SILAY City – More than 250 musicians from 11 nations converged in this northern Negros city for the nine-day 5th International Rondalla/Plucked String Music Festival which officially opened Sunday night.
The event, themed “Cuerdas sang Paghili-usa” (Strings of Unity), is a showcase of global unity celebrating a shared heritage of plucked string music. The Philippines is joined by 10 performing groups from France, Portugal, Israel, Iran, Uganda, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Eleven Filipino groups, including the host’s Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble, are representing the Philippines.
National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in his message during the press conference before the opening ceremonies, said the festival shows that rondalla and the plucked string music of the world have the ability to unite people from different places, religions and languages.
“Music is the thread that binds us all,” he added.
National Artist for Music Ramon Santos, the festival director, said the Philippines inherited rondalla music from Spain, but the Filipinos have their own version.
He noted that there are rondalla communities across the Philippines – from Aparri to Jolo – thus, the rondalla represents the whole country.
“There is a revival (of rondalla). Now, composers are writing for the rondalla. I hope this event will continue so that there will be an alternative. I don’t try to dissuade people from loving popular music, for example. But there must be an alternative to other musical experiences that Filipinos are supposed to enjoy,” Santos said.
He also lauded the host, Silay City, for having “one of the best rondallas in the land,” recalling that Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble was the first to participate in the maiden edition of the rondalla festival.
The Silay group has also performed in music festivals in Scotland, China and Singapore.
City Mayor Mark Golez said it is a great pride and honor for Silay to host the prestigious musical event.
“We, Silaynons, are very proud to host this great event that will not only benefit our community, but also the entire Negros Island and the Philippines as a nation. This event also aims to envision a growing awareness and appreciation of the Filipino people of other countries’ heritage and culture,” he said.
The foreign participants include the Barrocade-Naya Ensemble of Israel, Taiwan Bamboo Orchestra and Taipei Guzheng Ensemble, and Hope to Hop Africa of Uganda, which performed during the opening night with the Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble at the Natalio G. Velez Sports and Cultural Center.
Others are the Quatuor Eclisses of France, Eisham Ensemble of Iran, Malvica Chopra and Muthu Kumar of India, Art Company Dalmoon of South Korea, Portuguese Fado of Portugal, Spring Band of Vietnam, and Prasarnmit Thai Music and Dance Group of Thailand.
The other local performers are the City of Bogo SAA Rondalla, Dipolog Community Rondalla, Cayetano Arellano High School Rondalla, Mauban Community Rondalla, Handurawan, Enverga University Rondalla, Silliman University Orkestra Sin Arco, Padayon Rondalla, Cainta Rondalla, and Sariaya Community Rondalla.
The festival, which runs until Nov. 11, includes daily concerts in Silay, outreach concerts around Negros, symposium and workshop, and the “Cuerdas: The Sounds in Silay History” exhibit.
The 5th International Rondalla/Plucked String Music Festival is a collaborate initiative of the NCCA through the Asian Composers League Philippines and the Silay City government with support from the Office of Sen. Loren Legarda.
The event partners include the provincial government of Negros Occidental, Department of Education-Silay, University of the Philippines College of Music, and National Music Competitions for Young Artists. (PNA)