CONCERT FOR PEACE. The University of the Philippines Concert Chorus serenades some 450 attendees at the Diligentia Theater in Lange Voorhout in The Hague, the Netherlands on June 6, 2024. The concert was held to celebrate the 126th anniversary of the Philippine Independence and the 125th anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – Music celebrating peace and justice filled the halls of the Diligentia Theater at the historic Lange Voorhout in The Hague as the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus (UPCC) serenaded some 450 attendees from the Dutch government, diplomatic corps, business, academic and international organizations in the Netherlands for the celebration of the 126th anniversary of the Philippine Independence and the 125th anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on June 6.

In his welcome remarks, Philippine Ambassador to The Netherlands J. Eduardo Malaya, who also serves as president of the PCA Administrative Council, cited the significant strides in Philippine-Netherlands relations, notably the productive visit to Manila of Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanke Bruins Slut in October 2023 and of H.M. Queen Maxima last May in her capacity as the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Financial Inclusion for Development.

Malaya highlighted the important contributions of the PCA in the peaceful settlement of disputes, as recognized by the UN General Assembly in its unanimous resolution in August last year.

“Even seemingly intractable disputes, including territorial disputes between neighbors, are capable of resolution — with good faith, patience, and mutual desire for its settlement and through peaceful means and on the basis of international law. And then as now, the facilities of the PCA are open and available to facilitate the process of settlement,” Malaya said in a news release on Monday.

The Independence commemoration coincides with the opening of the PCA’s three-day Congress of the Members of the Court.

Concert proper

The performance began with the song of praise and thanksgiving “Cantate Domino” that features lyrics in English, Basque, and Latin.

Reflecting the unwavering faith of Filipinos, the group then sang known choral pieces with lyrics from the Bible, “Laudate Dominum (Psalm 117)” and “Salmo 150.”

Songs of hope and believing amidst adversity were then rendered, beginning with the song “Wade in the Water,” with the solo sang by UPCC conductor professor Janet Sabas-Aracama.

Malaya surprised the audience when he accompanied the choir on the piano as they sang “Payapang Daigdig” (Peaceful World), which reflected the concert’s theme, “A Celebration of Peace and Justice.”

The choir then moved to contemporary songs, like the Disney classic “Go the Distance” in Spanish (No Importa La Distancia) and another beloved Filipino composition, “Bagong Umaga” (New Morning), this time with their signature choreocapella (choreographed a capella).

The medley of Europe’s cherished pop supergroup ABBA (“Thank you for the Music, Fernando and Dancing Queen”), specially arranged by conductor Janet Sabas-Aracama, also wowed the audience.

UPCC also delivered songs from Broadway musicals and the British super group Beatles.

Organized in partnership with the PCA and the Diplomat Magazine, the event was graced by PCA Secretary General Marcin Czepelak, Ambassador for International Organizations Paul van den Ijssel of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Court of Justice Judge Hilary Charlesworth, Hague Conference on Private International Law secretary general Christophe Bernasconi, Hague Academy of International Law secretary general Jean-Marc Thouvenin and Bishop Johannes Hendriks of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, among others.

Czepelak said “the PCA has a mission of peaceful settlement of international disputes which we can only achieve if we keep in touch with our shared humanity and common passion for the good things that life has to offer.”

“A better way to reinvigorate our shared humanity and renew our passions together is through music that touches our hearts and souls,” Czepelak added.

Ijssel said “the establishment of the PCA is the foundations of what we now call the rules-based international legal order…125 years of PCA, 125 years Hague Peace Conference are milestones for us all, as very much illustrated in this concert organized by the Philippines.”


The UPCC members met the audience at the lobby of the theater after the concert.

“The chorus is stunning and the voices together are really moving and inspiring,” International Organization for Migration chief of mission Antonio Polosa said.

The performance was “very beautiful, I enjoyed it very much. The singing was really marvelous. I am used to listening to choirs, but this is superior and excellent,” Hendriks said.

Established in 1962, the UPCC holds the singular honor of being invited 11 times to the prestigious Aberdeen International Youth Festival in Scotland and four times for command performances for the late Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

It also holds the distinction of having been chosen as one of the world’s best choirs at the 4th Lincoln Center International Choral Festival in New York.

The UPCC won the Grand Prix, Cracovia Cantans Choral Competition (Poland, 2015) and First Prize Folk Song Category at 16th Festival Internacional de Musica de Cantonigros (Spain, 2012). (PR)