Lea Salonga with National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab.
‘Soap Opera ng Buhay Ko’
NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2019 - 12:00am

When genius marries generosity, a bandwagon of artistic benevolence is born.

Kindness and excellence recently ignited the stage of the PICC Reception Hall at the musical tribute for Ryan Cayabyab, 2018 National Artist for Music and 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, mounted by the UP Medical Alumni Foundation. All singers who performed at the SOAP Opera ng Buhay Ko 2: Musika ni Ryan, Medesina ng Ating Bayan waived their talent fee — including world-class Lea Salonga and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra helmed exceptionally by choral conductor Jonathan Velasco.

Generosity was the spirit of the tribute concert — all for the love of Mr. C and the future doctors of UP College of Medicine. After all, the proceeds of the show, according to Dr. Melfred Hernandez, overall chair of SOAP Opera ng Buhay Ko, will be for the benefit of the UP College of Medicine as it embarks on its most ambitious infrastructure project to date, the construction of the 11-story Medical Science Building.   

SOAP, Melfred informs, is the medical code on the progress chart of a patient. S is for “subjective,” which is all about what the patient feels. O is for “objective” or what the doctor examines in the patient. A is for “assessment” or the diagnosis. And P is for “plan,” which is the treatment.

Pinky Marquez and Rachel Alejandro.

The concert coherently catalogued Cayabyab’s common and not-so-common compositions. When the show started with the orchestra playing Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika, the audience’s mood was set to meander to the greatness of Mr. C’s music. When the Mass Appeal Choir, a group of professionals, musicians, businessmen, doctors and lawyers, took to the stage their rendition of Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka, the PICC, so to speak, was drenched in delight. Tim Pavino sang his lilting execution of Iduyan Mo. Yasmien Kurdi and Franco Laurel supported each other’s vocal range with Tunay na Ligaya. Franco, who served as the program’s host, also had an unforgettable solo through Paraisong Parisukat.

Ever an engaging performer, Cris Villonco sauntered onstage in her almost animated rendition of Limang Dipang Tao. John Arcilla commandeered the stage with his powerful rendering of Hindi Simple ang Buhay.

Classically trained Arman Ferrer, the only performer to receive a standing ovation that night from many members of the audience for his solo performances, was a vocal dynamo when he sang Gloria. Before he sang his second song Sometime, Somewhere, he told Mr. C off mic, “Ang hirap!” — referring to the vocal calisthenics he needed to show for the composition of the National Artist. But Arman breezed through his next number — with aplomb!   

Conductor Jonathan Velasco with Arman Ferrer.

Ima Castro’s raw emotions went well with Hello, Joe, Goodbye. Pinky Marquez’s versatility as a singer was evident in Abababa Boogie. Pinky was later on joined on stage by Cris Go, Tim Pavino and Franco Laurel for a string of stirring songs taken from the musical Katy.

Rachel Alejandro and Pinky Marquez did a duet of Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako from Katy. The audience was quiet, on the verge of soul searching, moved by the performance of the two. Then they burst into deafening, sustained applause. Rachel continued to own the stage with her solo rendition of Halik ng Kahapon, from the musical Alikabok.

There was beautiful clip-clopping in the shared voices of the all-female trio of Baihana when the group sang Mamang Kutsero. Baihana was simply a powerhouse of vocal aptitude that night. 

Then Jaya came. Soulful and spirited was her take on Kahit Ika’y Panaginip Lang. You wished she would stay longer on stage. Hers was one of the best performances that night.

The Ryan Cayabyab Singers, a group of seven powerful soloists, superbly did an upbeat song titled Hibang sa Awit. One of the group members, Poppert Bernadas, zoomed to the stage from the audience’s row not because it was a style but because he came from another show in the neighboring CCP that night for the cultural center’s 50th anniversary. Prior to his show at the CCP, Poppert, a member of the Cinema Evaluation Board and soon to take a role in upcoming teleserye Starla, came from a theater run of Rak of Aegis in Quezon City. Whew!

Jed Madela and his sky-rocketing voice entered the stage and sang three songs: How Can I?, Iniibig Kita and Munting Sanggol.

Of course, everybody was waiting for Lea Salonga,  accompanied on piano by Mr. C, who sang a number of songs including Nais Ko, Magbalik Ka na Mahal, Kailan,  and the theme song of SEA Games 2019, We Win As One! Lea’s enunciation and her emotion were crystal clear — haunting, liberating and celebratory. Listening to her was an excursion to joys and challenges of the soul, a treat to the senses. 

It was a hair-raising experience when all SOAP Opera ng Buhay Ko performers — including the Ateneo Chamber Singers, Mass Appeal Choir, UPMAS Choir, UP Medicine Choir — took the stage to sing the finale song O, Bayan Ko. The song was sewn seamlessly to the National Anthem. Everybody stood up at the end of the show to sing Lupang Hinirang — and went home feeling patriotic.

It is always a patriotic feeling to be generous to help your countrymen — the scholars of UP — while basking in the music of Ryan Cayabyab. * Photos by Jaypee Maristaza

(E-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

LEA SALONGA RYAN CAYABYAB
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