Apr 21
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Winning songs for the love of the Sto. Niño

Author: Ryan Mark
Column: Pen Point

It rained at the Basilica del Santo Sto. Niño Pilgrim Center last Monday night. It's always like that every staging of the Huniño: Huni Halad Alang Kang Señor Santo Niño de Cebu songwriting competition. But last Monday, the rain lasted for not more than five minutes--much to the delight of those who did not bring umbrellas with them. To the devotees of the Holy Child, however, the rain was considered a blessing from above and was welcomed wholeheartedly. It could have meant that the Sto. Niño was pleased at the huge crowd turnout.

The 3rd Huniño last Monday was very significant not only to the Order of Saint Augustine congregation but for everybody who believes in the power of the Holy Child because it was a very fitting tribute to the 444th anniversary of the finding of the image of the Sto. Niño last Tuesday, April 28. That was why from the usual staging held during the feast of the Sto. Niño every January, the competition was intentionally moved to last Monday. It was supposed to be held on the actual day of the commemoration but the Archdiocese of Cebu had another important celebration--its 75th anniversary as an Archdiocese.

I agree with Fr. Julius Mejares, Dean of Theology of the College of San Agustin in Iloilo City who has been sitting as Chairman of the Board of Judges since year one, that the finalists of the 3rd Huniño are the best batch so far. In fact, according to Mejares the musicality and lyrics of all 12 finalists were so good it became a very tight race and gave the judges a really hard time.

As reported in the previous days, the entry "Sto. Niño Kaluwasan Ko" composed by Engr. Emmanuel Abellana and interpreted by Oscar Pragas won the Grand Prize. Taking home the Second Place was "Paminawa Ako Sto. Niño" by Ronald Tuico and rendered by Allanito Lauron with the participation of the Gaudete Choir; while Engr. Bernardo Gocela's "Señor Sto. Niño Batang Hesus" sang by 10-year-old Athessa Poulene Sagales won third. The Voices of Praise that interpreted Jay-arr Librando's "Jesus" was adjudged Best Interpreter.

Interestingly, Pragas initially encountered some technical problems. His microphone had no audio for about five seconds. After immediately being given another mic, Pragas' voice powered through the speakers and engulfed the area, drawing instantaneous cheers and applause. At that moment, I had a feeling he would win, and I remember telling myself that it's going to be a very good story should he clinch the first prize. But the blind man that he is, Pragas did not see the reaction of the crowd regarding his defective microphone. He simply did his thing--sang with all his heart for the love of the Sto. Niño and for the love of an ex-girlfriend he hoped was in the crowd that night.

Talking to him after his victory, Pragas told me: "Wala ko kuyawi, padayon ra gyud ko'g kanta. Technical problem (microphone defect) man to, dili man to akong sala. " It was this focus of Pragas that impressed Fr. Mejares who told me in an ambush interview that the technical problem did not affect Pragas' score at all. Fr. Mejares also pointed out that Abellana's composition was very good, lyrics and musicality-wise. The song he said was very "singable," meaning, everybody can sing along with it.

Abellana and Pragas are no neophytes in singing competitions. Abellana, an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession and who works as District Statistics Officer at the National Statistics Office in Cebu, was a former member of the Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra (as Double Bass Player) and the Cebu Concert Choir. The choirmaster of the San Isidro Labrador Parish Choir in Talamban and the Alay sa Diyos Praise Ministry at the Sacred Heart Parish, Abellana was a finalist in the 1st Huniño contest through the song "Santo Niño, Kami Panalipdi. " Last year, his composition "Daghang Salamat, O Santo Niño," won Second Prize. Finally, on his third attempt, he won the top plum!

Pragas, for his part, sings every Misa de Gallo of the "Pasko sa Carbon. " This is where he became good friends with Vice Mayor Michael Rama who gifted him with an electric guitar last Christmas and who watched the competition last Monday to support him. His singing achievements are as follows: 3rd prize during the 1st Gospel Songwriting Contest for the song "Way Sama;" 2nd prizewinner during the Anti-Drug Songwriting Contest in the year 2000 for interpreting "Lubing Boang;" and the grand prize during the 4th Gospel Songwriting contest for the song "Bag-ong Kinabuhi. " He also interpreted the song "Bulawanong Tambag" during the Cebu Pop Music Festival last January.

Meanwhile, Jed Madela, who was the night's guest performer, was a big hit. He expressed gratitude for having been invited to the event and explained that the Order of St. Augustine has a special place in his heart because he is an alumnus of the College of San Agustin in Iloilo City. It was my first time to hear him live and I was truly mesmerized by his performance that I joined the throng that chanted for more after his every song. For sure, Jed enjoyed the very warm response of the crowd because he sang four songs in all, including "You Raise Me Up" and "This Is The Moment. " Jed is truly of world-class caliber; I can't wait for his concert in Cebu to happen this August with Pinoy Dream Academy Season 2 winner Laarni Lozada! I will wait for you Jed, I surely will!

In totality, the 3rd Huniño was well done, production-wise. If I were to rate it, I would give it a perfect 10. The program was fast-paced and the audio-visual presentations pertaining to the discovery of the Sto. Niño's image, the oldest religious icon in the country, were all highly engaging. Gifted musical arranger Nendel Endrina arranged the 12 compositions, while the Huniño String Orchestra under the baton of Prof. Roberto del Rosario accompanied the competing entries. This year's Huniño Project Director is Rev. Fr. Raymundo T. Alcayaga, OSA, while the very energetic Gloria Villarojo acted as Events Manager. Like in the previous Huniño CDs, Soundtraxx Studio managed by Gloria's husband Gani of the then very popular SAKDAP Quartet, is at the helm of the recording and production. My kudos to everybody involved in this year's Huniño!

Not it's our turn to show appreciation for the beautiful efforts done to deliver such a production by buying a copy of the 3rd Huniño album. I say it's important that we buy a copy of the CD (P250 each only) because not only is it a collector's item (a souvenir of the 444th anniversary), proceeds of the album will help send less fortunate but deserving youngsters of the Sto. Niño Children's Welfare Foundation to school. So grab a copy now at the Sto. Niño Store.

React @ banatentertainment@hotmail. com The complete list of winners follows below:

BEST MOTION PICTURE (Drama) - "Boses" (Erasto Film Productions)

BEST MOTION PICTURE (Musical or Comedy) - "Fuschia" (APT Entertainment)

BEST MOTION PICTURE (Animation) - "Urduja" (APT Entertainment)



BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE (Musical or Comedy) - Gloria Romero for "Fuschia"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE (Musical or Comedy) - Eddie Garcia for "Fuschia"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE (Drama, Musical or Comedy) - Flor Salanga for "Jay"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE (Drama, Musical or Comedy) - Coco Martin for "Jay" and John Estrada for "Caregiver"



BEST DIRECTION - Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil for "Boses"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - Froilan Medina and Rody Vera for "Boses"

BEST SCREENPLAY ADAPTATION - Paul Alexander Morales for "Concerto"

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY - Charlie Peralta for "Ploning"

BEST EDITING - Orlean Joseph Tan for "Boses"

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN - Gerry Santos for "Concerto"

BEST SOUND - Michael Idioma for "Ploning"

BEST MUSIC SCORE - Jourdan Petalver for "Boses"

BEST THEME SONG - "Babae Ako" composed by Joey de Leon, Lyrics by Ogie Alcasid and Interpreted by Regine Velasquez

Source: The Philippine Star