AFTER I heard violin prodigy Joaquin “Chino” Ma. Gutierrez in a full recital that opened with Bach’s unaccompanied Prelude and ended with Ravel’s Tzigane, I told Ching Montinola, Chino’s avid supporter, “The youngster is a Paganini-in-the-making.” The recital was at the residence of German Ambassador Thomas Ossowski, and Ching, in reply to my remark, said, “By coincidence, the Ambassador thinks likewise.”
Incredible as it might seem, Chino did not win at the recent international tilt in Germany to the disbelief of many music authorities present at the contest.
There is further reason to wonder why Chino did not make it at that prestigious competition. Herewith, I quote from a column. Written for the Star way back on August 17, 2002, Fr. Reuter states: “Earlier this year, I attended a student recital featuring Joaquin Maria Gutierrez, eleven-year-old violinist. He studied at Miriam College under Professor Alfonso Bolipata. The boy’s nickname is ‘Chino’. I was startled at the musical content of this recital. The boy was playing Bach, Beethoven, Saint-Saens and Wieniawski. He ended with two beautiful Filipino pieces, by Antonio Molina and Ernesto Vallejo, who is his great grand uncle.
“Oscar Yatco, who is one of the finest musicians in the world, both as a violinist and as a conductor, was sitting beside me during the program. He said: “My God! This is the repertoire of a graduation recital in college for a Bachelor of Music! And the boy is eleven years old.
“I am not a trained musician. But I have worked with music all my life—beginning as a boy soprano in the church choir at the age of nine.
“And listening to Chino, I was mesmerized. If it was a college graduation recital for Bachelor of Music, and if I were one of his examining board, with my amateur ear I would give him a mark of ‘Summa Cum Laude’.
“He began asking his parents to let him take violin lessons when he was five years old. They relented and enrolled him, two years later. Coke Bolipata, during Chino’s first lesson, said, ‘This boy is a natural.’
“Within six months, Chino performed his first full concerto. He was playing college level pieces after only one year of instruction. And his talent is not only music! When he was fourteen months old, he was speaking in complete sentences. At the age of two, he could read. At three, he began to write. In grade school, he was already doing algebra, geometry and statistics. He was admitted into a special program for mathematically gifted children, at one of the top universities in the States.”
I might add to Fr. Reuter’s piece on Chino, the following:
Chino matches the record of Yehudi Menuhin, the infant prodigy who gave his debut recital at NY’s Carnegie Hall at the age of eleven, playing Beethoven’s Concerto accompanied by the New York Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Busch.
Olin Downes, music critic of the New York Times, writing on the debut, observed in part: “Master Menuhin has a technique that is not only brilliant but finely tempered. It is not a technique of tricks but one much more solidly established and governed by innate sensitivities and taste. It seems ridiculous to say that he showed a mature conception of Beethoven’s concerto, but that is the fact.”
At 28, Menuhin played Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Chino, 24, gave that full-length recital at the Ambassador’s residence, amazing the host and the rest with his extraordinary technique and mature artistry.
San Agustin Museum, 450 Years of Love
More than 450 years ago—the 27th of April 1565—Fr. Andres de Urdaneta and four other Augustinian Friars, arrived in Cebu. There, they found the image of Sto. Niño, a gift from Magellan to Queen Juana 44 years before, when she and others from Cebu were baptized.
Since 1565 Christ’s message was preached in Luzon, Cebu, Panay, Negros, Samar, Leyte and even in China where Fr. Martin de Rada travelled in 1575, in Japan in 1602, and later in India, then America.
The Augustinian Friars were “lovers of God.” And for the glory of God, they were the main church builders in the Philippines. Among the several hundred built by them, 160 still survive today. Four of them had been declared “World Heritage Site.” The Friars also built convents, schools, bridges, streets and promoted agriculture and development in different fields.
The Augustinian Friars were “lovers of arts and beauty.” They promoted the creation of extraordinary carvings in wood, ivory for the altars of their churches and convents; religious paintings and engravings, liturgical vessels of gold and silver, ivory, nacre and precious stones, to enhance Catholic liturgy and the glory of God. All these are in San Agustin Museum.
The Augustinian Friars were “lovers of wisdom.” For their love and service to the people,
they created two printing presses, the first in 1614, the second in 1886, wherein thousands of books and novenas were printed in Tagalog and Pampango, Cebuano and Ilocano, Hiligaynon and Bisaya.
The Augustinian Friars, “lovers of song and music”, composed religious music and created choir books or “cantorales” decorated with polychrome musical notes, beautiful birds, flowers and other images.
The Augustinian Friars were “lovers of science.” Fr. Ignacio Mercado, in the 17th century, and Fr. Antonio Llanos and Fr. Manuel Blanco in the 19th century did the most important studies of Philippine flora ever done in the country.
The Augustinian Friars, “lovers of culture and education”, founded schools in Cebu in 1565 and in Manila in 1571, the first public schools. Also, founded by them were the “Escuelas de Artes y Oficios de Malabon” in 1890; the San Agustin University in Iloilo in 1904, and the Colegio de San Agustin, Dasmariñas, Makati in 1969.
Welcome to the re-opened San Agustin Museum. Unique are its works of art—architecture, carvings, paintings, furniture and choir books—the oldest in the Philippines. But above all, unique is the history of the more than 3,000 Augustinian Friars who live, pray, study here and spread the Message of Love to the Far East for 450 years.—Fr. Blas Sierra de la Calle, OSA