SCENE CITY| Fernandez Piano School, the pioneer in music

THIS GENERATION will probably not be able to relate when we mention the famous pianists of the 50s and 60s who lived to play the piano and composed immortal pieces. There was Liberace, Ferrante and Teicher and the earliest composers and pianists who lived in Europe like Franz Lizst, Mozart and many more.

Here in post-war Davao City, the families who appreciated piano sent their children to the most prestigious school to learn and appreciate music at the Fernandez Piano School. As we remember those times, every family we went to visit had a piano, the children excelling in academic subjects as well as in their piano lessons.

Early this year, former students of Encarnita Fernandez gathered for a reunion to greet 92-year old Ms. Fernandez at Harana Restaurant to share stories of how they started playing piano at the Fernandez Piano School and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Music.



A REUNION of former piano students took place at Harana on January 16, 2015. In the photo are Mila Cabaguio-Jocson, Fortune Ranada-Castillo, Perla Palma Gil, Elenita Roque-Aquino, Aurora Quimpo-Paez, Nenita Belda-Azarcon, Norma I. Monfort, Bong Carriedo-Alba, Annabelle Carriedo, Josie C. Tionko, Marie Soriano-Tionko and Marilyn Roque.

Reminiscing was part of the day’s activity. Encarnita Fernandez was born in Cebu in 1923 to Encarnacion Gandiongco and Engineer Gandiongco.

Encarnita wanted to take up law, but ended up studying piano when her biological mother, Encarnacion, turned her over to her aunt, Anselma Gandiongco, who married Judge Enrique Fernandez. The couple then adopted her. The assignment of Judge Fernandez to Zamboanga paved the way for Encarnita to study piano under Pilar Blanco-Sala, a renowned pianist. She pursued her studies in music at St. Scholastica College in Manila. But the war broke out and she had to leave school. There was no trip to Cebu on the ship “Corregidor” which was supposed to take her back home, so she stayed with four nuns in Pila, Laguna to escape the Japanese when they occupied Manila.

When the war was over, Judge Enrique Fernandez was assigned to the Court of First Instance in Davao City. He came alone while looking for a house for the family to live in and stayed as a boarder at the home of Dr. Roque Monfort and wife Remedios. They were the parents of Norma Inigo-Monfort. Judge Fernandez soon brought his family to Davao City, where Encarnita or “Inday” as she is called by friends, gave piano lessons at home along Bolton Street. Benito Rivera, an outstanding piano student was among the first pupils. We remember very well how he would play pieces during recitals, such as “Mayon” and other works by Filipino piano composers like Buencamino. He now lives in Washington State, Virginia in the U.S. with his family.

In 1950, the Fernandez Piano School was built along Cortes St. (now Bonifacio). Norma Monfort was a consistent honor student and gold medalist at the Fernandez Piano School. When she graduated from high school at the PWC of Davao, she took up music where she earned her degree, Bachelor of Music, Major in Piano.

Other students from Davao City who excelled in piano were Mila Cabaguio-Jocson, her daughter Daphne, Perla Palma Gil, Aurora Quimpo-Paez, Delia Basa, Melinda Garcia-Alonzo, Rosalind Babista, Elenita Roque-Aquino, the Ongkiko sisters, Salud and Shirley Habana, Fortune Ranada-Castillo, Ana Marie Pamintuan, Amelia Halili and Evelyn Abellera-Magno. There were more students then but we can hardly remember who they were as this writer was still in grade school.

In 1996 she sold the house and the school.

When her parents passed away, she was all alone and decided to migrate to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her adopted daughter who worked there. In 2015, she returned to Davao City for good.

Encarnita Fernandez says today “I had the best piano school in Davao then!”

Among those who came for the luncheon-reunion on January 16, 2016 were Aurora Quimpo-Paez, Mila Cabaguio-Jocson, Marie Soriano-Tionko, Bong Carriedo-Alba, Annabelle Carriedo, Perla Palma Gil, Fortune Ranada-Castillo, Josie C. Tionko, Nenita Belda-Azarcon and Elenita Roque-Aquino.

When Encarnita Fernandez celebrates her 93rd birthday in June this year, her former students promise to hold a bigger celebration in her honor.

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