Filipino Students Overall winner in 1st Vietnam International Choir Competition and Festival

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An April 18, 2011 press release by the Department of Education
Once again, a group of high school students displayed world-class Filipino talent as the Ilocos Norte National High School (INNHS) Samiweng Singers emerged as the over-all winner in the first Vietnam International Choir Competition and Festival in the City of Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam.
Samiweng traces its etymology from the Ilocano term “Nasam-it na awing,” which means “sweet sound.”
“We must agree that Filipino children are imbued with so much intelligence, and it takes a nurturing environment to bring out the best from emerging Filipino talents,” said Education Secretary Armin Luistro. “Hence, participation in these activities is a perfect venue for young Filipino musicians to showcase their talents and promote what we, as a people, have.”
The feat of Samiweng in the recently concluded 1st Vietnam International Choir Competition and Festival marks their greatest musical performance. They topped more than 30 choirs from 12 different countries emerging as both the champion and gold awardee in the Children’s Music category (conducted by Robert Caluya) and Sacred Music category (conducted by Sherbert F. Cabrales). With these awards, the Samiweng Singers were declared over-all winner of the festival besting choral groups composed of adults such as a chamber choir from Manila, a choir from Indonesia, and a choir from Estonia who are well-respected for their performance in the Sacred song category.
Caluya, who is a MAPEH and Special Program for the Arts (SPA) teacher, is the founding conductor. He also teaches piano lessons, choral music, and music theory. He shared that the achievement they earned became more special given the challenges they hurdled in order for them to join the festival. “The group was very determined to join but we did not have enough resources. So, to suffice the needs for the travel and other expenses, we solicited funds from parents, alumni, employees and teachers, employee cooperative, city and provincial governments, and organized a fund raising concert.
Asked what advice he can give to his group, Caluya told his students to “have the three Ds. (1) Direction—set a goal and aim for it; (2) Dedication—have the heart for what you do and nurture that passion; (3) Discipline—look carefully at what you do and instill discipline to your students. You should also attend workshops, listen to important music from all genres. Invest in your talents, start now and raise your standards.”
Also part of the team is conductor Cabrales, who was a former student and choir member of the group. He began conducting in 2005 and teaches Vocal Music 1 and 2. He said that while they were waiting at the backstage, “we heard all other contestants trying to outdo each other. We practiced and when we were through we saw them staring at us and clapping at our performance. After the song we cried. We really felt our performance. We believed that we were able to convey the song—that’s what songs are for: conveying feelings. We were shocked that the judges were applauding us because they never applauded any other group before us.”
DepEd Laoag City Supt. Araceli Pastor asserts that “this honor is not just for the Division or the City but for the country as well. It makes us realize that we are never lacking of special talents and the Filipino is worth working for.”
Luistro calls upon young children to continue developing their art skills. “Education should be holistic. Students should be multi-talented, versatile and complete.” He also advises the students that “it would do well for the cause of national unity if the Philippines can develop, through music and the arts, a sense of national identity that will further unite our people.”
Starting from humble beginnings, Samiweng won the championship in the 2002 National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA). A year later, it joined the NAMCYA-sponsored International Youth Music Festival held in CCP Complex and Bulacan. Along with the best high school choirs of the country, Samiweng took part in Samu’t-Saring Tinig 5.
In 2004, Samiweng was given the break to produce their recording debut featuring the songs that they had sung since the beginning of their career. At the 1st CCP Choral Competition held in 2009, Samiweng garnered “Silver A”, the second to the highest award given in the said competition which is Gold C.
Currently, the group is composed mainly of students from INNHS’ special program for the arts (SPA). There are also four members from the special science class (SSC). Current membership includes 12 freshmen, nine sophomores, four juniors, and one senior.
Luistro hopes that the kind of education DepEd gives will be able to help young students maximize their full potential so that “we can show that we are all-around performers who can compete head to head with other world talents.”