Music in Mansion


Jullie Y. Daza

It took New Yorker Lin Bildner for me to gain entry into the polish and gleam of the newly restored Goldenberg Mansion, part of the Malacañang estate, and see what a lovely gem it has been since its last glorious days under a Marcos Sr. administration.

What serendipity it was, for Lin’s niece, Mariel Ilusorio, to recall that Mariel’s piano teacher was none other than Stella Goldenberg Brimo, whose family lived in that mansion long ago. That Wednesday afternoon, Mariel would be performing at a concert with her fiancé and partner, Abelardo Galang II, for which the mansion was the venue chosen by the Philippine Ambassadors’ Ladies Association.

In and by itself, the story of Mariel and Abel sounds like a serendipitous tale. They both studied music in Germany, but while she was in Hanover, he was in Berlin, so never did the twain meet. Not until they came back to the Philippines. For five years Abel was steeped in research into the kundiman, “there were no sources, no materials available.” Meanwhile, Mariel was teaching piano, concertizing, pushing for chamber music. As part of her mission, Mariel precedes every performance with a mini-introduction to the piece she will be playing, its composer and history or at the very least, its character or personality as informed by its environment.

Wednesday’s special guest was First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, the same lady who has restored/renovated/refurbished four – at last count – of the woefully neglected mansions or houses around Malacañang Palace. (President BBM and the First Lady stay not in the big white palace but in Bahay Pangulo. The boys – “Sandro is 30” – have their own digs.)

With the Ambassadors’ Ladies playing host, the merienda musicale could not help but hit the right notes. A grand piano, one of 10 residing in the mansion, sat at one end of the hall. Under brilliant chandeliers, the guests sipped their tea, coffee, or wine. Once the tables were cleared, the Mariel-Abel tandem began their performance: Grieg, Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Dvorak. As expected, their rendition of three Filipino folksongs arranged by Augusto Espinio was the crowd favorite, in particular “Leron Leron Sinta.” I was secretly wishing for “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit,” anyway there’s still 22 days to Christmas.