A lot of Filipino musicians, because they are not permanently employed, do not have access to health care or insurance, said jazz singer Myra “Skarlet” Ruaro.
What happens when they grow old, or fall gravely ill, or meet accidents? “The frustrating reality is that many of them are resigned to this fate,” Skarlet told Inquirer in a phone interview. “Without money, they just live with their illness.”
Benefit shows are organized intermittently to help sick industry members shoulder treatment and hospital bills, but these are stop-gap solutions, Skarlet noted.
In 2008, her close friend, singer-songwriter Susan Fernandez-Magno, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, prompting Skarlet to urge fellow musicians to mount fund raisers. Magno died in 2009.
Two years later, jazz guitarist Edgar “Koyang” Avenir succumbed to lung cancer. This got Skarlet thinking, “Is this all that musicians can do—panic at the last minute when something terrible happens to one of us?”
With the help of other musicians and business friends, Skarlet organized Heart of Music (HoM), an NGO that aims to distribute PhilHealth insurance to at least 100 aging musicians in dire need of healthcare and assistance.
“We need to think collectively and long-term, to protect ourselves,” said Skarlet, former vocalist of Pu3ska and the Brownbeat All-Stars.
She is HoM president, with R.G. Salazar as vice president; Jocelyn “Gou” de Jesus, secretary; Butch Saulog, legal counsel; and Bam Aquino, Julius Alip, Leocadio Ferreria and Cooky Chua, board members.
Priority beneficiaries are ailing musicians 50 years and older. Younger industry members with severe illnesses can also ask for assistance. “I’m urging all musicians to register as members,” Skarlet said.
HoM also aims to implement an education outreach program. “Musicians could teach music to kids as an alternative livelihood option,” she added.
Heart of Music will be formally launched with “Mabuhay Nyor!,” a benefit show tonight at 6 at the Camp Crame Multi-Purpose Hall in Quezon City. Featured performers are Guarana,
Gou de Jesus, Lynn Sherman, Cooky Chua, Sitti Navarro and Bayang Barrios.
Call (0916) 362-4596.
‘Tinig ng Babaylan’
Grace Nono and Baylan Udin (a babaylan or community leader from Mindanao) will be featured in “Tinig ng Babaylan,” a lecture-ritual series on Jan. 19, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., 3rd floor, Bulwagang Tandang Sora, College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD), UP Diliman, QC.