The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) is a pretty tale as old as OPM (Original Pilipino Music). For context, it was created in 1973, the year the album “Himig Natin” by Juan de la Cruz Band, which spawned the classic single of the same title, came out. That point in history marked the birth of Pinoy Rock and the formation of one of the top musical ensembles in the Asia-Pacific region.
The release on digital platforms of Serenata: Well-Loved Philippine Folk Songs & Melodies is a fitting soundscape package to celebrate the 50th anniversary of PPO as it showcases seven tracks of traditional Filipino tunes rendered in the classical arrangement. The 27-minute sonic epic was made available last Friday, May 12.
The album features National Artist Ryan Cayabyab as arranger and conductor, while the joint effort by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Widescope Entertainment provided mainstream listeners with access to it.
The high-end music accomplishment came with a grand launch held at the Manila Metropolitan Theater where PPO recreated its first-ever concert which happened on May 15, 1973.
“Full house last night. Thank you all for gracing the event,” posted Neil Gregorio (Widescope music and entertainment director) who, in tandem with Vic De Vera (Widescope president), had turned their label into one that tightly embraces the classical and the classics in addition to the current toasts and innovative newbies.
Serenata boasts of seven orchestral tracks led by the well-known Kapampangan piece “Atin Cu Pung Singsing” and Bicol’s “Sarung Banggi.”
PPO director Eugene De Los Santos said that the project began as a tribute to Mr. C at a time when he was pushing 60. Finally, after a decade, it had been released. This year’s timing is perfect as PPO reached its golden anniversary, with the live concert scene returning from pandemic stoppage. On top of that, the beloved OPM pillar is now a National Artist for music after he was bestowed with the award in 2018.
De Los Santos said, “This (Serenata) came into fruition because it was supposed to be a celebration for the 60th birthday of Maestro Ryan Cayabyab who is now a National Artist. They agreed to put this project, and arranged folk songs for the Orchestra to play.”
Then called the CCP Philharmonic Orchestra, PPO was initially intended to accompany the performing artists at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). Its first music director was Prof. Luis Valencia, with Julian Quirit as Concertmaster.
Tracing back, then First Lady Imelda Marcos asked Prof. Oscar Yatco to reorganize the orchestra. So, by 1982, a new vision for the PPO was established. The goal was for it to be ranked among the best in the world.
Through the years the PPO has performed with many of the world’s renowned conductors, and shared the stage with top-notch acts like Cecile Licad and Lea Salonga. It has consistently promoted music appreciation through outreach concerts in schools, parishes, government agencies, and various communities.
The PPO already made waves in Tokyo (2002), Bangkok (2004), Shanghai (2010), and Beijing (2011), as well as in a number of European cities. In 2016, it made history as the first orchestra in the Philippines to perform at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City.
The rest of Serenata tracks are “Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing,” “Sampaguita,” “Malinac Lay Labi,” “No Te Vayas De Zamboanga,” and “Walay Angay.”