Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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R.I.P. To 44 Fallen Commandos

  • image I wrote this blog on the 30th of January after the massacre of the 44 members of SAF that horribly took place in Mindanao. I did not post this because during those days, the issue was very controversial and my dad advised me to not meddle with my already troubled country. It would be like adding insult to injury. Now that Noynoy Aquino will soon be our ex president, I thought this is the right time to say my piece. This is how some political analysts would look at Pnoy (President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines) as the Commander in Chief. While his right hand is busy with the finality of the Bansamoro Basic Law, to which the population of Maguindanao consists of mainly MILF members (who are allegedly the people behind the massacre), him trying to be the gentleman and the diplomat, rubbing elbows with the leader , which I find ‘incredibly ridiculous’, (knowing that these are the same people who were involved in the number of massacres that occurred several years back) fervently hoping that they will finally surrender their arms and embrace peace with the government, Pnoy’s left hand is persistently persuading the Senate to have this BBL implemented until at least before his term ends. So what happens now? Not everybody agrees with the BBL, trust is of the essence and as far as the MILF is concerned, my instinct tells me that they are not worthy of that. The BBL has a long way to go. It still needs a lot of reading,interpolations, discussions, amendments and a hundred percent consensus by the Senate and even more, a referendum for the entire nation. It can not just be implemented, not now or more so not ever. The MILF has been consistently defending themselves that they are  not the culprit of these tragic massacres but in reality, they seemingly are. If only we have an extraordinarily observant leader, with strong political will, conviction and discernment, he should be smart enough to be able to read between the lines. History shows that MILF do not follow the rules of ceasefire and the leaders should not be too assuming that after BBL, the whole country will at last live in peace and harmony. Harboring international terrorists is unforgivable and unacceptable. The person rooting for the BBL was the same person who gave the go signal to attack without vigorous planning. Pnoy wanted to take the credit and show the world that he has a legacy to leave before his term ends, but at the expense of SAF and innocent civilians and individuals? Unfortunately, the mission failed and the massacre goes on and on till the present. BBL will never be the solution or if at all there will be a solution. Long and tedious planning , then maybe, just maybe peace will be achieved only if people, Christians and Muslims alike will realize the meaning of human respect and compassion. I condemn this tragic event and I have no words to the wives , children and family of the SAF fallen commandos. War is stupid and the people perpetuating it is even more stupid. And I quote Miriam Santiago’s line, ‘Life is Hard but it’s Harder when you are stupid.’ Filipinos killing Filipinos. Is not that a humongous act of stupidity?

Unthinkable Shiver

Freezing cold on the 29th of wintry December morning 2014, I took my flight back to Manila to behold the beautiful face of my beloved mother on her wake. The last time I would talk to her, face to face although I knew it would be a one way conversation. She can no longer agree or disagree with me, nod her head in awe when she hears good news about my career and family, utter words to remind me how proud she is that I’m her daughter, constantly motivate me to be better in whatever I do, boost my moral before a big performance, pacify me when I’m hysterical, listens to me when I tell her how lonely it is to lose a husband, and a lot more. She even becomes the mother to my daughter when I’m not around. I could go on and on and on. I was not on her bedside when she was fading away but technology helped me to tell her everything while she can still hear me.
Excruciatingly painful. That’s how my mother would phrase it when she wants to describe a feeling where pain is gravely intolerable, or when a situation is unbearably distressing or when someone is in intense suffering.
I was speaking to her over the phone while my heart is in excruciating pain. All I can do is make myself strong by controlling my tears while I bid her goodbye. As I speak to her, I realized that I will not be able to give her the tightest hug I can give. There’s no reason for me to drop by the duty free to buy a new lipstick, perfume or a new bag for my beloved mother. I will not have someone to call on to when I need a recipe for a certain menu I want to cook. ( She knows I don’t really cook though) still she would teach me how to. She said I need to learn how to cook, at least for my husband.
My mother is my best mentor in life. She was strict (specially in academics ) but kind. Having a boyfriend at a young age is totally unacceptable. Her ultimate goal for me is to get a good college education. She would endlessly tell me that getting a good education means finding eventually a decent husband. There are so many adjectives by which I can describe my first teacher. She was the love and the light of our family and I am just about to enter the door to her wake.
I was ok as the car was taking me from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to St. John The Baptist Loyola in Taytay. A little jet lagged but generally ok. When the car stopped and the driver informed me that it was time for me to get off, I started to shiver. I never felt that in my entire life. Not even on my husband’s passing away. I was shaking uncontrollably. My brother hugged me very tight and instructed me not to see my mother until I’m feeling better. It took me an hour at least before I can go to her casket and behold her timeless beauty. It was excruciatingly painful but for some reason, all my body could do was to shiver. I never shivered in my life even in a minus 10 degree temperature of a cold winter season. Strength and tolerance are just some of the famous nicknames I have I guess. My mother’s wake gave me an unthinkable shiver.
She is now eternally resting in peace with the Lord. When I pray to her, I ask her, ‘Mom, where you hugging me when I was at the footsteps of your wake?’ I felt a sudden gush of a cold wind chill devoured me upon entering the room. I would answer the question myself and say yes. She was present and telling me through my unthinkable shiver that everything will be alright. That’s my mom. And just like the song of Kenny Loggins…
‘In the mornin’ when I rise
Bringing tears of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything’s gonna be all right’ ”People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one’…

Aquino on Standing Against Time

Becoming a President of a country that had nothing but a zero balance in its’ monetary reserves, a country ruled and governed by (if not all) a lot of corrupt and dishonest officials, bureaucracy, old school political traditions, a very ill-disciplined citizenry, a country where most of the people do nothing but whine, bicker and complain except do what is good and moral; is not a joke. I agree with the writer’s take that with a lot of struggle in the president’s leadership: the international community, world bank, foreign investors are obviously still attracted with the rebirth of our nation. Foreign retailers are starting to open and if I may mention some, Japan’s Uniqlo, Yoshinoya, and now Family Mart are now being seen in major cities of the Philippines, USA’s Forever 21, H&M retail store, not to mention the addition of more Starbucks franchise, Macdonald’s , TGIF and so on and so forth.
Government transparency is the bottomline. Reality check, any investor will be attracted to a government where everything can be openly investigated. President Aquino’s government advocacy is Transparency. And this is shown in their SALEN or Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth which means disclosure of the officials’ assets, thus gradually solving the problem of corruption. It is too open that people who see any thoughts, ideas, opinions in social media, minus the newspaper, television and radio take those insights subjectively and can easily impeach the incumbent President if the citizens want to. Honestly, I don’t see another EDSA revolution coming. Filipinos believe that our present leader is equated to honesty.
Granting that President Aquino makes wrong decisions in choosing his constituents and dumping officials that to some people are the Presidents’ victims of bullying, I can still forecast progress. I live abroad and I look at the country from the outside. I see international news never been heard in Philippine television, read articles never been read by a local, heard opinions by my co-workers who are all foreigners saying only one thing, the value of the peso is going up against the dollar, the yen and all other monetary units.
This only explains that we have earned the trust of the international community , less intimidation to OFWs, less racism, less stereotyping that our country is hopeless. I overhear people of other races saying that the Philippines is a country to reckon with. A country that needs constant monitoring because one day these foreigners on the other hand would want to seek greener pastures in the Philippines. Who knows? The world is round.
Indeed, Aquino government’s worst enemy is time considering that his term is about to end in no less than 3 years. I will start to question our country’s plight when we elect our next president. For now, I am not complaining. To the future president, I wonder, would he be able to continue the legacy of progress or would he pull down our country back to the deep well? I hope not.
On this note, I’d like to finish this with the the words of the late US President JFK, ‘Ask not, what your country can do to you, but ask, what you can do to your country.’ Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror and perhaps make some more reflections.

10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer

This is a an inspiration for writers and would be writers.. After reading this, you wouldn’t want to see an empty monitor anymore. Your fingers will itch to start typing off your thoughts!

Live to Write - Write to Live

Journaling is a self-indulgent, narcissistic waste of time. It’s nothing more than self-administered therapy – the writer simultaneously on the couch and in the psychiatrist’s chair, endlessly picking apart the minutiae of her life to no good end. Time would be better spent alphabetizing the spice cupboard.

I disagree.

I have kept journals on and off since I was seven years old. My entries have ranged from copies of Shakespeare’s poems to what I did today to philosophical musings to documentation of the soap opera antics of the teenage years. I have professed love, eschewed love, and pined after lost love. I have envisioned my future, questioned my past, and reveled in my present. I have railed against the world and explored the dark and sparkling caves of my inner self. I have written letters that were never sent and scrawled meaningless sentences of disconnected prose just to keep my…

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Amor Se Paga Que Amor (Love begets Love)

imageAmor Se Paga Que Amor (Love begets Love)
Minutes after I finished my vocal teaching sessions, I spoke to my dad over the phone and told him how much proud I am to be able to contribute to the vocal skills of my students, and how my students inspire me in return. I told him how much effort, energy and love I put every time I teach and what’s amazing is the more I teach, the more I learn. When I told my father about giving love to people he uttered ‘love begets love in the Spanish language. ‘Amor Se Paga Que Amor’ ! He even added that because I love my students, my students give me  love in return by becoming better performers and decent human beings as well. He’s indeed the genius in the family. Of course, next to my mom, I have to write this down too, otherwise, she would edit this blog. In any case, my parents and the whole family have always been my inspiration in everything I do.

Their unconditional love and undying support are the reasons why it is easy for me to be generous in giving love to the people surrounding me.
Being a good performer and being a good mentor are two different things.

Much as I love to sing and write, teaching gives me a sense of purpose too. Bragging aside, I have had 6 recitals for my students, 3 of them has released their own CDs, became winners for jazz vocal competition, some of them turned from amateur to semi amateur, and the semi amateur to professional. It did not happen overnight. Long years of hard work in teaching , practice, rehearsals with bands, session attendance, studio orientations, working with different musicians, a lot of breathing and vocal exercises, and workshop attendance, moreover, lessons in public speaking or emceeing. I make sure that my students get to experience being on stage and perform with live accompaniment, with seasoned musicians as a much and often as they could. After so many years, I can see that all the hard works are paying off! They surprise me with better vocal control, better repertoire, new ideas, hitting difficult notes, surprising syllables in their scat improvisation, better phrasing and expression, impressive articulation, much better pronunciation and style, my students make me cry!
I expected all of these to happen because I know that when you give genuine love to people, you are compensated in return, thus ‘Amor Se Paga Que Amor’!! Thank you Dad and Mom for your overflowing love to your children and grandchildren. We will never fail your legacy of love.

No One Has the Right to Bully/ MMK

MMK or otherwise known as Maalaala Mo Kaya, dated February 8, a weekly television drama anthology of the network ABS-CBN in the Philippines did it again!
The story centers in the character of Tirso (played by Sam Concepcion) who was consistently bullied because of his looks. His left eye couldn’t see because of a freak accident , followed by a not so conventional cosmetic surgery and looked by many people in conformity as ugly, ridiculously distasteful and do not want to be seen walking along with him or being a friend to him. Instead of being bullied, he stopped going to school during elementary level. The parents seconded his motion and agreed that he should not be forced to have a proper education in an attempt to save their son from bullying. At 15, he started working.
Not having a good education, being bullied every minute, not having the proper guidance specially by the parents can leave someone like Tirso hopeless and see himself as a person of very low self-esteem, or perhaps he lost it all. To this day, there are still a lot of Tirsos out there. Of course at the end of the story, he finds someone who loved him for what he is and not for his looks. Unconditional love and undying support changed his life and eventually got his self esteem back.
Sincerity and real life stories of ordinary people are just some of the reasons why MMK of TFC Channel remain to be the longest running TV drama anthology program in the Philippines, reaping a lot of accolades and bagging all the trophies from the most prestigious award-giving organizations in the Philippines and other countries. So, why am I writing this?
Pipo Cifra, the music director or MMK for the past 15 years or so contributed to the phenomenal success of the program. His original music score for MMK changes every week. I am a regular viewer of MMK and more on the story, I listen to the scoring. The funny scenes, wouldn’t be funnier , the dramatic scenes wouldn’t be heart-wrenching, the fighting scenes, exchange of heavy dialogue in a disagreement wouldn’t be really convincing if not for Pipo’s original music creations. Today’s score is exceptionally well done. I would give it a 5 star (perfect)! I am like watching a movie or a drama series in the US. Let’s face it, Hollywood is still the deal when it comes to music scoring. Pipo seems to be a part of Tirso’s life as he injects his musical score from light to moderate , from moderate to heavy scenes. He knows how to tickle the hearts of the viewers and yet not compromising his work of art. After all, scoring for a TV program requires real talent, hardwork, a course in the conservatory, and most of all love for the job. I feel how passionate Pipo Cifra is in all original scores he makes, whether it’s TV, movie, commercial, theatre, chorus or an orchestra, his heart is always present. I believe that MMK and Pipo Cifra is a very good combination. MMK should stay on air forever and so is the music scorer Pipo.
A person with real talent and passion for his chosen path is hard to find these days, what will all the technological advancement in scoring and how applications of Android or Smart Phones can turn an amateur into a professional overnight. Pipo spent years and years of education, training, hardwork, doubled with a gift to write original, very melodic compositions, tripled with a very big heart and a pure soul he puts in every composition he makes. More than the heaps of awards that he already has and still getting more, what is truly important for him is to touch the lives of every person in every music that he creates.
To know more about the artist , google PIPO CIFRA Imdb…..You will understand what I am saying.

[44] Chet Baker – Let’s Get Lost

A must read!!!

. . . To Hear Before I Blog

Baker’s simple vocals take a backseat to the trumpet, piano – actually anything else that might be playing – and this laid back, understated blend is honey for the ears – Cool Jazz personified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although recorded in the 50s, this album has such a modern sound and sensibility.  His phrasing reminds me of Harry Connick Jr. singing a low tempo ballad (and I love Harry Connick Jr. when he’s singing low tempo ballads . . .)

Once more, I am treated to some stunning versions of the Great American Songbook – this time “But Not For Me”, “Time After Time” and “My Funny Valentine” are the standouts, adding new nuance and textures to these oft heard songs.

There is a charming simplicity here, bright and relaxed – like the listener does not have a care in the world.

It is…

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Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (why i chose JAZZ)

imageI couldn’t sleep, and wouldn’t sleep, when love came and told me I shouldn’t sleep…..But it is not love that’s keeping me awake at this snowy moment this part of my world. Yes it’s 2 degrees celsius outside and everything is covered with snow. I can not find my way into deep slumber because  I have been thinking. What is next after music? Music is my life and has been keeping me alive for the past 20 years. I even tell my musicians that nobody retires from singing. Until death do us part. On the bandstand, we drop dead. Us meaning me and my microphone. Times like this when I am alone, I ask myself, how  did I get in here? In this so-called music industry?

One thing I am sure of is that growing up was very musical for me. From my family, to school, to the church where my family attends every Sunday, music is always present. I took up Communication Arts and wanted to be like my mom. A professor of political science. Or like my dad, a businessman. Honestly, I really did not know what I wanted to be. All I know is to follow family tradition which is to  finish college, take up my masters or proceed to Law School. As it turned out, none of the above happened. Friends would ask me, and I quote ‘did you dream of becoming a musician?’ and I would always reply, ‘No, it dreamt of me”. There must be a reason why I ended up in this industry. The powers that be guided me all along to be able to be in this position. The position I am enjoying which means being validated and being recognized for this precious gift that God gave me. I am not like the other artists like Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn or Anita O’ Day and all the other jazz legends like Satchimo, (Louis Armstrong) , in other words I’m just being myself specially when I’m up there on stage. Moreover, I love all the songs in the American Songbook. Focusing on Jazz as a genre equates long hours of practice, vocal exercises, workshops, lessons in theory, solfeggios, listening to hundreds upon hundreds of recordings, performing the songs live with diverse musicians from all over the world, learning the language of music (musician’s language), amazing but  musicians from different parts of the world team up to have a gig and not speak to each other at all. We use our hearts, our souls, our sense of hearing, sign languages, nodding of the heads so as to know where the intro, solo, coda, finale comes in. Creativity happens on stage! But that skill in Improvising or creating your own sound, own style, own scat scales do not happen overnight. I needed to swallow my pride when my mentor tells me that he hates my sound, insulting and intimidating not to mention belittling words like, ‘I should choose a different career’. You have no idea on the amount of tears I had to shed for feeling so sad that I just couldn’t get it! The more that my mentor would throw a hurtful line, the more I study. The more I hear, the more I watch seasoned performers and will always take on a challenge to sing a highly unfathomable song that would require me to remember the -5 sound, the Mm7 sound, the diminished scale, the #11 and the many scales of the Blues. At first, learning those scales, remembering the notes, practice till I get a perfect pitch (there’s a trick on that) , was nerve wrecking. Perhaps being able to play the piano and the guitar helped a lot in remembering the sound of a particular scale. And lo and behold,  I just woke up one morning and I am creating my own sound, my own style, my own phrasing, my own scat riffs, I was IMPROVISING and I was having so much FUN! Finally I decided that i’ll just stick to this genre but not forget to listen to the new songs of this generation. This generation is blessed with so much talented and gifted musicians. I learn from them as well. Yet, there’s more to that. Here are some tricks to be a better jazz performer.

1) Get a good mentor and stay, don’t be lazy to attend your sessions.

2) Learn Basic Music Theory

3) Perform as much as you can in front of an audience. Your family can be your audience. And don’t feel bad when you’re criticized.

4) Listen to as many artists as you can, female and male vocalists alike and  instrumentalists and get to hear their solos. Then apply them to yours while creating your own sound and style.

It’s extraordinarily fun if you know what you’re doing, you LOVE what you’re doing and you get PAID for it too!

I chose Jazz because not only  I can be creative, cerebral, relaxed, but Jazz is good for the heart and soul as well…It’s my therapy. It’s my meditation, my prayer and I’m at PEACE when i’m making my music. Needless to say, I will sing until I drop dead.