Today is May 6 and just a while ago, I was looking for scratch papers that are A4 in size. Among the scratch papers I saw was a letter, dated May 6, 2006, written exactly four years ago. It was a copy of my letter to the University of Asia & The Pacific, and I suddenly thought I'd like to share this letter. Of course I have some mistakes when I wrote the letter, like I wish I could have said "Greetings of love and peace!" at the start, instead of "Good day!" What is more important though, are the emotions and experiences I've expressed and would like to share to people who'll chance to read this.
May 6, 2006
Good day! I am the mother of one of the Bases of the UA&P Chorale and also the outgoing President of Makati Toastmasters Club. My daughter and I had the opportunity to go to Greece with the chorale and watch them compete with the European choirs, at Preveza. I was saddened by the news about the termination of Arwin Tan's contract as the choirmaster of UA&P Chorale and I feel that the best way I can explain why this sadness, is to share my own experiences, before, during, and after my trip to Greece with the chorale.
I was scheduled to be installed as the President of Makati Toastmasters Club in July of last year. I've requested for the postponement of the said event because of the rare opportunity to watch the UA&P Chorale compete in a foreign land. The trip was also an opportunity for me to contemplate about the big responsibility I have to undertake for Makati Toastmasters Club in relation to the club's chosen theme of the year. The theme chosen was "Desire to inspire!", because to desire to inspire can be difficult and a person needs to be inspired to desire to inspire.
For my inaugural speech, I needed to say something about the theme of the year and before we arrived in Greece, I didn't have a single idea how to go about my speech. I couldn't believe that everything that happened in Greece was all about the "desire to inspire"! Thus my inaugural speech turned out to be a full account of what happened in Preveza. Below were some portions of my speech:
"We arrived in Greece on July 5. From the Athens airport, we rode a bus to go to Preveza. It was an eight-hour trip but a worthwhile one because we had the chance to see the countryside of Greece. The scenery was breathtaking, all of us couldn't help singing "the hills are alive, with the sound of music.. ". There were also beautiful scenery of the seas and the shores, but the most beautiful spot that I've seen was that of a group of clouds emitting rays of the sun to the ground. It made me feel that "graces will be showered from heaven". I told Arwin Tan, the choirmaster of the chorale, "Wow! That might be a sign that the UA&P Chorale will win!"
"During our first morning in Preveza, my daughter and I watched the UA&P Chorale rehearse. A parade of all the countries joining the choral competitions was scheduled in the afternoon. Arwin Tan gave his final instructions to the choir, using the vernacular since members of the host choir, the Armonia Choir of Preveza, were also watching the rehearsal. So he said in Tagalog, "bago mag-umpisa ang parada, makipagkaibigan kayo sa ibang bansa. Para pag natalo sila, hindi sumama ang loob nila at pag natalo naman tayo, hindi rin sasama ang loob natin". As instructed, members of the UA&P Chorale started a fellowship with choirs from other countries, mostly European countries, before the parade started. By the time all the choirs were gathered at a plaza after the parade, the UA&P Chorale, more known as the Philippines, was already popular. The instruction of Arwin Tan is my first example of a desire to inspire that yielded a very positive result."
"They practiced again the next day and I remembered there was one goal I haven't started yet, which was to compose my inaugural speech. I told myself, maybe I can start doing that while listening to the rehearsal. So I brought my John Maxwell book where I plan to extract my speech material. It was supposed to be about "victory". As I was reading Maxwell's book and listening to the choir at the same time, I noticed that there was a big improvement in the performance of the choir compared to the past day's rehearsal. In fact, I was touched by one of their sacred songs that tears in my eyes almost fell. I felt that everything that Maxwell has written about victory was very appropriate to the choir. I felt that the members were infected with their choirmaster's desire to inspire. The desire became contagious because I felt a strong desire to share to the members of the choir the words of wisdom of Maxwell. I wrote a very short letter to the choir followed by Maxwell's determinants of victory and the next morning, gave it to Arwin, with a short note on a post-it paper, saying: "Dear Arwin, this might be better than nothing to offer to you and the choir." Knowing that Arwin can easily inspire the choir, I requested him to read the letter to the members."
"That same day, in the afternoon, the UA&P Chorale joined the first contest which was the Mixed Youth Choir category. During their second sacred song, there seem to be a Divine intervention because one second before the Alleluia part, the bells in a nearby church rang and stopped only before the Alleluia finale. It was very beautiful. All their songs were beautiful, I was sure they will win in that category. After UA&P Chorale's turn, one of the choir members thanked me, saying he was inspired by my letter. The others also thanked me for my inspiring letter. It was really the magic of John Maxwell and Arwin Tan. All I did was to write on paper because I was inspired by Arwin and the choir members."
"The choir joined two more contests the following days, for the Chamber Choir and the Mixed Choir categories. The night of the last day of the contest was the awarding ceremonies held at the Odeon of Nikopolis. In this city of victory, the UA&P Chorale members received their victory. They were awarded all gold medals and the first prizes for the 3 categories that they joined."
"On our way to the airport after touring Athens for three days, I again saw the welcome sign of Greece that says "Greece welcomes a new myth: Yours". The first time I saw that sign, I wondered what can be "my myth". When I left Greece, I knew the answer: it was the desire to inspire and it is no longer a myth."
I will never forget that experience in Greece. Whenever I think about it, the whole experience looked like a play with a very beautiful script authored by God, no wonder it flowed smoothly. In that experience, I saw several miracles - the rays of the sun emitted by the clouds, the church bells ringing while the choir was singing "Alleluia", and 3 coincidences that struck me because they felt like one in the end: The article of Maxwell about "victory" that I brought, not for the choir but for my speech, the choir's victory, and the awarding at the Victory City or Nikopolis. The whole experience inspired me to have more faith and trust in God, and the people that surrounded me during that experience serve as reminders.
To desire to inspire in indeed difficult but I realized that it can be easy if people will only inspire one another. One good deed from one person can start it all. Or maybe a letter, a poem, a song, the list goes on.
I admire Arwin Tan not only for his professionalism but also as a person. I saw how very professional he was while dealing with the European conductors. All those conductors were very happy when the UA&P Chorale won. Arwin is one person who can easily think of a good deed that can start it all. The landlady of the hotel where we stayed was always irritable. A bunch of flowers from Arwin made her meek as a sheep. The owner of the restaurant commissioned by the hotel to serve regular dinner to the chorale could understand German more than English so Arwin became his "order taker" and interpreter. Both the landlady and the restaurant owner cried when the chorale said goodbye and they both kissed Arwin.
I don't know how to end this. I guess I'll just leave everything to God again. I remember just the other day I was in a dilemma on how to divide my time for the rest of the year and decided to leave everything to God. Not more than a day has passed without lifting a finger, but my dilemma was over when a friend sent me a message through the cellphone that can solve my problem, without him knowing the existence of such problem.
I just wish the UA&P Chorale members, the UA&P management and everybody supporting the chorale peace and happiness.
"Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His Hand".
Very truly yours,
Maria Luisa Taa-Venida