In Zambales, from farm to center of music, arts
Just weeks after Mt. Pinatubo erupted in June 1991, Elenita Magsaysay Corpus Bolipata phoned her son, Coke, a violinist in New York. “The farm is gone,” was all that Elenita told her Juilliard School-trained son.
Coke returned in 1993 and helped revive the farm, a 15-hectare mango orchard
developed by Elenita’s father, Ramon Corpus, in 1921. Corpus opened the property as the Oasis Farm in 1924 in the seaside village of San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales.
By 1996, Coke also turned a portion of the property into a center for music and the arts to continue his grandfather’s dream.
Corpus’ profile in the Philippine Music Registry reads: “… violinist, composer, concert master, and the first Filipino musician to have completed his musical education abroad. Corpus completed a soloist course in violin at the New England Conservatory of Music, in Boston, in 1919.”
His two grandsons by Elenita became a cellist (Chino) and pianist (Jed).
Casa San Miguel, as how Coke renamed that part of the farm, has evolved into a rich resource to a town bouncing back from the volcanic eruptions and closure of the United States Naval Communication Station (Navcomstaphil) beside the Bolipata farm.
Casa San Miguel’s year-round Cuerdas and Cuadros (Strings and Frames) Community Arts Program has trained young musicians and visual artists in the last 23 seasons, preparing them for the Philippine High School for the Arts, University of Sto. Tomas’ Conservatory of Music, University of the Philippines’ College of Music, Santa Isabel College and other institutions.
Casa San Miguel Foundation’s income-generating ventures, meant to raise more funds for poor, young talents, employ 44 people from San Antonio.
At least 31 of them work at the Backstage Café, Bed and Breakfast, Anawangin Cove Tours, museums and events. Thirteen others teach at the center or manage it, said Armand Domingo, operations chief of the place.
For Coke Bolipata, Casa San Miguel was an experiment in putting up a community structure that can provide its gifted members the time and space for developing their interests and talent in classical music.
The question he sought to answer, Coke wrote, is “how cultural programs, particularly classical music and theater, can be sustained under the current socio-political system.”
Starbucks Philippines has teamed up with the foundation for the Ambassadorship Program, which supports 25 scholars from Cuerdas and Cuadros to become advocates of children’s rights, school safety and the environment.
In this sense, Coke has followed in the footsteps of his father, Ricardo, who in his lifetime has put to school more than 100 scholars.
Scholars Renee Vie Soterio, 13, and Ralph Ariel Albeza, 15, now teach violin to beginners as they move to advanced courses. Isaiah Lipana, 23, who trained under Coke, is now the center’s principal.
Term 1 of Season 24 began on July 5 with 27 students. Casa San Miguel will then record a Christmas album and another set called “Songs of War” culled from the 1896 Philippine Revolution, World War II and Edsa People Power I.
Term 2 is set from Nov. 8, 2015 to March 6, 2016 in Manila. Fund raisers include the screening of the indie film “Boses,” featuring Coke and prodigy Julian, and a Christmas bazaar of mango products.
Casa San Miguel is also host to the Anita Magsaysay-Ho Gallery and Museum. The structure, built by Siemens, also features the works of Zambales-based artists like Zaniel Mariano.
Anita, a niece of Ramon and his wife Rosario, served as chair of the foundation from 1998 to 2008.
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