Their voices may have matured but their message and mission remain pure and childlike.
Even after 21 years, Munting Tinig, a choir based in Barangay (village) 18 in Dagat-Dagatan, Caloocan City, continues to bring cheer to audiences in and outside the city with their rendition of classic Christmas carols and original songs composed by the group’s founder, Orlando Maunio.
But the joy they bring lasts long after they have sung the last notes: The money they get from donors go to the purchase of toys for needy children in the Dagat-Dagatan community.
Maunio, 49, said he and his neighbors first thought of singing carols for a cause in 1991. Their first house-to-house gig, in which he assembled the neighbors’ children, raised enough money to buy food items for up to 50 indigent families in the area.
“We gave them a pack each consisting of five kilos of rice, a loaf of bread, cheese, noodles, coffee and sugar, among others,” Maunio recalled in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
At first, they only sang for their neighborhood. But in 2004, Munting Tinig became a more organized charity-oriented group and “started to get noticed,” especially after it was featured in the Inquirer Metro section.
Soon enough, the city government, a state-owned bank, and even the management of a cockfighting arena added to its growing list of donors.
But the passing of the years saw an “awkward” and inevitable phase for the choir members.
“The songs I’ve composed are really for kids. But now, most of the members are already in their teens and they sometimes feel embarrassed to sing the songs,” Maunio said. “The teenagers once joked that they were no longer the ‘Munting Tinig,’ but rather the ‘MunTeen Tinig,’” Maunio said.
Five of the current members—the oldest in the group—joined in 2005. The youngest recruit is aged 10.
Maunio said he expected the older members to have less time for the choir in the next few years as they enter college. Fortunately, some of his neighbors have promised to let their young children join the caroling group next year.
But while the talent pool is constantly being refreshed, Manunio said the economic crunch is affecting the choir’s ability to provide toys for the 300 to 400 children whom they regularly invite to Munting Tinig’s grand Christmas concert each year.
“Due to their growing expenses, some donors could no longer give us that much,” he said. “Even the city government, a regular donor, also told us that it is keeping its Christmas celebration simple in view of the devastation wrought by Typhoon ‘Pablo.’”
But despite these challenges, there’s no stopping the spirit of giving for Munting Tinig. “Even if it’s just a simple toy, you can see from the children’s faces how much it means to them. The smile says it all,” he said.
And there’s also no stopping Maunio from planning bigger projects for the group. “I really hope there will be a time when we can help people not only during Christmas. I hope we get donors who can support us all year round, for the sake of the children and the families we support in turn.”
“We also hope to record an album. It’s been a dream for quite sometime now and I know it’s not that hard. Perhaps we don’t have enough songs for this right now. But I hope our current lineup would get some attention outside our small part of the city,” he said.
“This is our own bayanihan act. And by this small gesture we hope we can put smiles on the faces of the poor.”