Heard on High
It’s not Christmas without this age-old Ecosoc tradition
By Jessica Manipon, IV BS Economics

It was a cold night as it always was during this time of year. For some Ecosocers who volunteered for caroling, this also signified a solemn night of singing. As the Ecosoc Choir readied themselves with red folders in their hands, the family patiently and enthusiastically watched. The piano started to play. From the choir, a voice began to proclaim, “We are the UP Economics Society…”

Thus began the most lifting Ecosoc experience of December.

Of course, this experience is the caroling, done every year to raise funds for the Economics Society Scholarship Fund, or the ESSF. Ecosocers volunteer to be part of the Ecosoc Choir. Letters of donation are distributed to families, alumni, and generous people who wish to be caroled to. While it may seem like just another Ecosoc fundraising event, it is one of those experiences an Ecosocer would remember most, partly because it embodies the three thrusts—service, excellence, and tradition—but mostly because the stories behind Ecosoc caroling are simply precious.

Excellence in Preparation

The plain truth is, Ecosocers are economics majors, not music majors nor full-time singers. We have other responsibilities, so singing in a choir may seem merely a hobby rather than something we can master. However, this hobby, coupled with a little dedicated practice, can go a long way.

Sign-ups for caroling usually start early in the second semester while practices begin November. This is organized by the vice president, who this year is Sel Ortiga. For this holiday season however, practices and sign-ups were fewer than previous years, mostly due to exams and an unusual lack of participation from this semester’s applicants. Nevertheless, Paolo Tamase, president and head conductor for this year’s caroling, pushed through, even adding two new Filipino Christmas songs to the usual song line-up. In fact, the total songs sung this year was eight (including the “thank you” song). Compare this to the seven last year and the five the year before that. This, Paolo explained, was an effort to make themselves more deserving of the donations the Society will be receiving.

Practices were held thrice a week in the tambayan from 4 p.m. to around 6 p.m. The Choir was divided into four voices—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Noteworthy for this year is the inclusion of a piano accompaniment, played by Paolo Tamase himself. Ecosocers made sure every cent to be donated was worth every minute listened to.

During the first day of caroling, the Choir was admittedly quite rusty as they were still getting warmed up to performing. But by the second day, they were hitting those notes more easily and smoothly, showing that all the hard work had paid off. Nevertheless, the Ecosoc Choir knows that they are no UP Concert Chorus or Madrigal Singers. But for a bunch of economics students who only practiced for a few weeks, the verdict of the listeners is more than satisfactory. As one guest said to a member of the Choir after their performance, “In my whole career as an economist, I have never heard fellow economists who can sing like that.”

That was more than enough a compliment for the Choir.

Service in Facts and Figures

Again, all of these are for the ESSF. Without the scholars, there would not be an Ecosoc caroling. The Ecosoc Choir sang more songs and put in more effort this year to raise more money for the ESSF, and that they did—the figures are there to prove it. The total net profit from four days of caroling was just over P100,000. Caroling for 3 to 4 houses every night, the earnings of the first two days alone already surpassed the earnings from 2009 and even more so from 2008.

One hundred thousand pesos—that is an unbelievable amount for a non-professional choir. And to claim to have given that amount to ESSF even without being necessarily part of the Task Force committee, the Ecosoc Choir is immensely proud.

The third day was when the most amount of earnings came, primarily from the visit to the home of the president of Asian Development Bank, where a small despedida party was held for an ADB director. The Ecosoc Choir was privileged enough to sing in front diplomats and directors from the ADB. While it was a mostly nerve-wracking experience, the Ecosoc Choir proved that they can impress even the most distinguished economists in Asia. After the Choir’s performance, a bag was passed around wherein the guests could donate money, a deed which was initiated by the homeowner herself. The ADB president and his guests mingled with the Choir afterwards; some members can actually claim that they shook hands with the ADB president!

However, acts of service go beyond the money earned—it is in the unconditional sacrifice and selflessness and the Ecosoc Choir has embodied these even way before. In fact, during the Marcos regime, Ecosoc carolers were detained in military camps for breaching the 1 a.m. curfew, and after being released at 12 noon, they would carol again the next night. That is devotion and bravery amidst adversaries, and service at its utmost. But without the Martial Law or curfews, does that mean the Ecosoc Choir today serves less?

Traffic and time are the major adversaries faced nowadays by the Choir. Those may not be much compared to abusive soldiers, but what the Ecosoc Choir does is service nonetheless. From the perpetual traffic of the South to the craziness that is Commonwealth, it is no joke travelling around the metro from rush hour to the wee hours of the night. It takes a lot of patience, determination, and money to get to their destinations. For the carolers, their sacrifice is the four nights of their Christmas break. They could have easily chosen not to go and spend those nights somewhere else with someone else, but they chose to spend it with the Choir singing for the scholars.

Tradition of Lasting Memories

At the back of their heads, Ecosoc carolers all know what caroling really is besides fundraising—singing, eating, and fun.

Christmas caroling is a vital part of the Christmas season, and singing Christmas songs are simply more enjoyable when you’re with your friends, especially all the catchy (“Gumising” and “Pasko Na” are favorites) and heartwarming (“Pasko Na, Sinta Ko” is an Ecosoc caroling classic) carols.

Of course, every Ecosoc caroler knows about the eating. Every house that has been caroled to serves a variety of food (including pasta, pastries, and more) after the carolers had sung, and it was certainly rude not to eat. Imagine singing then eating and doing it again for two hours or so. Admittedly, it is fattening, but the carolers know better than to ignore delicious food when it is served.

Not only does the Choir get to travel and discover Metro Manila, they also get to visit houses of fellow Ecosocers, alumni and other personalities (e.g. Ma’am Stella Quimbo and the ADB president) and look at pictures and meet their families. Ecosoc caroling is a good way of knowing not just them but fellow carolers as well. From weeks of practices, singing, chatting, gossiping during car rides, eating together, and spending four long nights with almost the same group of people, Ecosoc caroling is a great way to bond. Truly, the Christmas of Ecosoc as an organization would not be complete without it.

All of these make those four nights of caroling worth it. These make the Ecosoc caroling experience more than just a fundraising event—it becomes an expression of our Christmas spirit and more importantly, an agency of service, excellence, and tradition.

This article is a feature from Echoes, the official publication of the UP Economics Society.  

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