Renowned Composer and Musician
Born in Tagoloan, Oriental Misamison
July 13, 1922 to Pedro Abejo y Villegas and Beatriz Zamarro y Madronal, Sister
Rosalina M. Abejo was an outstanding composer, musician, and music educator.
She was already an accomplished pianist
by the time she joined the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary.
She obtained her Associate
in music degree, major in piano, from the School of Music of Saint
Scholastica’s College in 1949.In 1957, after completing her baccalaureate in
music, she acquired her master’s degree in music, major in composition, from
the Philippine Woman’s University.
Conducted by Professor Luis
Valencia, the Pilipino Youth Symphony Orchestra performed her works at her PWU graduation
recital, through operatic singers Aurelio Estanislao and Fides Cuyugan and
pianist Carmencita Lozada.
To further hone her musical
talent and skills, she continued her studies in the United States and Europe
from 1962 to 1964. In the US, she attended the Labunski School of Composition
in Ohio, the Eastern School of Music in Rochester, New York and the Catholic
University of America in Washington, DC. At the same time, she sat through
orchestra rehearsals directed by well-known conductors like George Lawner,
Thaddeus Jones, Fritz Mahler, and Wallenstein. In Europe, she studies under
Darius Milhaud, Marinus Jong, Nadia Boulanger, and Franco Ferrara.
Mindful of her vocation as
a nun, she also tried to imbibe as much as she could of modern and sophisticated
methods and techniques in dealing with the physically and mentally handicapped.
She not only took music therapy lessons at the Kansas University, under the
associates of Gaston Thayer, originator of the lessons, but also made
observation rounds in various institutions specializing in the field, among
them the Meninger Clinic, the Copper Foundation for the Retarded and Crippled
and the Medical Foundation of the Alchoholics, Drug Addicts and the Mentally
Sick, all in the US.
Early in her career as a
music educator, Sister Rosalina became dean of the Lourdes School of Music in
Cagayan de Oro City. While in that city, she helped organize a community
orchestra, composed of local musicians and other musical talents, which she
later conducted in a series of concerts. She also formed a choir, with members
drawn from the Lourdes College Choral Group and the Xavier University Choir.
She also became dean of the Schools of Music of St. Mary’s College and the
Immaculate Conception College.
Sister Rosalina served as cultural
chairman of the United Nations Association of the Philippines (UNAP) and the
Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Foundation; vice-president of the Philippine
Conductors Association; board member of the National Music Council; secretary
of the National Sub commission for Liturgical Music; and Catholic
representative to the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.
She was often a delegate to
the international conferences not only on music but on other concerns as well,
like the Conference of the International Music Council in New York (1968), and
Conference of the International Society,
for the British and Belgian governments (1970).
She co-founded the Nun’s
Concerts for Charities, which she served as director, and regularly gave
concerts herself to advance its cause. Sister Rosalina was a prolific composer.
She wrote about 25 works for orchestra, among which are the, “Aeolian Piano
Concerto” (1949); “Convent Garden Suite” (1956); “Valle de los Caidos” (1964);
“The Conversion of King Humabon,” actually a cantata (1967); “Buhay,” a cycle
for soprano and orchestra (1969); “The Blood Compact of 1565” (1970);
“Guerrilla Symphony” (1972); “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Bayan,” a choral symphony
(1979); and “Third Symphony” __ “Hold High the Torch” __ (1981). Her chamber
music pieces include the “Five Strings Quarters” (1949-1959); “Piano Quintet”
(1965); “Maranaw Trail for Two Marimbas, Piano and Percussions” (1971); and
“Strings on the Dignity of Man” (1979). She also produced piano, music,
operettas, choruses, masses, and hymns, not to mention textbooks on music for
elementary and high school students.
All this earned for her a
listing in the Who’s Who in International Music of the International Biography
Sister Rosalina served a
secretary-treasurer of the League of the Pilipino Composers for several years
until 1977. A year later, she migrated to the United States, having left the
RVM fold and joined the US-based International Sisters for Christian Community
and became the head of the music department of Kentucky’s Pius X Seminary.
Among the honors bestowed
on her as an exemplary musician and nun were the 1967 Cultural Heritage Award;
UNAP Leadership Award; Pontifical Mission Society Award; J.P. Rizal
Foundation’s MacArthur Memorial Award; 1969 PWU Golden Jubilee Special
Recognition Award; 1970 Mother Battig Centennial Recognition Award; and, the
1975 Tandang Sora Award.
She died on June 5, 1991.
Anne Marineza R. Peji