The ballad of Coke Bolipata

Patricia Evangelista

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The school of premiere violinist has given the children of San Miguel, Zambales a place to dream

Coke Bolipata, photo by Carlo Gabuco

SAN MIGUEL, Zambales – There is a school that stands under a canopy of trees, where boys build songs in the air and fishermen’s daughters play their violins. This is home to musician Coke Bolipata, the country’s premiere violinist, whose brick school has given the children of San Miguel a place to dream.

Casa San Miguel was built in 1993 just after the eruption of Mt Pinatubo and the abandonment of the American bases. Its goal is to encourage arts and culture among the young people of San Miguel, as well as provide an environment for young artists to grow their talent. Bolipata calls it an artist-run community.

Ask him what it’s like, and he will laugh. “It’s hippy town,” he says.

Students of the Casa are provided scholarships in photography, music, the visual arts and creative writing. Although the school mentors young people who hope to make careers in the arts, Bolipata says the training is of value in itself.

Paying forward

“I think we just try to foster creativity. It’s not like a school when you come in and it’s student, teacher. None of the teachers are here because it’s a job. We’re so grateful that many of the teachers come here because they want to pay it forward.”

The Casa is on its 19th year, accepting donations from corporations, building in galleries and rooms to its compound and adding to its teaching roster some of the country’s most respected artists. For many of them, this is a place of paying forward. Bolipata hopes to institutionalize the Casa, so that it can be passed on to other generations of artists.

Personality is a problem. Ask him, and he will agree. Yes, to many people, the heart of the Casa is Coke Bolipata. 

He does not hesitate. “Then I will cut out my heart and pass it on.” –

(Video by Geloy Concepcion, Geric Cruz, Patricia Evangelista and Adrian Portugal. Written and edited by Patricia Evangelista. Scoring from Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words. Performance by Coke Bolipata and the Pundaquit Virtuosi. With thanks to Carlo Gabuco and John Javellana.)

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