Singing solely to spread the gospel has never sounded or looked so good, but that's exactly what the Bukas Palad Music Ministry does. Fact is, even if they don't compete or do any of the high profile activities other professional chorales do, ask people if they've ever heard of songs like "Tanging Yaman" or "Sa 'Yo Lamang", and they're bound to sing a few verses.
Church choirs on a nationwide scale have been singing Bukas Palad's songs for over a decade now. One song in particular, "Hindi Kita Malilimutan", was even popularized by balladeer Basil Valdez.
According to a member of Bukas Palad, Reggie Regala, their group isn't as much into the commercial side of singing and performing as the other chorales. Although they have had their share of appearances as guest performers at well-known concert venues, they consider their singing an apostolate---deriving joy from touching lives more than from achieving popular success.
The beginnings of Bukas Palad started way back in June 7, 1986, when there were only nine members of what was then the Ateneo Christian Life Community (ACLC) and Ateneo Student Catholic Action (ATSCA) Choir. It was only in 1990, when they recorded their second album, that they were officially launched as the "Bukas Palad Music Ministry". Truth of the matter is, their name was taken from one of the album's songs "Pananalangin sa Pagiging Bukas Palad", a tagalog translation of St. Ignatius of Loyola's "Prayer for Generosity".
From a tight group of nine, Bukas Palad is now comprised of around 80 college students and young professionals. In an interview with a few of the group's members, Palan Reyes disclosed that although not all members are currently active, they still support the group's projects---from concerts and recordings, to rehearsals or just plain gatherings as close friends.
"It's an apostolate for us, a personal commitment. We come from different backgrounds and we are busy with our own different professions. But those who aren't as active as before still find time to be with the group. Nobody really leaves Bukas Palad," Reyes said.
Far different from the likes of the structured professional repertories of the University of the Philippines or De La Salle University, Bukas Palad members admitted to, rather proudly, being a loose and informal group. They have their share of rehearsals (which are said to be as informal as any rehearsal can get), business meetings, and funding for concerts and outreach programs just like the other groups. Through the years, Bukas Palad has also successfully endured four scholastic generations.
Their unique, close-knit bond undoubtedly transcends the normal "lifespan" of the more popular groups. Maybe it's the familiar ease which each member shows toward the other, or the common interest and roots they shared in the Ateneo. Or, their camaraderie has something to do with the group's touching experience with the coma-ridden wife of a friend. She awoke from her unconscious state with tears in her eyes after hearing the group sing one particular song.
Whatever the reason, Bukas Palad is touching people's lives with their music. With 13 years of performing all over the country and eight albums under their belt (including their most recent release "Pasko Na!" distributed by BMG Pilipinas and which to date, has been sold out), the group has proven that there is, indeed, an audience for liturgical music. Bukas Palad is one of the major influences from where choirs nationwide draw their musical inspiration from.
Tagging their "sound of music" as eclectic liturgical, one of Bukas Palad's musical arrangers, Gino Torres, said they try to explore different musical genres and not just limit themselves to one. This is why their music is an interesting combination of the different rythms of soul, gospel, pop, jazz and broadway. The group's conscious effort to make music more appealing to the youth started when kundiman-type liturgical music was causing people to shift religious beliefs, to where the music was more upbeat and "alive".
"The kundiman music which appealed more to our parents was not doing much to keep people in the Catholic faith. Our idea then was to make liturgical music more popular, to make the sound more 'today'," Torres said.
Slowly but surely, Bukas Palad has come a long way. From being Ateneo's ACLC and ATSCA Choir to BMG Pilipinas' gold mine when it comes to praise music. Although not as commercialized as the likes of Gary Valenciano and Regine Velasquez, the record label still added Bukas Palad to their roster of talents because of their steady following.
Explaining the group's and their songs' growing popularity, founding member Norman Agatep said, "It's the songs' ability to reflect the sentiments of today's congregation in terms of sound, message and language."
Torres also aptly captured the group's sentiments regarding their apostolate. "As the art (of music) is immortalized in our songs, we become instrumental to that immortalization. In touching peoples lives, we are able to live up to our calling as a music ministry."
About the Author: Karla Gae L. Pascua is a senior copywriter at Agatep Associates, Inc., one of the country's leading public relations agencies. Pascua has been writing professionally for over a decade, seven years of which were under the stewardship of the industry's acknowledged father of public relations, former UST professor, and journalism textbook author, Charlie Agatep.Source: www.isnare.com