By RUDY D. LIPORADA
Au and I were at Paradise Point of Mt. Rainier in Washington when we learned that our dear friend, Yolanda dela Torre, had succumbed to the Big C. Though we were gripped with sadness, we felt her spirit rise within the clouds shrouding the mountains. We are then grateful that Yolly has risen in Paradise and that the choirs of angels must be celebrating that another chanteuse has now joined them, with her daughter, Kai, to add to their heavenly voices.
And although we will dearly miss Yolly in our terrestrial midst, we are grateful to our Heavenly Father that, in our time, He has shared Yolanda’s life with us.
Let me now share an article and a poem I have written about her. The article was tweaked from the defunct Kapitbahay and reprinted in the Asian Journal – San Diego. The poem was dedicated to her during her birthday in April 2018.
Since I met Yolanda ‘Yolly’ dela Torre in the late 1990s and heard her sing, I have often wondered what would have happened to the likes of Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos and their later contemporaries if Yolly stayed in the Philippines with her then flourishing singing career. Unlike most her contemporaries, when Yolly sings, her voice has the power to compel the soul to enter into a deep recess of serenity and for one to be in sublime submission to listen to the very last note of her renditions. As such, as we say in the street vernacular, ‘siguro pinataob niya yung lahat na mga kasabay niya’.
Yolly’s career spiraled to heights in the early ’70s in the Philippines. She was in the era of erstwhile rising singing stars like Merci Molina, Lirio Vital, Hajji Alejandro, Rico Puno, and Florence Aguilar. Only the early knocking of an opportunity to sing abroad ahead of most of her contemporaries forked out what could have been, perhaps, a setting for Yolly to have had waves of shrieking fans; splashed images of herself on glistening front covers of Philippine periodicals; been swooned upon as she crooned for T.V. fans; or been associated with praises, ‘tsismis’, and other spices to drum popularity in contemporary Philippine show business.
But what could have been, of course, different from what had happened.
Enamored with her singing prowess, talent agents flooded her with offers, the most glittering of which were from Japan, Singapore, and Guam. She initially chose Guam.
This started to draw the curtain down from her legion of growing fans; away from George Canseco, song-writer of the “Kapantay ay Langit” fame who also wrote the title song sang by Yolly for the movie “Pang-umaga, Pangtanghali, at Panggabi.” From then on, while she earned raves in Guam and later on in Japan, mere paragraphs or token lines in Philippines periodicals took notice of Yolly until she became a footnote.
But she kept on singing. Getting married in Guam and having a daughter, Kristina Kai, she kept on singing. Even as, eventually, an immigrant into the United States and based in Oxnard, California, she graced Philippine occasions, weddings, birthdays, and the like. No request for her to sing at any occasion is less than previous ones.
Blessed with her talent, Yolly started to sing in public during her elementary days. There were no contests that she knew of that she did not participate in and did not win. No plea from her parents for her to pursue a more ‘normal’ professional course dissuaded her from her dream of singing. She took a major course in voice culture and music at the Philippine Women’s University in Manila. Winning the Philippine National Demo singing contest launched Yolly into professionalism. All she had to do was select the best contract offers that included from leading hotels and dancing spots in major cities in the Islands.
Yolly, the singer, is also a very amiable person. With her staccato of Capizinian accent, she has a million tales to tell not only about her past career but also of her life drawn experiences. One’s first few minutes with her seem to be moments of being her life-long friend. Her close friend, Florence Aguilar describes her as having “No enemies. And she will tell you to stop when you start bad mouthing anyone. Buhay pa yan pero angel na yan.”
It would seem that the only saddest part in Yolly’s life is the death of her only daughter, Kristina Kai who had left her with five grandchildren. The oldest of the grandchildren, Brian, is with the US Marines, Lissa is taking up a nursing course in Boise University, Trinitee and Kalissa are both in high school, and the youngest, Rodney ‘Mikey’, is in 5th grade.
Yolly’s outlook in life helps, however, to overcome her grief. “What can we do if it is the Lord’s will,” she sighs. “He does things for a reason and He controls everything. We have to accept whatever He decides for us for as He created us, He alone decides when to take us back.”
While reminiscing about Kai, one can almost glean in Yolly’s eyes a vision – that when she, too, passes through the veil, she will be the leading voice in a choir of angels with Kai on the piano performing celestial concerts.
For indeed, once a chanteuse, always a chanteuse.
And for Yolly, I dedicate, once again, this poem:
To an Angel without Wings
Not so long ago, just a while back
Over islands somewhere the Pacific East,
When the stars have learned
That an angel without wings will be born on earth.
They glimmered with glee
And shimmered, anticipating her birth.
Then they tossed twinkling dust
Which crystallized upon her as gifts.
Patience was among them
With endurance as a formidable twin.
Her generosity knows no bounds
As to the needs of others she’s always keen.
And she’s endowed with that smile
Only bestowed upon Capizinian beauties
And those eyes that flutter
Send messages of care one will never miss.
And most of all, for an angel
Who must resound and sing to the most high
The stars sprinkled her with a voice
To touch our hearts with no questions why
And many many more gifts
Were bestowed upon this angel
For there are beyond billions
Of stars in heaven who wish her well
Thus, there is really no end to this story
For this about Yolanda dela Torre.
Indeed, Yolly’s story (April 7, 1952 – July 13, 2019) will linger in our hearts even if, in her favorite lines, we just have to take in everything “one day at a time.” # nordis.net