Coke was born into a family of artists. His eldest brother Jed plays the piano. Chino plays the cello. Plet is a painter. Rica is a writer. Only Non chose another path – law.
The young Coke first picked up the violin at age 7. He won competitions at 11, and soon after attended the Juilliard School in New York. He then joined a rural residency that went from town to town in New York and San Francisco, part of a program aimed to expose small communities to arts and culture – a concept he brought home to the Philippines.
In 1993, after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, he turned the Bolipata family’s 15-hectare mango orchard to a school and museum. He called it Casa San Miguel, first teaching his students under mango trees before the classrooms and studios were built. Today, the sons and daughters of fishermen and farmers learn art and music side by side with aspiring young artists.
In spite of the stroke he suffered in 2014, Coke continues to play the violin surrounded by the greenery of Casa San Miguel, mentoring his students, telling stories and giving room to young artists looking for a space where music can sing.