester B. Demetillo, whose enviable reputation in my circle of friends precedes him.

Carpio also won 2nd Prize at the 2009 National Music Competitions for Young Artists, 3rd Prize at the 2010 Bangkok International Guitar Competition, and 3rd Prize at the 2011 Singapore International Guitar Competition.

He writes music for the guitar, for the stage, and for short films, and websites. He is taking his Master’s degree in Guitar at the Philippine Women’s University under Prof. Benchito Carino, whose reputation is a mystery to me, owing mainly to my limited network and ignorance.

As Carpio takes his seat, I notice the beauty of his guitar. Could this be the Yuichi Imai? Could this be the US$12,000 guitar that he won in the competition early this year? I confirmed later that it was so.

Beautiful tone

Upon hearing the first notes of his piece Fantasia by Francisco Tarrega, I savor the beauty of his tone. Could it be the guitar? My doubts about this virtuoso quickly vanish when I hear him play his other pieces, Allegro Assai by Johann Sebastian Bach, Variation Mignonnes by Johann Kaspar Mertz, Elegia por la Muerte de un Tanguero by Maximo Pujol, and Stele by Phillip Houghton.

His tremolos are even, reflecting his superb technique. His speed and finger dexterity look effortless. He appears to fondle his guitar, caressing his instrument and his music, coaxing both to stir the emotions of the audience. The audience responds with hearty applause.

I clap hard too. I think of raising my arms in delight but then I remember the cameras behind me.

Fitting crescendo

The last part consists of a guitar duet of Vistas de los Angeles by Laurindo Almeida. The sight of two great guitarists playing with verve and passion delivers a fitting crescendo for this night of world-class guitar music.

The crescendo doesn’t stop there, though. They still play an encore piece, Rosas Pandan, a folk song from the Visayas. I feel like singing. I know the song.

When I went home that night, I asked myself why I hadn’t been watching guitar concerts at the CCP more often.

Why indeed? I guess the “Idiot at N 13” has finally learned to be a little more cultured that night.



Where there is ACS

Posted in music on September 28, 2011 by gohelpyourself
By Anthony O. Alcantara

Those who sing in choirs can probably relate to this.

When watching other choirs perform, you can’t help but compare the sound to your own choir. You can’t help but compare the sound to your batch. You can’t help but compare the sound to that imaginary perfect choir, whose members have the musicality of long-dead geniuses, and who possess that rare gift of perfect pitch.

I once tried to have perfect pitch. I used a software I found on the internet. Unfortunately, I got everything confused with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It was all relative since then, and my neurons were indefinitely distended from both ends by a worm hole.

Anyway, I must admit to this relatively unconscious comparison when I watched the Ateneo Chamber Singers (ACS) during their concert entitled “Where there is Love” at the Philamlife Theater recently.

The ACS is known for sacred choral music. For the first time, however, they decided to be a little flexible. They included love songs in the second part.

How I loved the second part. It included songs from their latest album, “Love I’ve Found In You.” I loved the songs of Trina Belamide, Arnel de Pano and Von de Guzman. I loved the solos and the duets and the arrangements.

Make no mistake about it. I loved the first part, too. It was vintage ACS sound, and it’s to be expected. Even with my eyes closed, I could feel conductor Jojo Velasco moving his arms and swaying as he skillfully shaped the music to create a masterpiece of aural beauty and sophistication.

But the second part was just a delightful surprise. They even had some choreography.

“How was the second part? Was the choreography bad? We only practiced that a few days ago,” one member told me.

Bad? I was thoroughly entertained by the music, their voices, and, heck, even the video. How could it be bad?

Of course, being a former member of the ACS, I could be biased. But who isn’t? We all have biases.

After watching the concert with my wife, who enjoyed it as well, I realized why I had my unconscious comparisons. I missed singing with the ACS.

The ACS concert was a work of love. And if there is love, nothing else matters much. Not even the perceived mistakes.


Just Imagine

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Imagine that you are at Starbucks.

You order some coffee and a plump donut.

Then you spot an empty table near the door.

An overeager USANA salesman spots the same table and makes his way toward it.

But you run and beat him to the draw.

You smile.

He frowns.

Then you take out your MacBook Pro and smile some more.

Feeling uneasy about the remaining empty space on the table, you take out your iPad 2 and place it beside your MacBook Pro. They look good together.

Now you sip some coffee, take a bite out of your donut, and then notice that there’s still some empty space on the table. It’s begging to be filled.

So you bring out your iPod Shuffle to cover the space. Wow!

Now that’s more like it, you tell yourself.

Suddenly, your phone rings. You bring out your iPhone 4 and see the face of your friend on the screen.

“You lucky son of a monkey!” is your friend’s greeting.

You then look at your arsenal of gadgets and chuckle.

“Yes, I am,” you tell yourself. “I’m a lucky bastard indeed.”


This guy could be you!!!

You could win one of these!!

So bring out your wallets and checkbooks, and surrender your blessings for a good cause.

Your donation will help the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life implement its pastoral projects, which include a medical and dental mission as well as a handful of other projects of the Service Ministry.

Called “Apple Raffle: Handog sa iyo, ngayong Pasko”, this fund-raising activity will give away the latest gadgets from Apple, namely, two (2) Macbook Pros, two (2) iPhone 4s, two (2) iPad 2s, and 10 iPod Shuffles. Only P100 per ticket.

But I advise you to get one booklet, though. That would be P1,000. More tickets means more chances of winning, right?

The raffle draw will be held on December 24, 2011, during the Christmas Eve Mass.

So grab your tickets now before they run out, and I promise you, God will shower you with great blessings. With luck, the shower will include those cool gadgets I mentioned.

Please email me for ticket reservations at

Thanks for reading and thanks for your donations.