Poor youths play band music in key of a better life

The Pandan Bay Youth Band.

PANDAN, Antique—Rising on his toes, Juanito Maglunob moved his arms upward as though he were hanging laundry on a clothesline to reach and capture that climactic moment in the musical score of “Beauty and the Beast.” Satisfied with the response, he resumed his normal stance and continued to conduct 14 musicians barely out of their teens and dressed in comfort t-shirts, blouses, shorts and rubber slippers.

It was the night of Jan. 12 and the members of the Pandan Bay Youth Band (PBYB) were immersed in playing their flutes, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, a tuba, and drums, giving their best to a handful of guests and benefactors in an impromptu show at Pandan Beach Resort in Barangay Dionela here.

Controlled bursts of breath marked their performance of “Thriller,” their nimble fingers touching and tapping the open-close holes and keys of their instruments. The notes were in photocopied compositions spread on old wooden planks.  

“Quality of performance? It was OK, nothing stupendous, but it was enjoyable,” said Leo Dioso, a retired auditor at the United Nations who supervises his family’s Leocadio Alonsagay Dioso Memorial Public Library in Pandan.

Admittedly, virtuosity, timing, harmony and showmanship were far from perfect for the hastily assembled band members that night. But then they were just emerging from more than two years of inactivity caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and, since June 2022, taking up twice-a-week practice sessions after classes.


“I was surprised to see them continue with the program,” said Daughlet Bautista Ordinario, a realtor visiting from her home base in San Diego, California.  

“By themselves, they were able to keep the team together even without leadership. Even the quality of their music has improved,” said Ordinario, who is the founding president of the California-based Panday Bay Foundation (PBF) and the Pandan-based Daughlet Bautista Foundation (DBF). 

Seventeen students aged 15 to 21 are currently active in the PBYB. They come from families whose breadwinners are vulcanizing shop workers, construction laborers, vegetable vendors, fishers, seamen, and teachers, and who struggle to put food on the table from their meager pay. 

The musicians “graduated” from the entry level or “juniors” to the “seniors” after learning to read musical notes and play an instrument. At least 60 instruments, mostly of the wind type and solicited or bought by the PBF, are kept and maintained in the Bautista family compound and are available for practice sessions and band appearances. 

The band, formed in April 1996, is Ordinario’s pet project. It is funded by PBF donations and administered by the DBF, which was set up by Ordinario and her siblings in honor of their parents and the latter’s musical legacy. 

The DBF is named after the Bautista siblings’ late mother, an opera soprano whose husband, Benbenuto, played the violin. All the Bautista couple’s nine children are board directors—Yolanda, Benbenuto Jr., Bayani, Bingcrosby, Daughlet, Ursula, Vicky (scholarships program administrator), Mary Joan (executive director) and Faith.

School allowances

Under the PBF’s free music program, elementary and high school students who belong to poor families are taught music appreciation and the musical skills and discipline to prop up their career plans. Apart from the teamwork and shared band goals, they enjoy monthly school allowances—P2,500 for band members who have entered college and P500 for those in high school.  

According to the PBF primer, the band music program emphasizes “musicianship and pride of accomplishment, followed closely by citizenship, tradition, morale, spirit, and loyalty.” The aspiration: “a highly successful band activity,” with the members maintaining “high scholastic standing.” 

Students are expected to exercise diligence and take utmost care in handling the instruments, which they can bring with them to college when they seek out its band program, and thus avail themselves of tuition benefits and scholarships.

As one measure of the program’s success, many band alumni are now teachers, a police officer, a medical technologist, hotel and restaurant management personnel, and nurses. They have performed in community events, concerts, fiesta and funeral parades, and before high-profile guests in Pandan and as far as San Jose, Antique’s capital, and Kalibo in Aklan.

The current crop is a vastly improved cast of young musicians from the original 12 who were involved in marching band music and were guided in 2000 by Rafael Bautista, a second cousin of the PBF directors and a retired trumpeter of the Philippine Army band.

Thinking forward

band members
Jana Faye Tomines (left), 18, and Glaizelle Bermudo, 17. —PHOTOS BY JUN BANDAYREL
other band members
Jolannie Pearl Dalanon (left), 18, and Nicole Faith Montiel, 16

The band members are a hardworking lot.

Gileen Tomines, 21, who plays the flute along with her sister Jana Faye, 18, is bent on getting a degree in tourism management. A band member since Grade 5, she is now a sophomore at Aklan State University in Ibajay, Aklan. 

Matutuloy sa pag-aaral (To continue my schooling),” Gileen said when asked why she was staying with the band. She has requested Gigi Bautista, the foundation’s executive director in Pandan, to help her become an intern at the latter’s glamp site in Barangay Duyong.

The Tomines sisters’ father is a fisherman whose third cousin was also in the music program. Their mother is a homemaker. Gileen has played the flute since she was in Grade 6 because, she said, “that was the only musical instrument available.” She wants to play the violin and piano also. 

John Neil Gregorio, the band’s sole drummer, is at 21 its oldest member. He is studying computer science and is due to graduate this year. A working student, he makes house-to-house deliveries of pan de sal by bicycle.

Playing the drums is “in his blood,” said Gregorio, who has been a PBYB member since he was in Grade 5. His expected departure upon graduation will leave a slot empty for a percussionist. 

The other band members are Glaizele Bermudo, 17, and Nicolette Barayas, 16, who play the flute; Jolannie Pearl Dalanon, 18, Nicole Faith Montiel, 16, Christine Andico and Katrina S. Perez, 18, clarinet; Renz Barrientos, 15, and Mark Yvan Abante, saxophone; Jero Ernest Suclan, 17, and Ram Timothy Cadalzo, trumpet; John Lloyd Gregorio, 20, and Retchie Alegre, 21, trombone; and Earl Artiga, 20, tuba.

Boot camp

In 2018, before Covid-19 health restrictions were enforced, some 20 PBYB members underwent an intensive five-day boot camp under Renan Manalastas, a conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and one of the country’s top clarinet players. They performed at a group recital at the end of the training, drawing applause from the crowd. 

Last June, Myra delos Santos, a clarinet player from Bulacan, refueled the youths’ enthusiasm with another training camp on a P30,000 grant from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts’ community outreach project.

band leader
Juanito Maglunob, 21, acting band leader and trumpeter

Gigi Bautista, the PBF’s frontliner in Pandan, sees the band’s limitations in terms of funding, upgrading of skills, and teaching Maglunob, the acting bandmaster who never had formal training and is an engineering student in Iloilo.

Despite those limitations, the band’s repertoire has widened from the classical to contemporary and pop music, as demonstrated last week in an outright concert featuring 11 songs, including “A Thousand Years”, “Circle of Life” and “Malaguena” at the Pandan Beach Resort.

Daughlet Ordinario has encouraged the members to “continue to keep music in your life.” 

“Through music and experience, [the program] will help their careers move forward. It’s an experience they can relate to in their own life,” she said, adding:

“They should take the advantage. They don’t have to be good, but keep their experiences with them.”  

Donations to the Pandan Bay Youth Band are welcome. For details, interested parties may log on to www.pandaybayfoundation.org. Cash donations may be deposited in the Daughlet Bautista Foundation’s Producers Bank savings account no. 118851007694. —Ed.

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