I started singing when I was 2 years old, and since then, my life revolved around music and singing. My closest family and friends have seen my passion and dedication as a chorister, as a conductor, and as a teacher to young children. I trained hard, performed well, and taught purposefully. I was UNSTOPPABLE...until I got pregnant. I lost that one thing that made my life exceptionally beautiful and extra meaningful, that one thing that enabled me to make music, that one thing that allowed me to express the language of my heart -- my voice.
I grew up attending Sunday services with my entire family in Ellinwood Malate Church where music, whether played or sung, is always remarkable. At an early age, I was already exposed to period music and enjoyed listening (and even singing along) to Handel’s “Messiah” every Christmas and Mozart’s “Requiem,” come the Holy week. My grandparents were wonderful singers, too, and my parents were part of the choir. They thought it would be great if they’d get me to sing in the choir as well, and it was one of the best decisions my parents made for me. At 6 years old, the musician in me was born.
At around 8, while other kids were singing and dancing to popular songs, I was appreciating the very melodic “Ti Ayat Ti Meysa Nga Ubing” and singing it in a high voice while finishing up assignments at home. Throughout my school years, I performed, competed, and studied. I was lucky enough to go to St. Scholastica’s College Manila, where the music program is above par and be part of DLSU Chorale.
At 18, I was already conducting my first company choir. Just before I turned 20, I had my first European concert tour with the DLSU Chorale. After that, another concert tour came and then another in Korea, North America, and Canada. I also became one of the six people who represented the Philippines in the Asian Youth Choir where rehearsals and performances were held in Japan.
At 23, I auditioned for the Philippine Madrigal Singers. How I dreamt of sitting in that prestigious semi-circle, right at the center of it, singing my heart out! Pero sabi ko, parang imposible. After I sung, they told me right away that I made it and was asked to attend rehearsals, which happened to be an hour after I auditioned. December 8, 2003 was the day my life as a chorister became more meaningful.
The Madz, as we call the Philippine Madrigal Singers, on its own, is a school. While it sharpens your skills as a musician, it also defines your character as a person. In the Madz, being a good singer is not enough. Hard work, discipline, endurance, and willingness to learn are essential tools for you to survive.
When I entered the group, I was one of the few who wasn't music degree holders. So, I mastered the pieces ahead of time, took in instructions, and sang intelligently at may puso. Three months after I auditioned, they gave me a seat at the semi-circle. Shortly after, I found myself on a European concert tour, and we went home with a prize for winning a choral competition in Spain. I couldn’t believe it at first but the wish I made some years ago in college was happening!
In 2005, my mother died because of cancer. Music and singing rescued me and got me through the saddest days. A month after her death, I got into a relationship with Henry, my most masugid na manililigaw since college. Everything just got more beautiful since then.
After a year into our relationship, Henry asked me to marry him, and I said yes. But the Madz was set to embark on international tours and competitions for two years. The schedule just didn't have time for a wedding. I had to choose between getting married at 26 or competing. I chose the latter. Unstoppable, yes? Yes! #walangmakakapigil
After my schedule with Madz had settled down, Henry and I decided to get married in March 2009; we were 29 years old. We both wanted to have children right away. We still didn’t get lucky despite the preparations I made even before getting married. I was already under medication for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fertility. We had two courses of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) that both failed. We were trying to conceive for more than a year by this point, but we never gave up. In July of 2010, Henry and I decided to go through another course of IUI.
During this round of a month-long waiting game, Henry and I flew to Bacolod to attend a wedding. It was my first time at this church, so I prayed and wished for a child. Upon receiving communion, I knelt and quietly spoke to God. I couldn’t help but cry because I was about to offer Him that one thing I thought I could not live without -- my voice. Finally, my heart said it. I told God that I was willing to sacrifice my voice in exchange for a son or a daughter.
When we arrived in Manila, Henry and I went back to our usual routine. A week went by, and finally, it was time for me to take the test. I said a prayer and made that offering once again. Then, I did two different pregnancy tests, and after a few minutes, there it was -- two pink lines! I WAS PREGNANT! Immediately, I fell to my knees and thanked God for this miracle. I was overjoyed!
The following day I went to my ob-gyn to have myself checked. She confirmed that I was indeed pregnant, and we were having triplets! GOD GAVE US TRIPLETS!
Weeks passed, and it was finally time to check on the babies’ heartbeats. Baby number one was doing great, and so was baby number two. But baby number three was not. He did not have any heartbeat. After that check up, I was advised to do complete bed rest.
A few days after, as I was singing to my babies in the womb, I noticed a change in my voice. For some reason, I was having difficulties singing. Then it dawned on me that God indeed accepted my offering. I knew that it would only get worse. But I was with child, and nothing else could dampen my happiness!
And then I gave birth to my wonderful twins, Rafael and Leandro. Days after giving birth, my voice was still hoarse. Despite the extended period I gave for my body to adjust, my voice remained the same. It still sounded horrid, whether singing or speaking. And when I tried to sing a lullaby to my twins, nothing came out. I was so frustrated and upset, and I always ended up crying.
In my frustration, I sought help from the doctors. I went to them because I wanted an explanation why this was happening to me. I had my throat and vocal chords checked, and the doctor said it was in perfect condition. Instead of feeling better, I felt even worse because if my vocal chords were healthy and in good shape, then why couldn’t I sing? Then I thought I could just be rusty. So, I took voice therapy and voice lessons. Three months of lessons and there was no significant difference. Nothing. So, I went back to my ob-gyn and told her about what was happening. All she said to me was, “Slow down and just wait. Babalik yan. Maaaring hindi na tulad ng dati. Pero, babalik yan.”
That same evening, I was looking at my twins, and there, in front of me was the answer to all my questions. Right then and there, I realized that the reason why God has not given me my voice back was that He knew that if I had my voice in tip top shape, I’d probably spend more time singing than mothering. He knew, and He was right.
Since I was breastfeeding the twins, I spent most of my time at home. One morning, as I was browsing through baby activities, I stumbled upon that form of education that I use with my children now -- homeschooling. For months, I did nothing but read about homeschooling and researched about how it is done here in the Philippines. It kept my mind away from my dilemma on my voice. I attended seminars and talks here and there, and the more I listen to these homeschoolers, the more convinced I was to homeschool, my children. It became clearer to me that God did not need me to be out there singing or teaching. Other people were doing my job already, anyway.
Just before the twins turned one, I realized that my singing voice was starting to come back! I could already sing lullabies and nursery rhymes and I even found myself singing Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and many more songs in many different languages to my twins. I was so happy! Little by little, I eased my way into teaching my choirs again. While I was at it, I found out that I was pregnant again. And yes, I went through the same thing again. At that time, I said to myself, “Bakit ibinalik pa, kukunin din naman agad?” But this time I did not dwell on the situation so much because I know that God will give me another chance. He always does.
Fast forward to today. My twins are already 6 and my youngest, Andres, is already 4, and I homeschool all three of them. I feel that I am well-anchored already. My voice is back, but it’s nothing like how it sounded before. But I have enough to use for teaching. I guess God gave me back just the right amount of voice so He could use me the way He intends to do.
Here’s a song I’d like to share with you. May it keep you strong and faithful amidst the trials that you are facing. Always remember that God will deliver you from your trials and time will heal all wound and that everything heals better, with music.
God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind. So when you don’t understand, When you can’t see His plan, When you can’t trace His hand, Trust His heart.