By Sarah Grutas
BAAO, Camarines Sur (BicolToday.com/12-May-12) – The choir from this small town in Camarines Sur became the champion and grabbed the first prize in the recently concluded 18th Certamen International Juvenil de Habaneras y Polifonia in Torrevieja, Spain.
The Baao Children’s Choir, under the baton of Virgilio Briones, himself from Baao, bested 40 other groups from around the world during the elimination, and beat 8 other choirs during the competition proper held on April 27-29, 2012.
As champion, the choir took home the coveted Golden Trophy and the €3,000 cash prize.
18th Certamen International Juvenil de Habaneras y Polifonia is translated as the 18th Junior Habaneras and Polyphony International Contest, this competition was organized by the local government of Torrevieja, and aims to promote and spread the Habanera, a Latin traditional music, among young singers worldwide.
“But, the road to the choir’s victory in Spain wasn’t easy,” said Francisco Bulalacao, Jr., DepEd Region 5 Supervisor and guardian of the choir, “the competition in Spain wasn’t just a celebration of the children’s artistic talents, it was also a celebration of the Filipino spirit – resilient, hard-working, and optimistic. We had limited budget, and there were times when the kids felt insecure about themselves, especially when they were with the other contestants. The choir was aware that it was the only group in the competition that is from a relatively poor country – from a town no one’s even heard of – but they always kept a positive vibes.”
Jojie Badilla, the choir’s road manager, related that the Baao Children’s Choir was the first Asian choir to participate in the said international competition. This was also their first time to compete outside Southeast Asia, and despite being in competition with other veteran groups, the Baao Children’s Choir still managed to emerge victorious, beating Soilare Children’s Choir (in 2nd place, from Latvia) and Antara Korai Children’s Choir (in 3rd place, from Spain).
“During the contest, the Filipino group received a standing ovation and the longest applause from the audience!” Badilla added.
Without getting government support, specifically the help from the Camarines Sur provincial government, the choir sailed through the competition. The only help they received was from Baao Mayor Gaite.
“I wish there was, but we couldn’t impose,” said Francisco Bulalacao, Jr. when asked if the provincial government of Camarines Sur contributed in the choir’s journey to Spain. “Thankfully, Mayor Gaite (of Baao) was there to support us. We also thank the people of Baao who played a big part in the choir’s success,” added Bulalacao.
Before their departure for Spain, the Baao Children’s Choir held a series of concerts in Baao, and other parts of Camarines Sur, and Metro Manila to gather resources that will support their round-trip airfare and accommodation abroad. In addition, Bulalacao related that Filipinos in Spain were generous to the Philippine delegation as well, with some OFWs even hosting dinner for them.
The choir owed much of its success to conductor Virgilio Briones, who is regarded as the Bicol region’s most awarded choral conductor.
In a press statement by road manager, Jojie Badilla, it was learned that Briones is the only Filipino conductor who has won five national championships in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA), a program carried out by DepEd and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Under his tutelage, the Baao Children’s Choir (with members from 11 to 18 years old) remains to be the undefeated choral in the NAMCYA.
The Baao Children’s Choir (also known as the Barlin Angelics) had its First International Tour in December 2011 when they represented the Philippines in the 2011 International Children Arts and Culture Festival in Malaysia, said Badilla.
“The group has won the hearts and drew raves from the public including Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib and First Lady Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Her Royal Highness Queen Sultanah Kalsom,” Badilla added.[Bicoltoday.com]
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