Saturday, November 3, 2007

2nd Pinoy Song Festival at the Embassy

The Interpreters - Top Left to Right: Kenneth Sawyer; Raymond Ruben; Romeo Carbonnell; Ferdinand Agustin; Tim Antivola; Norlito Andalla;Stephen Fuentes and Richard Balgos, Jr.

It’s quite a long time since I’ve been to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh. Mainly because the newly appointed “public servants” ( I prefer to call them public servants and not foreign diplomats, since, they are oblige to serve the million OFWs in Saudi and not just confine themselves in offices waiting for OFWs to come to them ) were not as supportive as the past administration.

During the Guinomla’s term, Embassy personnel were so accommodating despite of several criticisms from the militant group “Migrante”. From the Ambassador to Utility staff, you can tell that they served the OFWs.

I have a high regard for a very dedicated ambassador, Hon. Bahnarim Guinomla (now assigned in Turkey) for being so compassionate and impartial. Although he is a Muslim, he never failed anyone who seeks assistance and support from the Embassy. Consul Usudan, who was the head of the Consular Section, was the coolest consul I’ve ever met.

But now, it is totally different…

If you enter the gate of the Embassy, you should sign on the Record Book, or else you will end up being embarrassed by an impolite Filipino Guard. Worst if you ‘re already inside and don’t know which direction you’re going to, you will hear a loud voice from his post ‘Hoy, hindi diyan ang Consular Section!! Doon!!!!)

The Building Administrator, who, I heard, was a former Utility Man, has been so rude with the Filipinos who are holding regular shows at the Embassy. “Kung magsalita siya parang siya ang may ari ng Embassy, makita ka lang na may nilalagay na streamer sa railings, sisigawan ka kaagad…”, a teacher, member of a cultural group who experienced embarrassment from him during their show, confessed with disappointment.

You can’t use any Embassy property without paying rental fee. The use of Liwasang Bonifacio and Chancery Hall, I supposed, cost you SR100.00 per hour for electricity. Chairs are being rented at SR1.50 each. The worst, if you need their technician to put on the A/C at the Chancery Hall, you will be charged SR50.00!

Filipino organizations were so disappointed when the embassy ruled out that solicitations, selling tickets, and contests involving money are strictly prohibited inside the Embassy. This causes some active groups to disband or discontinue their humanitarian projects.

Actually, holding a quality show at the Embassy will cost you minimum of SR10,000.00 and the only way to cope up with the expenses is thru tickets, solicitations, etc.. There are companies who are willing to help, but sad to say, they can only provide give-aways, prizes, and manpower and not financial support.

However, last Thursday (November 1, 2007), there was an Oriental Bazaar sponsored by the Asian Ladies (Ambassadors’ wives) at the Philippine Embassy.. to our surprise, they are selling tickets to every visitor (SR5.00)!.

Anyway, the 2nd Pinoy Song Festival 2007 last night at the Phil. Embassy was a free show. Jeff Almendras, president of Asosasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit who just arrived last week from his US Trip, was able to shove from his own pocket to spend for this project. Even the finalists from Jeddah and Damman were able to come to Riyadh at their own expense.

As usual, Riyadh’s finest dominated the awards.

Aries Silverio’s
Sana’y Mahal Mo Rin won Best Song and Composer while his Interpreter, Richard Balgos won the Best Interpreter award.

Romeo Carbonell
, interpreting his own composed “Pinakamamahal Kita”, won 2nd Place and Gene Juanich’s Kundi Ako Mahal, interpreted by the powerbelter Stephen Fuentes, landed as 3rd Place.

I was surprised when Jamie Nava Cruz’ “Last Goodbye” didn’t make it to the top three. The song was arranged beautifully and the lyrics were cool. For me, Jamie’s composition is second to Silverio’s song.

“Naku, English kasi… Baka hindi naintindihan ng mga judges”.. a joke from a friend when he knew that I like the Jamie’s song.

Richard Balgos, a veteran in singing competition, was the unanimous winner for the award. His strong contender was his closest friend Stephen Fuentes. Both are finalists of ABS-CBN TFC Pop Star Search Riyadh 2006.

My badminton buddy Chris Luzana, who back out from interpreting Ferdinand Agustin’s “You’re Beautiful”, and my “protégée” Cyndy dela Cruz (Riyadh Shining Diva daw sabi nila!) were great in hosting the show, except for Kate Destura, the emcee cum-presentor, who made the show as if it was a kiddie game show. (sorry Kate for telling the truth!).

In totality, the show was satisfactory…

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