Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Better Late Than Never: Coming Late to the Game of Thrones Mania

I have poor timing. I am a latecomer to the Game of Thrones mania. Imagine being hooked to a series at episode 4 of a seven-episode Season 7. It's like catching the tail-end of a parade. And I have to wait one year for the next and final (ever) season! Talk about withdrawal syndrome.

My reluctance to join the Games of Thrones fanbase could be explained by my irrational (for some) preference of books over movies. Most of the screen adaptations have frustrated me, so I have always been loyal to the original books. I was spell-bound with the writings of JK Rowlings of Harry Potter’s wizarding adventures. My imagination soared with the Hunger Games book. These books whetted my appetite for the movies, so I promised myself that I will read the books before I see the movie versions. Also, I did not have the time to read any more fantasy books.

I had enough escapist ventures to keep me satisfied, well away from epic fantasy productions such as GoT. Such was my immersion in Harry Potter that I mistook Gandalf for Dumbledore during a Lord of the Rings movie. I blurted out “Dumbledore” inside the movie theater. My son slid down his chair in shame. He said it was a blasphemous moment in a roomful of LOTR fans.

I managed to live through six years of GoT-fanaticism from my niece who swore that this is the best show EVER, despite the excessive violence, blood and gore, gratuitous nudity, incest, and sexual abuse. I was horrified that she obsessed over a show that glorified treachery, lies, and greed, all to capture the Iron Throne. Besides, I was not in a mood for dragons, direwolves, and the undead. My niece could not believe that I didn't keep up with the hype. Pop culture be damned.

Then, I got hold of George R.R. Martin's best-selling book series "A Song of Ice and Fire". I discovered that audiobooks are wonderful creations to keep one engrossed through the long drive home. The world of Westeros and fire-breathing dragons beckoned to me. It was a rare reading/listening experience. And I was hooked and addicted. I must, I must, I must watch the GoT HBO tv series and see what the hoopla is all about.

Facebook was afire with all the dire warnings of “Winter Is Coming”. I overheard some of my staff enthusiastically rehashing the twists and turns of the latest episode. When I finally watched episode 4, I regretted the time I wasted in watching some of the mundane and insipid shows on tv.

David Benioff and D. B. Weiss did an excellent job in adapting Martin’s book to the small screen and created what would be a global phenomenon. The Game of Thrones is superbly written and produced. It is a compelling, must-see television with each episode a water-cooler event, or rather a world-wide viewing party, with both gen-x'ers, millenials and baby-boomers engaging in twitter-frenzy celebration.

The four episodes I saw left me reeling and wanting for more. The climactic ends made me looking forward for Sundays. Did I mention I love Tyrion for his cunning and wit? I was not shocked nor scandalized by the coupling of Jon Snow and Daenerys. Pssst, they didn’t know that they are related. I am hoping that somehow Rhaegar Targayen was really a bastard and not a brother to Daenerys. And maybe, everybody will live happily ever after (fingers crossed).

Yes, I'm late, but better late than never. I am emotionally invested, and addicted. I cannot wait for Season 8. Meanwhile, I will pass the time away reading all the books (five more books to go) and binge-watching all the episodes (64 eps more) I missed.

Winter came and the Wall has fallen!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Da Coconut Nut

Over a month ago, up in the skies on an Emirates flight, a group of men went “NUTS”.

No, there were no security concerns; just a delightful impromptu performance by a group of young men from the Baylor University School of Music Men's Choir returning from a chorale competition in Kenya. The upbeat melody and the group’s infectious joy and energetic choreography caught on. The video clip went viral when the airline proudly posted it on the company Facebook. As of today, the video had garnered 14 million views. That’s nuts!

The “Da Coconut Nut” song started from across the ocean, in a land where the slender trees tower over rice fields. The dwarf trees reach up to 20 feet and the tall ones grow up to 98 feet. The song was popularized by Smokey Mountain, a group of young singers from the Philippines in the 1990s. The song written by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, songwriter/arranger/musical director has since become a favorite piece in chorale compositions around the world.

Cayabyab himself marveled how the song that he wrote almost thirty years ago as a novelty song has become the most popular song he has ever written. He disclosed that he had consented for his song to be played in American choirs since 2008.

The acclaimed composer wrote the song “to channel master songwriter Yoyoy Villame's spirit and style.” The "Da Coconut Song" conveyed exactly that, a joie de vivre, an exuberance for life. It is a proclamation of the Filipinos' love for music and the simple things in life and their resilience for whatever life brings, just like the resilient coconut trees which can live up to 20 years, even 100 years in the wild.

The song celebrates the many uses of the coconut, which is "a coco fruit from the coco tree of the coco palm family". If you drive along the Philippine countryside, you can see kids scurrying up and down the tall trees with the prized coconut which they will then present to a thirsty tourist with a straw for the cool juice, and maybe, a plastic spoon for the fresh white meat, all for less than a dollar.

The coconut (which is a fruit and not a nut) is versatile. It can be used as milk for exotic dishes, flakes, jam, cooking oil, firewood, shampoo, and even beauty products. The husk can later be saved to polish the wooden floor (done that). The tree can be used to build a small house, and also as “cannonballs up against the eaves” (will never try this one).

And please, just watch out for the falling coconut. Concussion beware.

Original version, Smokey Mountain

The coconut nut is a giant nut
If you eat too much, you'll get very fat
Now, the coconut nut is a big, big nut
But it's delicious nut is not a nut

It's the coco fruit (it's the coco fruit)
Of the coco tree (of the coco tree)
From the coco palm family

There are so many uses of the coconut tree
You can build a big house for the family
All you need is to find a coconut man
If he cuts the tree, he gets the fruit free

It's the coco fruit (it's the coco fruit)
Of the coco tree (of the coco tree)
From the coco palm family

And behold, there are several You tube versions of the “Da Coconut Nut” song as performed by Filipino choir groups as well as by other international choirs who were bemused by the light-hearted song about the coconut fruit. This song has crossed over to the prestigious world of chorale music.

The University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers is one of the world’s most awarded chorale group, and the first choir in the world to win the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing twice. Their repertoire includes folk music like “Rosas Pandan” (another popular chorale composition) and of course, the “Da Coconut Nut” song.

Philippine Madrigal Singers

RCHS Chamber Singers

The St. Mary's Varsity Ensemble

Festival No.6 2013 presents The Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir - 'Chic - Good Times'

Moana version

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Music is Universal, Di Ba?

I’m not a linguist. And definitely not a singer. But how wonderful it would be to sing in different languages. What’s even more amazing is that a listener like me can be touched by music even if I do not understand the lyrics. Truly, music transcends the barrier of language.


A month ago, in one of my infrequent forays in the subway, I heard a most beautiful rendition of Nella Fantasia. The music was incongruous with the singer. The man’s face and clothes were covered in grime, but he sang so beautifully in a language I didn’t understand. His baritone voice rose above the din of the subway train. He was in a world of his own, for once he had an audience who appreciated him. I fought the tears as I just listened and imagined that he sang of hope and peace. The words “Nella Fantasia” remained with me.

As soon as I got home, I came upon Sarah Brightman’s performance of this Italian song. "Nella Fantasia" ("In My Fantasy") is based on the theme "Gabriel's Oboe" from the film The Mission (1986). The music was composed by Ennio Morricone with lyrics by Ferrau.

In my fantasy I see a just world
Where all live in peace and honesty
I dream of souls that are always free
Like clouds that soar
Full of humanity in the depths of the soul


The Youtube views of the La Vie en Rose English versions of Louie Armstrong and Daniela Andrade are staggering with more than 26 million views each. Edith Piaf wrote both music and lyrics to what will be her signature song.

But the French version by Laura and Anton of the Foxtails Brigade is spellbinding. It has a sexy vibe to it.

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose


This is the Queen of the Night's Aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute opera.
The English lyrics are dark and foreboding, but they don’t take away from the incredible vocal acrobatics. Mica Becerro from The Voice Teens Philippines earned the four-chair turns from the judges. Just seventeen years old, she’s my bet to be the grand winner. I don't even care what the song means; I'm just flabbergasted at how the song soars into the unknown.

C'EST SI BON- French

C'est si bon is a French popular song composed by Henri Betti with the lyrics by André Hornez. Eartha Kitt’s version was so sensual and seductive that you could almost hear the purrs in her voice. Romance in a candle-lit room. Sultry music delivered by a charismatic singer.

It's so good,
Just wandering around,
Arm in arm, arm in arm,
And Singing songs.

It's so good,
To whisper sweet words - ,
Little nothings,
But little nothing that can be
said again and again.

"THE PRAYER"- some verses in Italian
Written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis.

Just listen and remember the name Marcelito Pomoy. It's a tour de force performance. Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli who? (just kidding). Oh, yes, he sang in Italian, too.

La luce che tu hai
(I pray we'll find your light)
Nel cuore resterà
(And hold it in our hearts)
A ricordarci che
(When stars go out each night)
Eterna stella sei
Nella mia preghiera
(Let this be our prayer)
Quanta fede c'è
(When shadows fill our day)

DAHIL SA IYO- Tagalog (Filipino)

Dahil Sa Iyo" was composed by Mike Velarde, Jr in 1938 and has become a classic Filipino love song. The song was translated in several languages: English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and the local languages of the Philippines. A certain First lady with the thousand shoes loved the song.

The American great singer Nat King Cole lent his smooth vocals to this song. He crooned his way to the hearts of the Filipino people.

Because of you, I yearn to be alive
Because of you, ‘till death (you) must realize
In my heart I know there is only you
And ask my heart, you’ll know that this is true

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Songs of Praise

Even in quiet reflection, my heart swells with love and inspiration when I listen to songs of praise. My voice may not soar with a melodious tone, but my soul is energized by the music and the lyrics. These songs of praise bring comfort and hope. Several years ago, in a time of personal turmoil, these songs strengthened me and reminded me that I have God by my side. The spiritual gifts are heaven-sent.

How Great Thou Art by Anne Murray

How Great Thou Art by Sam Santiago

The Prayer by Yongxin Chen

You Raise Me UP by Jai McDowall & KHS

You Raise Me UP- Jeffrey and Celine Tam

Hallelujah by Pentatonix

Amazing Grace by Home Free

Amazing Grace by BYU Noteworthy

Gethsemane by Claire Ryann

Friday, October 21, 2016

AlDub Wedding: Reel or Real?

DISCLAIMER: I am writing this point-of-view before the actual event. See below for my post-script report and reaction after the fact.

PART 1- October 21, 2016, 930pm
New York City

Photo from Manny and April photography

I could be totally wrong in my belief that the supposedly-reel AlDub wedding is REAL. Other tweeters had cautioned against disappointment and heart break if it turns out that all this pomp and circumstance is just for show. One disgruntled journalist had called the fans as gullible and advised us to call off the charade. His suggestion is suspect since he proceeded to endorse a rival show, despite previous seemingly-amiable relationship with the GMA network and the AlDub love team.

Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza are scheduled to be married in the much awaited episode of the Kalyeserye segment of EAT Bulaga. In July 16, 2015, the split-screen romance started innocuously then, out of the blue, a phenomenon was born. It caught us unaware, captured our hearts & made us willing victims of a nationwide craze. The phenomenal love team had inspired an unprecedented 41 million tweet last October 2015 at the Tamang Panahon event in the Philippine Arena.

The Oct. 22, 2016 marriage ceremony is touted by the wedding organizers and the AldubNation as the epic wedding of the year. The excitement had galvanized the fans into a twitter party. The sixty-four dollar question is: Is the wedding REEL or REAL?

I say it’s for REAL. I am going out on a limb and proclaim that Eat Bulaga just managed a genius twist of the ultimate surprise. A stunt like no other. Real priest, real recitation of the vows, real proclamation as husband and wife. Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Faulkerson.

I have a pragmatic view of the end-result. It is a Win-win situation. If it is REEL, I will be happy for the delicious feeling of excitement and the sense of camaraderie that has united the fans in a frenzy of speculations. I am grateful for the endorphin rush, a temporary respite from the worries of this world. This I believe, Alden and Maine are very much in love. I am hoping that the cameras are trained on their faces at all times so that we can see the real emotions on their faces. I am certain that if not now, the wedding will be inevitable, it will be SOON.

But if I am right and this is a REAL ceremony, I will explode in triumph and inexplicable joy. I will self-combust, as a result of days of tweeting and late-night live-streams of the KS episodes here in New York. Forgive me, I will flap my arms and sway in an attempt of a dance. Fantastic, baby. The thought makes me excited already.

Why do I think this is REAL? This is like hiding in plain sight. Let me count the ways:

1. Pre-nuptial pictures- 150 plus pictures point towards a REAL event. Why spend thousands for just one 30-minute segment? Have you seen the engagement ring purported to be the E-ring gift from Maine’s birthday celebration? Why use a different engagement ring from what was shown on Kalyeserye?

2. Top-notch wedding crew- stylist, videographer, wedding coordinator, and imported flowers. Even Bossing Vic was impressed with hearing about Liz Uy and Jason Magbanua. I am convinced that the preparations have been well in place since Alden tweeted a dancing banana. Epic preparations for the real thing.

3. The haut couture Rosa Clara is an international franchise of wedding dresses. Even a pre-used wedding gown costs $1500. I don’t care how generous the EB producers are, they could not be THIS generous. Did you see the expression of awe on Maine’s face when she browsed around the shop?

4. Nicolette’s (Maine’s sis) and her family flew back from Korea in time for the event. She is a self-confessed AlDub fan but, would she come back for a fake wedding?

5. Decoy entourage- There is a mix of reel and real in the entourage that is meant to whet our appetite and further confuse us. Why include Maine’s sister and friends, but not include Alden’s family? Well because, the AldubNation will implode before the event.

6. Suspicious tweets from friends- Alden's friend tweeted about the ring. Maine's friend posted about the first wedding among friends.

7. Alden and Maine- There is no way that there are no deep feelings between the two. The tell-tale glances, the subtle touches, the twinkle in their eyes, the off-cam reports of “tambols”. Alden, why are your ears so red? You’ve often told the fans, “Believe what you see”.

Finally, what I have secretly dreamed for you since last year will come true. You are both beautiful inside and out and you deserve to start a life together. Full of love, romance, laughter, and trust in God.

It looks like the event is cloaked in secrecy. But hey, I’m into you, Eat Bulaga. Well, I hope that I am right and the naysayers are wrong. As I said, if it’s reel, I will survive the very slight disappointment. The palpitations are part of my cardiac exercise. Hopia at my own risk. I am a grown woman. I will pick myself up and just blame it on my over-active imagination.

But if I am right, Oh my God!!!! I will brag, "I told you so". Expect me to be in cloud nine for a few weeks. It might even get me free dinner from my sister-in-law. At the very least, I will scream like the rest of the believers. EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

P.S. Reel but Real...
PART 2- 10/22/2016. 7am, New York City

With just three hours of sleep after livestreaming the event, I am here to report that it was not an official wedding. The priest was not real and no papers were signed. The presence of the Kalyeserye characters Tatay Dodong, Lola Babah and the three Lolas (Nidora, Tidora, and Tinidora) firmly established that this was meant to be FICTION.

Eat Bulaga proved to be a bottomless pit of resources. No expenses were spared to create a beautiful and classy wedding worthy of the phenomenal love team.

BUT, everything seemed Real in the middle of the Reel. The genuine emotions that flowed between the “bride” and “groom” touched our hearts. They read their hand-written personal vows with such conviction and sincerity that the audience cried with them. Unscripted feelings and reactions were evident in the twinkle in their eyes and Alden's reddened ears.

The wedding rings are a mystery. There are reports that Alden bought the rings himself and had them engraved. If this is not romantic, then I don't know what is.

Their love is undeniable. The promise of forever was enough. Romance was in the air, and Alden and Maine glowed with an aura that can only be described as magical.

And the kiss. That 17-second kiss was just marvelous. EEEEEEEEE!!! Even now as I replayed the kissing scene (for the nth time), my smile stretches my face so much. I'm afraid it will snap back & crumple my face beyond recognition.

There is so much to be thankful for. The pair continues to bring joy to their fans. We can all relate to the romance of this unlikely story. The future is exciting. Richard Faulkerson Jr. may not have claimed his bride in real life yet, but in God's perfect time, Mrs. Richards will become Mrs. Faulkerson.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The OPM of my Youth

When I was growing up in the Philippines, music provided the soundtrack to the milestones in my life. My father and all his siblings were blessed with beautiful voices as they regaled us with the romantic kundimans of Levi Celerio. The musical talent must have skipped a generation because only my middle brother could actually sing (sorry to my other brods). However, that unfortunate reality did not prevent me from singing along to the romantic ballads of Rey Valera and to the lilting melodies of Apo Hiking Society.

The Original Pinoy Music (OPM) compositions dominated my “playlist” in the 1970s through the early ‘80’s. The songs of that bygone past always evoked special feelings in me. OPM resonated with me and tugged at my heartstrings because I lived through all the joys and the angst of those times. The songs marked the defining moments of my life. I was touched when one suitor nervously handed me a letter offering his never-ending love. To my consternation, I recognized the sentimental lyrics from Valera’s “Kung Kailangan Mo Ako”.

When I left the Philippines for the United States in 1983 to pursue my nursing career, my attention was turned towards American pop music. For my first few years, I was busy soaking up the Stateside way of life. My head was filled with the music of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

After I had settled down from the euphoria of the American experience, I felt homesick for the warm and the familiar music of my youth. Over the years, the karaoke music sessions that were almost always present in Filipino gatherings reminded me of the beautiful music I left behind. I started to appreciate the richness of the musical culture of that era. My favorite OPM songs have become timeless hits, and their composers and singers have become legends in their own right.

For those of us of a certain age, join me in nostalgic remembrance...

“Manila”- by Hotdog
The band Hotdog ushered in the light-hearted and innovative “Manila Sound”

“Anak” by Freddie Aguilar
The song about a prodigal son’s remorse and apology to his parents became an international hit that was translated into 26 languages.

“Handog”- written and sung by Florante, folk singer

"Nakapagtataka"- written by Apo Hiking Society and covered by Hadji Alejandro

“Pumapatak na Naman ang Ulan”- by Apo Hiking Society

“You are My Song”- written by Louie Ocampo, sung by Martin Nievera

"Here and Now" - written by Jose Mari Chan, sung by JMChan and Cynthia Patag

“Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” written and sung by VST and Company (Tito, Vic, and Joey)

Rey Valera Top Hits

“Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko”- written by Rey Valera, sung by Sharon Cuneta.

“Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin”- written by Cecile Azarcon, sung by Martin Nievera

”How Did You Know?”- written by Cecile Azarcon, sung by Gary Valenciano

“Masdan mo ang Kapaligiran” by ASIN

Asin, folk singing group)incorporated indigenous musical instruments into their songs.

"Pangako", written by D. Subido, sung by the Flippers.
Just because it reminds me of a special someone. This song gives me the feels.

I pay tribute to the venerable composers of OPM:

Levi Celerio (Ang Pipit, Tunay na Tunay, Saan ka Man Naroroon, Sapagkat Kami’y Tao Laman),
George Canseco ( Kapantay ay Langit, Ikaw, Dito Ba?, Paano),
Nicanor Abelardo (Bituing Marikit), Willie Cruz (Bituing Walang Ningning),
Ryan Cayabyab ( Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika),
Jose Mari Chan (Constant Change, Afterglow, Love to Last a Lifetime),
Louie Ocampo (Tell Me, Kahit Isang Saglit, and You Are My Song),
Apo Hiking Society (Batang-Bata Ka Pa,Blue Jeans, Kaibigan, Pumapatak ang Ulan, Yakap sa Dilim, When I Met You),
Freddie Aguilar (Anak, Bayan Ko, Estudyante Blues),
Rey Valera (Sorry Na, Puede Ba, Mr. DJ, Maging Sino Ka Man, Malayo Pa Ang Umaga),
Cecile Azarcon (Lift Up Your Hands, Ikaw and Lahat sa Akin),
and the tough-hits composer trio of Tito, Vic, and Joey (Awitin Mo At Isasayaw Ko, Rock, Baby, Rock, Disco Fever).

Today, the musical genres in the Philippines cover a wide-ranging spectrum that also includes alternative and diverse musical styles. The OPM I know and still cherish have been resurrected by current musical artists. Some of those songs have been adapted as theme songs in movies and television series. I wish that OPM continues to thrive. I hope that like the OPM songs of my youth, today’s music will claim its landmarks on tomorrow’s musical scene.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kids Who Triumph Against All Odds

Against all odds, these children survived. Their strength against adversity puts to shame some adults who whine about trivial pursuits. In their youth, these kids inspire and motivate. Their tenacious and resilient spirits are worth emulating.

Angelica Hale, now 9 years old

In 2012, at the tender age of 4, Angelica came down with pneumonia which ravaged her young body and threw her into full-blown sepsis and multi-organ failure. She was placed on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) life-support and dialysis at an Atlanta hospital and endured weeks in the ICU. Angelica needed lung surgery to repair her lungs. Eventually, she received a much-needed kidney transplant from her own mother.

A miracle child. She now gives back by performing in fundraisers for children’s hospitals. Angelica shines like a beacon of hope for children in crisis.


Sparsh Shah, a 12-year-old singing prodigy who lives in the US, was born with almost 40 fractures.

“He has memorized 250 digits of Pi, can say the 12 longest words in the English dictionary in less than 18 seconds, and can speak in four different accents in English. He has written several poems, short stories, motivational/funny speeches (“I am Disabled”), etc., and acted in the developmental reading of a play called The Greatest Choice at the Crossroads theatre in New Jersey. He was able to spell a 45 letter word, “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” at the age of 6.”

Sparsh is an incredible example of determination and perseverance, despite being born with osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bones). He uses the name PURHYTHM as a stage name in his many performances in fundraisers for children hospitals.

Michael Jackson Tribute - Heal The World - Child Prodigy Cover | Maati Baani