ria villena osorio

Erik Santos "Awit Para Sa Yo"

Was very privileged to work with one of the premier balladeers of the Philippines, Erik Santos. I arranged three songs for the album, “Awit Para Sa ‘Yo”, two of which became radio singles.


Here is the official music video for “Bakit Mahal Pa Rin Kita.”

Bakit Mahal Pa Rin Kita - Erik Santos
Words & Music by - Jonathan Manalo
Arranged by Ria Villena Osorio
Guitars by Janno Queyquep
Mixed & Mastered by Dante Tanedo
Produced by Jonathan Manalo


Just Some Updates (a.k.a. Why I Haven't Been Updating my Blog)

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last wrote a blog post! Bad blogger...

Just so you know I’m not merely being a lazy blogger, here’s what I’ve been up to the past weeks.

1. Writing for the Hong Kong Philharmonic orchestra.

The piece I wrote for their Christmas concert features the HKPO with the 70+ piece Hong Kong Philharmonic Children’s Choir. This will be the first time that none of my arranger teammates will be present for an HKPO concert that we have written for. In the past 2 years that we’ve been arranging for HKPO, Gerard Salonga usually conducted the HKPO’s concerts where our arrangements were involved. There was also one concert where JD and I were able to watch them, which was Lee Hom Wang’s Christmas concert last year. HKPO is a bunch of really superb musicians.

2. Writing for Jeremy Monteiro’s big band Christmas special concert at The Esplanade, Singapore.

Jeremy Monteiro is one of the leading jazz artists in Asia. I was very fortunate to have been selected for this project, which features top artists from all over Asia! From the Philippines, we have our own Tots Tolentino and Eddie Sangcap in the saxophone section. Visit this site to view details about the concert, as well as the featured guests. Here’s a current favorite tune of mine, from one of Jeremy Monteiro’s various groups, Asiana. (Tots Tolentino is part of said group)

3. Writing for Lea Salonga Your Songs Concert

This is the concert where Lea is singing all the most requested songs. Since July 2009, requests have been sent, and from those requests, the production team selected the most popular tunes. So this is Lea as you haven’t seen before! FILharmoniKA will be accompanying her, conducted by Gerard Salonga. I’ll be playing second keyboard in this concert as well. FILharmoniKA is currently becoming one of the most in-demand orchestras in the Philippines. I feel I’ve grown a lot during these past years because of their musicianship, and because of the opportunities for me to write for them, and also the guidance/tips from Gerard and the rest of our team of arrangers.

4. Various playing gigs

Flow, the big band/acrobat/musical special of PAGCOR, has been going strong. Last November, I played in ten shows. I’m not actually the main pianist for this show, but Nikko Rivera, a very talented virtuoso.. I’m supposed to be his alternate, but I guess that’s how busy he is, that I get to play in that show a lot! Even though I’m already up to my neck in arranging deadlines, I still try to squeeze in some time to play keyboards. Especially for Flow, since I get a kick out of participating in two worlds (many times, on the same day) - Orchestra in Carmel House studio during the day and Big Band at night. Oh, and not to mention, I get to see my father too - Mel Villena, who leads the 22-piece band. He wrote most of the music for the show.

Aside from this, I was also able to play in some FILharmoniKA shows, and some shows with Lea Salonga. It’s a nice break from writing, and sitting in my computer chair for 10-14 hours in a day. (It’s also the only social life I have at this point, aside from Facebook and the occasional mountain-bike ride with buddies).

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Thoughts on My Two Months Into Running

If you’re a runner who happened to chance upon this blog, remember that this is a newbie talking, so feel free to post your comments/corrections/reactions/opinions.

1. Strength training works! In my case it has helped me a lot in running. All those squats, deadlifts and lunges help when pushing off the ground. In my experience, as I improved in my strength training for my legs, I’d also require less effort to maintain a faster speed at a longer time. Exercises that strengthen the core (abdominal muscles, obliques) help maintain a good form throughout running. They also keep the body from twisting when powering up hills or speeding down hills. I’d like to think my strength training played a huge role in my strong finishes, and getting that extra kick as the finish line is near. Can strength exercises reduce the risk of injury? Studies say so, but I can only speak for myself after a few more months into this.

Take note, I say “strength training” and not “bodybuilding”. Strength training does build some muscle, but the name itself implies a focus on building strength, not trying to bulk up and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m pretty sure I can beat that guy in the 5k, what with all that muscle weight slowing him down.

2. I have yet to find my best stride/footstrike.

3. I’ve set goals for the 5k because I wanted to take baby steps in endurance running. Training for the 5k (or for a best 5k) requires less mileage than training for the longer distances, or the marathon. But it certainly does not require less effort! The difficult part of the training is doing the sprint and tempo workouts.

4. I haven’t decided yet what I will train for next, after my 5k PR attempts.

5. I love it!

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Mizuno Infinity 5k race results are posted here. I got in at 64th place out of 994 runners, 7th among the females. I didn’t realize there were that many 5k runners that day! I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The 5k still remains the most popular race distance because it is beginner-friendly, and yet many elite athletes like to challenge themselves with it. Other runners use the 5k for speed work when training for longer distances.

Won’t you like to sign up for a 5k race today? Click here for a list of running events in the Philippines.


Mizuno Infinity Run

Two months ago, I ran my first 5k race ever. After that, I made it my next goal to race my best 5k. Following the 2-month training program I got off the net, the timing for my 5k race attempt fell on the same day as the Mizuno Infinity Run - June 7, 2009.

For a newbie like me, I think I followed a moderately hard training plan. This plan included long runs, tempo runs, easy runs, and the workout which I have a love/hate relationship with... sprint workouts. The different types of runs each fell on a certain day of the week, but I switched days based on my schedule. Dex and I have strength training thrice a week. If I had pushed myself a lot during strength training on one day, I’d either reduce the mileage on the scheduled run that day, or exchange the difficult run for an easier run (and make up for the more difficult run on another day). Sometimes I had a run scheduled on a certain night, but then friends would call up, and running night would become sushi night. Can’t have it all, can we?

I joined other races prior to this, but they were all part of the training plan, and none of them were PR (personal record) attempts. Instead, they were supposed to be long runs at a comfortable pace. But sometimes I failed to stick to the “comfortable pace” part of the plan, and ended up racing harder than intended.

THE STARTING LINE. I squeezed in the crowd to get near the starting line as much as possible. In the past runs I’d have been content to stay at the back, but I made an exception that day.

THOUGHTS DURING THE RACE. Almost none, haha! Unlike 15k races and such, the 5k is too short for the mind to go into a reflective state. It was just “put one foot in front of the other as fast as you can” for me.

NEAR THE FINISH LINE. I’ve been expecting a 28 minute finish, but I got in at 25:50. Yahoo!!!

AFTER THE RACE. Surprise! Mizuno Phils. announced that the race was a time trial. Read about it here or check out the Mizuno Philippines Website. All runners who participated in Mizuno Infinity June 2009 are qualified for the race on January 10, 2010, and prizes will be awarded to those whose times show the greatest improvement.

I was pleasantly surprised, though I also had a few misgivings. Why did I have to pick this race to set a PR (aside from the flat course)? Then again, if I join the race on Jan. 10 just to beat one of my slow paces, that would kinda be missing the point, right?

January 10, 2010 is still exactly seven months away. I think I have time to train. Bagging a prize for this one would be a long shot - but it would be fun to see how far I can beat myself.


Earth Run - 16k

earth run

Earth Run, set in McKinley Hill - famous among runners for its uphills and downhills.


We signed up for Earth Run exactly 2 weeks prior to the event. I signed myself up for the 16k run, and signed Dex up for the 5k (in spite of his protests). In the couple of weeks that followed, Dex and I added hills to our running sessions. I also added sprints to my routine - 400 meters at Ayala Alabang (with recovery jogs in between), along some of the slopes, just to get the feel of how it will be to try to run fast on uphills and downhills. As for our treadmill sessions, I started running mine with inclines, and kept this up for 2 weeks.

My goal for the 16k was not to set a hard-to-beat personal record for myself, but just to finish and to make it part of my “long runs” (training for a 5k PR). But I found that it was not easy to maintain an “easy pace”, as I found myself really “racing” on race day...


Dex was only able to sleep for around 2 hours before the race. For the first time before a race, I was able to sleep for 5 hours - even though it was an interrupted sleep, as our dog kept barking during the night. Prior to this, I only slept for 2-4 hours before race day, probably because of pre-race jitters.

Our friend Rap decided at the last minute to join the race too. Since he is part of Greenpeace, he was able to run together with the VIP runners (those who ran with banners).


As I was waiting for the race to start, I was praying that my regular training at Ayala Alabang with Dex would get me through this one, with hopefully a strong finish.

As the countdown to the start began, the light drizzle turned into heavier rain. This was my first time to experience running in the rain.. it did make me feel a little bit hardcore!

Gun fired and we were off. 3k, 5k, and 16k runners were all clumped together at the start, so it was kind of chaotic at first. But as the race progressed, the lines thinned out.


Arguing with myself about my own pace: “Huy, slow down, this is supposed to be a training run”, vs. “I can’t slow down, I don’t want to be left behind!”

About when to take my walk break: “I promise, you can take a walk break in 20mins” vs. “No walk breaks! No walk breaks!” (But I finally took some breaks at some water stations)

Along the road (maybe around the 8th km), I was fighting off some stitches on my side by forcefully exhaling, and then forcefully inhaling. During one inhale, the stench almost knocked me out... garbage truck nearby! Eww!

At around the 11th km, a girl runner was clearly using minimal effort, but her strides were longer because she was tall, and so I couldn’t overtake her. “Ang daya, ang daya!” Hehehe.

At around the 12th km, I had begun to experience some soreness around my lower back from all the uphills. Passing some sari-sari stores along the way, “Hmm.. I wish I had brought some money with me. A midrun snack would be nice. Liempo? Lechon?...” My lungs could definitely take in some more hard work, but my back might not.

At around the 13th km: Some kids who had finished the 5k race were cruising along the sidewalk, shouting, “Malayo pa! Malayo pa!’ Great. Thanks for the boost, kiddos. Hehe. Here, I already settled for a light jog, maybe at my recovery pace.

At around 14th km (but I wasn’t aware of this during that time), I passed Dex and Rap at Starbucks. They called my name and cheered for me. At that time, I thought the finish line was near, so I launched into a sprint. Guess what? The finish was still around 2km’s away! Mid-sprint, some marshalls warned us, “Malayo pa, may iikutan pa kayo na building” and pointed to a building that seemed far-off. I thought they were joking. They were not.

At the last km marker, I settled for a comfortably hard pace, then just picked up the pace halfway through.

Directly in front of me was a scene that made me smile (and gave me an extra boost) - two guys sprinting like crazy, trying to outrun each other to the finish line.


At the finish line chute, I realized that one of the guys who were sprinting like crazy was runner-blogger Sammy (a.k.a. Running Ninja). (Read about his own Earth Run adventure here). We exchanged hi-5’s and he said we finished at around 1:41. And that this was not bad for 16k first-timers.

As I passed the chute, they were giving away some freebies. I realized that the other chute had more giveaways than the one I passed. So I tried to persuade the crew from the other chute to give me some extra freebies. “Sorry ma’m, these are for the runners that passed this chute”. Fine. So I asked the crew from my chute to get me some extra freebies. “Sorry ma’m, pang kabilang line lang yun”. Rats! All this hard work and I couldn’t even get a free iced tea! Hehehe.

We hung around the venue a bit, for me to cool down, before walking to the parking lot.

Dex and me. With my post-race Chuckie (comfort drink/recovery drink)

Rap with his Greenpeace banner:

I can see now why this is my friend Lauren’s favorite distance. It’s a combination of endurance, speed, a little bit of pain, mental wars with yourself and some moments of clarity along the way. This could well become my favorite race distance in the future, too.


Upon Dex’s request, we ate at Pancake House.

My halfway-eaten Sunrise steak:

My halfway-eaten Chocolate Marble Waffle:


- Went to accompany Dex at the Security Escort Battalion, Army Firing Range, where he competed at the Revolver Division. Rap and I watched one of the stages. I was telling Dex’s comrades of how Dex had already raced a 5k race with hills prior to the competition (kumbaga, partida!). But they would only kid him about how he should’ve gone for 16k like his wife. Happy

- Rap and I went around Market Market while waiting for Dex to finish. I picked up my race certificate from Market! Market!, we had lunch at Sbarro, and then browsed the sports outlet stores.

- When Rap and I were heading back to Serendra, Dex called me asked to be picked up. He sounded desperate for a beer. So we picked him up at the Army Firing Range.

- Dex and Rap had some beers at The Roadhouse Grill while I checked myself in at The Spa. Yup, expensive, but I knew I needed a massage.

- I opted for Swedish Massage because part of the description said, “for sore muscles.”

- The P850 for the Swedish Massage was worth every penny, because The Spa had really nice amenities, and I even enjoyed a jacuzzi and hot shower before the massage.

- After my spa time, I caught up with Dex and Rap at The Roadhouse Grill and ordered The Wrangler’s Pork Steak, which I now highly recommend.


(image taken from http://foodtripmanila.blogspot.com/2008/04/texas-roadhouse-grill.html)

On the way home, I measured the distance from the Serendra parking lot near R.O.X. to our house. Where does 16k end? At Sucat, near Max’s Fried Chicken House. So now I can say that I can run the distance from Serendra to Sucat (not that I’d want to do that, though).

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Surprisingly, my lower back remained pain-free (though it was really sore during the race). My quads and hamstrings are feeling tight and sore now.

We learned today that Dex placed 5th in the revolver division, out of 14 participants. Yahoo! He might have done better daw if it weren’t for two things:
1. equipment malfunction in the middle of three of the stages
2. fatigue after the race

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Related posts:
Race List
Greenfield City Run - 5k
Running My 1st 5k Race

Lee Hom Wang clips from HKPO Concert

Arranging for the HKPO and Lee Hom Wang has been a great experience for me, and I hope there'll be more gigs of this kind Happy what a great way to end the year 2008.

My arrangements: (I also did A Simple Song but couldn't find the video)

Falling Leaf Returns to Its Root (Luo Ye Gui Gen)

Heroes of Earth (Gai Shi Ying Xiong)

This is one of Gerard's arrangements. The other two were Jingle Bell Rock and Last Night.

Open Your Heart (Fang Kai Ni De Xin)

This one is Marvin's (as well as Forever Love)

Mi Mancherai

I couldn't find JD's yet, will update this as soon as I do.

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Related posts:
Hong Kong Day Three - Ocean Park and HKPO Concert
Hong Kong Day One and Two
1st Day in HK - Rehearsals and Dimsum
Off to Hong Kong


Hong Kong Day Three - Ocean Park and HKPO Concert

All photos by Jacky, except those that have her in them. Thanks again Jack! For more photos, visit Jacky's Multiply Site.

Day three, we were in Ocean Park from morning till afternoon.

In the double decker bus.

Dex and Ria

Jacky and JD

View from Ocean Park entrance:

Jacky, Ria, JD

Jacky and me.

We went to the aviary

This duck looks really exotic (and delicious) he he

Me and Jacky posing beside the Mine Train, which we rode later.

Mine Train. I enjoyed the view during the ride, when the train wasn't swooping downward.


Entrance to the Atoll Reef. Here, Jacky is pointing to the Philippines on the map. According to the legend on the map, the Philippines is coral country (coral reefs are indicated in orange)

Fantastic sea creatures. God is amazing Happy


Someone once told me that the Sea Horse is the only species whose male members carry the unborn offspring in their womb. The females inject the eggs into the males' body. Hmm, I wish humans had that option! He he.

Many Nemo's in their sea anemone homes. These anemones are poisonous to other creatures.

More fishies.


Cable car time. JD's favorite part of the trip! (Not)




- - - -

In the evening, Dex and I watched Lee Hom Wang in concert with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, conducted by Gerard Salonga. We didn't have Jacky with us, so all I have are these pictures taken before the start of the show:



I'll just find the YouTube videos and link them here.

- - - -

After the show, we went out for a few drinks.

JD and DJ

Ria and Jacky

From left: Gerard, Michael Priddy (bass trombonist of HKPO), Dex, Jonathan Clarke (principal trumpet player of HKPO), and Rose (Jonathan's wife)

Gerard and giant beer!

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Related Posts:
Off to Hong Kong
1st Day in HK - Rehearsals and Dimsum
Hong Kong Day One and Two
Hong Kong Day Four - shopping and Typhoon Shelter Restaurant
Hong Kong Day Five - Disneyland and Morton's Steak House
Hong Kong Day Six - Sai Kung


Hong Kong Day One and Two

Photos by Jacky and Cocoy Sarmenta.

Pictures from the airport and shuttle, 1st day:

I was already lightheaded by this time after a week of sleeping only 2-4 hours a day.





JD with his inaanak, Antonio


We watched rehearsals at the Tuen Mun town hall. This pic was taken outside of the hall.

2nd day (December 22)

My birthday! It didn't feel like it, as we postponed celebrations, but this was a happy day nevertheless.

We went on one of the packaged tours included with our travel package. A big, big, tourist trap (meaning you end up shelling out more than what you've planned for). Well, this warns us against packaged tours next time. But we did get to do a bit of sightseeing.

Me and Dex in the Sampan (fishing boat)

Jacky and JD. JD, we learned later, was nervous about this ride pala. He he.

Jumbo Palace, giant floating restaurant. There are three of these in the world, and one is in Manila Bay.



- - - - - - -

After those, we went to the TSL jewelry store where Dex bought me some jewelry for my birthday. Then we headed off to the Hong Kong Cultural Center to watch rehearsals. The orchestra sounded really good, they nailed a full length concert in just two short rehearsals, and I'm very happy to be part of this project. Lee Hom Wang is very talented as well - he can play lots of musical instruments well, he writes lovely songs and he's a really good performer all in all. (Google him to see how popular he is all over Asia)

Many thanks to Gerard for this opportunity!


Gerard Salonga and Lee Hom Wang




Me, Dex, JD, Gerard and Michelle

For more photos, visit Jacky's Multiply Site and Gerard's Multiply Site

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Related posts:
Off to Hong Kong
1st Day in HK - Rehearsals and Dimsum
Hong Kong Day Three - Ocean Park and HKPO Concert
Hong Kong Day Four - shopping and Typhoon Shelter Restaurant
Hong Kong Day Five - Disneyland and Morton's Steak House
Hong Kong Day Six - Sai Kung


1st Day in HK - Rehearsals and Dimsum

Today is our first day here in Hong Kong. Had a blast watching the rehearsals with Gerard S. conducting the Hong Kong Philharmonic for Lee Hom Wang's show. They're really outstanding musicians! I was also happy to hear my arrangements this morning and afternoon. Tomorrow will be the start of the concerts. After that, we had super sarap dimsum. I forgot the name of the place - will blog about it tomorrow.

Too bad we weren't able to get pics of the orchestra during rehearsals. Tomorrow we'll try to do so during the break time.

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Related posts:
Off to Hong Kong
Hong Kong Day Three - Ocean Park and HKPO Concert
Hong Kong Day Four - shopping and Typhoon Shelter Restaurant
Hong Kong Day Five - Disneyland and Morton's Steak House
Hong Kong Day Six - Sai Kung

Off to Hong Kong

In a couple of days, Dex and I will be leaving for Hong Kong, together with Gerard, JD, DJ and Jacky (and little Antonio). We will be watching Gerard Salonga conduct the Hong Kong Philharmonic for Lee Hom Wang's concert. I am so excited! I've just finished two of the three arrangements I'm making, and haven't been sleeping for the past week (I'm lucky to get 4 hours of sleep these days).

Lee Hom Wang is a performer of many talents. Aside from singing and dancing, he also plays Electric Guitar, Drums, Violin, and a lot of other instruments. I really like the songs that were assigned to me to orchestrate for his concert.

Will be updating when we get there. Happy