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Ikatlong Tanghalan sa KampoJuan : The Celestial Voices of Bukidnon’s Youth for Culture & Arts Project

For the grand finale of its three weekends of the culinary, visual and performance arts last 25 May, Tanghalan sa KampoJuan chose its resident Bukidnon chorale known far and wide as the Youth for Culture and the Arts Project Singers or simply “The YCAP Singers”.

The Bukidnon-based chorale has performed in major cities in Europe, USA and Asia. A consistent grand slam winner in the Mindanao Association of State Tertiary School Chorale competitions, YCAP regaled guests who were fortunate enough to join the Ikatlong Tanghalan sa KampoJuan last May 25 with an ethereal mix of  ethnic/lumad,  Original Pilipino Music, pop and classical tunes.

“Most of us are alumni of the Bukidnon State University Chorale under the Leadership of Mrs. Mercibelle Barroso-Abejuela,” said narrator EliMarc Ellorin.  “We are a group of artists who aim to promote the culture of Bukidnon and share the artistic gifts God has entrusted to us through events such as this.” 

The YCAP (Youth for Culture and the Arts Projects Singers) is a community-based group of musicians composed mostly of alumni of the Bukidnon State University (BukSU) Chorale, engaged in community music activities with headquarters in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines. 

Ms. Abejuela founded YCAP to develop cultural awareness and literacy among the people in Bukidnon while she was taking her Masters in Music at Boston University, Massachusetts, USA.  In 2016 she organized a series of events for BukSU Chorale alumni in Malaybalay City which was enthusiastically received and participated in by the future YCAP singers.

Besides being YCAP’s founder and director, Ms Abejuela has also composed and arranged beloved songs of Bukidnon, among them: Bukidnon Sketches; A Homespun Refrain, The BukSU University Hymn with Lyrics by Ms. Rowena Egargo; and the choral arrangement for Bukidnon My Home.

She joined the Bukidnon State University as a music teacher, and in 2001 was appointed choral director of the University. She has attended choral conducting workshops with Jonathan Velasco, Eudenice Palauran, Mark Carpio, and Anna Tabitha Piquero, among others.

Being a native of Bukidnon, she envisioned the BukSU Chorale as the university’s premiere cultural group specializing in Bukidnon Indigenous Music. This earned her the title of Bae, and he tribal name Kahukdungan Bae Manlilimbay, (meaning an educator and singe) from the province’s indigenous peoples.

For the aperitif, YCAP presented Bukidnon Sketches, a song cycle of traditional ethnic Bukidnon songs composed by Ms. Abejuela. It tells the story of people from the province who call Bukidnon their home wherever they may be.

Starting with the first bars of the Bukidnon Hymn done in the traditional Bukidnon chanting style,  it highlighted songs and dances which are traditionally performed in gatherings such as A Call for Gathering, Prayer, a showdown of dances and songs mimicking animal sounds and movements, Dilay-un (a lullaby), Us Gali (a hunting song) and Ambo (a children’s song).

Part II

For its second set, YCAP presented three batches in different genres, starting with pop hits of original Pilipino Music followed by foreign classical favorites, and some mainstream Pop chart toppers.

The OPM portion started appropriately enough with perennial Cebuano favorite Rosas Pandan composed by Cebuano composer Domingo Minggoy Lopez  which first permeated the consciousness with the Pilita Corrales cover with Tagalog lyrics by Levi Celerio which tells the story of Rosas Pandan and how she catches everyone’s eye when she comes down from the bukid to join the local fiesta.

Thanks to this online story by Myles A. Garcia ( http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/the-late-surprising-21st-century-success-of-rosas-pandan)  I learned that  Rosas Pandan has become an international chorale favorite thanks to the intricate vocal arrangements by George Gemora Hernandez,  the music director of the Saringhimig Singers choir of the Bay Area, among others.

Turned out that Hernandez was asked at the 1995 Festival Internacional de Cant Coral Catalunya Center, an international choral festival at Puig-Reig (a small town north of Barcelona) if he could put together an easy song, preferably, a new original piece for all the choirs gathered together, comprising more than 1,000 voices, to sing at the close as a celebration of joy and music. 

There are now, believe it or not, over 20 versions of Rosas Pandan online in YouTube alone as a testament to the popularity of Hernandez’s arrangement with choirs the world over. We have to thank YCAP and Ms Mercibelle for ensuring we don’t become strangers in our own country with Rosas Pandan.

Another favorite, the ever popular Ilonggo (Hiligaynon, if you must) kundiman Dandansoy, attributed to Augorio Abeto a famous Ilonggo poet who hails from and was mayor of Binalbagan in 1941-1945 and arranged by Fidel G. Calalang Jr. (UST Singers), about a young man who must take a far away journey and part with his loved one.


Not the least, the OPM section ended with the immortal Willy Cruz’s Bituing Walang Ningning (though personally I prefer Sana’y Wala ng Wakas also written by Willy and similarly popularized by Sharon Cuneta) but it was okay. Can’t have all wishes fulfilled in the same night.

The next section featuring Classical Music got off to a romping start with YCAP’s rendition of Rossini’s William Tell Overture as arranged by Julie Eschliman, that most of us know as the theme song from the Lone Ranger movie and TV series. Next was Sara Teasdale’s poem I am Not Yours set to music by Randall Stroope.

I also like Ms. Teasdale’s poems though what has stayed with me through the decades was her poem On the Dunes which I once read in a Reader’s Digest story The Stranger Who Taught Magic by Arthur Gordon published in June 1970.

The third section featured  Pop Hits like the Queen’s Under Pressure, Change the World as popularized by Eric Clapton, and Lean on Me, a Bill Withers hit as arranged by Adam Anders and Tom Davis for the TV series Glee, and Elton John’s Circle of Life from The Lion  King as arranged  by Calalang,Jr.

Bowing to the crowd’s applause, YCAP regaled us one more time with their version of ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” followed by community singing with everyone joining in for the finale “Bukidnon My Home.”

Truly a grand finale worthy of the Tanghalan sa KampoJuan! Looking forward to the next iteration of this noteworthy event. Bravo Neric Acosta and Jont Cabrera for a mighty fine show! Encore!

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