Anti-Droga winner perfect role model

Bibsy M. Carballo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - From time immemorial, talent and skill have always been tested through competition. In Perlas ng Silangan, FPJ and Vic Vargas competed for the hand of Susan Roces through skilled combat and a race to retrieve a black pearl thrown into the waters. When Vic surfaced holding the pearl, he was told that he had lost since there was never any pearl in this test of pureness of the heart. Many such competitions can be found in kung-fu films that celebrate the martial art tradition.

In the field of beauty and pulchritude, nothing can beat the popularity of beauty pageants held from the barangay to the international level. In music, Tawag ng Tahanan clearly antedates the popularity of American Idol, and all those competitions held by the networks.

All these have not been lost on Bubot Sarmiento, who had been spending sleepless nights over what she feels is a most important legacy she could leave for the coming generation. A ranking official in the Rotary Club of San Juan and the Rotary International District 3800, Bubot was appointed chairperson of the Anti-Drug Campaign when the District and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) signed a MOA in Jan. 22, 2008. For over a year, the partnership has flourished and covered 12,000 audiences in various schools and barangays where lectures, fora, interactive sessions have been held.

But something was amiss. The campaign was going too slow, while the number of youth succumbing to dangerous drugs was escalating. It needed a more innovative strategy, something the youth could clearly identify with. This is when she remembered all these competitions that have attracted hundreds of thousands. AKO, Ayoko sa Bawal na Droga song and jingle competition was born. And Bubot prayed that she had made the right decision. 

The search was launched late last year, disseminated through schools and media through Eat, Bulaga! plugging arranged by Tito Sotto, chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board. Early this year we got a call from Bubot explaining the competition and asking us to join the jury. She sent over the lyrics and cds of the 17 finalists they had pre-screened from the original applicants. On March 28 we all met to pick the three winners. Contest chair was Aaron Miravalles.

Wilkins Villanueva from PDEA, composer-arranger Rafael Amaranto, UP Prof. Gerard Javellana, and I had to rate the entries according to originality, melody, lyrics, and the use of the elements AKO, Ayoko sa Bawal na Droga in the songs. The top three winners would get P10,000, P5,000 and P3,000 and a plaque of appreciation. The songs would be edited into jingle form and utilized in promoting the anti-drug campaign and educating the youth in the dangers of experimenting with dangerous drugs. David Malla won second place, and Jonathan Oraño won third.

It was easy enough to pick Faye Danica Abadicio as grand prize winner. Her entry Sigaw ng Kabataan spoke eloquently and strongly of her message to young people like herself. Isa Kang Kabataang Pinoy, ‘Di papatinag sa maling daloy... Di lahat ay susubukan... Ayos lang gumimik kung sa mali’y di masasabik. Her melody rammed into one’s subconscious. We found ourselves humming it after listening a couple of times. Of course the singing and arrangements were impeccable although we were told to ignore these as they didn’t count in the tally so as to be fair to all. But it was difficult to ignore the presentation of Faye’s song.

The one big disappointment we all had was that the grand prize winner wasn’t present at the awarding. She was out of town for a previous commitment. But she was superbly represented by her six siblings and parents Nico and Mimi who received her award and who performed the winning song.

Apparently, this was a musical family with a former musician for a father, and a mother who taught them gospel songs from the time they started to talk. They are known in the church where they perform as the singing family just like the famous Von Trapp family. They have a band called IGGY-ABS combining their parents’ surnames with the three boys on instruments, and four girls on vocals. Minus their composer lead singer Ate Faye, they performed Sigaw ng Kabataan to a wildly applauding young audience.

After this, there was no way we wouldn’t investigate further into this amazingly talented family. Apparently, Faye, a junior Communication Arts student at Miriam College, is a consistent Dean’s Lister, like her younger sister Camille. We had Lynda Garcia, chair of the Communication Arts Department, tracked down which was rather difficult since school was already out, but Miriam president Patricia Licuanan was most helpful. As we suspected, Faye was a totally well-rounded student. Ms. Garcia sent us this assessment of the student;  

“Faye is very articulate and creative in her school work. She played the lead role in the recent production Amihan, the very first offering of Miriam College’s Institute of the Arts. Aside from outstanding academic performance and acting skills, she is also a gifted singer who showcases her talents inside and outside of school. I am confident Faye has a bright future ahead of her. “

We heard from the grapevine that Viva Records had previously already gotten wind of this multi-talented girl and signed her up to a contract. We called dad Nico for clarification. He sent us an e-mail stating, “We signed the contract with Viva last April 2008. Since Faye was not given any project for six months, we asked for her release from Viva and pre-terminated the contract in November 2008.” Obviously, she is now a free agent for the networks to fight over. 

Upon Faye’s return to Manila, we asked her how old she was when she started to sing. She replied, “I’ve already been singing ever since I was eight months old. According to my mom, I could already sing the lullabies she sings to me. However, my public performances started when I sang Our Father in church at the wake of my grandfather at age three. Composing used to be a fun game for me and my sister Camille. We used to write songs about anything under the sun and laugh about the finished products after. Composing has never really been a serious business for me until I finally was able to write an inspirational song about my grandfather titled Sa Kandungan ni Lolo when I was 14 years old.”

These revelations no longer came as a surprise, especially after hearing from Dad Nico that the youngest Coleen, now six, who totally charmed the audience at the awarding ceremonies, had already made a short tunical melody when she was only eight months old.

How then does Faye’s winning figure in the scheme of things? The quick answer was, “Music is really my passion, so definitely I will pursue my singing and composing career. Ever since I was a child, I have already perceived myself to become a professional performer and songwriter. However, I still plan to take up a Master’s degree in Marketing after I’ve finished my AB Communication Arts degree in Miriam College next year (2010). ”

Obviously, Bubot’s Anti-Droga Jingle-Songwriting Competition has gotten more than it bargained for. This is a family obviously well-grounded, God-fearing, loving, musically blessed from early childhood. Faye, apart from having written the winning song, is a perfect role model for the youth who may have gone astray due to drug addiction.

(E-mail me at [email protected].)

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