The Zambales-based youth orchestra Pundaquit Virtuosi String Ensemble was greeted with standing ovation and cheers of “Bravo!” during their concert at the historic Ateneo de Madrid on 21 June 2019. The orchestra, composed of 28 young Filipinos, mostly in their teens, and founder and artistic director Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata, performed classics and Filipino pieces, including “Bahay Kubo,” and “Buwan,” in front of an audience composed of around 200 Spaniards and Filipinos.
The Pundaquit Virtuosi String Ensemble was developed by the Casa San Miguel Foundation, based in San Antonio, Zambales, and is part of a community-based arts program that seeks to create opportunities for children from humble backgrounds through music and the arts.
In welcoming the audience to the concert, Ambassador Philippe Lhuillier stated, “Having this performance here is especially meaningful for us as Filipinos, since our national hero Jose Rizal himself was a member of this institution. I can only imagine his great pride had he known that over a century later, a Filipino ensemble from Zambales would be performing here at the Ateneo de Madrid.”
Established in 1820, the Ateneo de Madrid is private cultural institution for men of letters and served as a forum for liberal ideas of the 19th century, and where Jose Rizal would watch theater and musical performances, poetry recitals and book launchings. It was also where he learned English.
As part of the Spanish leg of their European tour, the Pundaquit Virtuosi String Ensemble also performed at the Palacio de la Capitanía General in Barcelona on 20 June 2019 to a crowd of around 150 military personnel and Consular Corps for the joint celebration of the 121st Anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence and the 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day.
On 22 June 2019, the Pundaquit Virtuosi String Ensemble visited the public school IES Jaime Veira in Madrid to hold a workshop with young music students currently being trained by the non-profit Accion Social por la Música. Much like Casa San Miguel, the latter seeks to uplift the lives of children through musical education. Based in Tetuan, where most Filipinos are concentrated, some of its students are also members of the Filipino Community in Madrid.
The Pundaquit Virtuosi String Ensemble’s European Tour is organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with Philippine Embassies, as part of its Cultural Diplomacy efforts.