Time to Say Goodbye

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Shakespeare got it right when he wrote the words “parting is such sweet sorrow.” You wish him well, and yet you cannot bear to be apart from him. You recall all the good things you have done together, and you wonder, how will you survive without him?

I have had my share of goodbyes. It is one of the reasons I find it hard to open up to people. It started back in college when my friends migrated to other countries. Then when I joined musical plays, concerts or other productions, I was usually apprehensive of socializing with people pass the “co-performer” level, because deep down I knew that we would say goodbye to one another after the production ends.

Things changed when I married Fil. He’s an extremely social guy. In parties, he would usually seek out people who seemed uncomfortable or extremely quiet, and bring them out of their shell. He puts joy to any social groups and is literally the “life of the party.” You can actually feel the shifting of the mood — people change their stance unconsciously to accommodate him. After four years of marriage, I think I have improved my social skills because of him.

I’m blubbering on, because I still find it hard to talk about goodbyes. People leave, people come back. And now, it’s time for me to say goodbye to my closest cousin, Saunder.

Our age difference is huge. He was still in elementary when I started singing in public. I recall that our first public performance together was a duet of ‘Colors of the Wind’ in our auntie Grace’s debut, and a duet of the Chinese version of ‘Lemon Tree’ in his grandfather’s high school reunion. We had the same music teacher, and there was a time when I taught him choreography in one of our recitals.
When he was in high school, I began teaching a choir in Caloocan. He would sometimes share his choral pieces with me — pieces that he learned from his glee club.

I think it was then when Saunder accepted the gospel. It was then when I gave him a small Evangelism Explosion Booklet to bring home, and he personally prayed to God and accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord.

I was there during the course of his struggle with his parents, when he received persecution for his beliefs. We began to study the word of God together, and actually finished the book “First Steps” by Isabello Magalit. I recalled commuting to his house in Tayuman every Saturday, just to “disciple” him — I didn’t know it was disciple-ship then. All I knew was that I doing my Christian duty in bringing him closer to God. After finishing the book, Saunder committed to attend United Evangelical Church of the Philippines (UECP), since the church was near their place. He was exposed to various ministries there.

I was also glad that Saunder joined our singing group, The Covenant Singers. Under the tutelage of Beverly Shangkuan, Saunder improved a lot. Fil said, Saunder arrived in the group with his stuck out voice, and it was there when he learned how to blend properly.

Behind these was the exchange of services typical of musicians and relatives: Saunder would ask me to sing his compositions for contest submissions, and I would ask him to make minus ones for me. He would ask me to sub for him and choreograph his choir, and I would ask him to arrange a particular piece for mine. We would lend each other music materials and spend some time sharing about our recent learnings.

These things of course lessen when he joined The Philippine Madrigal Singers. I must admit that I felt betrayed because somehow, I lost a big part of him. Even then, I had to accept the fact that he needs to spread his wings and grow. Still, he found time to exchange favors with me, and give me complimentary tickets to his show (I would never have watched otherwise 🙂 ).

Two days ago, Fil and I hosted Saunder’s farewell party. He auditioned for Berklee College of Music in Boston, and received a half scholarship. Because of that, his dad, who have not supported him or given him credits for his talents, finally agreed to send him there to let him study.

If things grow smoothly, his ideal plan is to stay there forever and establish a good career. Think of Alan Menken, John Rutter, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and other famous composer/arrangers!

Fil and I are really happy for him. But we are so, so sad as well, for we won’t get to hang out with him now. We won’t hold and lift our hands up when we pray together, there will be lesser “tenor” jokes, and I won’t receive “achi Shandz! I need your help for my choir” phone calls. If I need a rushed minus one, or a musical opinion about something, who will I approach now? Who will I ask help from?

Our prayer for you, Saunder, is that you will press on. Find a church that will let your grow in your faith. Find an accountability group as well — people you can be really honest with, and people who will help you grow spiritually. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

We will miss you a lot, Saunder. Things won’t be the same without you.

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Picture taken in my last Yorklin concert, Saunder lent me some of his pieces and accompanied some of our songs.

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Taken from one of CCP’s dressing room during our show for PCHS.

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Saunder arranged a song, rehearsed with my mom and some of my aunts, and accompanied them for their special song number for our wedding

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He accompanied Fil in his surprise song for me

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Together with my sister Elaine, and cousins Joyce, Jenevieve and Josh, they performed a medley of my all time favorites, Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. Oh, and he was the one who arranged it too.

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One of our last pictures, just the two of us, taken years ago when he was still fat (and sleepy).

Saunder took this picture as a requirement for one of his classes in la salle
one of his more recent photos, taken when he joined our camp last year

One Touch, One Phrase, One Tear, One Smile – this is a recording of one of his first compositions. I think he was still in high school then. I am quite embarrassed by this recording because of my voice and interpretation, but I want to share one of Saunder’s firsts with you.

Praise Be to God – this is a link to a song Saunder wrote, composed and arranged for The Covenant Singers. The solo part was sung by The Beverly Shangkuan, prior to her studies in the States.

12 responses »

  1. Saunder indeed has a wonderful gift of music. He also has a sharp wit and a funny sense of humor. After joining Madz, I thought that Saunder would be far away not only physically, but also emotionally. But I am happy that he doesn’t forget. He indeed is still the same person that I am very close with since we are kids. I do hope Saunder comes back, even once in a while.

    Wishing you all the best Saunder!
    Thanks achi for sharing this. Galing ng compositions 🙂

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  2. Awwww… atsi Shands, this article is so touching! I would like to start off by thanking you for personally sharing with me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have have grown so much musically and as a person because of His presence in my life. I’m grateful to have had the knowledge that without Him, I am nothing, and I won’t be where I am now!

    Secondly, thank you and ahiya fil for continually supporting and believing in me. Mostly especially, thank you for trusting me with TCS these past 2 months! Even though it was fleetingly short, I really had a blast teaching TCS (kahit na pinagalitan ako ni daddy) Hahaha…

    Thank you for always inviting me to camps, ministries, etc. Without your invitation, I would have been too shy to give back to the Lord and have the initiative to join one myself. Thank you for bringing out that side of me.

    Also thanks for the moleskine music journal! I always wanted to have one of those! I’m sure it’ll be useful one I step into Berklee and continue on writing music.

    I will miss you guys!

    Love lots,

    Saunder

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  3. Shanda, thanks for sharing this. Times have changed a lot in a few decades. My generation was part of the “music is not a viable career option” generation. We were taught that arts (in general) was not something to be taken seriously, God forbid that one would make a career out of it! Singers then were looked down upon, you should hear some of the hurtful things people used to mutter under their breaths whenever I and my friends sing or host at weddings/events. It was discouraging, frustrating and unfair. Because of these experiences, I understand where Saunder’s parents are coming from. Remember, the Tsinoy world then was secluded. We didn’t voice out. We didn’t act. We tried to blend into the background, to be unnoticed, to be looked over. We were taught at a young age to conform. The ones who went against this were branded outcasts or not “Lan Nang te”. (I myself am branded such because of my foray into the mainstream theater/opera world). This was the world back then. (Why do you think the themes of most movies back then was about rebelling? of becoming a non-conformist? of asserting one’s individuality?)

    It is only recently that the youth are taught to be individuals, to celebrate differences, to voice out their innermost thoughts. A big factor in this is the media and the internet. Personally, I am happy that most of the Tsinoy community have learned to embrace this. I say “most” because there are still select members of our community who will never let go of the “old” thinking. But that’s fine. It always good to have a different take on things. Now we see a lot of Tsinoys expressing themselves in the arts, be it in theater, music, singing, acting, dancing, painting, etc This is a good thing. We, as a community, will grow because of this. We are beginning to define to the world what it is to be a Tsinoy. My personal view is that a people are defined by what they produce in terms of literature and arts. We are beginning to do this. We are not mainland Chinese nor are we ethnic Filipinos. We are a beautiful mixture of both cultures. We are unique.

    I applaud Saunder for pursuing his dreams. God gave us these gifts to use and develop – not to keep “hidden in the ground”. I applaud his parents for helping their son realize his dream. One of the hardest thing for a parent to do is to let go. I applaud you for encouraging Saunder and being the pillar of strength (I am sure) he depended on. Continue being such.

    Sherwin S.

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  4. We’ll never have less tenor jokes. NEVER 😀 I think TCS tenors learned to blend with Saundy 😀
    See you on the west coast. ❤

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  5. awwww. We’ll miss you Saunder. I was happy to read that his dad is finally supporting him in his career and God given talent at long last! -Angie Ong 😀

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  6. Hey Saunder!!! when I came home, Shands had already finished the blog. She was crying when she was writing it. I’m not going to cry (or at least I won’t tell you about my man-cry hahaha) but I know how she feels.

    I really don’t know what the future has in store but I have to consciously avoid thinking we’re losing you. I pray that you grow in your relationship with our Lord and that we will see you once again and we’ll make more educated corny tenor jokes while holding our hands up in prayer.

    God bless Saunder.

    To everyone else… please write your names… we don’t know who’s commenting hehehe

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  7. Mr. Saunder, I remember the time you taught me to sing the first few lines of “Pasko na sinta ko” the way I believe would bring the best out of me. (not saying that xenxi Shanda was not able to do that). You are a great person though my first impression of you was like a “masungit” type of person. Honestly, I’m an agnostic but I believe in the existence of God. All I can say is God’s speed 🙂 astig ka 🙂

    to my beloved xenxi, you inspired me so much that I feel a great regret even up to now for not auditioning into the UPLB Choral Ensemble. I just let their invitations slipt away. They have invited me to sing a solo ballad twice but I refused to due to some personal conflicts. This is so much of a drama but in line with your melancholic post as I believe it is, parting is just a part of every individual’s life 🙂 it gives us the reason to reflect the importance of those people who will temporarily leaves us. But still, life must go on 🙂 continue inspiring young people through your gift in music. Merry christmas 🙂
    i miss everything about the Nrys youth choir 😥

    by the way, this is a touching blog 🙂

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  8. Saunder, i wish you all the best in your future studies/career. I’m so happy for you that you could pursue what you really love to do (we had agreed before that we will go Music together but God changed the direction of my life :D) I will miss the times we had together, hope we can still keep in touch and work together for God’s glory in the future. You will be in my prayer. ~ Achi Jocelyn

    Shanda, thanks for sharing 🙂

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