PLAYING IT FORWARD is the mentorship program at CASA SAN MIGUEL conceived to sustain it's music and arts program CUERDAS AT CUADROS. The program began in 1996 when one man was lured back home amidst a thriving career abroad, and started teaching a couple of children from the community, mostly children of fishermen, for free, under a mango tree. It was a simple gesture of gratitude to be in land inherited from generations of ancestors and for opportunities brought about unwittingly by circumstances of both fate and fortitude.
Since then the program has grown considerably with 200 children from all walks of life between the fishing village of San Miguel and the slums of Tondo learning to play an instrument, draw, paint and write every year. When deemed fit, select students are likewise given the opportunity and privilege to "play it forward", to voluntarily give back to the next generation what they themselves had enjoyed. As young mentors and apprentices, they continue to form values of generosity, compassion, and patience as well as discipline and perseverance while gaining teaching experience that equips them for the future. By design, continuity is established, an organic system sustained by goodwill and a sense of community.
Despite their humble roots, these children are empowered to dream beyond what seems possible, to be the best that they can be. Many have won prizes at the National Competitions and have gone on to pursue conservatory and fine arts degrees. Some are now respected teachers themselves with one already pursuing his masteral degree in Music History. Some have been told, with continued practice and hard work, they can make it to Juilliard. Just this year, one set foot on the stage of Carnegie Hall as a proud member of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. (It's a curious fact that a student from CASA SAN MIGUEL sits in every orchestra in the Philippines.)
But its not always about performing. The core advocacy still lies in the belief that the arts inherently empower and transform lives. They've had students who are now nurses, policemen, sales clerks, carpenters, but they all acknowledge how music changed their lives, how it shaped the way they thought, perceived and reacted to the world, providing valuable lessons that continue to inform all aspects of their lives. Today, they play for their children, for their neighbors, for community gatherings and in church.
There is no doubt in the value of their work.
Just as the children are empowered with the freedom and confidence to dream, the Foundation has realized many of its own dreams. To date it has already trained over 2000 children in the 20 years since it's inception while developing a sprawling campus that includes 15 practice studios, 2 art studios, numerous classrooms, a recital hall, a small museum and 2 galleries. A unique curriculum has been developed and standardized alongside the Deped curriculum. Plans now include building a 800-seat outdoor theater, acquiring new and better instruments, forming a youth orchestra in partnership with the local military band and building more rooms. In March 2017 fifteen students that comprise the Pundauqit Virtuosi will tour 3 cities in India as cultural ambassadors promoting peace and understanding. Previous batches of the Virtuosi have already travelled to China, Indonesia and France.
But it's biggest dream still lies ahead as it transitions in 2017 from a mere barrio “project” into a full-fledged Senior High School for the Arts accredited by the Department of Education with a teaching staff composed of its own alumni. It will be the only barrio-based Arts School in the Philippines and the first K -12 Program with an Arts Track in Zambales. It's vision is to train artists of the highest integrity who will supply performers for the demands for musicians and artists from the smallest cafes and galleries to the world stage and museums.
They need your help to reach this milestone, a historical convergence of all its aggregate parts composed of individual lives shaped by different circumstances. Because despite all the goodwill and the spirit of volunteerism, scaling-up still comes at a price often met by the threats of donor fatigue, redirection of government priorities, erosion in appreciation of arts and culture, and even a corporate change of heart. But every challenge is seen as an opportunity to reinvent itself, to distill the essence that fuels the spirit to rise against the tides.
To pledge your support, please visit the Play It Forward Music Program fundraising campaign of CASA San Miguel: https://gogetfunding.com/play-it-forward-music-program/
Any amount, big or small, will greatly support us as the students and alumni of our Cuerdas at Cuadros voluntarily commit to continue teaching in their respective communities for free in Zambales, as well as in our satellite programs in Tondo, until our reopening in 2018. The funds that will be raised through this campaign will also be used in the redevelopment of CASA San Miguel and the management of our sustainable livelihood programs in San Antonio.
Change is indeed frightening, but with your support, we believe that the legacy of CASA San Miguel as San Antonio's Center for the Arts will continue to live on and succeed.
Thank you very much and it is an honor for us to have you as part of a stronger, better and more exciting organization for 2018!