MANILA, Philippines?Star-studded yet stately.
The country?s top musical artists descended on the Manila Cathedral Wednesday and sang songs for the heroine of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
And as requested by the children of former President Corazon Aquino, the Requiem Mass for their mother proceeded in what a TV production executive described as a ?stately manner? amid the celebrity glitters.
In one of the most stirring moments of the Mass, Lea Salonga?s rendition of ?Bayan Ko? moved a number of people to rise, weep and flash the Laban (Fight) sign.
Salonga sang the revolutionary song just before the former President?s casket was borne out of the cathedral for military honors preparatory to the funeral procession to Manila Memorial Park.
As the song ended, the last word ?laya? (free) still reverberating, the assembly erupted into applause.
Glowing feedback was immediately posted in the popular social networking website Facebook.
As though the mirror images of the public outpouring of grief for the deaths of Aquino (on Aug. 1) and her husband Ninoy Aquino (on Aug. 21, 1983) were not moving enough, some Facebook users said Salonga?s rendition evoked memories of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.
?Grabe naluha-luha ako doon (I was teary-eyed),? said one who watched the Mass on TV.
?Nakakapangilabot (It gave me goose bumps),? posted another.
Dulce and Zsa Zsa Padilla, both known for their powerful voices, sang ?Your Heart Today? and ?Hindi Kita Malilimutan,? respectively, during communion.
Kris Aquino, the former President?s youngest child, was seen shedding tears while Padilla sang.
Matinee idol Piolo Pascual sang ?Sa Iyo Lamang,? and pop singer Erik Santos, ?The Lord?s Prayer.?
The singing continued as the funeral cortege set off.
But the attendance of prominent entertainers at the Requiem Mass gave the otherwise solemn event a semblance of a noontime variety show.
Like a concert
Performers like Pascual, Martin Nievera and Regine Velasquez apparently wanted only to pay tribute to the former President. But their performance-level participation bordered on the inappropriate, if not indecorous, as one mourner familiar with church liturgy put it.
?It looked like they were having a concert in the middle of the Mass,? the mourner told the Philippine Daily Inquirer after the funeral service.
The mourner particularly frowned upon the song numbers, many of which were performed by ABS-CBN talents, at the altar after Aquino?s casket was borne out of the cathedral.
Other than the post-recessional performances, the mourner saw no big problem with the flow of the funeral service.
He said the song numbers were inappropriate because the Mass was yet to be completed.
?[The organizers] should have realized that the funeral Mass was to end during the interment at the burial site, not at the cathedral. That?s why there was no final blessing yet,? the mourner said.
?It is written on the program,? he said, referring to the 20-page booklet distributed at the entrance of the cathedral.
The Catholic Church has rubrics to preserve the sanctity of the Holy Sacrifice and keep its focus, which is Jesus Christ.
This explains why liturgists are always wary of ?additions? that may obscure the true meaning of the deeply solemn activity.
Velasquez and Nievera lent their exceptional voices to sing ?The Prayer.?
This was followed by Ogie Alcasid?s rendition of a slower version of his composition, ?Pangako.?
But it was Jose Mari Chan?s singing of Ninoy Aquino?s poem to his wife, ?I have fallen in love (with the same woman three times)? that drew the loudest applause.
Chan sang the piece for the first time in public.
Chan has been quoted as saying he was inspired by Ninoy Aquino and the Holy Spirit when he put the poem to music in 1987, for the martyred hero?s fourth death anniversary.
Jed Madela performed an elaborate version of ?Impossible Dream,? a favorite song of Ninoy Aquino.
Pop singer Sarah Geronimo was given the honor of singing the 1986 People Power anthem, ?Magkaisa.?
To wrap it all up, the Apo Hiking Society trio Jim Paredes, Danny Javier and Buboy Garovillo led the other singers in singing their composition, ?Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo,? which they wrote shortly after the 1986 People Power Revolution.
During the necrological service on Tuesday night, top-notch singers also lent their voices to honor Aquino.
In between the eulogies, child singing champion Raph Salazar sang ?You Raise Me Up,? Ivy Violan sang ?Hilumin? and Christian Bautista sang ?Ugoy ng Duyan.?
Jamie Rivera also sang her ?Heal Our Land,? which was issued after EDSA II in 2001.
The Aquino children had one request of the Mass organizers: that it be held in ?a stately manner,? according to Deo Endrinal, ABS-CBN business unit head for TV Production and manager of Kris, a major talent of the network.
Endrinal said the production numbers in the Mass were the result of the ?collaboration? between the network and a committee designated by the Aquino family.
Rafael Lopa, a project director at the Benigno Aquino Foundation, headed the committee. Cory Vidanes, ABS-CBN channel head, led the network?s team. Fr. Manoling Francisco, Kris? cousin and composer of the inspirational songs ?Tanging Yaman? and ?Hindi Kita Malilimutan,? was also part of the production group.
?We started preparing for the cathedral rites on Saturday, when President Cory died,? Endrinal said. ?We immediately asked everyone on the list of participants to clear their schedules. Sarah [Geronimo] canceled a commercial shoot.?
Endrinal said all the performers were handpicked by the Aquino family.
?Kris said the last concert that her mom watched and really enjoyed was Josh Groban?s [concert in October 2007]. So she asked Nievera and Velasquez to sing ?The Prayer,? which Groban popularized,? Endrinal said.
The singers rehearsed with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the nearby Manila Hotel on Tuesday afternoon, Endrinal said.
On Sunday afternoon, a piano rehearsal was held at the ABS-CBN studios.
Wednesday, ?everyone was at Manila Cathedral at 8 a.m., the male performers already in their barong Tagalog, the female singers in their formal dresses,? Endrinal said.
Bobet Vidanes, who has directed all of Kris? game shows, was program director.
Endrinal said it took two days to set up the TV screens, 15 cameras, and the lights and audio systems for the program.
Videos from other venues, including the La Salle Green Hills gymnasium in Mandaluyong and the Ninoy Aquino Shrine in Makati, that were aired during the program were all taken by the ABS-CBN news and entertainment teams.
Endrinal said the production team ?dutifully observed protocol? throughout the Mass.
He said the flower arrangements were by Robert Antonio, the flower shop owned by Kris, ABS-CBN executive Biboy Arboleda and TV host-talent manager Boy Abunda.
Endrinal also said Kris sought the help of her friend, writer Cecille Matutina, for the thank-you speech she delivered after the Mass.
?Kris finished writing it Monday night, taking all of four hours because she broke down several times. She said every word came from her heart,? Endrinal said.