All posts by Coffee, tea and Me

About Coffee, tea and Me

Musician, vocal coach, vocalist, mentor, event coordinator, music producer, mom, daughter, sister, friend, lyricist, writer, Bill Evans fan....

Why is it necessary to have a purpose in life? by Lorna O. Almeda Cifra

Having a purpose in life is the very essence of one’s existence in the universe. We were created and along with that comes the purpose why we live. Who do we live for? What do we live for? If there are no definite answers to these questions, what right do we have to breath the air, drink water, enjoy the sunshine each morning we wake up, have friends or fall in love?

Humans are created and composed by a DNA structure that only a person of extremely high intellect can conceive. Scientists have proven that theory. Not even Albert Einstein know the complexities or the formula for creating a human person. Some believe that there is indeed a Supreme Being , which a lot of them deny (that there is a God) who is the only one capable of DNA creation. The physical, mental, emotional and psychological complexities may only be created by the Highest form of authority. If indeed, up there in the unknown, is a Supreme Being capable of creating a person, he/ she/ it is absolutely smart as well to create a person and assign a task to his creation. That task is that purpose. If you are created to be a talented musician, then logically, your purpose is to share and spread your knowledge and talent. If one is assigned to be a doctor, his purpose would be, let’s see, to save life? Indeed!

Can you imagine a live human person with all his senses and faculties functioning well and not knowing what to do with them? It doesn’t make any sense that a very intelligent creator will create without a reason for that person to exist. We all have a purpose. It might take sometime to figure it out but it is imperative that one should live a life with a purpose so that when his existence comes to an end, a legacy will be left and passed on to the next generation and live according to their assigned purposes. Otherwise, there is no need for DNA and robots might as well rule the world.

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6 years ago 


Today, 15th of September would have been Tetsuro’s  (my husband) 64th birthday. I would be prepping up to go to the department store and find him the finest gift he deserves, after all, he’s the love of my life. Finally, after hopping from one store to another, I end up with nothing. What should I give to a man whose best birthday gift ever is to be with his family? A home with a wife and a child to look forward to after a long day at his office? Time and again, I would casually ask him on what he wants for his birthday and to which he would reply that having me and my daughter Rachelle over a simple home cooked dinner will suffice. 

       The intangibles, those were more important than an expensive watch, a Burberry (his favorite) shirt, the finest whiskey or wine, a pair of Bali leather shoes, the latest Apple gadget and what not. What could be more important than tight hugs, our stories for the day, the sound of our laughter behind every corny jokes he would throw at us, his dream of seeing our daughter finish school, find a good job and eventually get a decent husband, to see his future granddaughters and grandsons and I can go on and on. He had them all orchestrated that when he retires, he will live his life to the fullest by simply enjoying the role of a husband and a father and we all would sit at the dining table on all his birthdays, the same way over and over again,  until we grow old, grey haired and just waiting for our time to be called back. Those intangibles stopped 6 years ago. Cancer. Terminal. Longest he can survive, 1 year. Why? 

       What has gone wrong? Am I not serving him the right food on the table every mealtime?  Did I forget to remind him to take his vitamins or see a doctor when he is physically ill? Did I take it too easy to think that he was always healthy and robust? Did I not deserve to have a good husband longer than I expected? I have millions of unanswered questions. What else can I do but accept the reality that the powers to be wanted him home. I question myself, why can’t we go together? He was so good to me. The best husband any wife would wish to have. God blessed me to have him for a certain period of time, short but with mutual profound love for each other. I can’t thank the Lord enough for those unforgettable joyous moments we once shared, but at the same time, asking for a miracle to let me see him even in my dreams, like 5 minutes so I can greet him Happy Birthday, and tell him that nothing has changed, and that I love him very much. When Tetsu passed away 6 years ago, I mourned, wallowed in misery, drowned into the sea of blue and green, and sometimes I ask myself, did I make an attempt to make little steps forward? As I write this, I’m thinking no. 

       I reflect upon what might have been if he is still with us. He would have been proud to see his daughter march on her graduation day. That would have been his best birthday present ever. 

       I still hear the ringing of the church bells, eerie and sad. The sound of the birds bitter and yearning . Yet, I need to allow myself a moment to believe that one would leave the other. Question is, who goes first. I decide to  remain in the vision, in my pure imagination that Tetsu is alive and well.  That vision is a new place for me to see him. Another way of living. 

CBCP urges Prayers with Muslim brothers 

An Insurgency expert was interviewed by an infamous journalist, whose network is very popular over social media, regarding the declaration of Martial Law in Marawi City. We all know that Marawi city was attacked by the Islamic State of Iraq led radicals or people who use unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims, or for lack of better words, (terrorists) last May 23, 2017. 

Battle of Marawi, is an ongoing armed conflict in Marawi, Lanao del Sur, that started on May 23, 2017 between Philippine governmentsecurity forces and affiliated militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, otherwise known as ISIS, including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups. 

His opinion on what the government should do in this verbatim ‘Autonomy region is the solution to ISIS attack. The country is in trouble according to that insurgency expert. While I listen to his analysis, I questioned myself, free Mindanao? Seriously? Independent from the republic? Are there better opinions around? The President declared Martial law and as far as I know, the war is not over till it’s over. This is the time to pull ourselves together. To be united as Filipinos and warriors of Christ so that we can finally achieve peace and live in harmony right in our own country. 

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines appealed to the government to deal with the threat posed by the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City following its clashes with soldiers being shot and innocent civilians.

In a statement issued by CBCP , it urges Catholics to pray with Muslims for peace. 

CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas has expressed the Catholic Church’s alarm over “reports that Islamic State flags now flutter over Marawi City” in Lanao del Sur.

“We call on government to deal with the threat without wavering and without compromise,” the prelate said.

He also called on Filipino Catholics to pray with their Muslim brothers and sisters, saying they have always believed most Muslims to be peace-loving people.

In an issue stated by Archbishop Socrates Villegas and I quote ‘we call on the occupiers who claim to worship the same God that we all do not to defile His name by bloodshed,” 

The CBCP added the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for many terrorist attacks all over the world.

To storm the heavens with prayers is what we need to do in this seemingly desperate situation and that is what exactly what the CBCP is asking us. These terrorists are out of control. They reportedly raised black flags all over the city as a symbol of their allegiance to the extremist Islamic State.

Residents took to social media to post photos of black flags, continuing gunfire, air strikes, burning of buildings and the local gunmen’s presence in the streets.

To Jesus, through Mary are the weapons of the legionaries of Mary. Our country is in dire need of spiritual intervention. When guns and air strikes are not working anymore, we resort to prayers as our last solution, when both should be done all at the same time. Let us pray both for the military and the radicals as well. For our soldiers to be shielded and protected and that they may be able to go back to their homes and families, alive and safe. For the enemies to be touched by the hands of God, to be given wisdom, so that they may realize that in the eyes of God, we are all brothers and sisters. 

The prelate is hoping the government can bring back peace soon as people have longed to go back and live a normal life. 


In an article I read, an interreligious movement has appealed for prayers and nationwide participation in the “Prayer for Peace in the Philippines” initiative to be held on July 7 at 12:00 noon to be aired on national television. 

The convenors believe that prayer for unity changes things, so they are asking all Filipinos from every faith and sector of society to pray with them for peace in the country.

“Anywhere, everywhere. Filipinos are urged to pray wherever they are.”


Organizers of a community called Pasa Lord Movement said people can come together with family, friends or their communities and churches in their usual prayer venues, or gather in groups at their work places or their schools.

The movement is composed of ordinary citizens from various faiths and denominations including Catholics who are mostly from Charismatic groups, Muslims, Protestants and Evangelicals.


Let’s look at it this way, if a community like Pasa Lord Movement could come up with an appeal like that, what more with a larger community like us, Legion of Mary? Legionaries of Mary, spiritual soldiers, let us march forward for peace and unity and best of all love. 

The Millennial Legionary by LORNA CIFRA SHIMOJO

A faithful catholic will remember the year 2016 as the ‘Year of Mercy’ the “Extraordinary Jubilee” which was the third since the tradition began 700 years ago. Called for by the Argentine pontiff, Pope Francis, he spent the year with the downtrodden, holding special masses and passing one Friday every month with refugees, victims of sex trafficking and drug addiction, the sick, the elderly, and vulnerable children.

The watchword of mercy meant helping the unfortunate, welcoming sinners and outcasts back into the fold. The pope hoped that compassion and mercy would not only counter prejudice but also draw more people to the church.

In an article released by Inquirer.net, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and members of some laity organizations are now in coordination and cooperation with representatives from different government agencies and are set to meet at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. The main agenda mainly focuses that parishes should and will help raise the money to support the community-based rehabilitation centers, in addition to the government budget that was allotted for the barangay anti-drug abuse councils. Parishes will provide personnel to run the center while the government will provide supplemental needs like skills training care of Tesda, classification of drug surrenderers by the DOH, after-care program from the DSWD whereas the DILG and local government units will provide additional support.

The Legion of Mary is not exempted from lending a helping hand to the many issues beleaguering the country at present. Let us first identify how busy a legionary is as far as being an active member is concerned. Taken from the Legion of Mary HB, the works are as follows:

1. Apostolate in the Parish
2. Visitation of the Homes of the People
3. Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the Homes
4. The Making of the Parish Census
5. Visitation of Hospitals, Including Pyschiatric Hospitals
6. Work for the Most Wretched and Dejected of the Population
7. Works for the Young
8.  The Book-Barrow
9.  Crowd Contact
10. Misson to the Catholic Domestic Worker
11. Work for the Armed Services Personnel and People on the Move
12. The Dissemination of Catholic Literature
13.  Promoting the Practice of Daily Mass and Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
14.  The Recruiting and After-Care of Auxiliaries
15.  Work for the Missions
16.  Promoting Retreats
17.  Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart
18.  Other Duties Assigned by Pastor

In other words, the LOM has a humongous responsibility towards the Catholic Church, its members and fellow legionaries as well.
Demands for updates and radical changes for a new look in the Legion is called for by no other than ‘SANGGUNIANG LAYKO ng PILIPINAS’ or otherwise known as Council of the Laity of the Philippines. A big organization such as the Legion of Mary is expected to take an active role in current issues of this day and age such as (1) the move to help in drug rehabilitation, (2) to question extrajudicial killings, (3) to debate on death penalty, (4) to say no to abortion, (5) contribute to ecological issues like climate change and (6) to promote awareness of the lifestyle of this generation that is wholly and unbelievably dependent on social media.

Aside from the many works that were enumerated above, legionaries should also be more aware of what is troubling our nation in the present while continuously be interested in the convert apostolate. We should become more involved in the social apostolate and in the human rights of our fellowmen. As legionaries of Mary, we can provide mental, emotional, social and above all, spiritual nourishment to the lost souls who are merely victims of inevitable circumstances. Our opinion or judgement is not welcome but rather we must seek for strength and sustenance from the Holy Spirit through the Blessed Virgin Mary, to raise again and uplift the human dignity of these poor souls.

The Legion is criticized for being passive or rather quiet in relation to their works for the laity. The Handbook teaches the legionary to be simple and to practice humility in all his endeavors. Yet, the authority of the Church cries for assistance, let us be more privileged and humbled to give a helping hand on the Apostolate of the Laity specially with moral and spiritual concerns.

Pope Paul VI, in his letter to Frank Duff, singles out for special praise the Legion of Mary’s discipline and “unflinching loyalty to the Church.”

True Legionaries of Mary are engaged in a warfare for souls against Satan and sin, they wage that war in a peaceful way, they hate and fight sin, but love and care for the sinner. Walking an extra mile to contribute to the call of our bishop and not be antagonistic in its contact with lost souls is simply extra service to the Lord. Legionaries are taught to show in their apostolic work the patience, love and understanding of Our Lord and Our Lady,

Let us examine the Laity’s documents and let us see just what the Council Fathers have in mind when they tell us what the Lay Apostolate should be.
“The lay apostolate is a participation in the saivific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself.” (IV, 33) In the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity the Council Fathers tell us that “the Christian vocation by its very nature is also avocation to the apostolate.” (I, 2)
The Legion Handbook (first drafted in the 1920’s) stresses the right and duty of every Catholic, by reason of his baptism and confirmation, to share in the Church’s mission of spreading the teachings and graces of Christ to every human being.

This extra works or walking an extra mile would mean progress in holiness which requires an exercise of the virtues of faith, hope, charity, patience and humility. The ultimate goal in this progress in holiness is a closer union with Christ. Through this union, which is nourished by a frequent reception of the sacraments, the Legionary will see Christ in every person and will thereby work for the good of that person specially the people who are affected with the issues we read day in and day out from the newspapers, mainstream and social media.

As millennial legionaries of Mary, let these issues be a part of our advocacy, to spread awareness of the current issues and to assist the church wholeheartedly in its evangelization and sanctification duties.

He is not Bro. Diony for Nothing

img_0172I used to have profound conversations with my parents, specifically my father, about anything under the sun. I normally would ask him just one question and he would enumerate several answers. My father who was a journalist back in Mindanao, being the city editor of Davao Sentinel and a contributing writer of ‘The Mindanao Daily Tribune’ have tons of stories hidden in his pandora box. I would unearth all those untold stories by interrogating him time and again.

My dad, Diony Cifra Jr, a born journalist endeared  by his fellow legionaries as bro. Diony is likewise a born legionary. Just as he would always tell me that I was born for music. I am a witness to his unconditional love and devotion to the Blessed Mother. He started attending the Legion of Mary when he decided to leave his career as a journalist and decided on becoming an under bar lawyer instead by enrolling in San Beda Law school. He considers the Legion of Mary as his second family next to us. He made it a point that he continues on with his journalistic talent by becoming a ghost writer for several priests and officers of the apostolic community while he was attending the Legion meetings every Sunday with no absence. To him, not attending a Legion meeting or making excuses like being busy with whatever reason is a crime, unless he is deeply sick and about to drop dead, attendance is a must.  The Legion of Mary is his top priority.

Years after his devotion as a member of the Legion, he rose from a member to a Curia officer and later on became the president of the Senatus of Northern Philippines, off and on. He found a venue to continue his love for writing. As a writer, he is passionate, firm but polite, straight to the point with no qualms about any subject he would write about. When I see him typing with his manual typewriter, without looking at the keyboard (he’s great in typing) , he will not allow disturbances. When an idea comes to his mind, he would start typing his idea non-stop. The story  just naturally flows from his brain to his fingers. As soon as the sound of the typewriter stops, we all know that his story is done. Most of his stories are about his love for the Blessed Mother, his parish, his Monsignor, him being the legionary of Mary, the junior members, the officers’ responsibilities towards the Legion, the role of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, Legion Handbook, apostolate, how to be a faithful servant, how to build a family based on Christian values and I could go on and on.

When my father read the first essay I wrote in high school, he uttered, ‘Sweetheart, (he calls me , Tart) , (now I am missing him dearly), you have talent for writing’. I just shrugged my shoulders and I said I was just writing from my heart and soul. Then he follows it up with, ‘you are not only good in music but writing as well’. ‘Anak, that’s how writers are, you write because your heart tells you to do so’. I don’t need writers like Ophelia Dimalanta, who was my professor in literature way back, to validate my knack for writing. My father’s validation is more than enough.

As soon as he came up with the idea of printing the first Senatus Bulletin, he wasted no time and had confidence that the Bulletin will be his legacy. I just keep on praying that the wisdom he instilled to his fellow legionaries would continue that legacy. The Bulletin gave him life and rejuvenates him  issue after issue even after his first heart attack.  My brother Pipo and I are privileged and grateful to the Senatus officers to be given the opportunity to keep the Bulletin circulating to this date.

27th October is my dad’s first year death anniversary. I want to pay tribute to my father and my mentor in life, by announcing to the world that his legacy continues while every legionary reads the Senatus Bulletin, while a legionary regularly attends  weekly meetings, while humility is continuously observed, while apostolate works are being done wholeheartedly without expecting anything in return. To us, his children, he is the best father one can ever have. He is a legionary and he is not Bro. Diony for nothing. We miss you so much and we love you Dad.

Nativity and the Legionary

     To neglect someone’s birthday is to say we do not love them. God forbid that we would even forget our own mother’s birthday. Yet, this is what many Catholics do with Jesus’ mother. There is only one reason why we should celebrate. It is the birthday of the mother of Jesus our Savior and Mary being our heavenly mother. It is just the same as saying that to forget our own mother’s birthday is unthinkable.
     

     In conception, Mary was created and filled with spiritual gifts and blessings but she was shrouded by the mystery of the womb. When She was born, she was introduced into the society of man. Born to the light of the world, her mission to be the universal mediatrix and co-redemptrix officially began, much in the same way the birth of Jesus Christ had. 

     I have had the privilege to have endless conversations with my father, (known to many of the legionaries as Bro. Diony), about his love and devotion to our Blessed Mother and his undying support to the Legion of Mary. He opened his publishing business after realizing that being in mainstream journalism would only endanger his life and he named his company, Madonna Printing Press after the The Madonna and Child or The Virgin and Child and is often the name of a work of art which shows the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The word ‘Madonna’ means “My Lady” in Italian. Artworks of the Christ Child and his mother Mary are part of the Roman Catholic tradition in many parts of the world including Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, South America and the Philippines. Paintings or otherwise known as icons are also an important tradition of the Orthodox Church and often show the Mary and the Christ Child. That was the first manifestation of my father’s profound love to Mama Mary. 

     He met my mother through the Legion of Mary which my father thinks is the best gift he ever received. She was a legionary too. His prayers to Jesus through Mary was to be blessed with a loving wife and obedient children to the Catholic faith. In my opinion, Mama Mary answered all his prayers. His love for Mary never ceased till his last breath as we celebrate his 1st year death anniversary on October 27, 2016. I know that in exchange for all the blessings and the goodness of the Lord to his family , there were sacrifices to be made, and that is his one hundred percent devotion and attention to the Blessed Mother. He missed some of his family’s celebrations such as birthdays, bienvenida and despedida parties and many more, all because he had to go to a retreat, or attend a Curia meeting, go to the darkest and deepest streets of the slums to bring the message of Christ, September functions, Nativity, Immaculate Concepcion, Assumption celebrations and what not. All about the Blessed Mother. My mother would be disappointed and one time in my early teens, I confronted my father. I literally told him that he is never around on family gatherings. He simply uttered, ‘we are blessed because of my absence at home’. His love for the Blessed Mother got us to better schools, live decently and experience the finer things in life. I am not saying that he was not around all the time, rather, he spends more time with the Legion. I know how much he loves us all. Not even going through heart infractions stopped him from serving. To my father, it was through the Blessed Mother that despite the turmoils we face, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves up, see the light at the end of the tunnel and continue to live a spiritually fruitful and happy life. 

     Let us make a space to remember always in our hearts on what the ‘Handbook’ says: ‘Especially does the Legion aspire after her humility and above all her faith, that virtue which has in her alone been found in its utmost extent and never equalled.’ And it is the one thing each of us prays for every day. Again, Humility and Faith. 

     As I write this, I believe in my heart that my father is in control of the keyboard, typing these words and I am just his messenger. As legionaries of Mary, we look at her as our heavenly Mother and the Queen of all queens. Is it appropriate to question whether her birthday has to be celebrated or not? Let us not forget the reason why we chose to be in the Legion. We are given the opportunity to show our affection and respect to our Heavenly Mother. On behalf of my father, Bro. Diony Cifra, Happy Birthday Mama Mary. You will be forever loved, adored and hailed as the Mary full of grace.

‘Knock and it shall be opened’

‘Knock and it shall be opened’

The Holy year of Mercy and the Holy Door
THE FIRST HOLY YEAR
In 1983 when a Holy Year was declared to mark the 1950th anniversary of the death and resurrection of our Lord, a major aspect of the Holy Year has been that of pilgrimage to Rome, to make reparation for sin and to renew the conversion of one’s life.

A very important symbolic act performed by each pilgrim has been to pass through the Holy Door. Christ identified Himself as “the door.”

In his bull Incarnationis Mysterium proclaiming this Holy Year, Pope John Paul II stated that the Holy Door “…evokes the passage from sin to grace which every Christian is called to accomplish. Jesus said, ‘I am the door’ (John 10:7) in order to make it clear that no one can come to the Father except through Him. This designation which Jesus applies to Himself testifies to the fact that He alone is the Savior sent by the Father. There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into this life of communion with God. This is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation. To Him alone can the words of the psalmist be applied in full truth: ‘This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter’ (Psalm 118:20)
THE HOLY YEAR OF MERCY
The year 2015 was unexpectedly announced by Pope Francis during a penitential service at St. Peter’s Basilica on March 12. Beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception December 8, 2015, it will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016. The motto being “Compassionate like the Father”
Having already described his papacy as a “kairos” of mercy, defined by the New Testament as a privileged moment in God’s plan of salvation, Pope Francis said the time is ripe for the message of mercy. “I am convinced that the whole Church, which has much need to receive mercy, because we are sinners, will find in this jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time,” the pope said.

Following after the Mass to open the Holy year of mercy, Francis opens the Holy Door in the basilica. Each of Rome’s major basilicas has its own holy door, which are traditionally sealed from the inside and only opened during jubilee years. The door usually is sealed with bricks as a symbolic reminder of the barrier of sin between human beings and God.
THE HOLY DOOR

Those who pass through a Holy Door during this jubilee year will receive a plenary indulgence, which removes all of the temporal punishment for sins committed up to that time — provided the recipient also goes to confession, receives Communion, and prays for the pope.

Moreover, when the door opens, the obstacles of passage to our Lord are removed. During the Holy Year, we hope and pray that the obstacles of personal weakness, temptation, and sin will be removed so that we will have a holy union with our Lord.

Pope Francis has announced an opportunity for Catholics to obtain a plenary indulgence during the Year of Mercy by passing through a designated Holy Door during the Year of Mercy, or performing one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy; and fulfilling the usual conditions of having the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, receiving Sacramental Confession, Holy Eucharist, and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father.

The Holy door will become a door of mercy to which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope. ‘The world needs to discover that God is Father, that there is Mercy, that cruelty and condemnation is not the path.’ (Pope Francis)

There are only three simple ways to enter the Holy Door, get nearer to God our Father, which will assure us at the same time through plenary indulgence, that we will see our lost beloved ones who have left ahead of us and joined our Lord. The Sacrament of Confession, Holy Eucharist and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father.

The six designated Holy Doors in the Philippines are as follows:

1) San Sebastian Cathedral of Bacolod City Negros Occidental
2) Saints Peter and Paul Parish of Bantayan Island, Cebu
3) National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles
Jaro, Iloilo

4) Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Cebu City
5) Parish Church of St. Anne of Molo, Iloilo

6) Divine Mercy Church of Biluso, Cavite City

imageJazz beyond Borders

I remember a particular line in Billy Strayhorn’s composition ‘Lushlife’, found  in the first eight bars of the verse. It goes like this, ‘I used to visit all the very gay places, those come what may places, where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life, to get the feel of life, from jazz and cocktails’. Many people stereotype jazz as the genre of the elite. People who were born with a silver spoon. Who are the elitists? According to my sources,  Elite, is a small group of powerful people in political and sociological theory, such as an oligarchy, that controls a disproportionate amount of wealth or political power in society. This group is given more privileges than ordinary people  in a society. They can be big time politicians,  big earners in fields of  business, law and  medical professions to cite examples. They are the people who have the currency to pay for anything they want. Branded clothings, limousine services, fine dining, private jets, go to an opera, a Broadway show, and once in a while, a jazz gig.

In a jazz venue, be it in the US where jazz found its grassroots or other countries that have a wide audience in jazz like Japan, Canada, or the Philippines, is it fair that only a person belonging to an elite class can have the opportunity to appreciate jazz?  Herbie Hancock, a renowned jazz pianist is one among others who spearheaded ‘International Jazz Day’. This special celebration was conceived in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact. To raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding, to reinforce international cooperation and communication. Every  year on April 30, this international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity, eradicating racism, promoting freedom of expression, fostering gender equality, and reinforcing the role of youth in enacting social change.

The Philippines in one way or another joins this special event each year on the 30th of April. Small, cozy jazz venues hold their own events as a way of recognizing this art form and help find the country’s  own niche in the field of International Jazz. The question is, is it well funded? IJD organizers hands over a special plaque of appreciation to anybody who wants to join this event. By using social media like Livestream, Ustream, Facebook Live , et al,  jazz musicians of diverse culture and race can play, be heard and seen over the world.

I am a jazz artist based all over. Jazz musicians are like gypsies who never stop moving, and improving. The creativity process never stops in a particular gig or recorded performances. Who are the jazz artists? Moreover, what is Jazz music? Jazz spans a period of over a hundred years, encompassing a very wide range of music, making it difficult to define. Jazz makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swing note. Although the foundation of jazz is deeply rooted within the black experience of the United States, different cultures have contributed their own experience and styles to the art form as well. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as “one of America’s original art forms.

I recall my mother saying that Filipinos are eternally singing. Music runs in our DNAs for many special reasons. The Philippines was already in the groove way back before World War 1st. My grandfather for one was a member of a big band in Los Angeles while picking oranges in the morning. Is this what you call elite?  This country is gifted with very talented musicians but not given enough avenues and chances to learn music. Taking up Music courses in college is a fortune to begin with. There are foundations who give scholarships to talented and deserving students, unfortunately, these organizations are a handful. We have no access to buy better instruments unless we go to the US or online shopping like Amazon. Music students in the Philippines are not motivated enough to create more as parents would time and again remind their children that there is no money in music. That is not true. I will agree to the fact that the glory days where our leaders would concentrate on the art and the artists as well, has  gone to oblivion. Whatever happened to our love for music, for jazz, for freedom of expression?

The prestigious Kobe Jazz Vocal Queen held in Japan annually, had just concluded and I was fortunate enough to be one of the judges. I take pride to be chosen as part of the jury during the competition. This competition stems from the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association (SKSCA), a volunteer-based non-profit association that helps promote and facilitate friendly relations between Seattle as sister city of Kobe, Japan. Founded in 1957, the Seattle-Kobe relationship was the first such partnership for both cities. The exchanges between these two cities are varied, ranging from cultural, educational, business and governmental. In addition to the official sister city relationship, there is also an official port relationship, as well as strong economic ties between many companies of these two regions. This is where the Kobe Jazz Vocal Queen comes in. I was there sitting as one of the judges and I said to myself, our country can do this. Our nation has an overload of talented vocalists who can focus on this genre given the right education, knowledge, skill, and right mentoring.

I have a dream that soon, the greatness of our country will again be known through Jazz music. As  Susan Rice  (U.S. National Security Advisor) would say , and I quote “Like democracy itself, jazz has structure, but within it you can say almost anything.” Join me in realizing this endeavor.

 

In Loving Memory of my Dad

  • imageImpeccable and Undying Love for Mama Mary.

This is my debut to write something for the  Senatus Bulletin. The subject, my beloved father, Bro. Diony Cifra Jr. My dad Dionisio Cifra Jr, endeared by his peers and co-legionaries as Bro. Diony which later became Tatay Diony, would read to me an article, opinion and insights on his literary works and I would endlessly listen to them all. Every word he utters or writes is a matter of priority that I had to get ready with my pen and paper to take notes. I remember I would ask him to speak slowly so I can write and mark his vocabulary and his language would forever be implanted on my brain. If my mother is the walking dictionary, my father would be the editor. I read all their literary works be it a book, an essay or just tidbits of their written thoughts.

On that note, how can I write about my father and at the same time organize my thoughts when I am terribly missing him? Yet, being brought up to always say yes to the call of God , i am writing this and you all get the chance to know him more, not only as a father but also a Legionary. I have been away from the country and what I can only remember is , my dad as the Senatus President of the Legion of Mary,  reelected time and again until he figured out himself that though his spirit is still willing , his flesh is not. Just as he was my number one fan in all my endeavor, he is the biggest fan of Mama Mary. Mama Mary comes first before my first communion, birthday, Bienvenido parties and what not, although he would arrive at a later time. We are his second priority and we don’t really mind. Legionary is my dad’s  nickname.
My respect for my him goes beyond as a daughter. He was my mentor and spiritual adviser. The kind of father any child would be lucky to have. Strict but loving. Firm but doting. He calls me sweetheart, my brother ‘son’ and my daughter ‘sugar’. I’m holding on to my tears now. He loved the entire family of legionaries in the Philippines and the whole world. He made sure that we know the handbook, the tessera, the rosary and of course the Senatus Bulletin and sees to it that God is always in the center of our lives. While he did a great job as a legionary and Mama Mary can attest to that, he was a doting father. All he wanted was to have a family who loves Mama Mary the way he does. He would eternally tell us, ‘if you pray the rosary and pray to Jesus through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, your prayers will be answered’. He was right.
His love for the Legion of Mary is impeccable just as his love for his family is. The greatest man I’ve ever met in my life. A leader, a Christian warrior, a prolific writer (I’m his biggest fan) being a journalist, editor – in- chief as such during his younger days in Davao City.  In lighter moments, he’s a Frank Sinatra or a Tony Bennett wannabe and a musician. Where else can my brother Pipo, get his musical genius?
The legionaries miss you a lot Dad and I am dying to see you, though not so soon. You are an Icon of the Legion and what an honor and a privilege to be your daughter, I can not thank the Lord enough.