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.
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.