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Zambales-based string orchestra wows Vatican audience

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By Roy Mabasa

A Zambales-based string orchestra group wowed the members of the Vatican diplomatic corps when they performed their unique pieces with Filipino flair inside the historic Santa Pudenziana Basilica in Rome as part of the 121st Philippine Independence Day celebration and in preparation for the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines.

Pundaquit Virtuosi performed before a packed crowd composed of Vatican-accredited ambassadors, young Filipino students from the Philippine Schools of Rome and long-term Filipino residents and workers at the 4th-century-old Santa Pudenziana recently.

Composed of predominantly children from families of fisherfolk and farmers from the localities of Zambales, Pampanga and Bataan, the Pundaquit Virtuosi group performed a mixture of western classical pieces followed by classical Filipino pieces, “adding a particular Filipino flair on top of their technical excellence.”

Young Filipino students in the audience were “very vocal and effusive in their appreciation of the performance,” the Embassy in the Holy See said in a statement.

It pointed out that one of the primary objectives of the Embassy is to introduce classical Filipino pieces to the Filipino youth in Italy, particularly in Rome, in addition to giving them a higher level of cultural exposure to western classical pieces.

The group’s overall performance, the Embassy added, was “bursting at times with Filipino vigor and a particular rhythm that could be characterized as something that one could partly ascribe to our unique Latin heritage in Asia.”

Ambassador to Vatican Grace Relucio Princesa led in welcoming the guest diplomats and members of the Filipino community. Ambassador to Italy Domingo Nolasco also graced the event.

Pundaquit Virtuosi was in Italy after completing the first leg of its 2019 European tour as part of the 20th edition of the Ostend Anchor Festival in Brussels, Belgium on May 26-28. It was founded by world-renowned violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata who has also served as the group’s maestro and mentor.

The venue of the Philippine event in the Vatican – the Church of Santa Pudenziana – is the oldest place of Christian worship in the Italian capital where Saint Peter first celebrated the Holy Mass in Rome.

It is considered as a national church for Filipinos and is one of the national churches in Rome. It served as the residence of the Pope until 313, when Emperor Constantine offered the Lateran palace to be the Pope’s Residence.

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