Be still

Someone needs to be reminded of this right now. God wants to remind you that He is still God.

No matter how bad things look and feel like, He is still the Lord whose name is above every name, whose power is unparalleled.

And you can put your hope in Him.

You can rest in His presence; and in His presence there is peace, there is fullness of joy, which you’ve tried your best to find everywhere else, but failed.

He has the answers; in His Word lies the solution.

In Jesus you are complete and made whole.

You are loved.

You are justified.

You are restored.

You are renewed.

(Photo from YouVersion)

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I got surprised!

I think the people who really know me know that I’m not festive at all. And so I’m not into parties and social gatherings. And to be honest, I do not know exactly why. I’m the kind of guy who just prays through his birthday day for the most part. For me, it’s just a personal thanksgiving day, which I spend just looking back on the past year, and being grateful for how it had unfolded for me.

Yesterday was quite eventful.

Two days after my birthday, unbeknownst to me, a certain team of people have come up with a surprise birthday celebration for me. This cunning team of “suspects” apparently included some of my closest, closest friends, and, to my surprise, my family.

It was well planned out. And up to now, I’m still trying to put the pieces all together as to how it was all conjured up for as short as two weeks. Apparently.

As I try to wrap my head around it, I am feeling utterly overwhelmed by all of it (understatement). I am still in shock (understatement). I am tremendously thankful (understatement). And I am extremely happy (understatement).

But after it all, I got reminded that I am fortunate, I am blessed and well loved by these people who are collectively my family. They’re the “village people” who have helped raise me and shape me into who I am today. I thank the Lord for them. This memory will always be remembered and treasured.

And so here are some photos from yesterday.

25 Promises

What is one supposed to feel when he realised he’s just turned twenty five? Twenty freakin’ five. Right now, to be honest, I’m still in a huge state of denial. Because the reality is, this number carries with it some inescapable truths and implications that would just rock me to the core, for sure. And that’s for a different blogpost.

See, I was really keen to share something on my blog like I’d always do when there’s a special occasion. Maybe make a list of some personal stuff like “25 things to do before I turn 25”, or “25 facts about me”, or maybe “25 life lessons” (which I sort of already did on my 24th last year with this blogpost). But really, I didn’t feel like any of these would be useful or fun or engaging anymore.

And so I had to stop and reflect, “What is really in my heart lately? What matters to me the most in the last few months?”

The answer didn’t come to me like an aha moment or an unexpected mental surprise. The answer was simple. The answer can be precised in three letters: G-O-D.

The Word of God (His promises, stories, precepts, wisdom) has become my lifeline. In fact, now I read it like my life depends on it. And the more I get to read His Word, the more I get to know God; the more I get to meet Jesus personally. And I tell you, I can’t get enough of Him.

Now, the Bible records thousands and thousands of God’s promises He made known to humanity, in many different areas of life (i.e., faith, guidance, supplication, protection, family matters, etc.). And God’s promises are always a Yes and Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).

I believe we need to cling to these promises, especially now that everywhere we look, there are horrendous things that are happening in our world, one after the other, because of people’s wrong decisions and evil choices. But in the middle of it all, let’s choose faith. Let’s choose to seek God, and trust Him and His written Word.

And so, I am citing 25 of the most inspiring and empowering promises that God has given us in His Word. He’s been faithful to me for twenty five years, whether I have been aware of it or not. I am making a choice to stand on His promises, and declare these over my life day by day, in any season, in victory and defeat, in my highs and lows, whether I feel good or when I don’t. I encourage you to do the same.

1) Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

2) Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the LORD will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.

3) Mark 10:27

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible.

4) Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

5) Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

6) Matthew 11:28

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

7) Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

8) Philippians 4:19

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

9) Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  

10) Deuteronomy 31:8

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. 

11) 1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

12) Galatians 5:16

I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 

13) Proverbs 1:23

Turn at My rebuke; surely I will pour out My Spirit on you; I will make My words known to you.

14) Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

15) Malachi 3:10

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts,“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

16) Proverbs 3:5–6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

17) Isaiah 65:24

It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.

18) Jeremiah 33:3

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

19) John 16:13

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

20) Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself also in the LORD and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

21) Isaiah 40:29

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

22) Isaiah 54:17

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.

23) James 4:7

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

24) Lamentations 3:22–23

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

25) Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD  “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

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alas dos y medya

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Transitions. Quite a familiar site. A place I have known for so long, I have known too well.

And it feels like I have never left that area. Not that it’s my favourite place.

But it seems fixated within the fabrics of my being.

Every filament breathes out a different story, every crossway speaks of change.

Each endeavour, each hope meticulously interwoven with the fibres of time.

And I walk the tedious walk, along the perpetual intersections.

One transition after another.

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R.

Is it Jasmine or Mulan?

I don’t think there could be enough earthly description for the kind of impact Lea Salonga and her music has on me. Broadway Superstar and Singing Voice of the two Disney Princesses mentioned in the title, Lea made her fabulous and fierce debut at the Sydney Opera House, Friday night, February 3rd, along with her brother, the magnificent Maestro Gerard Salonga who conducted the astonishing Sydney Symphony Orchestra (That is like too many good things combined already!).

Heads up: there will be no performance snapshots displayed on this blogpost because I simply was not able to take any. Basically, I couldn’t bring my camera (a mirrorless one) out without the security guys assuming that I was recording the performance, as video recordings were not allowed at all. And so I just didn’t bother sneaking it out, not even taking a single photo.  Moreover, I do happen to know of Lea’s strong distaste for mobile devices being in use during a performance, whether in a theatre environment or a concert event (especially camera flashes). And this time, I was sitting right in front of the freakin’ stage! First row, ladies and gents! I thought I didn’t wanna ruin someone’s night. So, yep. No phones. But it turns out to be the rightest decision I’ve ever made in a concert setting.

Lea’s performance as always is brilliant and flawless. Her calibre has not ever languished. Her inimitable ability to connect with her audience through song and stories, and her scintillating wit just makes her audience love her more. Her pitch―just impeccable. Her voice―let’s just say that it has the power and the colour that you will never get enough of.

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She had a fantastic repertoire, which spans from musical theatre favourites, her Disney classics, of course; and some newly fashioned pop tunes, that once you hear them you’d probably utter, “I never thought that song could sound like that!” She always does this. Last time, she brought Bruno Mars some new flavour. This time, she took a tune from One Direction and a Cyndi Lauper classic, and plainly made them hers.

One of my favourites would be “Another Hundred People” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” Her phrasing and intonation were fastidiously on point as she moves through a very complex melodic trajectory.  And man, this was a good opener for a SOH concert, I tell you that.

“I Enjoy Being A Girl” from Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” is something I’ve always dreamed of hearing live. I have always adored her rendition ever since I saw it on the Broadway Concert DVD. Lots of fun. This song is simply hers.

Her Disney classics have also never failed to grace any occasion. She sang “Reflection” from Mulan, and of course “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, with a very lucky audience member (unfortunately, it wasn’t me). Lea said that she’s oftentimes asked, “Are you more like Princess Jasmine or Fa Mulan?” to which the answer is seemingly obvious according to her. I remember her funny commentaries a few years back in one of her shows I got to see on YouTube somewhere about Mulan’s character identity and bravery, and the fact that she doesn’t need to “have big boobs to save China.”

“Miss Saigon” would never be MIA. She brought her impassioned rendition of “I’d Give My Life For You” and “Too Much For One Heart.” This was shortly followed by a medley of Michel Legrand’s renowned classics, which was ended with “A Piece of Sky” from “Yentl.” It was breathtaking!

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Photo by Robert Catto

One of the “new” songs I heard from her (“new” because I’ve actually never heard this piece before, nor have I heard her do it) was “Burn” from Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” This has left me dumbfounded. She gave the song and the character who sings it, Eliza, a bit of a background at the beginning, which was pretty dark and dangerous. Then, in a flick, she threw me into that dimension and I was hardly breathing. And I promised myself I’m watching Hamilton after this night!

“Send in the Clowns” did not need any introduction. The mini melodic riff was enough to preface the melody, and emancipate the poignant spirit of the piece. Needless to say, it was a very moving rendition.

Furthermore, her iconic Les Miz pieces would always show up and show out. “I Dreamed A Dream” and “On My Own” sounded as though she was merely breathing through it, but certainly without losing the weight of their respective characterisation. Absolutely phenomenal.

A couple more hits from musicals got the audience euphoric and singing nonstop such as her supposed finale number “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”, and the unstoppable-unrelenting-unsinkable “Let It Go” from Frozen. She made some funny comments on how parents go through the horror of their kids’ perpetual fondness of this song. Apparently, a lot of people could relate.

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Photo by Robert Catto

What I am very happy to witness upfront with my eyes barely blinking, was the way Lea would transform into the different characters each song belongs to, from head to toe. Man, she does it in seconds. And there is so much honesty, so much rawness, so much truthfulness in each one. Aaand she would do it one after the other. How do you become 5 different women on the same stage, in one succession, in one go, with no take twos, in front of an Opera House-sized crowd? Explain that to me.

I mean, she’s all experienced and a master of it by this time, I’m sure. But I still see it as simply “supernatural.” I really got no more to say about that. And I’m sure it’s only one of the many special reasons why she’s considered phenomenal in the world stage.

Also, may I just note that the two overtures were just tremendously remarkable. Kudos to the genius musical arrangements of Maestro Gerard Salonga. Plus, the SSO was truly world-class. I’ve not much more to say, really. So much power. So much artistry.

I also got a list of some songs I was really wishing she would have done (again):

  • “Still Hurting” from “The Last Five Years”
  • “He Touched Me” from “Drat! The Cat”
  • “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line”
  • “Someone Else’s Story” from “Chess”
  • “Someone Like You” from “Jekyll and Hyde”
  • “Two Words”
  • “The Journey”

The show was nothing short of exceptional. No performance photos or recordings were taken for me. But it made me immerse myself in the whole experience, the Lea Salonga experience. No audio recording or video file could ever capture or duplicate the magic and the brilliance one gets to encounter in her shows. I was fortunate to take it all home, one hundred per cent.

She continues to inspire me to nurture my love for musical theatre. She continues to make me proud to be of Filipino descent. She continues to prove that excellence can be truly achieved with hard work, resilience and consistency, and that longevity in this industry she’s chosen is something you really work hard for and commit to.

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Photo at the Intimate M&G after the show.

Photo courtesy: Robert Catto, Theatre People, Limelight Magazine

Spread the word

The month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a victim of #humantrafficking and only 1-2% of victims are ever rescued. Bring the issue of Human Trafficking to light by reposting this photo and challenging your community to do the same. 

Awareness leads to change, which makes us believe that together–a world without slavery is possible.

Visit The A21 Campaign now.

(Please repost/share. Thanks!)

16 going on 17

It’s finally the 365th day of 2016! And to wrap up a somewhat hefty and meaningful year, I thought I’d share a little something from my creative sheets. Being intoxicated by poetry for the past few weeks, I thought that maybe I would be able to channel my interest and passion for it through actually writing a short prose. This will be the first one I’ll ever publish from my folio, and hopefully not the last!

I wish everyone a great and fulfilling new year!

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He is

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It’s that time of the year again. The time when we remember the coming of our Lord and Saviour. The greatest scandal in history of mankind—the Architect of the universe and the Creator of all coming down to dwell amongst the broken, the fallen. All for love.

Jesus. The Christ. The Messiah. The First and the Last. The Beginning and the End. The Lamb of God. The Bread of Life. The Good Shepherd. The Prince of Peace. The Great I Am.

He was, is and will always be God Almighty, all-powerful and all-knowing.

His love is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Only He is worthy of all worship and adoration.

Only His name shall be exalted and praised among the nations.

Only His love can save, can deliver, can restore, can heal, can rebuild, can sustain.

His is the kingdom, the power, the glory now and forever.

King of Kings. Lord of Lords.

Jesus Christ.

13 Filipino Artists You Need to Listen and Re-Listen to

Filipino music is very much alive today. It is here to stay. It ain’t going anywhere. And just like any other type of music and/or culture, it evolves. It matures. It expands. It diversifies. It reflects the phases of growth and progression that the Filipino culture undergoes, as well as the vagaries and proclivities of Filipinos’ creative minds.

OPM (Original Pilipino Music) or now also coined “Pinoy Pop” has come a long, vigorous way. And our Filipino artists are better and braver than ever. They are the unwavering stalwarts of our creative heritage. They define OPM. They fuel OPM. They take it to different heights. And now, they continue to bring forth immensely significant contributions for this generation and the next generations of artists and music lovers.

So here’s a short list of Filipino artists that I believe deserve our listening ears, and whose musical works are undisputed  and world-class. Make sure that you listen to them to know and understand why they’re top-notch.

1) KYLA

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-54-38-pmShe is dubbed as the Philippines’ Queen of R&B. And she absolutely lives by this title. Kyla is an artist of high reputation whose voice, I believe, does not sound like any other! She has everything a vocalist would ever dream of: (1) a wide pitch range, (2) a sweet, breathy and velvety vocal tone (for her low to mid register), which can switch up to a lusty and dynamic timbre (for her high register); (3) perfect pitch—her runs are always on point and constantly carries a high degree of complexity; lastly, (4) improvisation skills—she can turn any song into her own either by embellishing or refashioning a simple melodic line into something quite interesting. Just listen to her tasteful rendition of a Filipino favourite, “On the Wings of Love” that basically put her back on the charts.

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2) YENG CONSTANTINO

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Dubbed formerly as the Pop Rock Princess, and now Pop Rock Superstar, the multi-awarded Yeng Constantino has absolutely blown audiences away in different parts of the world in the last ten years with her stylistic prowess, undeniable talent and distinctive artistry. Yeng’s remarkable contribution to the OPM domain as a singer and songwriter has been incredibly significant and can never be discounted in history. She is a strong and living force in the industry. Her music has set a whole new standard for the Pop Rock genre, producing smashing hits like “Jeepney Love Story”, “Salamat“, “Lapit“, “Ikaw“, and the all time favourite, “Hawak Kamay“. Recently, a musical was successfully written and staged featuring a range of her most notable hits.

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3) JASON DY

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Known primarily for being a winner of the Filipino edition of The Voice, Jason is another R&B whizz whose musicality combines a very contemporary mode of singing (from the enunciation to his musical trajectory), and an ardent, soulful delivery. His runs are always daring and gutsy. He is in significant ways a trendsetter because of his flexibility in singing a range of different styles such as ballads, funky tunes, and even dance hits, without sacrificing his vocal identity. That defines a modern artist in a way—flexibility, agility, innovation and responsiveness to change. See how he infused an R&B flare onto this original ballad piece.

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4) MORISSETTE AMON

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This woman is a musical firecracker and an extraordinary performer. Morissette is one of the few Filipino singers (if not, the only one) who use the whistle register very effortlessly on a regular basis. In terms of abilities and artistic achievements, she has accomplished exceedingly much at a very young age.  Her technique is strong and sturdy that allows her to become flexible in using all her singing registers. And her high notes—all smooth and easy. She’s known to also ‘break’ her voice on purpose, which is a technique popularised by Mariah Carey during her prime years. Listen to one of her original hits that embody the novelty and colour of her vocal style.

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5) KZ TANDINGAN

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The “Soul Supreme”. KZ just keeps getting better. Everything about her is still evolving—her style, her sound, her looks, her intensity. She has only been around for a few years but her impact in the industry and with her audience is expanding incrementally with great force. She defines soul and passion. She has already contributed important and monumental songs for her generation like the award-winning “Mahal Ko O Mahal Ako“, “Scared to Death”, and her superb rendition of “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak” by Ebe Dancel. She knows how to reshape a song and give it a brand new fashion. Her warm and raspy vocal timbre sings more than just the story of the music—it penetrates your soul and messes with it every once in a while, so don’t get surprised when tears just start rolling down your eyes. She is that artist that you always want to watch and listen to live because of her enormous effect on you.

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6) JOHNOY DANAO

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How do you even begin to describe Johnoy Danao? Maybe the folks who have watched him in his sold-out gigs could explain better. He has been called the modern troubadour for his unexplainable ability to tear your heart up alive with his beauteous poetry and splendid vocals. He is an extraordinary acoustic artist whose music embodies absolute sentimentalism. His music is the touch of warmth that does not take away the pain, but soothes it very sensitively. I can still remember my initial reaction when I first heard his “Ikaw At Ako“. I was just pierced to the bones, wide-eyed, thunderstruck. It’s like it did something in me that is hard to explain. And that’s how you know you’re listening to music that is beyond just the music, but also speaks to the intangible soul.

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7) UP DHARMA DOWN

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Well now, I’ve not a lot of words to say about this group. They have proven quite enough, really, and earned their stripes over the years. They are an icon in the Filipino music realm and have carved their artistic niche very well even internationally. And their music is proven to be timeless and relevant. I believe their music is actually ahead of its time. That is why more and more people have learned to recognise and appreciate their multifaceted style, poetry and artistic language. The eclecticism and urbanity of their approach are just some of the things that make them unique. Who has listened “Tadhana” and not has his or her heart miss a beat?

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8) SARAH GERONIMO

12496461_10153207952346750_8854062340252040429_o“Sarah G” has already been hailed as an OPM royalty who has flexibly showcased outstanding versatility, and several aspects and attributes of her artistic identity in the past decade. Breaking free from being a traditional “biritera” (female belter), she has now emerged yet with a brand new element that redefines what it is to be a “pop star” in the Philippines today. Her style and sound have transformed drastically, and have diversified from mainly diva ballads into a more eclectic mix of R&B, soul, dance, alternative, even rap. She has ventured more on contemporary singing, highly enmeshed with dance, delivered with vehement attitude and intensity. All of these make her the hot-blooded, walking-talking, triple threat that she is today. She always has something new and interesting to offer so never miss a tune from her. Here is one of the hits that signify her transition era.

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9) MARK CARPIO

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Mark Carpio seems to be a new name in the OPM scene, but it will be hard to bypass the kind of musicality he offers. This guy is a balladeer with a strong vocal resonance, an advantageous pitch range, and substantial flexibility to shift between different registers and dynamics. His love songs are quite evocative and could probably be classified as “#hugot” songs (songs that draw out deep-seated emotions) because of the height and depth of emotions they portray. Some of these powerful, moving songs have now been used as soundtracks for film and TV such as “Hiling” and “Kay Tagal“. We expect to hear a lot more from Mark in the coming years.

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10) JONA

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You gotta admire this woman for her staunch pipes that can withstand any excruciating octave or any musical whirlwind. If you ever get lost around the C6-G6 area, you’ll find her there. Jonalyn Viray, now popular as Jona is one of the strongest and most dynamic Filipina vocalists in the whole of Asia who has enough flexibility to sing a wide array of styles–from pop ballads to billboard toppers. She is an ambitious vocalist, and knows how to accomplish all that she envisions, one by one. Her vocal range is sweeping; her higher register is cogent and compact. She is phenomenal. She is another example of a modern-day artist who knows how to innovate and redesign music, and proves to us that creativity always wins. In her recent solo concert, she has demonstrated that her set of pipes is indeed indefatigable and that she has earned and truly deserves her spot in the show business today because of her hard work, her excellence and consistency.

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11) EDWARD BENOSA

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This good looking dude knows how to capture the real essence of ballads—passion, vulnerability, romanticism. And surely, he is beyond his riveting looks. His voice carries a heavy deal of poignance in his hits like “‘Di Man Lang Nagpaalam” and “Why Did You Stay”. He lays his fragile soul bare with his powerful voice and unfeigned delivery. No wonder at the early stage of his career, this promising neophyte has won Best New Male Recording Artist in the prestigious Star Awards for Music of the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC). Definitely looking forward to more of his soul-stirring performances and thrilling vocal exhibitions.

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12) MOIRA DELA TORRE

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Moira is an artist to watch out for. She may be called a trendsetter for being one of the first few artists to introduce a singing style more prominent in Western contemporary scene today: a technique that includes singing with a twang, fluctuating dynamics, and consistent breathiness. Last time I checked, there isn’t a name or term for this vocal style yet. Some people call it the “indie” vocals because it is mostly used by indie artists—the likes of Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, and Nataly Dawn. More and more singers of all races attempt to sound like that these days, but they just sound ridiculous. (Seriously, just stop.)  Thankfully, we have one that sounds pretty “legit” and actually intoxicatingly mellifluous, and that is Moira. She has merged this sweet-toned singing style and the Filipino musical flavour, producing a very wholesome outcome.

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13) DARYL ONG

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Exceptional and edgy—these are the words I believe that best describe Daryl Ong. These are the qualities that made him fit in and belong to the new breed of Filipino singers. (Or should we call them revolutionists?) Daryl is an R&B powerhouse with a voice so slick and refined. He is not a typical R&B artist that casually copies modal runs from established icons. He demonstrates cleverness and precision in utilising melisma and playful melodic variations just in the right amount and blend, and only as needed in the new flavour of the song. This is what makes his song revivals powerful and compelling. He retools any music with command and authority. And he makes the Filipino audience fall in love and appreciate Filipino-bred R&B. Listen to his tasteful rendition of “Stay”, originally performed and written by my OPM hero, Carol Banawa.

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Yo, Momma!

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My love for this woman is beyond description. And beyond myself even.

My gratitude for having her in this lifetime is beyond measure.

Her role in my life is irreplaceable. Her impact and influence, irreversible.

Praying that you feel and absorb all the love and the blessings surrounding you today.

Love you Mothaa! The best is yet to come.

I joined the #WalkForFreedom!

And the day finally arrived. The third annual Walk for Freedom had taken place in Sydney last Saturday, 15th of October, and almost simultaneously in 270 other locations all over the globe to raise a massive shout for freedom.
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Registrations. I just love this scene! And I just love the colour black!

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It was my very first walk, that is why I find it significant.
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Hundreds have come to take part in the stand against slavery to let more people be aware of the viciousness of human trafficking and how we can be a part of the solution.
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Folks warming up for the event! We even did massages. Again, an unbelievably awkward and uncomfortable situation for me.

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This is one of the many steps we take to fight against modern day slavery, to stand up and speak up for the millions who have been silenced by it.
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The weather was on our side that day. It was bright and sunny, and pretty windy, too (which is a bonus). And the vibe was fantastic! The crowd of supporter was very wildly diverse! People of all colours and races joined in!
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The huge pack was divided into at least 5 queues. I was in the queue that first walked off and led the walk.

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The walk took about an hour and a half just around the metropolis. Crossing streets was one of our struggles. I mean how would you take 500 people to the other side of the road without rapidly breaking apart? So as expected, there were a few times we had to stop and wait until everybody got through.
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It was a silent walk, to resemble the people who are silenced by slavery. And this “rally” breaks traditions somehow. We didn’t need to hurl up a barrage and be disruptive to make a statement. We just got to walk in silence. I was even expecting that we were gonna walk with our mouths covered with a strip of black tape like in the other walks. But I guess I missed it this time.
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I witnessed some members of the walk team being approached by random passers-by asking what this long terrain of people in black was about. And I could just imagine the possibility of being able to share with them about our the cause that we support, and grab the opportunity to be involved, educated and equipped as an individual regarding the issue.
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I honestly think I took better photos. These are the best ones I could share! #Backfest

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I’d like to emphasise that I am not directly affiliated with A21 or any group at all, but I believe that God has put in my heart the desire to support this initiative, to echo this dialogue, and help to eradicate slavery.
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Honestly, I believe that you don’t need any label to be able to help. You don’t need to have a big name to contribute. You just gotta offer some time to get to know about human trafficking, make people aware of this horrific crime, donate to the funds, and try our best to eliminate the problem in our own spheres.
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This was after the rally, time to rehydrate and take more photos!

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Nobody deserves to be enslaved. Nobody deserves to be trafficked. Nobody deserves to be sold. Humans are not commodities, but people who have life and goals and aspirations. We all have a right to be free.
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Because I had to have one.

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I feel very thankful to A21 for giving me a chance to help even in such small, comfortable ways. And I feel privileged and humbled to be with hundreds of people, thousands around the globe who choose to be a voice for the victims, to raise not just funds but most importantly awareness about this horrendous problem.
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I’d like to express my gratitude to every single person who supported my fundraiser, and believed that this cause makes sense and is for something notable. My fundraiser, High Five to Freedom is still active and alive even after I have met my target of $500. I knew I could make it before October!
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Visit www.a21.org to get to know more about human trafficking and how the A21 campaign is working towards setting people free and helping them rebuild their lives and identities. Find information on donating, fundraising, getting involved and other relevant things as well.
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R.

Significant selfies

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-11-38-22-pmThis photo was one of the early ones taken during the first month of my teaching career. #Shamelessselfie
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I can clearly remember how excited, daunted, and nervous I was every time I got called up for teaching ‘gigs’. I would get butterflies, too, and squeal in excitement!
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For the past few months, I have come to experience the adventure of working in diverse school environments; the fun of meeting remarkably different people and learning how to instantly cope within various school cultures.
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I have stood inside the brightest, and the scariest classrooms. I have communicated with the most beautiful, and the most dreadful classes of young people. Some of them, unimaginable. Some even made me question several times the existence, the capabilities and even the integrity of our teaching body. How do they do it?
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It was like a battlefield every time. But there is a reason for everything; and both the good and the bad always teach us invaluable lessons.
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Reflecting on what I have accomplished and where those accomplishments have brought me, I know I got a long way to go. But without any qualms, I can bravely and tirelessly say that we meet significant heroes every day, and they’re our teachers.
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I have always valued and treasured what my teachers are to me and what they do. But I also realised that I had not grasped even half of their nature and essence until I learned how to become one.
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It is tough, but teachers persevere. At times, it is impossible, but teachers just make things happen in a heartbeat.
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To you who’s reading this and has become my mother or father at some point in my scholastic life, please allow me to thank you and honour you with all humility and utmost gratitude for being a significant figure that has embedded indelible values and wisdom in my mind and heart that helped shape who I am today as someone who is still inspired and motivated to make a difference in my own sphere like you.
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God has used you immensely to fulfil His purpose for my life and I am just forever thankful for you. You are always valued and loved. Happy Teacher’s Day!
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R.

High Five to Freedom!

Alrights. I’m not a celebrity, an online artist, a politician or anything like that. I’m not even affiliated with any group or people mentioned in this video. But all I know is that I am connected to over five hundred people on my Facebook account, a few potential hundreds on my Youtube and WordPress accounts who may get to know about this incredible cause by the A21 Campaign, and their fight against Human Trafficking. I’m still in awe that God has given me the desire to take part in this venture.

So instead of writing an essay on this (which I know anyone would hardly read), I just had to film myself talking. This matter has been lingering in my heart and mind the past few days and wouldn’t make me sleep really. I’ve read and listened to stories that have painted an indelibly dark picture in my mind and just broken my heart. I gotta make a move. I gotta do my part. No matter how small, or ‘insignificant’ it may look.

I cannot solve this problem at all, but I can do something to support A21 who have been doing amazing things for several years now, saving hundreds, if not thousands of precious lives; impacting the world in a whole new and different level.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to donate: High Five to Freedom!

I am really, really encouraging you to do so. Spare a dollar or two, or as much as you’re able or willing to give for this cause, please. And witness how your small donation can impact the lives of many.

Visit www.a21.org for more important info about the A21 Campaign and human trafficking, how to join the #WalkForFreedom; how these guys are contributing to abolish this problem, how to donate or fundraise, and how you can get connected and do your part in this venture.

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Alleluya!

Here’s something new. Just for fun, and just to share with you my roots i.e., choral music, I recorded myself in SATB, singing the version of (Eucharistic) Alleluya by “Mr C”, Ryan Cayabyab.

This brings back a lot of memories of home, my choral life, and my love for choral music!

Better to listen to with earphones by the way. If the embedded video does not work, click this link. 

 

Face to face with Brandy

This is honestly the most significant 30 seconds of my life so far. And I wish I had more than that.

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30 seconds with Brandy. Photo taken by the theatre staff. We weren’t allowed to take photos with our devices during this time, which I find ridiculous and annoying because primarily they said we could. But anyway.

I did not intend to write a “concert review” or a tell-all anymore because my words would not do justice to how it really felt on the inside. It’s a struggle to put into words. The encounter is almost divine. Pretty elusive. (I should also say that having no photos taken during the show because my camera was considered a professional type somewhat discouraged me to recount things and events in detail like what I’d always do.)

I guess I should keep this experience in the list of things I’d prefer to store in my massive vault of unspeakable treasures. All I know is I’m thankful that I got to watch her perform live, and to witness with my own eyes and ears the brilliance, magnificence, and soul extraordinaire of Brandy. That is just more than enough.

I could absolutely say that this is just one of the best birthday gifts I have gifted to myself. You just gotta spoil yourself every once in a while, you know!

I also almost hyperventilated after she gave me a super tight, sincere hug during the short Meet and Greet. She emanated joy and gratitude. The feeling was indescribable almost. She was just so dang kind! It’s like all the sass and pizzazz she would display each time she performs were stripped away, and she was just an ordinary person humbly thanking her fans for coming out to see her show, which she verbalised in the most profound, soft-spoken fashion.

13465929_10206788204199109_5197471545758489570_nThis experience made me appreciate her more; her artistry, her personality, her appreciation for her fans; especially her receptivity and equanimity because I understand how tired she must have been after the show, but she managed to welcome her fans with open arms and with the sweetest smile.

Hands down, she still reigns in her realm. And this encounter will always be special and treasured in my mind and heart

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R.

24 at 24

I turn twenty-four today. That’s right. I’ve almost reached a quarter of a century basically. And yes I’m feeling kinda old. But honestly, I’ve never felt more mature, more wise, more courageous in my entire life.

And so I thought I’d share with everyone 24 life lessons I have learned–lessons that have helped mould and cultivate my identity as an individual, in my career and personal life. They are also insightful, meaty nuggets that I have learned from the people who matter to me; things that were taught and imparted by the ones I love and have become significant to me. I managed to write them in my own words, and the closest to the way my mind comprehends it.

This post is inspired by the “23 Painfully True Lessons You Learn By Age 23” by Thought Catalog. All the original photos I’ve used are from HD Wallpapers.

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Twenty four donuts

Work out the maths and you got my age. Because we wanna go unconventional this year! Thought the “cake” was pretty unusual, might as well go all the way through!

Dream cake + amazing people + God’s favours = I can’t complain. Thanks to everyone who made this day extraordinary! I’m beyond thankful. Here’s to the next 24 years. Hopefully the number of donuts will double as well!

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