String quartet, soprano in a Filipino benefit concert

It was one of those dreary evenings where it continuously rained from noon, with bucketsful of relentless bursts in the afternoon. The traffic was almost at a standstill, with worrisome reports of floods in certain parts of the metropolis. So I wondered if anyone would brave such inconveniences and be counted for this musical event.

Surprise, surprise! Guests trickled in. How I wish the day’s rain behaved as such! But just like the tempest, they came. Before long, it was a full house!

Yvonne Yuchengco, the brain behind the endeavor, and eager supporters too many to mention could not have prayed for more for “Gitara’t Awit,” a Filipino music concert at the Y Space of the Yuchengco Museum in Makati City.

Enveloped by obras of visual masters, the temporary podium was fielded by the PIMA Guitar Quartet, composed of four classical guitarists — Patrick Roxas, Iqui Vinculado, Monching Carpio and Adrik Cristobal.

The quartet, whose initials of the members’ first name make up the group’s name, have distinct styles and musical backgrounds. In February 2023, they staged a Valentine’s-themed concert in hopes of a more entertaining and creative guitar experience for audiences in love. Since then, they have been performing for foreign embassies, multinational corporations, advocacy organizations and special events such as National Women’s Month.

“Tonight, we wanted the pieces to showcase the beauty of Filipino music through multiple genres. We tried to balance out the selection by showcasing folk and regional songs, original compositions, pop and kundimans,” Cristobal shared.

Some numbers performed include iconic instrumentals, such as “Leron Leron Sinta,” one of the most beloved folk songs of the nation; and “Sa Kabukiran,” which narrates an idyllic life in the farmlands.

Other pieces were “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika,” a popular hummable tune; “For PIMA,” a composition of Roxas, one of the four performers; and “Minamahal Kita,” a classic Filipino love song.

A highlight was “Bayan Ko,” also known as the unofficial national anthem of the Philippines. It gained momentum during the American occupation of the Philippines and the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Give credit where it is due — the PIMA Guitar Quartet’s recordings and sound tech is managed by guitarist and videographer Roneil Santos.

The foursome collaborated with renowned soprano Stefanie Quintin. Despite being seven months expecting, she displayed her vocal prowess with ease. After all, she has been awarded as the winner of various vocal competitions, such as the Hawk Vocal Awards, Musical Merit Foundation Competition, La Jolla Symphony Young Artists, all in California, USA. She likewise clinched the ASEAN Vocal Competition for the Opera-Professional Category in Singapore.

She has even performed as a soloist in various international festivals, such as the soundSCAPE Festival in Italy, Asia-Europe New Music Festival in Vietnam, Yilan International Arts Festival in Taiwan and Baroque Festival in Singapore.

“One of our best sopranos, she was a schoolmate at the UP College of Music and a good friend. She has partnered with classical guitarists in performances and has a voice that blends perfectly with the instruments,” Cristobal said.

Regional pieces such as “Malinac kay Labi” from Pangasinan and “Caturog na Nonoy” from the Bicol Region were both appreciated lullabies. “Usahay,” which means “sometimes” in Cebuano, is a well-loved Visayan melody familiar to most.

“Ano Kaya ang Kapalaran” served as a gentle reminder on the world of kundimans, while “Nahan” was a lovely, longing ballad. Finally, “Ang Maya” instilled a sense of freedom, akin to birds in flight due to their own will.

“This show featured most of the arrangements being done by ourselves. We hope to further our creativity and create more shows and perform for audiences nationwide,” Cristobal ended.

The concert was in support of I Am Hope’s Women Economic Empowerment Program. The organization, born at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, continues to assist marginalized families and the transport sector. Currently, the initiative focuses on women’s economic empowerment as they aid single mothers through livelihood centers while providing a safe space for their children.