By Martin Sadongdong
It was way past 10 pm but a sweet melody could still be heard from a neighborhood in Barangay Tugatog, Malabon City — the voices were coming from a choral group which was in their usual practice session.
Everyone gathered in a small house, a dozen members of the Mother Mary Choir (MMC) sang their hearts out during one of their practice sessions for what the group described as its Lenten service this year: their participation in the “Seven Last Words” holy mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Tugatog, Malabon on Good Friday.
Carlos “Caloy” Cebreros, the guitarist and de facto leader of the choral group, said it has been their yearly vow to offer their services in the holy mass for the Lenten season and their practice on Holy Wednesday was the culmination of their month-long preparation. After which, they would have a day’s rest before the fulfillment of the group’s vow.
Known to the group as “Tito Caloy”, he said the choral group was established as early as the 1970s but it was only in 1982 that the group got its name.
Cebreros was among the only two remaining original members of the choral group, having been a member in 1985. The other one, which he fondly called Mang Bert Sembrano, was already 56 years old and could only attend practice sessions once in a while.
He added that he has committed his life to training and guiding the 36-year-old choral group as it is his way of serving God: through his voice and the music he creates through his guitar.
“Unang-una, ‘yung paglilingkod ko sa Diyos ang dahilan kaya nandito pa ako sa tagal ng panahon. Pagmamahal sa Kanya at sa musika, ‘yun talaga (First of all, the service to God is what keeps me here even though years have already passed by. My love for Him and music, that’s what [keeps me going],) Cebreros told the Manila Bulletin moments before the Good Friday mass.
“Pangalawa, ako na lang at si Bert ang nag-le-lead. Kung iiwan ko itong grupo, mamamatay ito. Mahihiya ako sa mga nagtatag ng grupo (Second, only Bert and I are the ones remaining to lead [the group]. If I leave the group, it will not survive. I will be shamed of myself to the founders of the group),” he added.
Cebreros’ dedication to the group couldn’t be denied as he managed to pass it on the members of the choral group. The diversity of its current members, a mixture of parents, their own siblings, and millenials, is difficult not to notice.
The group, in fact, has witnessed the love that sprung among its members as several of them found their life-long partners within the group including Cebreros’ and his wife Apple, who have three children they are hoping to be part of the choral group.
“Istrikto ‘yan pero ganyan lang talaga siya kasi gusto niya maganda ‘yung pagkanta ng mga kanta. Laging napapagalitan ‘yung mga alto at base kasi hindi agad makuha ‘yung tono (He’s strict but it is because he only wants the songs to be sung beautifully. Oftentimes, those who are in alto and base are being scolded because they couldn’t immediately get the tone),” said Enrique Fayen, a tenor (high pitch male voice).
At noon of Good Friday, the “Seven Last Words” holy mass at the Sacred heart of Jesus Parish started and the Mother Mother Mary Choir (MMC) sang the designated song to them which was “As the Deer” at the fifth of the seven last words of Jesus Christ, “Ako’y Nauuhaw.”
The Mother Mary Choir was among the choral groups who participated in the holy mass with a music spectacle of the narration of Jesus Christ’s seven last words before he died.
Just like the designated song to the choral group, Cebreros said he will continue to sing and strum his guitar to lead the choir members who are as thirsty as him in serving God.