Abarinding” in Cool Water? You’ll Never Walk Alone in “Hating Gabi”? I Believe in “Lalawigan ng Quezon”? “Dat’s a lot’ta nonsense!” … to quote the late comedian par excellence “Pugo” in a 70s TV commercial, later made into a movie. For sure it is, to the uninitiated, but supposedly not, to the QPHS community from 1975 to 1977. And who can perform them onstage with more character and musical ease other than the QPHS Glee Club! ( Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! )|
Riding what seemed like a chicken coop-turned “PNB Mag-impok Movement” Bus from Bayan one evening early in 1975, the locally celebrated singers proudly sang the Alma Mater song as they cruised the whole length of General Lucban Street, into the wide open gates of the campus. They had just won the first “Lalawigan Ng Quezon” choral competitions held at the then Maryknoll Academy, and were in very, very high spirits! To a scrawny boy then in sophomore high, just getting ready to leave for home after some organization meeting, who stopped to look and feel the elation around him, it created quite an impression…….Certainly, it helped and hyped that the soloist of the group, Angelito Dedace (QPHS Batch ’76) is my cousin, so
I was encouraged to join and to audition the following school year, 1975-1976.One late afternoon after class hours, I, together with the other prospective hopefuls, found myself excited yet nervously going up the few wooden steps leading to the Spartan surroundings of the Glee Club Room behind the old Gymnasium, which was a stone’s throw from the Big Grandstand.
The old members, among them….. Angelito, Antonio Bucoy (leading the so-called “Pikutin” barkada), Reynaldo Monserrat, Nelia Macaraig, Sofia Carmelita Gendrano, Rizalina Musa, Carmelo Paranal, Herman Abadilla, Cesar Trinidad, Hansel Laqui, and batchmates Michelia Oriel, Diza Zabalerio, Maritess Bael, Minerva Lacap, pianist Arween Flores, and their knowing confidence of course, were there! Glee Club adviser Mrs. Amparo Cabrera-Antona greeted us warmly and started the auditions right away. She played key notes on the piano for us to follow with our voices, one after the other.
Through setting the pitch of our voices by the piano octaves, she was able to ascertain the Sopranos, Altos, Tenors and the Basses among us. We were also asked to sing, and I impulsively did “Que Sera Sera (What Will Be, Will Be), and forgot some lines in the process…..out of nervousness of course, most especially that the old members would react to the proceedings, ranging from the hushed to the downright blunt, wherein Mrs. Antona would occasionally reprimand them for the unwanted distractions! Whatever, I was accepted as a new member with fellow batchmates Girlie Cabral, Danao Vega, Joseph Herrera, Michael Bucoy and “Baby” Armamento, together with sophomores Marilyn Abadilla, Marivic Marcelo, Lucila Paor, Lilibeth de Leon, Rainier Cabana and Henry Evidente. I was lumped with the Tenors but only as a trainee since the two slots were filled already…indeed, my Que Sera Sera bloopers had something to do with it!
Meanwhile, a new female soloist was discovered in Lilibeth de Leon,who later on became the partner of cousin Angelito in “Kundiman” numbers as “Hating Gabi”, an excerpt of which is as follows :
In the background, the rest of the group went pair by pair, Sopranos with Tenors, Altos with Basses, singing in four voices and holding hands doing the studied motions of a traditional Juan de la Cruz – Maria Clara courtship.
The choreography for every production number was courtesy of erstwhile Glee Club member and then Quezon Memorial Hospital nursing student Nicanor Cambaliza of QPHS batch 1973. He did it for free, out of sheer generosity with his talent, and out of “pakikisama” to his old mentor Mrs. Antona. Dropping by even after his class hours, “Nick” would spend hours with the group, patiently working it out with us. A versatile innovator, he can weave dainty Filipiniana sequences, contemporary pop maneuvers, Broadway movements and some jazzy stuff he effectively enunciated with “Pham! Pham! Pham!” He can be tolerant with the playful, naughty and carefree adolescents who, more often than not, clowned their way into every practice, seemingly without due appreciation for his untiring dedicated efforts!
However, the uncalled for jokes and below-the-belt banters had gotten into his nerves, and he had walked out in anger and disgust at times, which he emphasized with the expression…”Mark my word!” Mrs. Antona, full of apologies to “Nick” would then scold everybody for being inconsiderate and unappreciative……”Hindi baga kayo nahihiya kay Nick? Tinutulungan na nga niya tayo ng wala tayong ibinabayad ay ganyan pa kayo? Aba, kung wala tayong choreography ay patay na patay ang ating performance sa stage kahit pa yanong gaganda ng inyong mga kanta! A-ah, ay hindi ko kaya ang kanyang ginagawa!”
“ Man is the most elevated of all creatures! ” ( Herman Abadilla )
Piano introduction followed, then the choir started singing “ You And I “, with apt swaying and sashaying choreography, as each pair held hands for emphasis …..
At times, the QPHS Glee Club was made to welcome guests to Lucena, like this group of foreign students from the then still democratic Iran of “ Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne “ fame. Ever resourceful, Mrs. Antona chose a very lively number called “ Hello Tomorrow “, where she replaced the word tomorrow with “Turistas”, to fit in with the occasion! The venue was a hall at the nearby Lucena West I Elementary School, and the stage was decorated with little “Bagakays” or young bamboo trees used for the May 15th San Isidro Labrador Festival of Sariaya, gaily decorated with colorful “Kipings” and some goodies like Suman, and Popcorn wrapped in colorful wax papers, in triangular and cylindrical shapes!
That time, fellow tenor Danao Vega was not available and so I was made to take his place. Wearing our barong-like gala uniforms, we climbed onstage and provided a lively intermission number, with a refrain that went “ Hello Turistas! Hello Turistas! I know tomorrow, the sun will shine! ” “Hello Turistas! Hello Turistas! I know tomorrow will be mine!” During practices, some mistakenly changed the third tomorrow to “Turistas” as well, that always resulted in laughter…but all proceeded well during the “Live performance” at West I.
For a novel finale, the last part of “ Lala- lalala! Lala-lalala! “, we threw candies at the seated audience to give the desired “Halbutan” or “Agawan” effect of Sariaya’s so-called “ Happy Pandemonium “! Good – naturedly, everybody stooped down and picked up the nearest candies they could find. With Nick’s crisp contemporary pop maneuvers, the performance was all the more appreciated and applauded! Thereafter, an actual “ grabfest “ was staged by the choir members, with annotation from the emcees of the program, explaining the San Isidro festival to everyone. Indeed, a hawk-nosed Iranian lady, who seemed to be the spokesperson of the group expressed sincere thanks to the people of Lucena for the very warm welcome.
It was an unforgettable night of elation in 1975 for us, which changed into a note of concern for Angelito and I, who had to wait till almost eleven to hail a fast moving Pantranco Bus ride home! It was the Martial Law days, with curfew hours from twelve midnight to four in the morning being the norm and good thing that buses still pass by General Lucban since the idea of today’s Diversion Road was still yet many, many, many years away…….
The most ambitious production number we had that year was a spiritual number, actually the musical score was two songs in two voices, combined to produce the desired religious character. “ I Believe “ for tenor and bass was sung with Bach-Gounod’s “Ave Maria “ in Latin, for soprano and alto! It was difficult and serious work, especially for the girls who had to memorize lines in the long dead language of Ancient Rome, aside from learning the musical nuances of the song. But through those long hours of patient hard work and discipline, we were able to perform our masterpiece for the Lord!
Like the “Sang Sayaw” dance extravaganza of the QPHS Dance Troupe of Mrs. Adelina Barral, the Glee Club also planned a mini concert – fund raisier for our group. Songs like “Georgy Girl” with Rizalina Musa in the lead role choreography-wise that is, “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” of Burt Bacharach and “Downtown” of Petula Clark were among the songs added to the regular repertoire, and Nick Cambaliza spent long hours for the appropriate choreography.
But for some reason, the production fizzled out and did not materialize. Those were the days when the monsoon rains would flood the Gym that became home to biting mosquitoes, croaking frogs and their aquatic fingerlings, the tadpoles or the “ulo-ulo” , that you clearly saw whenever you have to walk those long planks placed above the smelly brackish water so your shoes won’t get wet! It must have been a much safer time to live health wise since Dengue, SARS and Meningo coccimea have yet to become bywords of biological terror as they are nowadays!
During that time, there seemed to be some form of rivalry going on between both cultural groups, not visibly apparent though somehow, like dirt and dust just swept under the rug…..simmering underneath. Such might be the case for some, but not so for batch ’77 members. Michelia Oriel, Minerva Lacap and Girlie Cabral were barkadas of Ofelia Zurbano, Arween Flores, Danao Vega and Arnulfo Alpay were buddy-buddies, while Richard Osmond and I were friends, part of a group that others called the “Bombers”….. a name that truly wasn’t to my liking.
Our final year in Quezon High arrived and we became the big Brothers and Sisters on campus, and certainly in Glee Club as well, with Arween inheriting the presidency from Audie Bucoy. New members came in, mostly from the third year like Editha Abuel, Mildreth Ebron, Carmelita Falcon, Teresa Gendrano, Carmelita Paderon, Danilo Balderamos, Aloysius Angeles, Rodolfo Abcede, Emmanuel Manguerra, Raul Ibal, Romeo Apurado, and Norma Yabut from the second year. However, three batchmates joined the group namely Herminio Tina, Jose Zuniga and Ronnie Banagan, the latter two being both guitar aficionados.
If I mremember it right, Jose was more particular to the ballads, notably the then very popular “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen, while Ronnie liked folk music. One of his standard guitar jamming favorites, “ Puff The Magic Dragon”.by Peter, Paul and Mary seemed well-liked by Mrs. Antona herself that she tried to transcribe it on piano for the group to sing. Unlike in the previous year, ours seemed more behaved and cooperative and thus, Nick had little trouble with his choreography works.
If ever there was an indication of it, we heard his “ Mark my word! “ less often than before!With the new school year 1976-1977 came a new set of uniform, one which was more informal than the previous. For the girls, it was yellow long-sleeved collared blouse tucked in jumper style denim skirt while for the boys, it was light blue collared shirt over denim pants. And for an even more casual occasion, the group had a T shirt printed with QPHS Glee Club, with a musical note in it.
The opening salvo was a very lively and danceable number popularized by James Last and his orchestra called “I Can’t Give You Everything, But My Love”, which became standard Glee Club fare in any occasion in and out of the campus. It was this song that the group was asked to perform over at RPN 9 Television if I was not mistaken, in a noon time variety show called “Game Na Game” hosted by contravida turned comedian and radio commentator Rod Navarro.
A production assistant herded us onstage with terraced wooden stairs similar to the ones we used at the Gym. The lights were all turned on us and it was so hot, we were perspiring in there! There were no last minute rehearsals, and we were just given the cue and the show was on air before we knew it! Everybody was in daze, with all those lights focused on us, very uncomfortable indeed! What we know was we just sang below performance level, quite disoriented and just to comply.
It was so fortunate that all those canned applause and cheers downed our singing, though the monitor showed that we were simply not at par with our well rehearsed performances at Quezon High. We thought that we will be called to sing within the program but as it happened, we just served as the backdrop, as props for the opening of the show, while Rod Navarro delivered his signature “ Ayun yun eh’s ” and “ Oki-do-ki’s!” Well, so much for the ultra publicized performance of the QPHS Glee Club on television……not a disaster of course, but nothing to boast about either…though undeniably, we made history all the same, by being seen on television nationwide. We just spent the rest of the afternoon loitering around…….COD, Araneta Coliseum, Cubao I’ve forgotten the details already…….then we went home!
Among the new songs in the repertoire was another spiritual number…..”You’ll Never Walk Alone” also in four voices. It supplemented the “I believe – Ave Maria” chorus of the previous school year since a lot of those who knew how to sing it by heart have graduated already. The beautiful inspirational production was performed for more formal occasions in and out of the campus.
Another song, one with a folksy air, was taught for a choral competition that was held at the QPHS Gymnasium. “Pretty Little Bird” is a light-hearted composition in four voices that consumed hours of practice in order to put up a performance worthy of the school’s name. There were five or so chortal groups within Lucena and neighboring towns like Lucban that day. I still remember how the still then Lucban National High School group in their Quezon High style uniforms, save for the girls’ green skirts, entered the Gymnasium exuding a very confident air.
They even brought a cheering squad with them, who shouted their presence at every opportunity, perhaps to either uplift and encourage their choral group, or just out to intimidate the competition. Among the judges if I was not mistaken were Music Supervisor Rustico Valdoria, Provincial Choir conductor and music aficionado Mr. Rodrigo Flores, and Mrs. Esther Alcala, a choir conductor and a music teacher from Sariaya. Each choir was required to perform a demonstration number and the contest piece thereafter.
I have forgotten what was ours, but most likely, it was the much abused “I Can’t Give You Anything, But My Love” , for its lively beat and cheerful character! The “Lukbanins”, true to form, dished out theirs with gusto, punctuated by their chorused pep - up chants before and after their performances. Of course, it was a tense atmosphere when the winners were about to be announced…….I’ve already forgotten who won the third prize. The second prize went to the Lucban National High School, and the winner was the QPHS Glee Club! Indeed, the host crowd cheered and sang…….”Altogether, win the battle of our dear old Alma mater! Altogether, we will conquer, all the foes of Quezon High!” Not to be outdone, the runners up and their brethren did their chanting once again, even as they got out of the Gym and were leaving …….it was a pathetic whimper, so I thought!
It was nearing Graduation time and Mrs. Antona taught us our last piece…….”Paalam, Paalam, sintang paaralan! Paalam, Paalam, mga gurong mahal!” It was a fitting finale to those two eventful years with the QPHS Glee Club. Being there among the “glamourized lot”, yes we were…modesty aside, like being with the Dance Troupe, The Coconut, Dramatic Club, Arnis Club, Chess Club, CAT Officers Corps, the QPHS band, etcetera, you were given a ” Persona “ that was beyond reach of the regular students. It had its merits of course, but there were likewise myths that have been shattered along the way…. one that the erstwhile scrawny yet impressed sophomore in 1975 would not have realized otherwise. Everything was a fleeting moment that can be cherised and enjoyed, sung if you will.