When I was a grade school student, I was a member of the grade school rondalla from Grades 4 to 7. One of the key benefits I remember was that it got me out of music and work education classes, at least until Grade 6. The main key benefit was that I developed a love for music, particularly performing with a group.
The rondalla's teacher for the time that I was there was Mr. Charlie Valencia. He was, for me, the grade school version of the high school's Mr. Pagsanghan, in the sense that both were (and in Mr. Pagsi's case, is) passionate about teaching valuable skills and life lessons to their students. It was through Mr. Valencia that I learned to work together with a group, by playing my assigned instrument (first, the banduria, then the bells, sort of like a more intricate xylophone) alongside a host of other performers, creating harmonious melodies.
Mr. Valencia also expanded the rondalla beyond the string ensemble concept, adding various instruments, such as the jew's (?) harp, bamboo sticks, and the notched gourd (I'm not sure what this was actually called, though. Running a stick over it produced a squeaky, duck-like sound).
I remember playing such tunes as the theme from "Star Wars" to Filipino folk melodies such as "Pamulinawen". I remember how Mr. Valencia would painstakingly tune each member's instrument. I also remember how Mr. Valencia would emphatically conduct us through each performance. When I was in Grade 6, I remember performing in the Maryknoll (now Miriam) College auditorium, and I remember how Mr. Valencia's long tassel of hair came down as we got to the climax of the "Star Wars" theme.
I also remember how he always exhorted us to perform to our very best, and always expected us to do our best.
By the time Mr. Valencia retired, the rondalla had already folded, and all that remains of that era in the grade school are several pictures and the remains of the marimba, which can be found the grade school's heritage room.
I last saw Mr. Valencia when I was on exchange, teaching at the grade school four years ago. There was an event for retirees, and he was there. I managed to greet him, and thank him for having trained me.
It was a bit of a shock to open my Facebook page, and see pictures of him in an album entitled "In memoriam". Mr. Charlie Valencia had passed away.
Requiem, Sir Charlie. It was an honor having performed under your expert care.