By Jocille Ann B. Morito
“Music is the key to the heart and the window to the soul when words are not enough,” Benz Raquel Dugaduga,
Sigma Mu Lambda’s president, said during the opening of the Valentine’s Songwriting Competition (VSC ) held at the Claire Isabel McGill Auditorium last February 13.
The competition, which inspired Sillimanian lyricists to pen the longing of every unspoken letter, was initiated twenty-four years ago by the SU School of Music (now College of Performing and Visual Arts).
With only eight submissions at its commencement, the competition has evolved into a Silliman heritage where music and lyrics sway at every compass of the conductor’s wand. Despite its hiatus last 2011, VSC once again serenaded Silliman with ten soul-stirring entries just before the dawning of Valentine’s Day.
From sixteen entries last November down to ten during the screening last December, three songs had crucified hate and resurrected love once again in the face of a gloomy evening.
Winning first place was Andrew U. Alvarez who delivered an ala-Jason Mraz rendition of his song The Way You Cross My Mind.
The jovial notes of the saxophone gave every word a sweetness that caused the crowd to stomp their feet along with the mirthful Andrew who sang the song with high spirits. The crowd just loved it when, with his ukulele, he sang “When my lolo holds my lola’s hands, I like the way you cross my mind.” Though not in a romantic relationship at the moment, Andrew was inspired enough to compose the words which came to him in the shower while listening to an Ingrid Michaelson song. “It started with two lines,” Andy recalled, until it gradually became a love song that ultimately serenaded the ear of every listener who watched in the name of love.
The senior Public Administration student did not expect to win the competition, and his shocked innocence when his name was called attested to this. But he is in love – with his family, friends, and parents, especially his mom, to whom he dedicated his song.
For novice lyricists who wished to join VSC next year, Andy advises, “Write your heart out. You don’t need big words to make a song impressive. And just have fun, it’s your song, after all.” It was Amyrrha and Millie Anne Estolloso who won the second place with their soulful RnB “Real Connections.” The Education sophomore and high school student got their inspiration from their celebrity crushes.
With Amyrrha’s voice and the piano, she was able to deliver the upbeat song with grace, relating how women are fan railing and obsessing over celebrity crushes then later on falling in love with someone who do not resemble anything like Daniel Padilla or Justin Bieber, yet whom they have developed “something real.” As their lyrics go, “He may not be my One Direction, He may not be a superstar, But we have this real connection and it will take us far.” Indeed, giving up idealism in exchange for something real will cause butterflies to sing (though they may not), and even students to pen an entire song.
But with Queenie Maria E. Guibao, it was the pain of loving someone that made her song a third placer in the competition. Cumulonimbus, the cloud that broods when the sky is sullen and forbidding, is also the title that summed up a lover’s pain in wanting for someone to come back. “It is about being brave and vulnerable,” said the sophomore MassCom student. She sang in a soulful pop the words “Now I’m standing in the rain, and I’m calling out your name. People think that I’m insane, But I don’t care what they say….so I’m wishing, hoping, thinking, screaming begging you to come back again.” Though she never experienced the pain of letting go when she wrote this in high school, she thought hard on what love meant, and how it is about fighting for the person and embracing the rejection rather than just hiding away from pain. And there were more songs.
There was “Someday You’ll be Mine” by Aimee Michka Fernandez, a Nursing student. This hopeless romantic has never been in love. She penned the lyrics of her song when she was in high school – inspired by a lot of romantic movies, telenovelas, and books – and hoped to have that someone at some point in her life.
Then there was Jesza Lirazan’s “That Moment” in her reggae-jazz rendition. Though she said her love life is a bit complicated, she was able to pen this song in one night. It started as a composition project which she wrote for a friend, and turned out to be one of the crowd’s favourite during the competition.
The song was about a one-sided lover recalling “that moment” when she saw this person and just wished to be locked and lost in that moment forever. From three upbeat tracks at the beginning of the competition, came the poignant song of Edsil Jess Adalid who serenaded the night with his ala- Jimmy Bondoc rendition of “Letting Go.” This postgraduate student of COPVA recalled the day when his girlfriend broke up with him (on a Valentine’s Day) and how he was drunk while writing the song. The song was so sad it even brought listeners to tears.
The pain of letting someone go, not because he/she wants to, but because he/she needs to was channeled to the audience, even to a spectator who never experienced falling in love.
Fortunately, love is not all about pain. But also about being spellbound in a force so powerful, all one could do is write and sing about it. “Aniarma’s Spell” by Kayve Harlem Buyante and Prince Albert Villa, COPVA and MassCom students, is a rock song about this girl who came unexpectedly and casted a spell on the lyricist. It was because of Ask.fm that Prince came up with the idea of writing a song. And that he did – for the first time.
The identity of that “girl” still remains a mystery. The only OPM song of the night was “Patuloy” by Lorie Jayne C. Soriano, a third year Mass Com student. The song, which was written a year ago for her special someone, relates why people need to fight for love, never give up, and as the title suggests, just try to keep going. This optimistic song gave a glimpse of hope to those lovers undergoing rough times.
Another upbeat jazz was the song by Arnold James Manuel entitled “Together.” The Music Education sophomore recalled missing a special girl in his life, and in a spurge of an hour penned the words of the song like his tongue and fingers were “breathing fire.” He dedicates the song to a string-enthusiast. Megan Pugoy, who interpreted the song, won as the Best Interpreter, saying that she was lucky James chose her. Though Megan did not expect to win, her rendition of Together entertained the crowd and made her birthday worth celebrating for.
Lastly, there was Myo Aung’s “I Won’t Say Goodbye.” The Burmese Piano major wrote this ballad in memory of her girlfriend who broke up with him due to the fact that Myo is leaving for Myanmar after graduation, arguing that long distance relationships don’t work. Though his girlfriend had already moved on, the lyricist refuses to say goodbye, saying that he still misses and loves the girl.
And if the songs weren’t enough for the listeners to fall in love – once again or all the more, Marian Santiago, a broadway singer, rendered and wooed every present soul at the Luce with two powerful songs – Never Too Far Away and Defying Gravity – and one totally unprepared, yet spellbinding all the same, “Let It Go” rendition.
The revival of VSC was a success and a reminiscence of how being in love is both inspiring and painful. As the night danced away, Sillimanians were once again bathed in those soothing melodies where love could never be expressed in words alone, but in every heartbeat the soul longed to recount through a thousand songs and more.