A documentary about the oldest existing boys’ choir in the country, the Tiples de Santo Domingo, won best documentary short in the Spring 2021 International Film Festival Manhattan in New York in May.

Papuri: The Tiples de Santo Domingo,” a 20-minute documentary shot in 2019, was directed by Rey Memije and produced by Tourism and Hospitality Management Regent Fr. Roland Mactal, O.P.

“[Papuri was created] so the future generation will be able to remember the glory of the past [and] keep the tradition as well, [especially] as we celebrate the 500 years of Christianity [and] the 800 years of the dies natalis of our holy father St. Dominic de Guzman” Mactal, himself a former Tiple, told the Varsitarian.

Mactal said he wanted to document the history and rich cultural heritage of the Tiples de Santo Domingo, the oldest existing boys’ choir in the Philippines.

The documentary centered on the history, lifestyle and spirituality of the Tiples, while also featuring their 2018 Christmas Concert with the UST Symphony Orchestra, Conservatory of Music faculty members Eugene de los Santos and Raul Sunico, singer Dulce, and American opera singer Arthur Espiritu.

Tiple is a Spanish word meaning “highest and the rightest human voice” or simply “male soprano,” choir spiritual director Bro. Glen Mar Gamboa, O.P. explained in the documentary.

The choral group is composed of 30 boys aged seven to 16, who are taught to sing, serve, and assist in masses. 

It was established by Fr. Pedro Bolaños, O.P. upon the arrival of the Dominicans in the Philippines in 1587.

The first batch of Tiples was based in Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros, where the image of La Naval de Manila was originally located. Shortly after the church was bombed in World War II, the Marian image was relocated to the University of Santo Tomas, and so were the Tiples.

The documentary recalls the beginnings of the group, which used to live inside the convent to keep rigid rehearsal schedules while studying. Nowadays, the boys no longer live inside the church compound. 

The Tiples were usually granted scholarships, as this was the primary assistance given by the Dominican priests to poor and deserving boys who were willing to serve by singing during religious ceremonies. 

“They have imbibed in their training a certain Dominican lifestyle, Dominican spirituality, wherein they give importance not only in singing but also studies and their spirituality,” Mactal said of the Tiples in the documentary.

The International Film Festival Manhattan is an annual event that allows filmmakers and artists to exhibit their works in New York.

This year, the event was held online from May 28 to 30.


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