For several years, I have been giving liturgical music seminars to different parishes in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Batangas, Laguna, and also in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro where I was assigned as a young priest. Many of the participants of these seminars — since it was free — were poor choirs. In these seminars I noticed a need: the need for trainers to give liturgical music and vocal training seminars to choirs especially in the parish. Not the grandiose music seminars for members of the academe or the vocal training for music majors or the high-flying liturgical events organized annually for a fee. But simple modest seminars easily grasp by youth choirs below 20: high school level, even elementary. These youngsters comprising most choir membership comprise 51% of the Philippine population. Moreover, I was giving the seminars alone and it needed some animation. But most importantly, I needed a choir who can not just sing the examples, teach simple vocal exercises, but a choir that is available anytime; and who is willing to go to the kanto without the red carpet. And I also need people who are skilled and can teach (many of our members are actually teachers and organizers). Thus, Canto Cinco or C5.
I love the songs borne from the Ateneo spiritual life: it has facilitated my vocation as a priest and as a Jesuit. But when I was assigned to UP, I came to realize that there is a God outside of the Ateneo, and a beat that reaches to the kanto: as the songs of UP bands such as Eraserheads has influenced many hearts even Ateneo-bred. UP has a certain kind of music: often raw but alluring, learned and classical but daring. Music that is promising for liturgy: perhaps more masa — pwedeng pang-kanto; pwedeng pangkabataan! The Ateneo songs continue to inspire, but I would like to experiment on doing new things: we might hit on a gold mine. If only trust is present among kin.
And so this group of performers was formed. Formed from originally five choirs from our apostolate areas and our parishes: and many of them continue to be part of the choir they handle. Because this is what Canto Cinco is all about: that whatever they learn from training in the Jesuit Music Ministry, they are able to share it to the parish choirs they belong to. And thus, they are not encouraged to leave their choirs; C5 provides further training, experience and empowerment. The Philippine Church has described itself as the Church of the Poor (PCP II) and believes that even those who are poor can also share. There is one thing that I learned from my work in the Jesuit Music Ministry: that part of the ministry is to train people who have the talent but needs the resources which JMM has.
This is the reason why we are here. Tonight, I am proud of them. That despite our disbelievers, we continue to do God’s will with the marks of a Jesuit: availability, competency, and the fearless creative missionary zeal as Francis Xavier who experimented on methods and ways to bring the word of God to the natives of Malacca. Kung kailangang kumain ng apoy para kay Kristo, sabi ni Persia, “why not?” And tonight, I am also honored to be with you, our loved ones. When at times we doubted our ministry in God’s vineyard, your support and encouragement has pulled us through and will pull us in the future.
Merry Christmas and a meaningful New Year!
*C5 in their first concert for their families and friends: Pasko sa Canto; 23 December 2006 @San Jose Seminary, Ateneo de Manila University. see http://cantocinco.multiply.com and http://jesuitmusicministry.multiply.com