OF POWER, POLITICS AND MUSIC IN THE ISLAND
By Pablo A. Tariman
While double checking my photo files, I came across a picture of mine at the Virac airport with the former governor (now recently re-elected), a former mayor and the good Bishop of the island.
As I look closer, I realize the three revered figures in the picture are easily the symbols of power and piety in the island.
The front page of the latest issue of Catanduanes Tribune says it all: some islanders turn to politicians for quick financial relief and some probably go to church for spiritual cleansing.
To be sure, the church and other institutions are silent witnesses to the never-ending cycle of patronage politics. The viciousness of it all is a constant reminder that nothing has changed and that there is hope in new faces – if at all.
Having staged a couple of concerts featuring classical music this summer, I was witness to the usual cycle of election practices.
To one’s relief, the private armies are gone (at least I didn’t see one during my recent visits) and there are no violent encounters between clashing parties (in the 60s, the election scenarios looked like scenes from old FPJ movies with politicians as main protagonists).
In the past, the White House in the capital town was the symbol of power, the Johnson store near the old provincial capitol was where public school teachers deposit their paychecks to cover their monthly supplies of prime commodities.
Now there is a shopping mall, cafes with wi-fi services, a fast food chain and a branded drug store totally erasing the memories of Farmacia Guerrero, the first pharmacy in the island.
Rock concerts remain a favorite attraction especially before elections but classical music is waging a good fight. The classical guitar staged a triumphant comeback, the island heard a damn good tenor after 22 years and was given a rousing standing ovation.
Marem Pension House housed the artists and the piano tuners. For me, the lodging house remains the symbol of good and inexpensive accommodation and very personalized services in the island.
By and large, the visiting classical musicians have become virtual endorsers of tourist spots in the island next to the island’s share of TV exposures. Their concerts attract Class A audiences and it is possible that if concerts like this get regular support, the island will lure the same kind of tourists, not the kind that will frequent the beer joints in barangay San Vicente.
Classical guitarist Aemilio Cecilio Enginco, tenor Nomher Naval and pianist Gabriel Paguirigan loved the island audiences and they also loved Balacay Point and Puraran Beach in Baras, Catanduanes.
Recalling the pre-election rituals and the reactions to the live classical music, you get to know the islanders for what they are.
Whether we like it or not, politics brings out the worst in all of us.
Watching the new music fans and the standing ovation accorded the visiting artists, there is no doubt that music brings out what is noble, pure and impeccable about the islanders.