Rocking the rondallaBy Patty Aldaba Lim Yusah
Philippine Daily Inquirer
For Filipinos who are immigrants or residents of foreign countries, there is always that nagging question of how to keep the children connected to their culture.
Filipino-American families in Bedford, Massachusetts, a suburban town 24 kilometers northwest of the city of Boston, do not have that problem.
Their Filipino-American community gathers every other Sunday from September to July in the town hall, where they acquaint the children, ages 3-19, with their Filipino heritage in various fun and functional ways.
At Iskwelahang Pilipino (IP), they tell stories about the islands they left behind, they hold cooking lessons for Philippine recipes and they teach the Filipino language.
Most notably, the IP has a rondalla ensemble that is taught to play folk, pop and art music. The program incorporates dance and movement into an otherwise purely instrumental performance, and this has become the IP Rondalla’s trademark.
On July 4 at 8 p.m., the IP Rondalla will bring its 2013 summer concert—billed as Rondalla Rocks!—to Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila, with the Harvard Club of the Philippines as copresenter. Also on tap are special appearances by Rachel Alejandro, Ryan Cayabyab, Jon Joven, Celeste Legaspi and Jim Paredes.
The ensemble is likewise slated to perform with the Loboc Children’s Choir and the Dimiao Children’s Rondalla in the towns in Bohol, which are sponsoring the group, as well as the rondallas of the public schools in San Pablo, Laguna, and of the Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija.
The group’s itinerary includes concerts in Sorsogon to help raise funds for St. Michael’s Parish Church in Irosin and Bulan Elementary Public School in Batangas City as part of the St. Bridget Academy centennial and at University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños to help them raise scholarship funds.
The young ensemble is likewise looking forward to jam sessions and interactions with the Aetas of Bayan-Bayanan, as well as the students of Lewis College in Sorsogon and Precious Gem Academy in Fairview, Quezon City.
IP Rondalla director Christi-Anne Castro will lead workshops on Philippine music at UP, Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Philippine Women’s University, where the ensemble will also be performing with the schools’ respective cultural groups.
The visiting rondalla group will also perform with the children with special needs of Paaralang Pagibig at Pagasa and of the National Orthopedic Hospital.
IP was formed in 1976 by a group of Filipino-American parents who needed to create this particular learning environment for their children. A volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization, IP is the “longest continuously running Filipino school in the United States.”
The rondalla program was established 10 years later by Cristina Castro. Under the musical direction of classical guitarist Michael Dadap and his successor, Castro, the IP Rondalla has developed into a versatile ensemble.
IP and its rondalla have thrived in the creative and vibrant surroundings of Boston, one of the oldest cities in the United States and an international center for research, education, culture and the arts.
Rondalla teachers and leaders have emerged from within the group, sustaining the ensemble and ensuring a new generation will carry on the musical tradition.
The IP Rondalla regularly performs at colleges, folk festivals and other Filipino American events, raising awareness about Filipino-Americans and the Philippines, as well as easing the longing for the homeland among Filipino expatriates through familiar tunes.
The ensemble has played at the United Nations in New York City, twice performed for President Fidel Ramos and dedicated a concert to Filipino maestro Nitoy Gonzales.
It has recorded two compact discs: “Crossing Over” (1995) and “Pasko Sa America!” (2002), an album of Filipino and Western Christmas favorites.
The IP Rondalla first toured the Philippines in 1990. Members were enriched by a wide range of experiences, from meeting young children from Smokey Mountain in Tondo to playing for President Corazon Aquino, whose son, the current President, they will be meeting soon at Malacañang.
In 1998, the group came for the centennial celebration and performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The students returned to the US with fond memories of hiking up a mystical mountain in Tayabas with local villagers and giving a benefit concert to help efforts against illegal logging.
In 2004 another rondalla generation participated in Cuerdas nin Kagabsan: 1st International Rondalla Festival in Bicol.
The group has toured Europe twice: In 1994 to perform in Belgium (including a concert at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters), Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and England; and in 2008 to play in Switzerland and Austria.
IP’s ambassadors of goodwill are looking forward to their summer gig and are thankful for the support of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Bohol Gov. Edgardo Chatto, Bulan Mayor Marnellie Robles and Sta. Magdalena Mayor Alejandrino Gamos; Lutgardo Labad of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, Harvey DyChiao, the MIT Filipino Club and the St. Scholastica Alumnae Foundation; the Ayala Mall in partnership with the Subic Bay Management Authority, PUP Research and Extension Foundation and Vest Foundation; Loida Lewis, the Balisnomo family, the Rubico sisters and the Secillano family; Asian Air Safari and Cebu Pacific Air.
For this upcoming road tour, the IP Rondalla will donate proceeds of its concerts to the charitable causes of its Philippine hosts.
For ticket information, text or call 0918-8380319 or 0917-8840319.