IT TOOK UST doctors and singers a gallery of photographs and a repertoire of songs to reveal the extraordinariness of life.

The uniqueness of human life was gleamed in the exhibit, Ordinary Photographs, and the concert by the UST Singers titled Journey on…Celebrate Life, both held at the Philippine Heart Center’s Medical Arts Building Lobby last Sept. 29. The two fundraising events were organized by the Human Life International Asia (HLI-Asia) which sponsored the 13th Asia Pacific Congress on Love, Life, and Family in Cebu City.

Colored and monochrome photographs of hot air balloons, sandy beaches, and gaudy street signs were featured in Ordinary Photographs, the first photo exhibit of physicians and photohobbyists Orestes Monzon and Emil Valdez-Tan. The exhibit featured landscapes, still lifes, and people such as the firewood collectors of Zambales and Italian antique stores.

“These are ordinary photographs depicting the ordinary lives of ordinary people,” HLI-Asia executive director Monzon said. “It is in the ordinariness of their lives where visitors today find something unique and special giving them a reason to celebrate life.”

More than 50 bold gloss-print photographs ranging from 12×16 to 12×18-inch frames were displayed during the event.

Most of the photos coming from Europe, according to Dr. Monzon, were taken during his Marian pilgrimages with his family and friends. An example is “Street Signs,” which presents one of the busiest, narrow sidewalk walls bypassed by bicycles in Italy, cramped with various signboards of antique and novelty shops. According to Monzon, his interest in bicycles and street signs made him include this photo in the exhibit.

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Shot in Singapore, “Where is my Frog Prince?” features the curiosity of a little girl over the contents of a miniature pond.

Most of Monzon’s photographs taken in the country highlight his summer trips to Boracay. In “The Tattoo Artist,” an islander delicately etches an ink monster into a guest’s back.

“Unlike photography and painting, tattooing is a very difficult art because mistakes are not accepted since the artist is directly applying his art on a permanent canvas, which is the human skin,” Monzon said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Tan owned the photographs that stirred the local flavor of the exhibit as all of his photographs were captured here in the Philippines. Standing out among his works were the pictures taken from Bataan such as “The Road Back Home” and “The Lost Puppy,” both tackling the arduous daily lives of the Aytas in the mountains.

“Life there is very difficult although it appears to these people as very ordinary,” Tan said. “They had to go to the forest everyday gathering firewood, which they sell for a very little amount.”

Tan also exhibited photos of picturesque sunrises and sunsets of beaches. Serene waters and romantic horizons were seen in Tan’s “Rocky Mountain,” “The Hill Sides,” “The Girl on the Beach,” and “The Great Calm.”

Songs for the journey

The concert featuring the much awarded Asian choir, the UST Singers, followed the opening of the exhibit. The concert’s repertoire, led by internationally-acclaimed conductor Prof. Fidel Calalang, included local and international folk songs and renditions of Broadway musicals.

The UST Singers opened the concert with heartfelt and solemn versions of spiritual songs such as “The Lord’s Prayer” by Albert Malotte, “The Prayer” by David Foster, and “Down by the Riverside” by Moses Hogan. Giving the audience a better taste of their vocal prowess, the choir proceeded with an array of upbeat foreign songs such as the Spanish “O Vos O Galo,” the Cuban composition “El Guayaboso,” and the Scottish hymn “Auld Lang Syne.”

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A medley of original Filipino folk and love songs reduced in a fresh arrangement by Calalang gave the audience a feast. Included in the medley were compositions of Nicanor Abelardo and Lucio San Pedro such as “Mutya ng Pasig” and “Dalaga’t Binata.”

For the third part, the choir performed excerpts from highly acclaimed Broadway musicals, such as Stephen Flaherty’s stage version of E. L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel, Ragtime. Unforgettable songs from act one of Ragtime such as “Goodbye My Love” and “Journey On” were performed by sopranos Viola Villena and Ferleoni Medina, tenor Juan Alfonso-Mendoza, and baritone Roberto Gabriel Tagalog.

Then the choir performed Stephen Schwartz’ “Wicked” from the Broadway musical about the two witches of Oz. Sopranos Irene Quiso and Cristine Bernadette Avendaño provided the voices for the witches’ songs, “What is this Feeling?” and “I’m Not That Girl.” The Broadway repertoire ended with “Allegro Broadway,” a mesh of musical pieces, which included songs from top musicals such as The West Side Story, Les Miserables, and Crazy for You. All the pieces were given a more interesting feel through the musical arrangement by Calalang. Andrew Isiah P. Bonifacio

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