80 years and it’s a Bonus?

As I start writing this, I look back at the first time I understood what my mother meant when she told me that giving birth to me is like finally having someone to call your own. I became my mother’s best friend cum daughter since then. The moment her gynecologist announced that ‘it’s a baby girl’ ,
she heard the song ‘Silent Night’ being played all over the hospital rooms. I was born in the month of October, the month where Christians and non-Christians as well, feel that Christmas is just around the corner, what with the Christmas songs already being played by all radio stations. I was my mother’s best Christmas gift ever.
It’s the 21st of December today and anytime from now, she is about to leave us, our family, to rest into eternal life. This is my worst Christmas gift ever. I love Christmas season. As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well I guess not for everybody. Not only because my mother is fading away but because of so many reasons. War, hunger, poverty, selfishness, hatred, greed, corruption, heinous crimes, injustice, etc. etc.
In other words, life is not fair. Life is a struggle between choosing to be happy or choosing to be sad amidst all the chaotic realities that we are facing. My parents brought me up generally to be God-fearing and to be a happy person no matter what. As I go through life’s journey, I realized that there are issues on the other side of the coin. To be happy and to accept whatever life serves me on the table is one and the other is to face and accept a passing away of a loved one head-strong. The second one is tedious. I am very lonely that my mother is traveling on a journey where she’s not returning to us and that is unacceptable.
My friends consoled me, spoken words of wisdom so that I would feel better and just move on and face a new chapter in my life. That my mother lived long enough , 80 years to set it right, and lived a full life therefore I should be happy. That 80 years is a bonus considering that the average life span of a person goes around 70 to 75. I’m grateful for having friends who care but I am not convinced. NO.
A bonus is being with my mother 20 more years. That I go first before her, that I don’t see her anguish in pain while all the other parts of her body are failing. Is it hard for the universe to just make my mother comfortable sans pain and be with us longer? Acceptance?
To not question that her physicians did their best to extend my mother’s life? Am I looking for chivalry from my God or from the experts to make her strong and be with us again?
Chivalry is gone these days. Life is a struggle.
There is no bonus. When someone grows up to be with a loving family, it’s hard to let go. Yes, I still choose to be happy but for now, I ask the universe to let me be. 80 years is not enough. There is a Forever which is intangible.
Love. And only now that I start realizing that. I continue to pray for a miracle as I write this….

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.

Rappler’s article, Philippine President Aquino’s reality check

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 the moral thing, 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 indeed still attracted to the rebirth of our nation. Government transparency is the bottomline. It is too open that people who see any thoughts, ideas, opinions on social media minus the newspapers, television and radio, take those insights subjectively. Granting that Pinoy makes wrong choices in choosing his constituents, dumping officials that some people think are just being bullied by the president, I can still see that there is progress. I live abroad and I look at our country from the outside. I hear international news never been heard on Philippine television, read articles never been read by a regular pinoy, opinions uttered by my co-workers who are all foreigners saying only one thing; the value of the dollar against the peso is going down, the yen, and all other monetary units. This only explains that we have earned the trust of the international community, less intimidation to OFW, less racism, less stereotyping that our country is hopeless. I overhear foreigners speaking that the Philippines is a country to watch out for. Indeed, President Aquino’s worst enemy is time considering that his term is about to end in no less than 3 years. I will start to question when we elect our next president. Would he continue the legacy of progress or pull down our country back to the deep well? I always quote the late US President JFK, “Ask not what your country can do to you but ask what you can do to your country”. Much as President Aquino needs reality check, the citizens need it more. Let’s take a look at our reflections in the mirror one more time and do some reality check ourselves.

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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Racism in Jazz

Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.
Jazz trio and the writer.. In a jazz gig.

Music is and always be my life. After finishing my Communication Arts degree in a prestigious university, I had my practicum or as others would say apprenticeship on television stations and radio stations doing jobs as director’s assistant or scriptwriter’s assistant, everybody’s assistant, doing voice over jobs, forever the assistant, forever the voice over and never the real deal. I could have been a director, a scriptwriter, a television or a radio announcer. I could have had a career in Journalism. Much as I love to sing, writing is also my passion. In other words, I have a degree in Communication Arts and I can’t use it. I guess I really never wanted to be behind the camera. I remember telling my mom after six months of training on television, and I quote myself “mom, I don’t think I want to be behind the camera forever, I want to be in front. During the training, I had an encounter with a very good singer who later became the Kim of the Musical Ms. Saigon , she was amazing but I thought to myself, I can do that too, and perhaps become even better. I was in a hurry to be in her position, in front of the camera. So there I go. After several day jobs, I got bored and impatient, I quit! There were a lot of auditions being held then as hotel vocalists, band vocalist or wedding singer. With a lot of practice and guts, I auditioned. The rest is history.
From my country, I went hopping from one country to another as a singer, armed with a degree in Communication Arts In English, a lot of piano and guitar lessons, vocal lessons, and jazz workshop sessions. To date, I still attend jazz cliniques much as I give my own jazz clinics too. But that’s already water under the bridge.
This is the first time that I am going to express myself in writing as far as being ‘Asian’ is concerned, specially in the world of jazz. I have long been wanted to be heard and after I read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine regarding Asians being stereotyped as the following : chinky eyes, almond shaped eyes, noodles, chopsticks, yellow or brown skin, straight black hair and most of all non English speakers, I said to myself, enough of those craps! I’ve had it and let it be known that some people are either uneducated or plainly idiots or racists. Why?
In my travels as a jazzer, being in the business for almost 2 decades, having recorded 5 CDs , having to perform in front of an audience almost everyday of my life, dealing with bosses from different parts of the globe, I can absolutely conclude that I am pretty much doing a good job if not great.
I am not writing this to bad-mouth people who do not have any knowledge in world history or world geography or human behavior. I’ve just had enough.
These are the phrases I would hear or expected to hear? And I quote ‘oh, you’re Asian, and you speak good English.’ Or as how the immigration officers of the US Consular Office interrogated me when I was applying for my 01 visa or legally defined as an alien of extraordinary ability, and I quote again, ‘what’s with the English?’ Either he wants to intimidate me or he’s being sarcastic because he’s a racist. I may sound too sensitive on this subject but no. I’ve just been trying so hard to bear these unbearable assumptions.
I remember my friend telling me, and he’s a very good speaker of English as well, somebody irrationally told him, ‘so you’re Filipino, why do you speak very good english?’ He wanted to give that guy a right hook as strong as Manny Pacquiao’s  to shut him up, I’m glad he didn’t. And yes, my friend is an American law-abiding citizen, with a decent job , pays taxes and has a car registration most Americans wouldn’t have.
This kind of story doesn’t happen only in the US. It happens everywhere, Japan for one. It’s a beautiful country with very polite citizenry and has a wide audience in jazz. Even a non English speaker country like Japan stereotypes other Asians as people who have a native tongue and that’s not english. To the japanese; americans, canadians, australians, and all the other countries colonized by the Queen , are the only ones acceptable to be a jazz vocalist. Why can’t people just accept that a talent is a talent regardless of race, beliefs and gender? Is it hard to appreciate real talent? Does one have to be white or black to be validated? Who are they to judge? I’m blessed to have intelligent and level- headed parents, who are tirelessly telling me that I shouldn’t let anybody bully me or deprive me of my freedom to showcase what I can do, and still maintain humility. I can only take so much. I have no excuse for being Asian, educated, talented, speaks 3 languages fluently including English for that matter. People can either accept it or not, it doesn’t matter anymore.
My advice to aspiring jazz vocalists, pursue your goal! Go for your dream. It doesn’t matter if you’re not black or white. What matters is that you can deliver and you deliver well! Sorry racists, it’s time for a shoutout!
I’m not sour-graping, i’m just saying. No more racism in jazz , after all, music is a universal language.

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.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (why i chose JAZZ)

Needs to be reblogged!

lornacifra

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…

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[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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