A tribute to my guitar teacher

My guitar hero, Franco, leftmost holding a trophy, is shown here with the other winners. Guess who's the "girl magnet"?

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Disguised as an impresario who organizes megabuck shows, I went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines recently to watch Guitar Forays, the closing concert of the 2012 Philippine International Guitar Festival and Competition. To my deep shock and chagrin, nobody even acknowledged my presence.

And when I got rid of my disguise, nobody even noticed. So I just assumed my usual role–the unobtrusive fly on the wall.

My unobtrusiveness was momentarily disrupted when Mr. Greg Yu, also a good-looking fly but so much more wealthier and older and a bit chubbier, announced the champion of the competition. It was my guitar teacher, Franco Maigue.

I would have wanted to high five Tony Boy Cojuangco, who was only two meters away from me. But Gretchen Barreto was beside him. And I feared for my life when I saw her expensive-looking high heels, which appeared very capable of inflicting unimaginable pain.

Beautiful guitars

So it was with great joy that I clapped and cheered for Franco. He won a Yuichi Imai Limited Model guitar worth $12,000, or more than half a million pesos, and P35,000 in cash. The second placer was Takashi Endo of Japan. He brought home a Milagro Guitar by Neris Gonzalez and P20,000 in cash. Worrapat Yansupap of Thailand was third place. He won an Armando Derecho Concert Guitar and P15,000 in cash. There was also a special prize for Best Filipino Guitarist, which Roneil Santos won. He got a Milagro guitar, too.

Japanese luthier Yuichi Imai, right, tells Franco how to install the strap for the guitar case. One day I hope to play with Franco's precious guitar.

Four years ago, I took lessons from Franco. He already had a reputation for excellent guitar playing at that time, and he seemed to be popular with the girls. Hoping to imbibe his great guitar playing, and not necessarily his celebrity status with girls, I asked him to teach me the basics of classical guitar.

I was not really a beginner. I taught myself to play the instrument in high school. But then, I’ve developed bad habits. Franco fixed the bad habits, though sometimes now they have a way of creeping back.

He taught me what a solid top guitar was. At that time, all guitars looked pretty solid to me. He also taught me how to use a nail file and sandpaper for my fingernails.

Playing with the heart

Anyway, I didn’t see him play during the competition because of work. I heard that his competitors–who came from the US, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan–were a formidable lot. Some demonstrated technically flawless guitar playing.

They said that what made Franco win, despite having exceeded the allotted time, was how he made the judges feel the music, with puso, with heart. The judges, who were all foreigners, felt it.

In the end, playing with heart may be more important than playing flawlessly. Playing with emotion may matter more than not missing a single note. Winning hearts may be more fulfilling than winning a competition.

And I congratulate Franco for his hard-won and well-deserved victory.

(If you want to know more about classical guitar playing, the Guitar Friends, and the Philippine International Guitar Festival and Competition, check this out: http://www.philippineguitarfestival.com/.)

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