Music is Magic, Medicine is Expensive

Last week in Estancia was one of the best weeks I have ever experienced in my life. So many prayers answered and being around creative energy, music and friendship — just wonderful.

Two concerts in one afternoon! Here’s some footage from the first concert held in Purok Quatro, Barangay Botongon, Estancia.

How many times have I walked the muddy paths at the back of purok quatro and purok singko in Bontongon Estancia, imagining ways to help the kids — especially the young people with disabilities who are rarely allowed to leave the house? And suddenly 4 amazing people from the UK take time off work, give their creative energy, and personal savings to bring live concerts to these people.

It been very moving. I can’t thank you enough and I miss you all.

Here I am holding 6 year old Shairy Villacote, a little girl I have been sponsoring since she was 4 months old. A few moments later I helped her tiny hands play some high notes as David ran a beautiful base melody. Helped along by his new fan  — little Joy Joy of Purok Singko, Botongon.

The dedication of the volunteers was inspiring — because anyone who knows me, knows exactly what a task-master I can be. But they happily wandered into the muddy back alleys of Botongon (after running both morning and afternoon sessions at the schools) and delivered not one — but two concerts for the people directly outside their homes.

And I really did feel a bit guilty when David sighed ‘you’re joking‘ when I told everyone we were going to do another whole concert in the next muddy venue. Guys if you are reading this, I hope you know how much I appreciated every single one of you coming along, performing, carrying the gear, and buying stuff from the home sari-sari stores to give the locals a little income boost — all to help the people I love so much.

This is something those people, and I, will never forget in our whole lives.

And also a great big thanks to our local volunteer Rivie who carried, ran, lifted, videoed and sang his heart out too.

Look at the radiance of Apple Rose (playing alongside David), all the children and David’s new mini-fan Joy Joy — whom I spotted as we walked past her house. I have discovered since then, she is a cousin of my own adopted son Jerry.

Joy Joy lived up to her name and was the cause of delight for all of us, renewing an exhausted David to perform a few more songs. But I think he was also fuelled on by the enthusiasm of the kids, their parents, their grandparents, brothers, uncles, and cousins, who emerged as the music spilled down over bamboo huts, rice farms, and wet laundry.

I did chuckle when the women fiercely set to work on the younger men to carry our gear down to the road — after the concert had finished. Don’t mess with the women of Botongon.

David and the team wrap up the second concert (held in Purok Singko) but little Joy Joy steals the show.

Free Medical Mission

As wonderful as the Music Man Project has been for the children of Botongon, I don’t want it to overshadow another fantastic program my friend Cathy Greenwood organised for the people of the Estanica. A free medical mission.

Imagine the fundraising and co-ordination it took for Cathy (a highly qualified nurse from the Uk — specialising in community health) to arrange a medical mission with a group of Filipino doctors, nurses, optometrists and senior medical students. All before she arrived.

On Saturday morning (15th Feb) Cathy woke up early to be on hand for the medical mission. Any resident of Estancia was allowed admission free of charge — to receive a checkup, medication, vitamins, and treatment.

I was delighted when she told me that my sponsored families could all attend and have priority. You can see from the photos transporting people to and from the mission, that riding with Uncle Bob in the air-conditioned van was almost as exciting as the bags of free medication and pharmacy prescriptions.

Check out my sponsored kids and their mums (above) on the way to the free medical mission. There were a couple of mixups with the address but it all worked out in the end. Medicine is expensive no matter where you are in the world — add to that transport costs, fuel, fares, and the time away from work and domestic duties. So it was wonderful for the people to be able to access this free service.

Thank you Cathy and Daunton.

Concert Finale in Botongon

On the same Saturday that Cathy and her team of medical practitioners were helping the local people, the rest of the volunteers were setting up for the Concert Finale. A performance by the children in Botongon’s gym plaza — and the whole community was invited.

Hundreds turned out to watch.

The kids started arriving from about 3.30pm and like all things in the Philippines — got underway in it’s own time with little regard for the printed programs. By the time the concert actually started the sun had fallen away and the kids were getting restless. But nobody seemed to notice — in the Philippines (no matter how late it is) there is always plenty of time for formal introductions and for VIP guests to all give an energetic speech.

I could rabbit on for pages and pages about how great it was, but I’m sure I’ll never find the words to properly describe an 11 year old girl, blind from birth who got up and sang an improvised solo in front of the whole crowd. Or the VIP guests hand in hand with the children, dancing and doing the actions to the songs. Or the 25 doctors, nurses, and senior medical staff who all arrived after working the whole day in the medical mission — clapping along and taking selfies with the performers.

Please watch the videos in my post Music Man Project Philippines — Inaugral Concert for Botongon which displays the full concert. Not only are the videos incredibly moving and emotive — they are a heap of fun too. Have a quick peek below.

PS: And be sure to check out David’sBotongon Song’, written for the school. Botongon is an incredibly hard word for foreigners to say, but David shouted it out with such enthusiasm during the concert — knowing full well it was rubbish — that everyone in the crowd was enlivened by his efforts (especially the children). And I feel his pain because even after 6 years I still can’t say it properly.

Becoming Music Man Project Philippines Director

Toward the end of the concert I was thrilled to be gifted the music equipment that Cathy, Daunton, and their fundraising team had spent more than 6 months of campaigning to buy. And Mr David Stanley has made me an official member of the Music Man Project — launching The Music Man Project Philippines with me as its director.

This is my prayers and dreams come true all at once. Now I have a fully weighted 88-key portable keyboard, stand, PLUS percussion instruments for 38 kids. Combined with my own amp, microphones, leads, my stunning Gidgee Guitar, and a team of local volunteers on the ground — I’m all set to take Music and Magic all over the Philippines. Starting in March.

PS: If you are on Facebook, get over there right now and like our new page — and tell your friends about us too.

Feeling overwhelmed as David announces the launch of the Music Man Project Philippines. Botongon Elementary School Teacher Elbern has already reserved the instruments and backing tracks for the Grade 6 Graduation next month. So we’re already underway.

Meeting the UK volunteers (David, Paul, Daunton, Cathy) was like catching up with friends I’d known my whole life. It was incredible how easily we all fell into working with one another — and Jerry and I both cried a few little buckets as we rode back to Iloilo City.

I feel certain we’ll lure them all back to the Philippines in years to come — maybe we’ll even teach David how to say BOTONGON. I’d better start practicing.

The concert begins in Botongon Gym Plaza.

Photo credit:

Many of the photos and video shared in this post are the property of Mr Daunton Todd and Mr Paul Cudby, United Kingdom. Please do not use any images or video without permission and proper acknowledgement.

Full concert for Botongon:

Watch the full community concert for Botongon — held 15 February 2020 in the Botongon Gym Plaza.

Music and Medicine Team Botongon:

  • Mr David Stanley — CEO and founder of the Music Man Project. Performer, composer, music teacher and instructor.
  • Ms Catherine Greenwood — chief fundraiser, administration and travel organiser, treasurer, co-ordinator Medical Mission.
  • Mr Daunton Todd — fundraiser, Music Man Project and Medical Mission volunteer.
  • Mr Paul Cudby — Music Man Project volunteer and teaching aide.
  • Mr Rivie Pagran — Music Man Project volunteer, personal assistant, and keyboard carrier.
  • Uncle Bob — driver and navigator.
  • Mr Elbern Deatras Robiso — school and concert co-ordinator.
  • Mrs Rowena Plancencia — local co-ordinator and government liaison officer and my BFF.
  • Mrs Emelyn Villacote — chef, tour guide, helper and nanny to Jerry.
  • Melinda J. Irvine — (me) local co-ordinator, newly appointed Music Man Project Philippines Director.
From left to right: Rivie, David, Cathy, Elbern, Mel, Paul, Daunton.
Children, Giving Back, Music

Written by Melinda J. Irvine

Melinda J. Irvine is a professional writer, small business owner, and daily blogger — helping real people like you find their voice and share their burning message with the world (and their employees). In her spare time, Mel is busy building (and writing) a free online learning centre for the marginalised kids of Estancia, Philippines.

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