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The indefatigable Lorli Villanueva

Lorli with Ang Tatlong Rondalista

About a month ago, dear friend and veteran actress Lorli Villanueva called to tell us she was in the country and wanted us to hear about her latest activity. Until last year, Lorli was the deputy chair for a graduate program in Education and Special Education in the US. She held the position for 15 years until last year when she decided it was time to retire.

Despite undergoing more than just a couple of spinal surgeries, Lorli has continued to achieve and do what she wants to do. Her motto: “Life is about being able to reinvent oneself. Life is about accepting changes!”

Lorli was extremely excited about her newfound cause, which is to propagate the preservation and use of the rondalla (an old instrument) in modern-day concerts and shows. She wants to revive the instrument as one that is modern and useful. It was a surprise when in one of her shows the rondalla instruments were used to accompany a very popular Christina Perri song, Jar of Hearts, sang by her daughter Sibyl Santiago, also an actress and producer in New York.

Lorli has found the rondalla capable of crossing over to this new age music. She has since used three of its most important instruments — the laud, the bandurria and the guitar in her concerts. She is proud of her SRO audiences in New York, giving concerts in many key cities, raising funds for her cause.

She has discovered three professionals in New York, known as Ang Tatlong Rondalista, who wowed her with their talent playing the instruments and in fact now sing with her, especially the Filipino songs that audiences most enjoy. Each one of them has been surprised by the reception they get and the popularity of the Tatlong Rondalistas now in musical circles and shows in the Tri-state area.

Lito David, an award-winning painter based in New York, plays the bandurria; Leon de Lara, a Philippine lawyer and retired federal employee plays the laud; and Rudy Reyes plays the guitar. These three-man rondalla received reviews in an Asian newspaper that said they are “fantastic.”

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Lorli hopes to showcase them to Filipinos all over the USA, especially among young Fil-Ams who are no longer familiar with these ancient musical instruments.

Lorli (seated) and your columnist with the Philippine Tenors Dondi, Kenneth, John and Sherwin


More recently, Lorli introduced us to the Philippine Tenors, a group of young men who impressed us with their range of songs, a Philippine counterpart of Il Divo, the popular Italian group that has have captured the musical world.

It was during an afternoon with ladies interested in history organized by director Nick Lizaso that we got to sit down to listen to a historical discussion of our national heroes by the director of the National Historical Commission. Musical intermission and a powerful rendition of Bayan Ko at the end of the speech so moved the audience and impressed us greatly. Sherwin Sozon, John Ocampos, Kenneth Cataylo and Conrad “Dondi” Ong III kept the audience standing for several minutes in a standing ovation as they wowed the audience.

The group has performed in many highly-publicized events and with award-winning artists like Jose Mari Chan and many others. Lorli now proudly manages the group and looks forward to more success with them in their career in the musical world.

Meanwhile, we are eagerly waiting for Lorli’s book to come out soon titled Dancing with the Dictator, a personal account of her encounter with Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.

Lorli has written Teaching in America and Mother-Mother I Am Sick (her autobiography).

(For comments, call 571-1569 and e-mail bibsy_2011@yahoo.com or bibsyfotos@yahoo.com.)

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