By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — The kundiman (Filipino love songs) filled the halls of the Carnegie last night. I had my share of nostalgia, and fun too, in paying tribute to grandparents and senior citizens.
Affectionately put together by artist and producer Kay Habana, it was a beautiful night of stunning talents from beginning to end of the two hour show, meant to support the growing needs of seniors in the Fil-American community in New York. Tanging Yaman, Ugoy ng Duyan, Usahay, Handog, Ikaw, Gaano Ko Ikaw Ka Mahal, all Filipino songs, and a selection of Broadway and old favorites were featured for grandparents.
I missed my own grandmother for I know I would have taken her to watch the ‘Handog kay Lolo at Lola’ (A Tribute to Grandparents) concert at Weill Hall. The beloved late Genara Rubi would have loved it, as did everybody.
(An AARP research study showed that most Filipinos honor and take care of their aging parents and grandparents under their own roof, even in the US. Financial and institutional issues that come with their care have been identified and needing community response).
Ms. Habana is a classical singer in New York who has graced several events at the Consulate General in New York and various offices of the United Nations. She is a member of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir of New York and has produced a CD album titled “Sacred” which features her and tenor Rogelio Penaverde Jr.
A Journalism graduate, Ms. Habana also writes her blog “Sweet Abundance: Food for the Stomach and Soul” for OSM! online magazine and runs her catering business, Sweet Habana.
She co-produced the tribute to grandparents with Blue Sevilla, TOFA NY, and Cassanova Entertainment.
Last night’s Act 1 was a perfectly delightful opening with young singer Bonale Fambrini who has appeared in several Broadway productions, among them, as Gavroche in Les Miserables and as Charlie in Willy Wonka Jr. Performing with him were equally endearing Gabby Gutierrez, Sydney Veloso, and Phoebe Young who all had performing stints on Broadway and other regional shows.
Their pianist and vocal coach was Julia Mendelsohn, a renowned music teacher and director in NYC whose students have made their way through the stages of Matilda, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Finding Neverland, among other nationally toured shows.
Act 2 featured the Philippine Chamber Singers-Los Angeles who sang mostly Filipino songs. “Usahay” hit right on the spot, for it was the song which I remember Lola Nara would always hum or belt out. This poignant song I sang to her too, when I massaged her in the rare times that I took care of her in the last few years of her life.
The PCSLA is a rising favorite in Los Angeles which began as a Christmas caroling group in 2004. It aims to promote Philippine culture and arts through music. It has performed twice at the Hollywood Bowl with international artists.
Its last featured song, the Coconut (Ryan Cayabyab) animated the audience who sang along with the singers…the coconut nut is not a nut.
Dennis Sy was an electrifying intermission treat, who acknowledged that grandparents are indeed the cornerstone of strong Filipino family ties, aside from being generous sources of treats. For his part, these were chocolates, when his parents would deny those from him.
The night moved on melodiously towards the suite of Ms. Habana, who opened with my favorite Broadway song, “Memory” (A.L. Webber), the theme song for Cats.
Ms. Habana called on to her grandma who flew in from Canada, by surprise to be able to watch her show. That was touching.
That wasn’t enough to emotionally nail us that night. Kay called her son Kael to join her on stage for a surprise song rendition. I looked around everyone near me. They were all grinning at the mother-son tandem.
Pianist Raquel Borromeo and guitarist Jedd Miranda played the music with Ms. Habana.
In full support of the show were Ambassador Mario de Leon and better half Eleanor, Jersey City councilman Rolando Lavarro as well as Mrs. Remedios Fe Cabactulan, president of the United Nations Delegations Women’s Club (UNDWC) who clearly enjoyed the concert.
Congen de Leon, after the show, remarked,”Great selection of songs and wonderful performance. Warms us up in winter.”
Indeed, it was impeccably put together. Another concert be in the offing, Ms. Kay Habana?