alas dos y medya

rie-manaloto

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.

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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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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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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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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. 

 

Now, what?

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While on the train today, I pulled out my daily devotional. And everything that’s written there has astonishingly validated what God has been putting in my heart the past few days.

I’ve come to realise that lately, the Lord has been teaching me an important lesson: how to live one day at a time—how to prioritise nothing but the now, and just live in the moment.

Present tense

It’s great to be futuristic and always think ahead, but the future will be no good if the quality of the present isn’t well taken care of.

I believe that focusing on the now also helps us develop and strengthen our trust in the Lord—that He will be there from top to finish, that He’s in the beginning and in the end of every chapter, ’cause that’s what He promised.

Failures vis-à-vis Victories

I also learned that the mistakes of today do not define you solely for the rest of your life.

Your everyday triumphs help establish your identity and validate your goals, so do your mistakes. They’re both essential in the process.

Today’s mistakes are tomorrow’s learnings. Today’s victories are tomorrow’s benchmarks.

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Special times

What a day it’s been! I thought I’d share a glimpse of that through a few snapshots. So my Lola (Grandmother) has just turned 75 today! And my family and I are just absolutely thankful that she gets to spend her birthday here with us in Syd, after we’ve been separated by distance for some eight long years because she now stays in the US.

Just like my family, my Mommy (that’s what we call her) isn’t very festive as well. When asked about how she wanted to celebrate her birthday, she really just wanted to celebrate it at home with us. No massive feast, no visitors, no frills whatsoever. She just wanted to spend time with us, and celebrate this momentous milestone.

During the day, she wanted to hear a mass (I know, I’m not even used to saying that anymore as I haven’t been Catholic for years now). I think this is her being traditionally Filipino, because if it is your birthday in the Philippines, you have to make sure you come to church within the day to say your thanks, and summon blessings and good vibes. That’s basically it.

And so, we went to St Mary’s Cathedral in the city. It’s one of Sydney’s most beautiful church buildings I believe. Like seriously, it’s so grandiose, so majestic. And it’s been my Lola’s favourite go-to since she arrived.

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Then we had a mini celebration at home. My Lola particularly requested my Pancit Palabok to be in the dinner menu, and so I tried my best to perfect the ever elusive recipe of mine.

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The ’75’ photo collage I conceptualised and created, made from (real) printed photos. It contains old and new images of my Mommy and our family. This really made her frisky! She loved it. It was worth the 3 hours of toiling, past midnight.

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How do I sum up the day? It’s pretty simple, nothing too festive or ostentatious like she requested. We just stuck together and had heaps of fun.

I guess we’re a family that do not really depend on material things to get happy and feel blessed. The most valuable thing we could offer each other and gift to each other is our time. And just being together overthrows any need for material stuff or lavish settings. We know how to be content with what we have with thankfulness and appreciation.

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It is also that time when we realise how important our Lola is, and how thankful we are that she’s been given another year to live, love and serve. Another year to be healthy, happy and favoured by our Lord. Another year full of grace and hope. That’s probably the most significant reason why we all must celebrate birthdays, however simple or grand it may be.

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Some barbershop

I don’t have an extravagant, purposeful reason why I made this video. But I just really wanted to try this new Acapella app that has basically taken over my Facebook newsfeed.

This app is really cool. It allows people to record two or more video tracks of themselves singing different harmonic lines, and play them all simultaneously. It’s the modern way of recreating a virtual choir, or the likes of breathtaking Pitch Perfect or Rockapella tracks, right at your fingertips. There are great ones, some just make me want to get sick.

I’ve been (or I’ve started to be) on hibernation mode for the last couple of days having been off-work (which I’m honestly loving at the moment because I felt kinda frazzled by a lot of stuff in the last two months, although I’m really grateful). And so I decided to just download the app, and sing away.

I picked my absolute favourite, “Barbara Ann”, which was originally sung by The Beach Boys, in a barbershop quartet arrangement.  This song (particularly its arrangement) is very special to me because I have performed this tune with a group back in high school after we met the Musical Island Boys (my all-time favourite barbershop group, and seriously the best); and sort of adopted their style and arrangement into our own.

So, disclaimer: it is not my song, and not my arrangement. The only thing that I own in this material would be perhaps, my voice and my face.

I enjoyed making this one, and even listening to it because I just love the vibes and how the harmonies blend. It probably won’t be as shipshape as you might expect, but who cares? I’m not getting paid for it (HAHA! Kidding.)

Here’s the Finale part:

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Backstory’s out!

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It’s been a week since the big event. I’m not a huge fan of celebrating anniversaries, commemoration days, and all that (except for Christmas and Easter perhaps). But realising that seven days have already passed since the project, I can’t help but look back on the previous months and everything that took place in those few, strenuous months—the several episodes and stages that the kids and I have to go through so that a musical event will effectively materialise.

(Heads up! This might sound a little too mushy-gooey. But please bear with me.)

It was a first time for me. First time that I was the “boss”, that I was on top of everything. First time that an entire show has been placed solely on my shoulders. Interestingly, I had to get to grips with how much power and authority I actually possess being the boss, the pilot of the plane. I called the shots, I ran the show. I could do everything that I wanted.

But at the same time, I had to face a myriad of responsibilities and demands, which all have piled up week by week during the preparation season. (Absolute buzzkiller, hey!) Demands from the show itself, from the theme and design, from the group’s purpose, and every single individual’s personal goals. I had to measure up to the group’s standards, my head directors’ standards, the parents’, the audience’s, to my own standards; and somehow find the right balance between all of those.

At one point, It was all just elusive. Listening to and looking over what everybody was saying and expecting, how on earth would you do it? How would I cater for everyone’s needs? How would I wedge everybody’s favourite songs in an 80-minute repertoire? How would I do all these without losing my identity and personal touch? How far could I take it?

It was fearful. It was difficult. There were times when my mind would just go blank, that all the complications around would just swoop me out of my disposition, and got me floating flaccidly with the clouds, pie-faced. Revisions were endless. There were at least twelve drafts produced before we locked in the final songs and their order in the setlist. If a particular number didn’t work (in terms of music and/or impact), then it needed to be either replaced or completely cut, regardless of the hours spent in preparing, arranging and polishing it.

As the director, I had to turn limitations into possibilities, and into actual acts. I had to enable the kids to work and succeed on their own pace, but without sacrificing the desired artistic quality; and making sure that only their strengths and passions were displayed on the night, and nothing that could vitiate their image as budding artists. It was also my job to look after their motivation, their engagement and enjoyment in the project. I mean, they’re kids still. You gotta give them a reason to stay focused and driven.

Oftentimes, it would just feel like the project was in a precarious state. Criticisms were getting too hurtful and alarming. Everybody was feeling exhausted. But then, there’s no turning back anymore because the date has been set, the venue’s been booked, the ad’s been released, people have been informed about it. So quitting was never quite an option at all. There were lots of frustrations, arguments, breakdowns. But we had to stick together and believe that it will all work out in the end.

Alright, for a supposedly “experienced”, “professional” person like me, I’m sure everything that I just said would just sound lame and dumb. You could be thinking, “Oh, what is wrong with this guy? He should know what he’s doing! He’s already done heaps of that! He’s already earned a lot under his belt. He should be ashamed of himself.”

I mean, I’ve been in several productions before, directed music for a lot of events and stuff. But for some reason, this one’s quite different. It felt like I went miles and miles down to zero, and start everything from scratch—and starting from scratch never felt so intense and gruelling. I was bogged down on the ground with all the clutters and scattered pieces, and I had to assemble them all together right along with my own self.

Now, I’m sorry if all those sounded so melodramatic. It was not the intention! You might even think that I am exposing my own weak side. Well, you may think that but it’s precisely what happened. And you can’t succeed until you learn how to face your weaknesses. I am a work in progress who is currently going through a rigorous state of refinement before I can self-actualise. And the best thing to do while in this phase is to be open, honest and accepting of your own flaws and limitations; and just be teachable. Strip away the prejudice and the inhibitions. Shut up and just do it!

When you saw the show, it may have looked so smooth, so easy and simple. Yet behind all the fun and fluidity were the many challenges, failures and hardships experienced individually and as a group. But like what I said, I believe that the group managed to pick ourselves up, and overcome the hurdles, and proved that determination will enable us to survive.

And I am just very proud of our kids who have displayed determination, maturity and stamina in order to deliver a good show. Of course, they’ve done that the past year for Wait For It and have succeeded in a lot of ways. But this time, I have witnessed it first hand, and got involved in many of their personal struggles, insecurities, uncertainties, confusions. Nevertheless, not one person gave up. Not one person stepped back and chose comfort and convenience. Everybody was on board regardless if rehearsals were demanding, boring, uncomfortable; even though their Kuya Rie nagged, complained and criticised nonstop.

I will also never forget how incredible it is to be mentored by our head directors, Tito Ferdie and Tita Geraldine “Ging”, who we normally call the Master Yoda-Queen Bae tandem. This time, I felt like a kid sitting on their lap, listening attentively to their stories, lectures and important lessons that have become my nourishment in this journey. They did not give up on me, and they choose to deal with my tantrums and crack-ups.

I cannot imagine doing this venture without them. I cannot imagine myself finishing anything without their invaluable say. They were the lifeline of this project, of this group. They’re the flickering rhythm you see on the cardiac monitor after someone got revived from a near-death scene—that after you see it, you know that you are safe, the chaos is over. They are my doctors. They are my role models. They have become Mom-and-Dad.

Again, I will never get tired of thanking our amazing parents for the indubitable and unrelenting love and support. They drove us to rehearsals, prepared our meals, opened up their homes for rehearsals, spent their weekends and lots and lots of time helping in the production and making sure that we didn’t get hungry and dehydrated. I wish I could state everything in detail to express how thankful we are. They are our champions!

Many could be wondering why a long-af essay as a backstory for a 1.5 hour long gig. It’s just a gig. Well, we in Filozart, do not just prioritise the end product of our undertakings. We value and and attach so much importance to the creative process—everything that is discovered, learned, experienced and solidified throughout this stage. It is where connections are formed, relationships are strengthened, and bonds are treasured. It is what we all remember and take home with us after the lights have gone out and the curtains closed. It’s what engenders growth. It’s what whips up the motivation to become bigger, better and bolder. It’s what makes us Filozart.

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First #UNPLUGGED featurette

Here’s the first online video teaser for our November gig, #UNPLUGGED! We thought we’d give you a sneak peek at our rehearsals! Seriously, seriously exciting! Indulge on a soulful musical experience. Relive some of your most memorable stories.  Book your tickets now! Rie … Continue reading

Your love songs #UNPLUGGED

Ladies and gents, the kids will be at work again to bring you #UNPLUGGED. Our aim is to bring you your favourite love songs that reflect your life stories and soundtracks with a new and delightful sound–all acoustic, all #unplugged.

This is going to be a special night of live acoustic music, jam, nostalgia and some d&m, or heart-to-heart if you like.

Book your tickets now because they’re pretty limited! Again, this is Filozart’s first ever gig, so it must be extrafun and extraspecial. See poster for important details. Hope to see you guys there!

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Martin brings 3D: Tatlong Dekada to Sydney!

At long last, I’m back writing. The past week’s been pretty busy, and I was caught up in, what I’d like to say the fecundity of the early stages of my teaching career.

I was getting all frolicky wanting to tell everybody about how the previous weekend went; how another Filipino artist flew in and knocked me dead, now in the flesh. Not that my blogging matters to anybody or in any way. But I just feel the thriving urge to share how amazing the experience’s been!

The Philippines’ Concert King, OPM royalty and balladeer extraordinaire, Martin Nievera has once again visited us down under, this time to bring us “3D (Tatlong Dekada)” in celebration of his 30th year in the industry. I believe this was a ‘reproduction’ or repackaging of the original sold-out 3D concert that was successfully staged twice at the Big Dome back in 2013.

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Martin has proven to this generation that even after 30 prolific years, he still is the undisputed Concert King whose artistic passion remains unbridled, and whose musical excellence stays unparalleled.

His powerful vocal pipes, his infectious charisma, his boisterousness and unique sense of humour, and his gift of music and pure, absolute entertainment. All these were never on the wane. All these gave Martin his formidable identity, and made him a true world-class icon.

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The musical direction was ensconced in the genius of premier musical director, Louie Ocampo, who Martin proudly calls his best friend of several years; and who is perhaps a significant and permanent fixture in his shows and concerts. The musical arrangements were phenomenal as expected. I wish I could articulate how.

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Martin kicked off the show with his superb rendition of the international Aussie hit, “Geronimo” by Sheppard. Not quite sure if they did that on purpose as a salute to the land of kangaroos and koalas. But hey, what a clever move!

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Martin probably poking fun at an audience member. I like that his humour is pretty clean and decent, often smart and self-deprecating.

Then began a rhapsody of pop classics, chart-toppers, most-requested’s and all-time favourite’s that really have left the audience either gawking or rollicking on and off their seats; maybe highly emotional (like my Mom), or perhaps tickled pink.

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Now, I can’t remember clearly how each one of the songs was packaged—if it’s sung individually or weaved in a medley. But I’m gonna try to enumerate the ones I felt so privileged to hear live.

Early in the show, Martin introduced his twin sister, Vicki Nievera. She is a lovely lady. She’s got a honey-sweet voice that complemented Martin’s rich, sonorous tone in their duets. The twins got to perform a medley of some popular hits by The Stylistics, The Temptations and The Supremes. They make an amazing duo. Twin Power all the way!

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Twin power!

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Of course, the show couldn’t continue rolling without singing his best-loved classics like my personal favourite’s. “Please Don’t Throw My Love Away” and “How Can I”. I also remember hearing his trademark songs like “Be My Lady”, and “Say That You Love Me”.

Martin shared the backstory of how one of his songs was composed. This favourite of mine, which he co-composed with Louie simply tells about his love for his children as a father. He said he penned the lyrics while he watched his two boys (who are all grown up now) sleep. He owns the words, Louie concocts the melody and the musical components. And this collaboration gave birth to the beautiful piece entitled, “I’ll Be There”.

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Just one of his funny faces I captured on camera.

The Concert King also sang some of his popular Tagalog hits that all happened to be very sentimental and emotional, while a few of his ballads are actually a bit too schmaltzy (at least for me). But well, who cares? Filipinos love schmaltzy ballads! And Martin has wrapped all these songs in his beautiful musicality and powerful interpretation. He really is nonpareil in this area.

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Martin singing to Nanay Consuelo, an avid Martin fan who we’ve discovered to be a cancer patient.

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I admire how Martin loved on this lovely lola, and serenaded her with his most popular Tagalog songs. He was brave and caring to give her some words of encouragement saying our hope is not in men nor medicine, but in God for He is in control (paraphrased).

He graciously rendered some of the teleserye theme songs Filipinos loved through the years like “Ikaw Ang Pangrap” (from Lobo), and “Ikaw” (from Dahil May Isang Ikaw). He also sang “After All” (from A Beautiful Affair) with his siter, Vicki. I was honestly waiting for “Magpahanggang Wakas” (from Vietnam Rose), “Ikaw Lamang” (from Nasaan Ka Elisa?), and “Times of Your Life” (from Lorenzo’s Time), which I already loved long before it accompanied the series. Now, I hope I didn’t miss a song.

I also remember him doing “Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin”, which is another Ocampo-crafted piece. And certainly, there’s the mandatory “Kahit Isang Saglit”, the most heartwrenching of them all. Oh, that song wins.

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I don’t understand how he still manages to look good despite all the facial contortion that comes with the high bits!

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Men at Work. I love this photo!

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This I believe is the Concert King stance.

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A lot of his original songs and hits (many of them written by Louie Ocampo) have been iconic and like what many people say, have become the soundtrack of their lives. And seriously, how ever he sounded on the record is almost similar to how he sounds live! Plain awesome!

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Martin sang his smashing renditions of Broadway hits like “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin’, “Somewhere” from West Side Story and “This is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde. Oh, this part was just breathtaking.

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I might’ve failed to recall all the other songs he did. But the song that has capped off the night was everybody’s favourite, “You Are My Song”. The feeling’s unexplainable when you’ve just heard it live! And as a rule, Martin encored with another popular hit, “You’re On The Right Track” and ended the night on a high note.

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What I really admire Martin for is his lasting energy and unwavering enthusiasm from start to finish. He is 100%. His singing is just full of vim and vigour. He didn’t need to be literally dancing and prancing to make his audience groove. His vibrant aura and his striking wit brought a great guffaw from his audience. All these are the hallmark of a true concert royalty.

Martin is an incredible artist. His music is timeless. The concert seemed like a microcosm of Martin’s 30 fruitful years in the entertainment industry. His memorable songs have led us back to the essence of the Martin Nievera—the balladeer, the hitmaker. The peals of laughter and fun emanating from the room also made clear why he was and still is the Concert King.

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Just a few moments before he exited the stage. My camera was being hostile so I failed to capture his bows. (GGRRR!!!)

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Some photos before and after the show:

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Some of the support artists!

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With the lovely Ms Tina Bangel

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Singing a jazz/big bang piece

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He’s very kind to everyone! Especially to his fans. No wonder he is still well loved and supported by many.

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And so my Mom was so happy she got to kiss Martin. My family loves and adores him and his music. My sister and I think he looks a bit like Elvis P!

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Follow Martin on Twitter @4eversinging4u, and on Instagram @martinnievera.

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R.

The Sissums in Sydney!

Please tell me that was a clever title. I’ve learned that ‘sissum’ (pronounced as /siz-‘uhm/, which means “sister”) is what they’d call each other often, and what their fans also regard them as i.e., “the sissums”.

But anyway, two of my most favourite Filipino artists visited their fans down under! They did a couple of shows over the weekend, one in Blacktown (the one I attended), and one in Mt Pritchard. And even after two shows and two M&G sessions, it seems like we still can’t get enough of these two lovely hotshots.

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Fresh from the success of her 15th anniversary concert titled “Celestine” last year at the MOA Arena, Toni Gonzaga, who is dubbed as the Philippines’ Ultimate Multimedia Star has graced the Australian concert stage for the second time since her last visit, which was apparently more or less than eight years ago (now, I’m not very sure if I got the number right). And this time around, she’s brought her amazing sister with her—star on the rise, Alex Gonzaga, who has also been having a prolific career after wrapping up a very successful TV series last year; publishing a bestseller book, then releasing a studio album recently. Now she’s set to conquer the concert scene as she stages her very first major one at the Big Dome this April entitled “AG from the East: The Unexpected Concert.” She also stars in a TV remake of the iconic “Inday Bote.” Wow, this girl ain’t busy.

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I’ve always known and loved Toni even before she moved to Kapamilya. I’ve always admired Alex ever since she was Alex on “Let’s Go!” back in 2006. They’re not only talented artists, they’re also faith-driven, practicing Christians who have always stood behind their values and principles, and have not compromised their faith for the sake of work. This is just admirable.

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I swear, I just die every time Toni flicks her hair. And oh, the Ari pose by Alex.

I was just flippin’ excited when I first heard the news about their show. I probably was one of the first people to purchase tickets, which I booked mid last year. All I can say really is what an amazing experience! I just love them heaps. They’re probably the only celebrities I look out for on TFC. I’m always on the qui vive for their shows, TV appearances and what not. It was hard to believe that I was gonna see their faces in person.

It was July last year when I posted this mini article about Alex called “My Sassy Señorita.” I wrote in that blogpost how much I admire her and how much I want to meet her and stuff. Who knew that in the less than year, I actually would meet her even if it’s just merely for 30 seconds? Or probably more.

The sisters opened the show with a showstopping song, which I believe is called “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea (featuring Chari XCX). Look, I’m not even sure if that’s actually correct because I do not really know the song and I do not listen to a lot of rap music to be honest. I might have actually confused it with “Black Widow” (featuring Rita Ora), which they performed as well.

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Alex becomes a completely different person every time she raps. Her moves are ostentatious, her hands and hips are everywhere.

One of the best parts of the show was during the gaps, when they basically just talked with each other on stage. They have a funny and interesting relationship, and it shows when they chat and make fun of each other. I just loved and enjoyed the mini banters happening here and there. They’d slag each other off from time to time while everybody would have a good laugh about it.

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I have found the chit-chat’s in between songs very special because you just realise that they’re just right there, that they’re real!

What really astonished me was Alex’ sui generis persona—her highly diverting nature that incredibly blends singing and uproarious comedy. She is a cogent mix of charm, charisma, and chaos (Wow, dang that alliteration. LOL). Her voice has a lot of promise—she’s got the tone and the range. My Mum was bemused to know and hear that Alex can actually sing as she’s normally used to seeing Alex trifling with a microphone in the karaoke segment on ASAP every Sunday on TFC. Well, I’ve always known that she’s had it all along.

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Her humour knocks the stuffing out of me. My laugh was uncontrollable, and my friends know how I laugh—it’s pretty diaphragmatic. I laughed even at her lamest jokes. She blows my mind. She knows how to put up a good and lively show without even trying.

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Alex singing “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. Wow, she CAN sing Ariana stuff! I am well convinced.

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This is AG from the East channelling AG from Hollywood.

Alex got to perform a couple of her tracks from her first record called “I Am Alex G.” such as “Panaginip Lang”, and “‘Di Ko Akalain”. They’re very tasteful tunes. Also, I must say that both songs showed her sweet side and that she does have vocal abilities.

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Getting into the belting parts!

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With some guy from the audience. If only I were fast enough.

With some guy from the audience. If only I were fast enough.

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Transitions.

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The punas-pawis scene. Ate Toni being an Ate to her bunso. What a beautiful and amusing sight!

The punas-pawis scene. Ate Toni being an Ate to her bunso. What a beautiful and amusing sight!

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The sisters singing "Put It in a Love Song" by Alicia Keys (featuring Beyoncé). I was waiting for this!

The sisters singing “Put It in a Love Song” by Alicia Keys (featuring Beyoncé). I was waiting for this!

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I remember this conversation. It's Alex warning her Ate to keep the energy up as she started it skyrocket high.

I remember this conversation. It’s Alex warning her Ate to keep the energy up as she started it skyrocket high.

Oh, Toni Gonzaga. Her presence overawed the crap in me. She has a formidable aura that gently scuffles with her ravishing, angelic face. In other words, she is drop-dead gorgeous! She has a delightful personality that everybody loves. Her voice is sensational. It has that deep and warm resonance, and a sweet, silver-toned quality that her fans have loved ever since. Like all other singers, she sounds so much better live.

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Simply stunning.

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“We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky…”

She performed some of her best-loved hits including her very first single, “We Belong” (which just got me nuts!!!), “Catch Me I’m Falling” (this would have to be my fav), and my sister’s favourite, “Kasalan Ko Ba?” These have really thrilled the audience and got them wanting for more. I was a little sad that she didn’t perform her latest tracks from her album “Celestine” like “This Love is Like”, and her original composition, “Awit ni Ginny.” I’ll hear them live one day. She also performed her rendition of “Starting Over Again” (originally by Natalie Cole), which was the theme song of her hit movie with the same title.

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Finally got to witness her awesome singing prowess. I’ve always been a fan of her vocals and style.

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Is there ever a female counterpart for a “balladeer/balladist”? Because if there’s one, then that’s Toni.

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For a fleeting moment, Toni flashed her engagement ring leading up to singing “Diamonds” by Rihanna. A little heartbroken and devastated, I do know and believe that she deserves the joy and happiness that this engagement is giving her right now, plus, the excitement of her forthcoming wedding with his betrothed. Toni also mentioned that it was probably her last big show or concert as a single woman, as she and Paul Soriano are finally tying the knot later this year.

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At some point, I was waiting for them to sing their popular rendition of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion, which they had already done in the past. Again, maybe someday.

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More funny conversations.

The sister capped off the show with Katy Perry’s “Roar”. But because the audience have clamoured for one more song, they sang “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift (They obviously garnered more cheers after the audience realised it’s a Swiftie song). And then finally, they took their last bow.

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Oh, this number.

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For someone who has poor eyesight like me, they would look like twins!

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I failed to capture what Alex was exactly trying to do here. But she was trying to creep through her Ate’s legs. You just can never know enough what she is capable of.

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Certainly working that pose.

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My last photo of the sissums on stage on my camera.

I could keep writing about how I admire these two women and how I have enjoyed and appreciated their live performance here in Sydney. I really wish that they’d come back to do another show soon. It was genuinely fun. My smile was just indefatigable. I wish the sissums all the best for their future endeavours, future projects and milestones.

Autograph signing! I got all flustered when as I came closer to them.

Autograph signing! I got all flustered as I came closer to them. Why are these people so pretty? Seriously, what do they eat?

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A glimpse of super short encounter with them. They were very kind to even write my name on the stuff!

A glimpse of my super short encounter with them. They were very kind to even write my name on the stuff! Also, I remember telling Toni, “Gosh, you smell so good!” She freaking does though!

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Probably the only decent photo we have with them. I don't understand why people always fail to take decent photos every time it's needed regardless of the kind of camera in use. But I guess this photo's good enough.

Taken from my iPhone by a friend. Probably the only decent photo we have with them. My dad had the good camera but failed to capture a good one. I still don’t understand why he didn’t manage to capture this on the DSLR.

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I literally squealed when I saw this in the captured photos!

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Boo-yah! Finally! This has been sitting in my collection for months.

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Again, boo-yah! Wow, I’m still head over heels for this woman.

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Follow them on Instagram @celestinegonzaga @cathygonzaga. And on Twitter @PBBToniG @Mscathygonzaga

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R.

Director’s notes

Being with FilOz-Art, I, along with the eleven other kids have obtained some mentoring in the performing arts in the last few months. The whole Wait For It journey all started with a series of acting and improv workshops by the Cruz-Dimaano tandem (AKA the best tandem ever!).

In a way, it kinda works like school just as it feels and looks like an extended home for all of us. And interestingly, every time a term of workshop is finished, the ‘students’ get to do a showcase of everything we learned and discovered and studied. Thus, the Wait For It concert. (Although at first, we did not expect it to be that big. But we’re thankful that it has been).

Along the way, our creative director would release a small piece of writing, or what I’ll probably call a “director’s note.” It works like a “teacher’s remarks” section on the report card for each student that talks about their progress and what not. But for this particular case, it is beyond that. It also entails character analysis, personal reflection, recommendation, appreciation and a whole lot more, all written in a concise and cohesive body of writing.

I was the last person to get my report. I’d like to think that it wasn’t because I was the best nor I didn’t need it. But perhaps, it is because my case was extraspecial, so would be my growth and progress a person, a teacher, a student and a performer.

And so, here’s what came out of my report:

He wanted to challenge himself, he wanted to learn, he wanted to share his musical talent by coaching and nurturing young people. He got that and more.

In this process, he shared his heart and his soul. He not only got the singers to sing better, he also made ALL of the youth discover their voices and instil the belief that they can sing. He is the Kuya who ran, jumped, laughed and squealed with them. He protects them, nurtures them and he fights for them… in a heart beat.

He made himself vulnerable, not only to the group, but to himself. He put these strengths forward, faced his weaknesses, and felt his fears in its true form. It broke him, it shattered his beliefs, destroyed his preconception about life. He went through it all. It was the only way I knew to get him to where he wanted to be.

Out came a person stronger, sure and true to himself and ready to create his own destiny. He starts now.

I could probably say that these lines convey only a glimpse of my learnings and important discoveries and realisations. What my head directors taught me is just priceless–it’s something I’d carry with me everywhere I go. My gratitude is unspeakable, still in awe, still overwhelmed. I’m ready to learn more.

rie manaloto

Rie Manaloto

R.

8th of October

I’m pretty sure all of us have that one friend (or maybe a bunch of them) who’s long gone but is never forgotten. And this friend, who’s been probably gone for some ten long years now, still owns a very special place in my heart. Her smile and her sweet voice remain strongly in my memory. And every time the calendar tells me that it is her birthday, I can never take it for granted. I will always have to make sure I think about her, and let all our friends know, and tell them to do the same. It’s always been like that in the last ten years. And we miss her just the same.

Happy birthday to that long-gone-never-forgotten-and-forever-missed friend who has gained early citizenship in heaven, Pam! You may be dimensions away from us but we know that you are at home with our Lord. (Pamela Jean C. Luarca, 1992-2004)

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R.

Photo from Pinterest.

Rie Manaloto

Trends, trends.

OK. One interesting thing about the social media today is the existence of what I can call the “nomination trend” (I don’t know the perfect way to call it, and I don’t care). It is when one online user gets to do something cool or funny or ostentatious, and then share the fun (or the sorrow) with their peers by “nominating” them. The lucky nominees (or the hapless victims) do the same thing, and thus, a whole phenomenon arises.

A few examples of the “nomination trend” includes the famous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which originally was initiated in order to create awareness about ALS disease (but eventually used as a perfect excuse for fame-wh*res to flaunt their bodies and some MMK-ish play-acting). Then there’s Jam Nomination (getting nominated to sing any song you like); the Thankful List (getting nominated to write ten things you’re thankful for); your Favourite Bible Verse (getting nominated to write your favourite Bible verses); and then there’s the Facts challenge (getting nominated to write 20 facts about yourself).

Pretty thankful that I haven’t been nominated to do any of these until last weekend when I got nominated to the Facts one, then the Scripture one. Since I was kinda bored and got nothing too important to do, I actually gave it a try. It wasn’t too bad, and I did it in more or less than five minutes. And so, here’s what I wrote:

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20 FACTS

1. A Minimalism freak. Because less is more.

2. I have ailurophilia. Google that for yourself.

3. I sing random songs so randomly any time I feel like it. Throw me a word or a phrase, then I’ll sing it back to you.

4. Like singing Soul, Jazz and R&B.

5. Ultimately love Alex Gonzaga like mad. Like head over heels for her.

6. An education student. Teaching is one of my passions in life.

7. Actually think that I have a talent for graphic design, painting, photography, and anything Visual Arts.

8. Believe that watermelon is disgusting.

9. Sort of aspiring to become (as I know I would make) a good film scorer/sound designer/composer for screen.

10. Could be very snobbish, bur really friendly on the inside.

11. I only learn things that interest me and stuff that I find relevant.

12. Dreaming to actually work behind the camera one day.

13. I listen to Kyla and Ariana Grande everyday. They’re just some of the most important items on any of my playlists.

14. I love musical improvisation. I think it’s the real art in music.

15. Love BLACK. Black looks good on anything.

16. I drink about 2-3 litres of water everyday.

17. The Tomorrow People is seriously the first American TV series I got so massively infatuated with!

18. I make sure that I always engage in a super casual, real and honest conversation with God everyday.

19. I am a fan of Black music.

20. My most favourite people in the world are teachers, mothers and singers.

BIBLE VERSES

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Visit my Instagram account to actually find out who nominated me and who I nominated to do these things. I was pretty hesitant to conform but I thought it’s just this one time anyway.

R.

Rie Manaloto