When people started arriving at the UST Museum some 30 minutes before the concert of inggô 1587, on March 15, 2019, people who came seemed to know each other that even before they would find their seats, they would first look around as if scouring for a familiar face, and when they do, their faces lighten up and they exchange ‘Hi’s’ and ‘Hello’s.’
In an audience of mixed age groups, the excitement to hear the music of these seven Dominican friars was palpable inside the Gallery of the UST Museum. When the lights went off, the three TV monitors took on the job: they showed videos of the advocacies of the singing Dominicans, including the happy faces of the young beneficiaries of the Camiguin de Babuyanes in the far north of the Philippines. There were video clips that show other projects that the Dominican Fathers are engaged in. Nostalgia filled the air when video snippets showed them in their previous concerts which were mostly fund-raising gigs together with their audience or ‘fans’ and everybody was just having a good time… just having a good time… and so were these men in white who were evangelizing through their music.
Then, the concert began.
Garbed in their white Dominican habits, the seven singing priests claimed center stage: Fr. Isidro (Fr. Didoy) Abaño, O.P., flutist; Fr. Giuseppe (Fr. Jepoy) Arsciwals, O.P., keyboardist; Fr. Filemon (Fr. Deng) dela Cruz, Jr., O.P., drummer; Fr. Napoleon (Fr. Nap) Encarnacion, O.P., vocalist and percussionist; Fr. Oscar Novem (Fr. Auckhs) Enjaynes, O.P., lead guitarist; Fr. Jose Martin (Fr. Joemar) Sibug, O.P., rhythm guitarist; and Fr. Dennis (Fr. Dennis) Maquiraya, O.P., bass guitarist.
In between performances were spiels. And the banter among the performers was casual, humorous and natural, after all, they are brothers. This connected them more to their audience. They joked about their looks 20 years after they first performed in the same venue,
the UST Museum.
In 1998, a group of seven young priests who loved music formed a band in the hope that through their songs, they would be able to “communicate God’s healing Word to a world wounded by division, and that they (listeners to their music) would also be touched the way that they (inggô members) were touched. They called themselves “inggô 1587” a Filipino nickname for one named Domingo, which is the name of the founder of the Dominican Order, Santo Domingo de Guzman. The “1587”in the band’s name is the year that the Dominicans set foot on Philippine soil. Serious as they were in the craft and mission of being a ‘preaching band,’ they would meet once a week to rehearse despite the fact that they would come from different places such as Laguna, where Fr. Dennis was director of aspirants.
And theirs is a story of mission and persuasion.
Their love for playing music as a band and writing their songs inspired by the gospel have resulted in fund-raising concerts, particularly to build churches, and from their album sales, to help support the education of seminarians.
The band has produced two albums, the first was a self-titled album in 2002 and the second was Lead Me On, produced in 2017. The latter won the Best Inspirational Album award in the 2018 Catholic Mass Media Awards.
Although most of the songs in the band’s repertoire are gospel music, they also sing pop, R&B, OPM, the one that means ‘Original Pilipino Music’ (because in the inggô 1587 parlance, OPM stands for OPMusik, their music label) and their original compositions. The
secular songs that they perform are those that inspire and convey a positive message.
For almost two hours, on that Friday evening at the UST Museum, friends and followers of inggô 1587 listened to them and sang with them, too, particularly when Fr. Jepoy and Fr. Nap prodded them. The audience was just as thrilled to oblige. Arms were swaying, hands were clapping and audience’s voices were reverberating with gusto. The audience knew inggô songs by heart.
Some of the evening’s songs included ‘This is the Day,’ ‘Kailan Lamang,’’ Nothing Can Separate Us,’ ‘Sing Hallelujah,’ ‘Lead Me On,’ ‘I’ll Always Be There,’ ‘Hanggang sa Dulo,’ and the finale, rather the encore song, ‘Friend of God.’ But Fr. Nap’s rendition of the 1967 Bee Gees hit song ‘To Love Somebody’ brought the house down, especially when he went to the audience making them sing the part ‘…to love somebody…to love somebody… the way I love you.’
The concert, according to the invitation, was a ‘Thanksgiving Concert.’ The singing men in cloth decided to hold this concert 20 years later in the same venue to thank their followers. Maybe, their solid followers, particularly those from UST, were just as thankful. It has been a while since they performed to their Thomasian fans. That evening was not only a musical experience, it was also a realization that evangelization through music is possible. And that is what inggô 1587 concerts are all about.