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.

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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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. 

 

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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R.

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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R.

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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R.

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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