Going from house to house to sing classic Christmas carols is one of the oldest traditions of Filipinos every Christmas. It knows no age as children, teenagers and adults can be seen caroling in the neighborhood. However, because of the pandemic, the government has prohibited the said tradition. But one choir chose to continue the tradition without violating the rules.
The Chamber Singers of the San Sebastian Church in Manila chose to keep on caroling this year while helping other people in need. Iba ‘Yan gave each of them a noche buena package, and helped them produce their virtual caroling video. They were able to record it in the ABS-CBN studios, with the intention of supporting their church and the Tahanang Walang Hagdan in Manila.
Host Angel Locsin talked to Alfie Jacinto, the founder and conductor of the choir. Alfie said he and his siblings actually grew up spending most of their time in San Sebastian Church because their mother used to serve there. He started as a volunteer church worker when he was in grade school, and auditioned for the rondalla group, and eventually, he got the chance to become part of the choir. For him, the secret to being a committed servant of the church is dedication. He actually graduated with a degree in accountancy but he eventually realized that his passion was for music. And that’s how he has become a professional conductor for years already.
At first, the San Sebastian Chamber Singers would sing in the neighborhood, but eventually, they were invited to perform during company gatherings. Proceeds from their performances would always go to their outreach programs, to the church, and the rest given to the choir members. When the pandemic started, all of the members checked up on each other. And since his job as a conductor is his only source of income, Alfie said he lost his means of livelihood. That’s why he built up a small sari-sari store in front of their house so they can still make both ends meet. Alfie admitted that their Christmas celebration this year won’t be as happy as it was before, especially because his mother is currently sick after suffering a stroke. But Iba ‘Yan already covered the maintenance medicine of Alfie’s mother. He also received a noche buena package, and additional groceries for his sari-sari store.
Angel also got to talk to a couple whose love story began in the choir. Jay and Angee Aspi were neighbors before but during that time, they weren’t very close to each other. They also didn’t know that their parents were childhood friends. After becoming close friends as members of the choir, they would fall in love, and eventually get married. Now, they have two kids who have been their source of happiness. San Sebastian Basilica really has a huge sentimental value for the couple because it is where they got married and it is where their babies were baptized. During the pandemic, the couple faced many adversities with Jay testing positive for COVID-19. But as he suffered, there was never a time he blamed God for it. And being a choir member helped him a lot in deepening his faith in God.
Aside from being choir members, the couple also have their jobs: Jay works for a BPO company while Angee works as a guidance counselor. And because they only share one computer for their work, Iba ‘Yan gave them a brand new laptop, tablet and pocket Wi-Fi for the online schooling of their eldest child, and a Christmas gift for their eight month-old baby. They also received a noche buena package for their Christmas celebration.
Angel met another choir member, Jhun Quiseo, who has served in the San Sebastian Church for 20 years. He’s one of the pioneer members of the San Sebastian Chamber Singers. His father died three years ago due to liver cancer. Now, Jhun lives with his mother and his brother who’s a special child. When his father died, he assumed the responsibility of being the head of the family. He finished with a degree in engineering and he was able to work as a cost engineer. Jhun has a cleft palate but he shared that he doesn’t mind all the discrimination and ridicule because serving the Lord through music keeps him fulfilled and happy.
But this year also challenged Jhun and his family with enormous problems. Because of the pandemic, he was laid off from his job. And last October, he lost his house in a fire, forcing Jhun and his family to stay in an evacuation center. To help him recover, Iba ‘Yan provided financial assistance and maintenance medicine for his mother. Jhun also received a noche buena package, clothes for him and his family, Iba ‘Yan also assisted Jhun in finding more job opportunities.
Angel also met Jason Deala, one of the newest members of the choir. As a famiy breadwinner, Jason juggles his time for different jobs. Currently, he works as a volleyball statistician. During weekends, he works as an on-call event coordinator. And when he still has extra time, he works as an on-call courier. Amazed by the San Sebastian Singing Chambers’ talent and advocacy, he did his best to become part of it. Jason travels for three hours with his bike in going to the church every Sunday. This pandemic has been hard for him because his income was lessened. But the good thing is that he found an opportunity to be a reseller of products. He received a noche buena package and cash assistance from Iba ‘Yan, as well as a bike from Kapamilya host Gretchen Ho.
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