The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra turns gold

It is difficult to believe that the grand dame of Philippine orchestras has recently turned 50 years old! And what better way to celebrate this admirable milestone than with their very own 50th anniversary gala concert, which was held on 12 May at the meticulously refurbished and renovated Manila Metropolitan Theater, the venue of choice of esteemed artists and performers since 1931.

From their very first concert in 1973, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra grew steadily in size, adopting more talents and expanding their repertoire and reach. It has skyrocketed to become the country’s premier orchestra, on par with the world’s best.

“Thirty-eight concert seasons, hundreds of guest artists and conductors, thousands of performances, a million hearts touched… the PPO has gracefully reached its golden jubilee,” reminisced Cultural Center of the Philippines President Margie Moran-Floirendo.

“Tonight’s concert is not just a celebration for the CCP, but a milestone for the country. It is a testament to the enduring and lasting Filipino artistry and creativity,” she continued.

CCP vice president and artistic director Dennis Marasigan, independent film producer Girlie Rodis and CCP president Margarita Moran-Floirendo.


For the singular evening, the resident orchestra of CCP recreated part of its debut concert five decades ago.

They replayed their own renditions of Alfredo S. Buenaventura’s Bathaluman and Philippine National Artist for Music Lucresia Kasilag’s Divertissement for Piano and Orchestra.

Under the baton of Maestro Rodel Colmenar, teenage virtuoso pianist Aidan Ezra Baracol was the guest performer for the opening act.

Aidan Ezra Baracol, Arthur Espiritu and Raul Sunico meet guests.

Colmenar, the founder and Music director of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, has devoted his conducting life in the highly-renowned Kurt Masur Conducting Workshop in Detmold, Germany, plus the sought-after master classes of conductors Jean Sebastian Berau from France and Pierro Gamba from Italy.

He was a guest performer for the Kuala Lumpur Symphony Orchestra, the Penang State Orchestra of Malaysia, and the Twilite Orchestra of Indonesia.

Maestro Rodel Colmenar (left) conducts the orchestra while virtuoso Aidan Ezra Baracol (right) plays the piano


He has garnered distinctions from various musical tilts and held the principal post in the coveted ASEAN Music Workshops.

Baracol on the other hand, is a piano prodigy who is currently a Grade 12 scholar at the Philippine High School for the Arts. Within the past three years, he has clinched over 16 local and international titles, most notably the prestigious National Music Competition for Young Artists Junior Piano Competition.

Even the pandemic did not stop him to continue his excellence, for he garnered distinctions from international piano competitions – online!

Come autumn, he has been granted scholarships and admissions to any of the following sought-after institutions: Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal College of Music, all in London; and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore.

The spotlight was then on Tenor Arthur Espiritu as he belted out heart-wrenching notes to Salut! Demeure e Chaste et Pure from Faust by French composer Charles Gounod, Che gelida manina from La Boheme by prominent Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, and Kundiman ng Langit by Filipino master Augusto Espino.

Tenor Arthur Espiritu belts out a high note with absolute confidence

A Filipino-American known primarily for his powerful voice and commanding stage presence, he has been the main draw for recitals, operas and concerts in the United States and beyond. He has collaborated with principal conductors, orchestras and music directors. In 2020, he was a part of the CCP’s opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

Under the guidance of PPO Resident Conductor Herminigildo Ranera, the much-lauded Raul Sunico skillfully rendered G. Gershwin’s classic Rhapsody in Blue.

A full house at the Manila Metropolitan Theater for PPO’s 50th anniversary concert.

Ranera is a three-peat winner of the NAMCYA in three different categories. His arrangements have been featured in the albums of Redentor Romero, hailed by the widely-read New York Post as an excellent conductor. This record featured the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. He continues to share his expertise at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music and the St. Paul University Manila Graduate School.

The laureled Sunico holds a Master of Music Degree from the top-notch Julliard School in New York and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree, major in Piano Performance from the New York University.

He has performed solo recitals in capital cities of over 31 nations around the world. He has been featured as a soloist of prestigious orchestras. A former CCP president, he sits on the board of several arts and culture organizations.

He has served as part of the jury of the Bergen Philharmonic Competition in New Jersey, Isidor Bajic Memorial Piano Competition in Novi Sad, Serbia and the Piyabhand Sanitwongse Piano Competition in Bangkok, Thailand.

He was likewise granted with The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines Award.

Despite the insurmountable logistics to overcome to bring an entire orchestra abroad, the PPO has been able to showcase on foreign shores, to include the Asia Orchestra Week at the Tokyo Opera City Hall, Bangkok’s National Theater and several huge concert halls in Shanghai and Beijing, China. They became the first Filipino orchestra to blaze their prowess at the performers’ dream – every performer’s dream – the Carnegie Hall in New York City.

It’s not three cheers, but fifty cheers for the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra!