“Ang Cagayan ngayon ay parang Pacific Ocean. Lahat ng mga munisipyo na tabi ng Cagayan River ay baha ngayon,” Col. Ascio Macalan of the Cagayan Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Office told ABS-CBN’s DZMM radio.

Just when I thought the disasters were over after Marikina, I learned about another big flood in Isabela and Cagayan..

I brought several artists to Isabela. I converted a town inn function room as concert hall.
Earlier I discovered the Isabela bishop had a piano and I said why don’t we do a concert?
And I did.

And one after another with no sure budget in sight, I brought in an American cellist, a Russian violinist, a Filipino tenor, soprano, flutist and pianist. Piano tuner was the late Romy Comoda, father of Alexander Comoda.

Then I realized Cagayan was just a breath away from Isabela.

So in St. Paul University in Tuguegarao City, I came with pianists Ingrid Sala Santamaria, Reynaldo Reyes and Najib Ismail, tenor Lemuel de la Cruz, baritone Noel Azcuna, flutist Agustina Deyro and my concert centerpiece: Cecile Licad.

My piano hunting yielded negative results.

I convinced the nun-administrators in St .Paul University that they have to buy the piano I brought in all the way from Manila (it’s a 12-hour bus ride).

And so Licad performed twice in Tuguegarao City in 2002 and 2004.

In the last Tuguegarao concert, filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya was with us. After the concert, there were two long lines of autograph-seekers: one for the pianist and the other for the filmmaker.

One day before the concert, a fan of the pianist from New York called to say that the province is famous for head-hunters. I pacified Cecile and insisted it wasn’t not true.

There was one poet-priest and a bishop from Isabela who have not heard Licad live.
I was determined to give them their first Licad experience.

So I gave them free tickets.

The late poet-priest, Fr. Paco Albano, sent me this email after the concert:

Friday 22 November 2002

Dear Pablo,

Grace and peace!
I hope all is well with you and family.
Thank you for snatching me to experience a Cecile Licad recital.
Quite an experience I tell you!
Surely God has consecrated her hands to play music, specially that of the classical masters. In playing the masters, Cecile is a musician who makes one believe that the world is made of sound — sometimes as impromptu as a surprise, sometimes waltz, sometimes nocturne, sometimes scherzo, or whatever great art rightly tells us. Indeed her music, like life is about possibilities.
Who was playing that night? Cecile the piano, or the piano Cecile. I think it was the piano that brought out Cecile the music, specially in the nature of mysticism of the two legends of St. Francis (Liszt). The music overflowed from her mouth, her eyes, her entire body, yes, into me/us. And was I myself playing Cecile and the piano?
The encores were revealing. Cecile was not only great with the big scores but also with the ditties. She reminded me of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda’s Odas Elementales. The poet makes yellow birds, chestnuts, tomatoes, watches look extraordinarily beautiful.
Cecile is the Pablo Neruda of Music. There is nothing prosaic in this world unless we make it so.
Unlike the God-distracted nun who gave dos palabras, I didn’t think of God in my tonal center.
God was humble that night. I imagine he followed the rules of/for concertgoers, relaxed in silence and head music outside holding centers. And it was good.


Fr. Paco

The last I heard from Fr. Paco. he thanked me for sending Licad’s latest CDs which he bought in advance. Licad was touched by the email and replied: “Thank you so much for this most touching and beautiful letter it’s the kind of message that makes it worthwhile for me to continue my journey to the unknown. Thank you Pablo!!”

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