Music has always been a part of Filipinos’ lives. Be it in festive occasions or just a normal day of getting together with their barkadas, Filipinos will never miss to include videokes in the parties. With their undying passion for music, it is no wonder that videoke or Magic Sing has been a principal commodity in every Pinoys’ home.
As proof of our love for music, Filipinos have been astounding the world as true-blue singers. An example of those that have showcased their singing talents are Jessica Sanchez of American Idol, and Rose Fostanes, a Filipino caregiver and the winner in X-Factor Israel Season 1. Of course, Thomasians are not left out in bringing world-class singing talents. Aside from the world-renowned UST Singers, the Conservatory of Music continuously hones singers and musicians that astonish and entertain people. One fine example of their product is Mr. Cipriano “Zip” De Guzman, Jr. who has been performing in several operas and choral concertos in and out of the country.
Mr. De Guzman was hailed as “the outstanding baritone… who displayed a remarkably full rounded resonant voice and a strong personality” for performing the role of Frederick in Delibes’ “Lakme” at UP College of Music Abelardo Auditorium. He has sung in front of Maestro Dennis O’Neill, a famous Welsh Tenor from Royal Opera House. He is also the first Filipino and the only male and Asian singer accepted for University of Wales International Academy of Voice Summer Program 2015.
Starting as a little boy soprano in elementary days, Zip performed in several choral groups in school and churches in Pasig. His professional training in music started upon entering his college years.
He graduated triple Bachelor degrees some of which with Latin honors. First, he took his Bachelor of Arts Major in Communication Arts as an Academic Scholar in University of the East (UE). In UE, he joined the University of the East Chorale, which paved the beginning of his professional training in choral music.
In UST, he simultaneously took two degrees in voice (Bachelor of Music Major in Vocal Performance Minor in Choral Conducting and Bachelor in Music Education Voice Emphasis) under the hands of Maestra Irma Ponce-Enrile Potenciano and Bass Jun Francis Jaranilla. He graduated Cum Laude in both degrees. Zip was a consistent Dean’s Lister. He was able to balance his studies while still doing other things in and out of UST. Inside, he is the two-time president of the Student Council of UST Conservatory of Music Voice Department. Outside, he was working full time as a Human Resource Specialist at IBM Business Services from 2006-2008. When he auditioned at Klassikal Music Foundation (Batch 1) and received the scholarship, he resigned from his current job at IBM. Even if he has resigned from work, he is still very active in church as their musician. On top of that, he was also part of UST/CCP major Russian Opera production “Eugene Onegin” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Initially, Zip’s family was completely against his singing career because he wasn’t earning a lot and it is not a financially stable career. His mother discouraged him to continue pursuing his chosen career labeling it as a career only for wealthy families. In spite of his mother’s discouragement, Zip lifted his spirit and proved his family wrong.
Starting in his career, he has to spend a lot of money on his own pocket to establish his brand name. There are also times he had to perform and audition outside the country financially empty-handed. If he has money, it is usually minimal or exact in amount. There was an instance where he had to buy the cheapest bus ticket that would take him to the airport to travel back in Philippines. His host family in Malaysia gave him an exact amount of fare to buy the cheapest ticket. He was careful in handling this money, because if he loses a single centavo, he won’t be able to buy his ticket.
He had always been a risk-taker. He had to take the risks of auditioning abroad without any assurance if he will pass, get any role, or earn anything from those. He also had lots of misfortunes and shortcomings. One misfortune that he will never forget includes sleeping outside the train station together with the homeless in Vienna and Milano. At that time, they don’t have a host family where the choir can stay and he can’t afford a hotel accommodation.
Just like any singers, he also loses in competitions and gets rejected in auditions. There are times that he almost gave up whenever he sees his Communication Arts batchmates and other friends who took a different career path flourishing on their careers. In spite of these, he just focused and determinedly aimed for his dream until he finally got a big break and found God’s calling in it.
In 2013, he auditioned at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, trying his luck to get a minor role. Among many who have auditioned, he was astonished to see his name to portray the lead role of Escamillo in the opera “Carmen”. Together with him, he performed with Malaysia’s well known opera singers including the Dean of Music of University of Malaya who played Don Jose, a protagonist role. As part of Zip’s performance on stage, he sang heartily “Votre toast je peux vous le rendre”, better known as the “Les Toreador” song. We have heard this song in some popular cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. Because of his remarkable performance, he was awarded “Ambassadors Recognition for Excellence in Music” by the Ambassador himself. After winning the heart not only of Carmen from Don Jose, but also the amazed audience, his long list of opportunities came one by one.
To maintain his resonating voice in all of his performances, he vocalizes every day and takes up vocal coachings and sessions with the premiere coaches in the industry. Wherever he goes, he always grabs the opportunity to take short course classes. He participated in masterclasses in vocal coachings of British-Romanian Opera Superstar Nelly Miricioiu-Kirk (2015), Stockholm Opera Dag Schantz (2015), Chicago Lyric Opera Soprano Stacey Tappan (2015), Zurich Opera Bass-Baritone Damian Whiteley (2015), Korean Baritone Dae San No(2012), Filipino-American Tenor Arthur Espiritu(2013), Italian Tenor Gian Luca Passolini (2008), Canadian Soprano Megan Skidmore (2012), Conservatoire à rayonnement regional de Paris coordinator Florence Guignolet (2010), Italian Soprano Dr. Michela Bertagnolli-Febvre and French Conductor Florian Caroubi (2013).
His selfless service of sharing his knowledge and talent to others has been his remarkable secret for becoming successful in his career. He emphasizes to young aspiring singers, that “Talent is not enough. You should have determination and perseverance but first you must have a concrete goal why you are doing this craft and for whom you are doing this. If your main goal is to be rich, famous and all those selfish reasons, then forget about it because you will end up empty and miserable. Think about God’s plan for you and how you will empower others when you succeed. Share your talent and knowledge don’t keep it to yourselves.”
He, surely, is a humble singer and selfless man. He exudes in his life his motto of “Joy increases as you give it, and diminishes as you try to keep it for yourself. In giving it, you will accumulate a deposit of joy greater than you ever believed possible. Selflessness is a virtue. It will give you more fulfillment and happiness. And always put God at the core of everything you do.”
Aside from singing, Mr. De Guzman, Jr. sometimes plays the piano and bamboo flute recorder. He also plays the octavina and banduria, both rondalla instruments or traditional Filipino instruments.
A musician’s career has never been easy at the start. One needs to continuously develop his skills to establish his brand name. One needs to stand-up from failing at auditions. One has to lift up his courage to face the rejections. One needs to shine among the rest of the musicians in the bottled-neck road to stardom. One needs to continuously recreate and innovate on what he can offer to flourish on his career upon establishing his name. These are just among the challenges Mr. Cipriano “Zip” De Guzman, Jr. has to face in his singing career. With his undying passion and perseverance to reach his dream, he has surpassed these tests.