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La Leonor Kilayko

How can one protect a national cultural living treasure from the Kung Flu that is now devastating once again its deadly fangs on the global scene? I just had to invite her for lunch alone at home so that proper social distancing could be observed and our conversation could be held in mute reverent tones, although our subjects ranged from the sublime to the salacious.

Much has been written and spoken on Leonor Kilayko. But rarely has she spoken on her personal life’s secrets. Well, I was able to squeeze some juicy anecdotes from her musical education which ranged from the Big Apple, New York to her German strict disciplinarian training which almost lasted for 20 years. Now ensconced in her personal retreat at the family home in Talisay, Negros Occidental this concert pianist keeps herself busy between her daily rehearsals and gardening. Her only love has been the piano and always will be. Although, of course, there were numerous attempts to steal her virginity away. Schooled in America and Europe in the 60’s and 70’s when Filipinos were rare and exotic, our young talented pianist had to fend her way alone from overeager suitors who had lascivious interests more than musical.

One on one lunch interview with La Leonor*

Our ivory keyed prodigy grew up in that much protected environment of convent schools and strict, conservative families. Although she went into the scene when “free love” and “flower power” were the social pegs of the times, she still stuck to her musical studies and would brave the cold winters walking from hours of dexterity practice to her adopted homes where she was under strict observation. No socials, except for concerts and lectures, la Leonor was no easy prey for libertarians out for a quickie. She even lost her chance to enter a most prestigious series of piano competitions in Brussels, Munich and Geneva because of her refusal for a good night kiss to an ardent professor. Our chaste piano diva appreciated much her two years in New York under the tutelage of Madame Olga and quickly retorts, “I didn’t go to New York to sleep around nor flirt. Until now, I don’t know how to flirt!”

Heavenly Truffled Risotto from My Little Truffle; Angus Primerib steak from Bob’s Deli; Fresh Arugula salad from Annabelle Villanueva’s garden; and Maayo Farms’ Grand Marnier Bundt cake*

Much family anecdotes flowed as we breezed through my lunch menu composed of the best Prime Rib Angus steak I could find at Bob’s Deli, the truffled risotto done by Isabel Legarde Golez of Little Miss Truffle (I never liked risotto until I had a spoonful of this rich, creamy and pungent delight) a fresh salad of Stateside arugula greens from Annabelle Villanueva’s herb garden (the European variety makes me feel like I’m a horse laid out to pasture) topped off with a sinful delicious Grand Marnier Bundt cake done by Maayo Farms’ sister kitchen. Accompanied by a bottle and a half of Chateau Rothschild red wine, we giggled and reminisced over our parents’ intimacy from our mothers’ daily mahjong sessions to our fathers’ schoolboy recollections and whispers of fortunes made from Iloilo’s wheelers and dealers.

Rosal blooms centerpiece for our piano diva*

Hopefully, the viral attacks of Kung Flu won’t deprive us of a planned intimate concert by Leonor on April 24 in her Talisay residence composed of a programme of  Robert Schumann’s “Kinderszenen Op. 15” and “Carnaval Op. 9” punctuated by Frederic Chopin’s 2 “Ballades”. I wonder which ballade she will handle since the general order of the least difficult to most difficult is numbers 3-1-2-4. These ballades are the most perfect examples of Chopin’s instinctive sense of musical shape and tonal organisation of which Kilayko’s Germanic discipline will surely come to play. She will dedicate this concert in thanksgiving for the blessings of father Raming Ciocon Kilayko’s 12th death anniversary. We’re also crossing our fingers that her grand concert Steinway piano would have arrived from New York by then!

As our piano wunderkind quotes Schiller, “ There’s something mysterious in the effect of music, that it moves our inner self, so that it becomes a means of connection between two worlds. We feel ourselves enlarged, uplifted, rapt—what is that called other than in the domain of Nature, drawn to God? Music is a higher, finger language than words. In the moments, where every utterance of the uplifted soul seems too weak, where it despairs of conceiving more elegant words, there the musical art begins. From the outset, all song has this basis….”

MY PRAYER: For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3, NIV*

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