By Susan Claire Agbayani

IT HAS BEEN the dream of Ryan Cayabyab, National Artist for Music, that Filipinos become less “dependent on imported songs and imported music.” He envisions a huge collection in the future of “music literature by young people in each community that we touch.”

He deems it very important, an advocacy.

“Kids in their locale must be able to write songs for their community, in their language, in the way they express themselves,” he said during a press conference for the first Candon Music Festival, of which he is Festival Director. The festival will be held from May 23-25 at the Bagani Campo Concert Grounds in Candon, Ilocos Sur.

The festival is the brainchild of Eric D. Singson, Representative of the 2nd District of Ilocos Sur.

Mr. Singson said, “I attended (the Montreal) music festival — a one-week music festival — with food and music and art, all in one. I thought that maybe we could also do things like that in the Philippines. “We thought of organizing a music festival with (the help of) our National Artist. We are now ready to take off with this,” he said.

It will be the first music festival of its kind north of Manila. It will feature many bands and orchestras with a different set of performers, both classical and pop, nightly.

When Mr. Cayabyab was approached for the first time by Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) cellist Christian Geo Molina about the festival, he was admittedly sceptical due to the musician’s youth. But when Mr. Molina mentioned that musicians like the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s Jorge “Joy” Sababan were among those helping organize the festival, he realized that Mr. Molina was dead serious. He found it interesting that he was being invited to be the director of a festival where classical music was going to be played. “Our objective is to inspire young kids in our community. And we cannot think of anything else to do. The presence of good musicians like our National Artist will really give a big push for our program in Ilocos Sur,” said Mr. Singson.

They intend to make it an annual music festival in Ilocos Sur. “We are also holding this musical festival to promote our province as a tourist destination,” said Mr. Singson.

“I said to Ryan, we want to do something that people will remember and we can do it yearly to attract people to come. We are also helping the country promote music in the province, in far-flung areas where in areas where there are no skilled musicians,” he said.

The Candon festival is rooted in a project that is in synergy with Mr. Cayabyab’s advocacy of bringing music to the youth in the provinces, since it is based on a foundation set up to promote music in Candon.

“We organized a foundation to help young people in our community in Candon City,” said Mr. Singson, referring to the MDS Heritage Foundation, Inc. “(Through the years) we sent some young artists/musicians to St. Paul University to take up Music.” Eight of these musicians eventually graduated and are not teaching the children in the city.

The first time that they held this kind of training program, only 20 youngsters enrolled. “Now we have 300 young kids. We feel that if we can show them those who really play well, they will be encouraged to excel in their dreams of becoming a musician,” Mr. Singson said.

“The ones (who were sent to study at St. Paul’s are) now training the 300 young students to play classical music,” he said.

Mr. Cayabyab is gratified that Candon musicians are using their expertise “to help shape a community that would appreciate music.”

Among the performers in the festival is the MSO which is preparing an overture entitled “Ilocandia” which includes songs such as “Pamulinawen” and “Manang Biday,” among others.

Aside from the MSO, also performing over the three days of the festival are the Philippine Cello Ensemble, tenor Ronan Ferrer, the Candon City Chamber Orchestra, the Candon City Children’s Choir, the Candon City Chorale, marimba player Aimee Mina de la Cruz, the Cardona Youth Symphonic Band, Kabataang Gitarista, and the Ryan Cayabyab Singers, Banda ni Kleggy, Deck of Cards, IMAGO, Noel Cabangon, Spongecola, 6Cyclemind, Gloc-9, Gracenote, Moonstar 88, Pinoy Brass, Tita Baliw, Davey Langit, DJ Patty Tiu, Jammers, Orange & Lemons, Rivermaya, soprano Regina Carabiles, soprano Jedessa Calacday, Melissa Nartate, Joy Allan de la Cruz, and DJ Lester Paul Vano.

Mr. Cayabyab added Ilocano musicians Davey Langit and Noel Cabangon to the roster of performers who will perform Ilocano songs they themselves wrote.

“My idea is that in the succeeding years, there would be educational workshops prior to the festival; creative music writing workshops for instance. Just like what I do in my other… events around the country,” he said.

The music festival ground is almost three hectares and can accommodate about 7,000 people.

“We do not know how many will come. But we want the young people to come. But before they drink the bitter pill, of course, they have to eat delectable appetizers… But it’s in the reverse; our appetizers are classical,” said Mr. Cayabyab.

The concerts start at 6 p.m. and go on til midnight daily for three consecutive nights. There will be different genres on every performance night.

Mr. Cayabyab is overjoyed that the fiesta has classical music as its base; started by musicians who trained the young people. “So I know where the heart is coming from,” he said.

“So I told myself, I like this because there’s some kind of initiative. I’ve been looking for LGUs that are initiating cultural programs, or arts and culture festivals in their area. So excited ako kasi wow, there’s something happening there in the North!”

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