Ang Misyon, Inc.

Ang Misyon Scholar Stories: Carmela Casas

“In this world that is full of rock and pop, classical music is gold. Normally, when someone finds out you are into classical music, they would be surprised because it is not popular in this era.”

Carmela Casas in a public performance with the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth (Power Plant Mall, Makati, 2018)

Carmela Casas, Orchestra of the Filipino Youth (OFY)’s flutist, shares her thoughts on the deeper meaning of classical music and her journey as a young musician.

Carmela has been an Ang Misyon scholar for six years and an active member of a local orchestra in Cardona. She grew up in a simple home in Binangonan, Rizal with her parents and two sisters. She has a stay-at-home mom who tends to their sari-sari store and a self-employed father who repairs music instruments for the band PYB9. Music has been a common interest in their family, aside from supporting Carmela’s performances. Her younger siblings both play the violin and are also part of Ang Misyon’s programs.

After over a year of being on community quarantine, Carmela is going to school online like most students. She opens up that it is hard to adapt to the new normal but somehow the normalcy of their day to day lives have continued despite the pandemic’s impact on finances. Carmela carries a sense of faith and gratitude passed on to her by her parents. She shares that among the values she has learned from them, being humble and respectful are what she applies most. Her optimism and self-trust have been ingrained at a young age, which may have helped her thrive in Ang Misyon.

Pre-performance preparations at Areté, Ateneo last 2019 with her mom and younger sisters Charmelle (in yellow) and Camille (in pink)

When asked how her orchestral training has impacted her life, she said, “Being part of Ang Misyon is a big opportunity for me. I learned and am still learning in terms of music, especially classical music. When I started in Ang Misyon, my life changed a whole lot. It has given me opportunities to make myself a better person and a better musician.

Carmela continued by sharing what Ang Misyon has taught her aside from music: “Ang Misyon has taught me to be thoughtful to the other members of the orchestra. It taught me that life is nothing without music. It taught me to be a better human, a better Filipino, and most importantly, a better version of myself.”

Carmela plays a solo during a workshop with OFY (Benpres Building, 2018)

She confessed that she had a tough time coping when she first started with OFY because she still saw herself as a beginner in a premier orchestra. But anchored with her values growing up, she learned to trust herself and her talent in playing the flute. Though she feels she still has a long way to go, she aims to do her best to truly deserve her seat. Carmela was one of the youngest scholars to join the OFY in their 2018 Qatar tour and she counts this as a big milestone in her life. She said that it makes her heart happy to have lived that dream. But what she finds valuable and unforgettable too are the Saturday rehearsals with her mentors, fellow scholars, and Ang Misyon staff.

The future is bright for Carmela as she plans to be a part of a world-famous orchestra and also sees herself learning other instruments like the cello and oboe. “This year, I am planning to improve myself more. As a musician, I want to finish solos and learn more techniques because I know I need it more. I want to make my parents proud. I want them to see me fulfilling my dreams as a musician, and I still want to learn more and explore the world of musicians.

Carmela remarked that classical music to her is how important a cellphone is for people nowadays. She cannot live without it. She indulged further on what this means to her and how it relates to everyone, whether they are musicians or not: “Classical music is not only the heritage left by geniuses like Mozart, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and a lot of virtuosos from history. Classical music is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are three or a hundred years old. It is full of emotions and can tell stories about a person’s life experience, from tragedies to achievements.”

For her personally, it helps her relax, focus and stay motivated. It cures her stresses and makes life more meaningful. As a musician, “the more I understand it, the more I can play it better,” she said.

Learning online is a challenge but Carmela advises to adapt and use this as an opportunity

Her message to her fellow musicians as they navigate into the new platform of learning music is to adapt to this new way of life and learning. She considers this as a new experience and challenge, so they must think positively. She urges them to continue to learn and improve themselves and make this an opportunity to explore new things.

“Let’s pray this pandemic will end as soon as possible. Practice at home, enjoy every moment while making music, and enjoy your online lessons. Just go with the flow and continue to make good music!”

Ang Misyon Scholar Stories: Rhonnel Ibañez

One of the inevitable results of the COVID-19 pandemic is job loss and limited travel from one city to another. To adhere to these regulations and prioritize the safety of the scholars, Ang Misyon’s weekly Saturday rehearsals have been suspended for the time being. For the program’s mentors, this means reduced hours and technical challenges in teaching their students from Beginners and Children’s Orchestras. As for Rhonnel Ibañez, one of Ang Misyon’s scholar-turned-mentor, he has felt this drastic change but still looks for ways to remain hopeful given the situation.

Rhonnel Ibañez before Orchestra of the Filipino Youth’s performance Katara Opera House, Qatar, October 2018

Rhonnel is 25 years old and a college graduate of Centro Escolar University with a Major in Music Education. Apart from being a member of the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth’s Percussion Section, he is a mentor of Ang Misyon Children’s Orchestra and is still active in a local band called Banda Dos Kabataan in Angono, Rizal. He has a clear direction and passion in life: music. He has been with Ang Misyon since 2013, which he shares has been a blessing because the experience has allowed him to travel to different countries to perform. Rhonnel considers himself lucky to be part of an orchestra as a percussionist and his dedication has opened opportunities such as performing with Manila Symphony Orchestra and ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Through the years, he recalls the values he has learned from his parents and what he carries with him as the quarantine restrictions are still in place. First, he is grateful he had a bit of savings because he admits, it has been a tough few months for his family. Looking beyond the struggles, he knows that what is more important is to impart what one has learned to others, especially children who are willing to be taught and have dreams they wish to fulfill. “Sabi po ng tatay ko, hindi mo naman mapapakinabangan yan pag patay kana, kaya kung anong natutunan mo ugaliin i-share sa mga batang gustong matuto at nangangarap,” Rhonnel shares.

[My father said, one cannot take material things when they pass away, so why not make it a good habit to share your learnings to kids who wish to learn and have big dreams.]

While on lockdown, Rhonnel takes shifts in looking after his family’s sari-sari store

He comes full circle as he teaches the younger scholars of Ang Misyon and sees how they, too, are from lower income brackets, which means making ends meet at home is a continuous feat. Having been an academic scholar while in school, he relates to the pressure of keeping up with studies, band practice, orchestra rehearsals and events. However, he has seen the fruits of hard work and wholeheartedly sharing his talent to others. “Bigay lang po ng bigay, hanggat kaya. Kung ano yung na-experience mo, bigay mo sa mga estudyante mo. Tapos kung ano man yung napulot mo na aral sa orchestra, ibigay mo din doon sa mga bata na gustong matuto para makamit din nila yung pangarap nila.”

[It is important to keep on giving as long as you can. Share what you’ve experienced with your students. What you learn from the orchestra, share it with the younger kids who wish to learn so they too can achieve their dreams.]

He has come to realize that teaching is his way of giving back, not only to the program he has grown with but also to the community he belongs to. Rhonnel said he trusts that as long as he gives it his best and his students hopefully do the same, they are well on their way to reaching their goals.

When asked what he can impart to the next generation of scholars, he pointed out valuable wisdom, which reflects what we at Ang Misyon feel are tasked to do as part of our service to society— to teach our scholars good manners, values of respect and discipline. He equates being an overall well-rounded individual to being a good musician, that the values go hand in hand with being a respectable performer especially in an orchestra.

Despite the uncertainties, Rhonnel is one of many in Ang Misyon’s community of young musicians who prays that the COVID-19 virus will be contained soon so that the orchestra can finally come back to rehearse and have public performances. He also hopes that his peers and students will keep practicing to become even better musicians and to keep their big dreams alive.

Ang Misyon Scholar Stories: Lance and Lara Pacifico

The transition to the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented but as any adversity, we rise together as a community. With the quarantine restrictions, group rehearsals and music lessons have been suspended. After a few months on lockdown, Ang Misyon checked in with its music scholars to see how they have been doing.

We reached out to the Pacifico Family, with Lance of the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth (OFY) and Lara of Ang Misyon Children’s Orchestra (AMCO) and their mother, Mrs. Naomi Pacifico to get a more in-depth scope of their journey with Ang Misyon and how life has been since the quarantine.

Lance plays the cello with the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth, Ang Misyon’s main performing arm.
Lara, 11 years old, was a guest Oboist at OFY’s Anniversary Concert last October 2019

Lance, at 19 years old, is a scholar at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, majoring in Cello Performance. Apart from being in the OFY, he is also a member of the Angono National Symphonic Band and plays the tuba. Before the pandemic, Lance and Lara would travel from Rizal Province to Rockwell Business Center Ortigas every Saturday for their lessons and rehearsals, but because of the lockdown restrictions, activities with the Ang Misyon Orchestras had to be conducted remotely.

Both siblings have had to manage schoolwork, music lessons and practice time while at home. Mrs. Pacifico shared that it was not easy at first, with Mr. Pacifico being away for work and their family unit of three left at home during these trying times. She had to create a schedule for Lara to follow, including time limit with gadget use and a strict bedtime, while Lance maintained his own schedule for the day and helped with housework in between.

Lance and Lara have expressed what they miss the most about being their pre-quarantine activities, which included the personal interactions at school, individual time with friends and music lessons with mentors and fellow musicians. Mrs. Pacifico also pointed out that her kids were finally adjusting to the situation and taking advantage of the time together. Lance used to live at the university dorms, but as a plus, he is now able to help Lara with her music practice.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lance, Lara and their mom Naomi have had to adjust their schedules and activities at home

In what ways has COVID-19 affected your schoolwork and music practice?

Lance: COVID-19 has affected my schoolwork and practicing because I’m not used to [studying and practicing] at home; I really prefer doing stuff at school or at our dorm away from our house because it’s cramped and really distracting, and I can’t focus.

Lara: Schoolwork was affected by COVID-19 because school was cut early, and I missed the most exciting event I waited for the whole school year…the Recognition Day. And opening of classes was moved to August. It is a big challenge for me. My music practice [was] affected, because I can’t attend our sectional, orchestra rehearsal and music theory class.

What is your biggest challenge during this period of quarantine?

Lance: For me my biggest challenge during this period is to study, I can’t find will to practice and study at home because I’m not yet used to this, but I’m doing my best to do so because I don’t have any choice.

Lara: My biggest challenge during this period of quarantine is to study music pieces by myself especially that I’m learning a solo piece in preparation for audition for high school at [an] art school.

What have you learned about yourself (as a person or as musician) while on lockdown?

Lance: I have learned to appreciate things more because not all things are present all the time. Such as in this situation (quarantine), it is very different from the previous everyday life that I am used to compare to this quarantine lifestyle. I tend to give not much attention on some performances, but now I really miss them, every single performance is important to me.

Lara: I learned that I need to do somethings without the help of others and I learned to value my talent during lockdown.

For the organization’s programs to be continuously successful, the partnership with the children’s parents is important. Mrs. Pacifico is one of the many constant faces seen in events and performances, her way of fully supporting her kids and the community. Through the years with Ang Misyon, she has noticed how both have continued to excel in their studies and have gained valuable qualities such as patience, punctuality, respect and collaboration with others. As a parent, she hopes that they can continue to do what they love while staying humble and thankful for their blessings.

Mrs. Naomi Pacifico showed her support for Lance and Lara during Ang Misyon’s 7th Anniversary Concert in Areté, Ateneo de Manila.

Reflecting on the years that they have been with the program, Lance and Lara also shared some of their experiences in being scholars and how this has impacted their lives. When asked, Lance shared that “Playing music changed my view on my life, it taught me more self-discipline and appreciation of different skills of others, also it changed my view on music, before I started to learn how to play, I only prefer pop songs, I [thought] pieces with no lyrics are boring but I was wrong.”

As for Lara, she is now dreaming of being a professional Oboist performing in different places. And what is she doing to achieve this dream? “I must study hard, learn more about music and more practice,” she said. She also expressed that someday, when she is in the position to teach, she wishes to impart her talent to children who wish to learn music and she will remain grateful for being one of Ang Misyon’s many scholars.

Lara diligently follows her practice time at home and continues to strive towards her dreams.

As an older brother and already a senior member of the OFY, Lance advised “to become more patient and hardworking when studying music, and my advice to my fellow scholars and young musicians is to never lose hope in this time of need and never give up on your dreams, we will survive these hardships as long as we work together just like what we do in an orchestra.”