Keeping the precious legacies alive
RECOLLECTIONS, REFLECTIONS - Dr. Jose "Dodong" R. Gullas (The Freeman) - July 14, 2019 - 12:00am

I consider myself a revivalist of some sorts. I take pleasure in perpetuating memories and putting value in what has been established by people I hold dear in my heart, most especially if what have become their legacies have touched and improved the lives of others.

It is crystal clear in my memory when in the 1970s Mama Pining requested Mr. Tony Falcon, then a grade-school faculty member in the University, to find and train young boys to be members of an all-boys choir. The University was to offer the boys scholarships in return.  Mama had an inherent love for music, her primary intention was to bring forth music first and foremost for the Lord, and then for the University.

Mama had the group nurtured and developed… and it won the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) Award, the first Cebuano choral group to win it. Unfortunately, when my mother passed away in 1984, the UV Boys Choir dissolved. The music stopped, and silence took over.

In 1999, I had the hankering to revive the University’s choral tradition, to honor my mother’s memory. I started the University of the Visayas Choir, composed of young boys and girls in high school. In 2006, however, the group bumped into a wall due to the choirmaster’s irresponsible and despicable conduct. I decided to disband the group.

Sometime after, the choir members came and pleaded with me that disbanding the group would affect their scholarships in the University. I learned that many of these students were from low income families and were only able to sustain their studies through their scholarships. On that very day, I renewed my commitment to the choir.  I renamed the group as UV Chorale.

This time around I found a partner in looking after the choir.  My wife Nena also committed to be the chorale manager. I asked Atty. Dodong Baduel to find us a good choir conductor in Manila. I specified a “lady” conductor. 

The brand new start meant bigger and bolder directions for the choir. Nena and I wanted the group to excel; and to be able to do it, the choristers had to have the best training. With divine guidance, we found Ms. Anna Tabita Piquero, a member of the UP Madrigal Singers.

It has never been quite the same for the UV Chorale since.  The group’s first international competition was in Busan, South Korea in 2007. As the UV Chorale was singing the “Green and White March,” the UV Anthem, I whispered to Nena that, indeed, the group brought music to the world. The group sang before a foreign audience, and my pride was without bounds.

Over the years, the UV Chorale reaped awards and recognition both in our country and abroad. In 2010, the group was among the “Ani ng Dangal” awardees, an accolade for Filipinos who have achieved international recognition. But the group’s journey had not been a walk in the part; it, in fact, was long and arduous, with many bumps along the way. At one point I had to choose whether to retain or change altogether the composition of the training staff. With guidance by the Holy Spirit, everything just fell into place.

Recently the choir was invited to a Joint International Choral Concert in Osaka, Japan. The accolade and the appreciation that the group received via social media was overwhelming. It  brought me back to the memory of my mother, since I am simply continuing what Mama Pining started – giving these talented young men and women a means to a better education.

Nena and I continue to dream for the UV Chorale to always bring honor not just to UV, but to Cebu and to the country, and that it will forever touch the hearts and bring tears to the eyes of everyone who truly loves and appreciates music.

The story of my journey with The Freeman is similar. I believe that this newspaper is my Uncle Paulino Gullas’s most lasting and tangible contribution to Cebu. His colorful, albeit short-lived, political career has faded into oblivion, but his memory lives on with the existence of The Freeman, which is now celebrating its 100 years.

The inspiration I got with the little that I knew of my uncle, and after I had sought the approval of his wife, Tia Hilda, and my father, Papa Inting, and my mother, Mama Pining, to revive the paper in 1965, my commitment to The Freeman remains rock solid as we look toward the next 100 years.

I am likewise grateful to my good friend, Mr. Juanito Jabat, for presenting the idea of coming up with local paper in the dialect, Banat News, 25 long years ago. Without doubt, my decision to go for it was sound and timely. Banat News has brought local news with a “Sugbuanon” flavor closer to the Cebuanos.

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