Jun 23 2008

Scholars rehearsing for concert in Zamboanga

Barclay, left and Xarina playing the kulintangan, a traditional Philippines instrument.

Xarina (foreground) and other CFCA scholar students learned and performed on traditional Filipino instruments for a concert in the jungle surrounding Zamboanga City, Philippines, in January 2008. The concert will be featured in ZAMBOANGA, a documentary film. Visit www.zamboangathemovie.com for more information.

Scholarship students from the Philippines formed a special bond while studying traditional Filipino instruments such as the kulintangan, the dabakan and the agong. The students rehearsed throughout the year for a CFCA concert on Jan. 30 in Zamboanga on the island of Mindanao.

The experience awakened an interest in composing and writing for scholar Xarina, 16. Xarina is featured in the Spring/Summer issue of The Scholar, a CFCA publication that highlights the accomplishments and challenges of students in the CFCA Scholarship Program.

ìI am used to composing in English and Tagalog,î Xarina said. ìNow I am writing in Chavacano [a Filipino dialect]. I am experimenting.î

Hours of rehearsal put a strain on Xarinaís studies, but the hard work paid off.

ìThey did brilliantly,î said Kansas City-based musician Barclay Martin. Martin arranged the concert music and wrote original songs combining traditional Filipino and modern music.

The day after the concert was bittersweet for the students, Martin said.

ìWe played music for each other as a gesture of thanks and to mark a significant life experience for all involved,î he said. ìAs it neared time to leave, members from all of the groups began to laugh, sing and cry out of gratitude for what we had shared.î

2 thoughts on “Scholars rehearsing for concert in Zamboanga”

  1. Dear Margaret,

    Thank you for your comment.

    We are in full agreement with Dr. Santos. We hope the film shatters the stereotype that he mentions. CFCA has worked in the Philippines for 20 years and currently serves about 45,000 sponsored members there. Our CFCA staff in the Philippines ñ and everywhere we work ñ is local.

    The documentary is a celebration of people in the Philippines ñ their spirit, talent, culture and abilities ñ in the face of living with the challenges of poverty and the threat of terrorism. The filming centered on Filipino folk musicians teaching traditional music to a group of CFCA sponsored Filipino youth. The workshops were coordinated by U.S. musician Barclay Martin and CFCA staff in the Philippines.

    Currently, we are editing the film. The crew shot the documentary on several trips to the Philippines between Jan. 2007 to Jan. 30, 2008. As part of their research, the crew interviewed many people in the Philippines including college professors, poets, local musicians, tribal communities and social workers.

    We hope to raise awareness of the rich, beautiful Filipino culture as well as presenting the potential of people living in poverty.

    To learn more about the documentary, please visit the film Web site and blog at http://www.zamboangathemovie.com.

    Thank you for your continued support of CFCA!

  2. I am a CFCA sponsor who first learned of the Zamboanga project through the CFCA newsletter. I forwarded a link to your blog to my friend, Dr. Ramon Santos, who is Professor Emeritus at the College of Music at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City and Executive Director of the Center for Ethnomusicology. I thought your would be interested in his comments. Dr. Santos wrote:
    “I am not too knowledgeable about the CFCA presence in Zamboanga although I am quite familiar with the cultural life in the entire region and the work being done by other such organizations for the local communities. I have been going there many times especially in connection with my work with young music artists competitions and festivals all over the country.
    I am a little bit uncomfortable, though, seeing the video documentary seemingly focusing on the poverty and the war in that area of the country. While there are indeed some places of conflict and villages without the comforts of modern
    urban society, the larger region is relatively peaceful and quite progressive. I have worked with the local governments there and in general, education and the general well-being of the people are being addressed, even [though] not in a level that one would find in other places in the Philippines. I am also very much aware of the missionary work being done by religious groups all over Mindanao and they usually concentrate on the places where one would find villages like what has been shown in the video. But as I said, it does not tell the whole picture and I am just afraid that its airing through the internet will contribute to the already unpleasant image and stereotyping that foreign media enjoy showing of countries in other parts of the world. Perhaps Martin should also meet with local musicians and culture workers, so that he can have a wider appreciation of the musical and social world of other peoples. But I do agree with him that the musical traditions in Zamboanga and the Sulu archipelago (some of the most problematic security areas) are some of the most colorful and dynamic in the whole country.”

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