In a small music room in Tondo, Manila, violin music fills the air as kids, some not even three feet tall, go through their scales. Over the noise of students practicing, the familiar melody of Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” played on a violin could be distinctly heard.
The music comes from the violin of nine-year-old Enrico Louise Tobias, a grade 3 student of the Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Education (CENTEX) Manila. With ease, he plays Pink’s top hit on his violin, with just a few mistakes. As he is showered with praises, the boy laughs.
“I heard it on the radio,” he confesses and starts playing again.
Enrico is one of the 21 violin and 2 cello students of CENTEX’s After Hours Music Program, a regular music program under the guidance of acclaimed Filipino violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata. Also serving as mentors to the CENTEX students are members of the Pundaquit Virtuosi, the resident string ensemble of CASA San Miguel Foundation, an artist-run initiative established by Coke Bolipata to integrate culture and community development in Zambales.
Enrico recently joined his classmates at the CASA San Miguel Foundation for their third music recital. The 23 young musicians have been practicing with Coke for the past three years, and they have shown remarkable improvements.
Enrico has grown to love playing the violin, and has recently moved from using a ¾-sized violin to a full-sized one. It may be a little big for him, but as he uses it, he looks like he has gotten the hang of it.
“I practice eight times a week,” Enrico shares after successfully performing his assigned pieces during the music recital. Enrico’s pieces during the recital were Minuet 1, 2, and 3 pieces from the Suzuki volume 1 for Violin.
Enrico’s mother, Aleni, a-stay-at-home mom, confirms that her son has grown to love playing the violin, adding that she often catches her son teaching his cousins how to play the violin too. Enrico has grown so fond of playing the violin that the family was forced to buy his latest full-sized violin in preparation for the music recital at CASA San Miguel in Zambales. Even from a surplus shop, the full-sized violin cost them PhP8,000—a big expense for the family, since Enrico Senior works as an on-call mechanic. But seeing their son perform so well during the music recital the purchase was well worth it.
“We’re very proud,” says Enrico’s mother.
Enrico recently discovered that he could pick up music he heard and liked and play them on his violin. Just like Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” he practiced how to play “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from the popular animated film Frozen on his own.
“He just hears the songs on the radio or on TV. And after hearing them a few times, he just begins to play them on the violin,” shares Aleni.
The After Hours Music program aims to nurture the musical talent of CENTEX Manila students. Under Coke Bolipata and other mentors from CASA San Miguel, students attend weekly classes so they can learn to read notes, play various classical pieces on their instruments, and steadily advance in their craft.
Through the guidance of mentors from CASA San Miguel, Enrico has learned how to read notes and has learned several Suzuki pieces and several children’s songs and other classical and popular pieces such as “Ode to Joy,” The Turtles’ “Happy Together,” “Bahay Kubo,” and “Leron, Leron Sinta.”
Enrico hopes to continue to play the violin and teach others to play it as well. Aside from teaching his cousins, Enrico has also started teaching some of his CENTEX classmates how to play the violin as well. He dreams to become a great violinist one day, just like Coke Bolipata.
And his other dream?
“I want to be an engineer that builds buildings!” says Enrico.
Enrico is just one of the 997 students of CENTEX with big dreams for themselves, their families, and even the country. Established in 1998, CENTEX is one of Ayala Foundation’s Education projects, and it is run in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), corporate sponsors, the City Government of Manila and the Provincial Government of Batangas. It aims to provide bright but economically disadvantaged children with an education equal to that of the best private schools in the country.
CENTEX believes in improving the physical, financial, and human resources of an ordinary public school and seeks to be a model for private and government partnership. There are currently two CENTEX schools in the Philippines—one in Tondo, Manila, and another in Bauan, Batangas.
“The After Hours Music program has been a very important program of CENTEX and we are very thankful for the support and guidance Coke and CASA San Miguel has given to our students. Music and the arts are very important to the growth and development of children, and we have seen their positive effects on our students, especially in learning and the ability to work well with a team,” says Luli Heras-de Leon, President of Ayala Foundation.
CENTEX recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. To date, a total of 1,106 students have graduated from both CENTEX schools, with a record of 95-percent elementary cohort survival rate, or the rate of grade one students who complete their elementary education.