Elmo Makil, one of our best baritones, 65
Elmo Makil, one of our best baritones, 65
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas () - January 4, 2003 - 12:00am
A disturbing text message passed on from cellphone to cellphone while families were celebrating the end of the old year with champagne and fruit cake said that Elmo Makil, 65, one of the country’s best baritones, passed away at 2 o’clock in the morning of New Year’s Day.

Elmo, along with his wife Lorna Peña-Reyes, had moved recently to Dumaguete City to retire after serving as chair of the voice department of the UP College of Music. He and Lorna were vacationing in Manila to spend the holidays with their married children and grandchildren. It was to be his last Christmas; some of Elmo’s friends actually received New Year text messages from him a little over past midnight. Pianist Carminda de Leon-Regala, who had done a number of concerts with him, said during his wake that it was not typical of Elmo to send text messages. Elmo probably had a "premonition" of what was to be.

Elmo Quidangen Makil, said Bert Robledo, Bravo Filipino organizer, "possessed one of the most resonant voices around, and his easy manner and stage presence endeared him to audiences here and abroad. He was comfortable with almost all kinds of vocal music, be it opera, Broadway, oratorios, zarzuelas or love songs. A most-sought-after singer, he gave memorable portrayals in musicales like Ang Dakilang Anak-Pawis as Andres Bonifacio; Noli Me Tangere, La Loba Negra, Minda Mora and he was the lead role in the Rigoletto opera presented in Singapore, and he even performed in a Japanese Noh drama."
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Stage director Behn Cervantes spoke of Elmo’s "nationalistic fervor" when he was singing Bayan Ko in one of Behn’s musical events. Elmo never got to finish the song as he was overcome with emotion, tears falling down his cheeks.

Aside from being a singer, Elmo was an arranger for choral music, conductor of the Musica Sacra singers, and a composer. He was part of the Three Baritones – the other two members were Manny Gregorio and Gamaliel Viray – a take-off from the original Three Tenors of Pavarotti and Company. Elmo’s last musical stint was for a Christmas fund-raising event held December 7 for the Talayan Christian Church which he, along with the Musicas Sacra singers, had been lovingly doing for decades.
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Bert had always reminded Elmo to record his performances and the songs he loved to sing for posterity. Elmo acceded, and just last year, he was able to complete recording 60 songs which he recorded with pianists Agot Espino and Ena Aldecoa in the FEBC studios in Bulacan. This he did, said Bert, after a debilitating stroke. "The result is a rare gift that can only come from the heart. Indeed, we are going to be the richer for it."

The Bravo Filipino radio program aired over DZFE 98.7 FM will pay a musical tribute to the life and music of this wonderful singer, Elmo Makil, this afternoon at 6 o’clock. Certainly, the presentation will give a wide sampling of his singing skills and repertoire.
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On another front, this column’s faithful reader, Jose Labrador, comments on the recently-concluded Peace Summit held at the Southern Christian College in Midsayap, Cotabato, under the sponsorship of the Mindanao People’s Peace Movement of Mindanao. Below are portions of his letter:

"I was deeply disturbed by your column regarding the Peace Summit declaration for a United Nations-supervised referendum in Mindanao. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but much of it has basis. The people in the ARMM are surely going to press for their own independence with the same fervor that they opted for autonomy.

"I probably wouldn’t care much if the area referred to has even at least half the distance of Hawaii to the U.S. mainland from us. But it is already a disturbing thought to have an independent island of Basilan so close to the rest of Mindanao. What more to have a land border with an independent state? I certainly hope they don’t intend to give the whole of Mindanao away. That still won’t solve the problem. India and Pakistan have had border disputes even before they were truly separated and half a century later they are threatening each other with nuclear weapons in a possible war that will not only affect them but the entire world.

"I subscribe to the dictum that people are allowed to make mistakes. But I add that as long as it is not fatal and certainly as long as it doesn’t involve others. Then there is also the saying that fools learn by their mistakes. When East Timor opted to be independent, it was already assured it would be supported and protected by the UN and the U.S. Who is going to support and protect us? Is Vice President Gingona going to assure that the U.S. will come to our aid? Maybe they will, but it won’t be because of him!

"I cringe at the thought that give or take three decades, we could be engaged in an all-out war against our soon-to-be independent brothers. It could be about religion, it could be about mining/water rights, border disputes, sea routes, you name it but there will always be something to argue about. We shall all be losers then. More autonomy, more money, but whatever problems our brothers in the south have, they must be answered and solved in the context of one republic."

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