Manny plays classical pieces at the mall, inspiring his audience, mostly senior citizens. Manny plays classical pieces at the mall, inspiring his audience, mostly senior citizens.

Manny of Cebu

Manny of Cebu

(Manny Canizares continues to play for the Cebuano audience.)

Manuel “Manny” Canizares’ story as pianist all started with a “colored” dream. A dream not in plain black nor white that made everything look real. It was story he thought I would not believe.

It was a sunny Sunday when he told me everyone has a purpose in this world. In his dream, he saw senior citizens on wheelchairs. Some were on their last days, unhappy. Someone unknown talked to him saying he can make these people happy even for five minutes. “Mao daw na akong purpose dinhi’s kalibutan” (That is what my purpose in this world.)

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Not everyone may know him by name, but this man, always in black, surely got our attention in a different way. Through playing of melodic pieces at the mall, he draws out a variety of audiences, most of whom are senior citizens. That, for him, is his purpose.

Out of five children, Manny is the youngest. He was eight when his mom let him play through the piano keys, his first Do-Re-Mis. But as a little boy, he liked the computer’s keyboard more than that of the piano’s. He had no interest at all, until “pagka high school nako, naluoy kos piano ba kay giabugan ra bitaw,” (when I reached high school, I felt pity for the piano because it was already covered with dust,) he said, chuckling. Every day, he wakes up running to the piano, excited to play as if it was a new toy. It was what he always looked up to first thing in the morning. Playing the piano used to be his breakfast, and for Manny, that is how you know what kind of person you are.

However, today, his mornings are different than before. “Lahi na karon kay huna-huanon sa ang pamilya ug daghan ang buhatunon” (It’s different now. I have to think about my family, and do a lot of things.)

The family grew grapes for business in Mambaling, Cebu. It fed them; it gave them a living. Manny and his siblings had to help his father keep the business up to finish their studies. Sadly, it was a mischance for their family and business when their father died of stroke. Manny was studying at Cebu Institute of Technology-University at that time when he lost hope of finishing school. His siblings already got their degrees; he did not.

If a diploma can’t bring you to where you ought to be, talent will. Not being able to pursue college did not seem negative to Manny. Instead, he made a detour leading to where he is now. In the 1980s, he started being a pianist of a band named “The Pythons” serenading guests at a club here in Cebu City. Gigs can be very fun with all the music jams, beers, and friends of all kinds that one can enjoy for a night, but for once, Manny lost his way. He submitted himself to a rehabilitation program for a year and two months eventually making him well. People who are victims of illegal drugs should not be condemned by our society or be adjudged without due process. Like Manny, these people have, no matter how little, a light in them to change. This then drew him to swear to himself to never be part of a band anymore, and rather just be a sole pianist.

Performing solo did not really mean a sad solo. Every hotel in Cebu, you name it, Manny had already serenaded its guests. After seven years, abroad was his next stop. He’s been to Korea, UAE, and Hong Kong to work for his family, for his dreams, his passion. He still worked as a pianist not only in hotels, but in star cruises as well. But no matter how far we go in this world, we will still and always will find our way back home. Home is where the heart is, they say. For Manny, home is where the family is. “Mas nindot man na nga inig ka gabi-e, uli kas imong pamilya” (It’s nice that at the end of the day, you go home to your family.)

1st of May, year 2007, the day when this man played songs for the Cebuanos again. He auditioned twice before SM City Cebu had him as one of its pianists. For nine years, Manny has already been a seasoned, and an audience-oriented pianist. He does not play the piano for the sake of just playing it. He always makes sure to connect with his audience. “Once malingaw na nako sila, malipayon na jud ko” (Once I entertain them, I’m already happy.)

A pianist’s life is not different from anybody else’s. Manny has also his own flat and high notes. His days may be in synch or in harmony, but it may also be out of tune. As a husband and a father of two, he bears the great responsibility to give the needs of his family. His performance may get praises from people but this seems to be just a cloak of his real struggles. “Usahay wa gyud koy kwarta, usahay wa koy paningudto. Abi nimo diha nindot? Di uy, gigutom ko.” (Sometimes I don’t have money; sometimes I haven’t eaten lunch yet. You think it’s nice to be there? No, I’m hungry.) Despite all these, giving up has never been his nature. It never kept him from believing and holding on to his God.

A God-fearing man. A hard-working person. A versatile pianist. Some would even ask, “daghana kay nimog chicks no?”(You probably have a lot of girls,) but he never chose to fall for such temptations. How one handles oneself is what’s important for him. To have admirers is normal for any musician or performer, but like Manny, he never forgets to respect himself and his wife, Susan. “Akong asawa wa man mainlove sa akong tukar. The way I dress, diha siya ganahan” (My wife did not fall in love with me because of my talent. The way I dress, that’s what she liked.)

He is just one in a million of fathers who never falls out of love for his family; working to give them a good life, to make them happy. But in this big world, he has found his second family among Cebuanos whom he is fulfilling his purpose with up today. “Wa ko nag apas sa akong sweldo; nag apas ko nga sa akong tukar, daghan kog malingaw nga tawo” (I’m not after my salary; what I’m after are the people I can entertain in playing the piano.”