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The Madwoman of Taliwood

That’s how I affectionately call world-renowned concert pianist Leonor Kilayko. I grew up hearing about her grand concerts in Manila and abroad, reading about it in the national newspapers only.

She seemed so distant and unapproachable, continuing her training in Germany after two years spent in New York. Yet, the constant barrage of her international concerts hugged the society pages of the Manila Bulletin, the Manila Times, and the Manila Chronicle. Leonor was definitely the darling of the Philippine press.

Our mutual love for classical music got us together here in Negros Island, when she decided to come back home to Talisay City for good. Since our mothers were mahjong mates (Mama avoided the high stakes being played elsewhere and would have sleepless nights when she would lose P30) and would see each other almost daily, we had a lot of common gossip to share. Mamá even gave Tita Carmen the moniker of “Joker Wall” since that was her favorite choice in the game, which stuck until she died. It was only these past years that Leonor and I got very close since we both share a European background.

Concert pianist Leonor Kilayko introduces her repertoire for the evening; right photo, Leonor in the souper after her concert with Vincent Stein and Christian Gonzales*

Interestingly enough, Tita Carmen Sian Kilayko was a Dela Rama heiress. Her great grandfather was the founder of the legendary Dela Rama Liner that opened up routes all the way to the US of A. Money was plentiful and the family enjoyed non-stop vacations in the ships’ international destinations. Don Esteban Dela Rama sired several children from different women and created quite a stir in Philippine society. His enormous fortune stretched on for several generations and women practically threw themselves for his pleasure, knowing that whoever bore his progeny would be well taken care of. Of course, another Dela Rama heiress, Minnie Osmeña, still hugs the social headlines up to now.

Leonor’s graduation recital in Manila*
Elegant full house crowd attends Leonor’s first concert*

La Leonor recently gave a concert at her mid-century moderne home in honour of her father, Raming Ciocon Kilayko’s 12th death anniversary that included a repertoire of Robert Schumann’s Kinderzennen Op. 15 and Carnaval Op.9, punctuated by Frederic Chopin’s 2 Ballades. I arrived at the gates of this architectural destination exactly 6 p.m. but due to her Germanic discipline, she was already playing when I got down the car. Together with my house guest from Cebu, iconic Lifestyle Editor and now consultant to several publications, Jacinto (Jing) Ramos, we decided to listen to her first piece out in the verandah so as not to bother the concentration of our concert pianist. She was wearing a floaty long gown made of the palest blue European lace and since we were literally a handful of invitees, decided to do away with her shoes and pedalled her Steinway piano on stockinged feet. I love Leonor’s eccentricities! When you are faced with a musical diva who has devoted her whole life to music and nothing else, one gets an elated feeling of having encountered an angel so that we could hear a bit of heaven here on earth.

Leonor’s dela Rama great grandmother would dress up in Oriental gear for their Japan trips*
Dela Rama relatives, the Osmeña’s shortly after jet setter Minnie O married Joselito Jacinto*

Emotionally flushed after her perfect renditions, Leonor quickly changed to a modern Philippine costume complete with bare midriff! Ahh, how unconventionally European can one get? She proceeded to host an intimate aprés concert souper with a Korean chef doing the noodle dish. As usual, I was terribly impressed with her masterful dexterity and precise tonality which only a German discipline could instil. It takes a Leonor to make a piano tinkle delightfully and at a twist connote sadness at the loss of a father. We ended the soirée with the promise of a new Steinway arriving soon from New York. Definitely, I’ll make time for more concerts in Taliwood.

Talisay icons, former congressman Kako Lacson and concert pianist Leonor Kilayko; right photo, Leonor K flushed after the concert receiving a bouquet from April Jabagat and Christian Gonzales*

My prayer: “What I had come to Carmel for…I came to Carmel to save souls, specially to pray for priests” (St. Therese of the Child Jesus) to give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever and to celebrate 75 years of Carmel, Bacolod this May 10 to 13, 2021.*

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