Thursday, November 15, 2012

Neriza Sarmiento Saito


by Neriza Sarmiento Saito

When Susan Boyle, the ordinary but extraordinary discovery in Britain's Got Talent went up the stage, the audience, as well as the judges, were not at all prepared for one of the most sensational experiences of their lifetime. Her song "I Dreamed A Dream" soared unparalled heights that told the story of a simple country woman who sang at the church choir and who until the age of 47 kept on dreaming about success until she realized it.
Why is music so powerful that it makes our hearts beat, that it lifts our souls to great heights and brings back memories in our lifetime? Why is it that simply listening to Christmas carols make us want to go back home to the Philippines for Christmas?
When I heard Ronilo Jose D. Flores sing with the University of the Philippines' Los Banos Choral Ensemble, I was impressed!  They gave a special performance in Suita City Hall's Minami-senri Hall after winning 2 golds at the Takarazuka International Chamber Choir Competition for the Romantic Era and Contemporary Category.
Their repertoire started with Musica Sacra, celebrating our Creator through songs like Angelei Dei and Il Signore followed by songs from all over the world like Vineta, Sakura and Amor de mi Alma. The Philippine folksong brought to life our native traditions complete with dances by the Pasinaya Performing Arts Group composed of Filipino scholars in Osaka University and was choreographed by Ivy Grace Paet.  The songs included O Naraniag a Bulan, waray-waray and Cebuano Medley. The Filipinos in the audience loved the pop song portion. It included all time favorites like " Warrior is a Child," "Overdrive" and "Pangarap ko ang Ibigin Ka."

As the crowd clamored for an encore, conductor Rommel Lomardo called Onyl onstage for the solo part ! He sang and danced like a seasoned performer.
Ronilo Jose Flores arrived in Osaka in April 2012 as a scholar at Osaka University's International Program for Frontier Biotechnology. As a child, he knew he was cut out for music and teaching having grandparents who were teachers. His parents, who were UPLB employees, exposed him to various experiences to try his talents. As they lived together with other cousins in the family compound in San Pablo Laguna, this extended family molded him into what he is now! Young Onyl dreamed to sing. He thought that his cousins were a lot better than him in singing during Christmas parties. He took up voice lessons to hone his skills and joined "Entablado" when he was in elementary in San Pablo in 1990. In high school, he was in the "Samahang Diwa at Panitik" directed by Edward Perez. "Para sa akin, very intoxicating ang music and theater," says Onyl. He juggled his time between school and extra curricular activities. He also tried classical music under the tutelage of a very strict music teacher, Ms. Barrameda.
It was Prof. Lucia Palacpac's determination to push for the establishment of a theater in the rural high school that shaped Onyl's destiny. He wrote a script and won in a play contest. At about the same time, he was invited to join the choral ensemble and became a member from 1st year in college. After graduation, he taught at the Institute of Biological Sciences in addition to being the coach of the UP Rural High School Volleyball Varsity Team and co-conductor of the UPRHS Glee Club. Onyl remained active singing in the choir until they got a chance to compete in Indonesia and won the 3rd prize. In 2010, they competed in Thailand and won two golds. They were convinced that they can go further.  But in 2011, Onyl applied for a scholarship in Japan where he was accepted. "When I left the choir at that time, I felt that something was missing from my life. And the Takarazuka competition was the answer! It was as if hitting two birds with a single arrow: the scholarship plus the Takarazuka competition. And they did it!! Bagging two golds in the Romantic era and contemporary categories were meant for them !
For Onyl, the adventure does not end there. Right after the successful concert in Minami Senri, he was invited to join a group of renowned opera singers in a pre-event for a full opera sometime next year. Although, it is Onyl's first opera in Japan, he performed in a few ones in the Philippines like "The magic Flute" and "La Traviata".
On December 6, Onyl will perform at the International House in Osaka with other Filipino and Japanese artists featuring Pinoy kundiman. They will definitely bring to Osaka a new kind of music-- that with taste and standards.
Onyl's voyage is an unending dream of discoveries through music and its magic. Who knows if another Pinoy can be in the cast of  “The Phantom of the Opera?” Onyl can continue dreaming of doing the parts sung by Steve Hurley and Antonio Banderas opposite Sarah Brightman!!

A Blessed Christmas and a Magical New Year to All!!!

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