Payatas teens treat Ayala crowd to guitar prowess | Inquirer News

Payatas teens treat Ayala crowd to guitar prowess

/ 07:21 AM May 27, 2018

From the foot of the Payatas landfill in Quezon City, the children ditched their flipflops and grimy shirts for dressy slacks and barong, and black leather shoes. They then piled into a rental van packed with their guitars and music sheets, and motored off to Makati City, just kilometers away but worlds apart from their home ground.

In a concert aptly titled “Cuerdas ng Pag-asa” (strings of hope) at the Ayala Museum, the guitar ensemble of Sparrow Music delighted listeners with Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto in G Major,” a challenging 15-minute piece that they performed publicly for the first time. Their set also included eight folk songs from different regions in the country.


For Ferdinand Medina, executive director of Sparrow Music Philippines — a nonprofit center that provides free music lessons to children from the Payatas dumpsite — the concert was meant not only to showcase the children’s talents, but also to give them a glimpse of a world bigger than their impoverished community.


For five years now, Sparrow Music has been a refuge for the youth living in a rosily named area called Lupang Pangako (“promised land”). The center, a faith-based organization, serves as a symbol of hope in one of the most depressed areas in Metro Manila.

“Through music lessons and the experience of performing onstage, children are made to see and feel that there is still hope in their lives,” said Medina, a graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Music. “Through their performances, we get to share that hope with others as well,” he added.

The young musicians showcase their talent at the Manila Guitar Fest.

Guitar fest

The Sparrow Music kids have performed in several venues in Metro Manila in the past year. In August 2017, they held their first recital at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where they played well-known classical pieces for guitar and piano.

Last year, the young musicians had the rare opportunity to perform alongside local and international classical guitarists at the Manila Guitar Fest at the University of Makati.

Through their years of study, the students of Sparrow Music have grown not only in their musicality, but also developed discipline, leadership and communication skills, Medina said.


Not to mention, gained new experiences.

For the 10 members of the guitar ensemble, the performance at the Ayala Museum, which they had never visited before, also felt like a field trip, as they soaked in sights significantly different from what they see back in Payatas.

This kind of exposure is important for their growth and their vision of their future, said Medina.

“Their playmates back home have no idea what the Ayala Museum, the Cultural Center of the Philippines or the Manila Guitar Festival are,” he said. “But in their case, they have visited and performed in these places, and were even applauded by their audience.”

More important still is sharing with the students the idea of excellence born out of hard work and discipline which may not thrive in depressed areas, where mediocrity tends to be the norm, he added.

“Insecurity is a major factor that may be passed on by their parents,” Medina said. “In the beginning, the children were very shy and hesitant. That’s why it is important for them to see that they can achieve success on their own through their performances, which in turn can give them a sense of pride.”

During rehearsals, Carlo Gianan, the youngest of the ensemble, could not contain his excitement and kept fiddling and toying with his guitar. The 12-year-old joined the center only last year, and the Ayala Museum gig was his first taste of being onstage.

‘Payatas spring’

Medina described Gianan as one of the boys loitering by a trash-filled creek that residents jokingly called the “Payatas Spring.” But with his sister Carla already studying the piano at the center, Carlo said he wanted to join the group as well.

Gianan may be excited, but not nearly as nervous as Edwin Marino, a pioneer student of Sparrow Music, who has been with the group for over four years now.

Marino, 16, expressed apprehension for the future. “Many things can still happen,” said this fifth of seven children, whose parents are currently jobless. “I may have to stop [playing music] for a while to find a job or help at home,” he said.

With 50 students coming from various backgrounds and having different dreams, managing the center can be a daunting task, said Medina.

As a nonprofit organization, having sustainable funding and resources remains the center’s biggest challenge, as even friends have started having donor-fatigue, he added.

All the instruments used by the young musicians were donated by friends and kind-hearted strangers, as were the formal attire for their recital last year, Medina said. But the kids have been outgrowing them fast, he rued.

But like the Payatas musicians, he’s not about to lose hope, he said, adding that his biggest dream is to have a permanent home for Sparrow Music, which had just transferred to their third venue earlier this month because of leasing issues with building owners.

READY FOR CLOSE-UPLed by their mentor, UP music graduate Ferdinand Medina (center), members of the Sparrow Guitar Ensemble from the Payatas landfill site pose for a souvenir shot during their concert at the Ayala Museum in Makati. —PHOTOS BY RICHARD A. REYES

Sense of security

“We dream that we would have a simple but permanent center, so that our beneficiaries would also have a sense of security,” Medina said.

The center has around 10 volunteers, among them the kids’ parents who help prepare lunch and snacks for the young musicians. Supporters also help out. One of Medina’s Australia-based friends recently donated 10 laptops which the children use in their after-school program.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Whatever the future holds for Sparrow Music, Medina said he remains optimistic that the children will continue “to live out the idea of hard work, discipline and excellence that they have gained from learning music.”

He added: “Even if they pursue other careers, I hope they will also go back to their communities, share their skills, and contribute in their own way.”

TAGS: Ferdinand Medina, Sparrow Music

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.