A Fairbanks Piano at Club Balai Isabel

My family and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to escape everyday life for a day and a half in a place called Club Balai Isabel. It’s a vacation spot in Talisay, Batangas where we enjoyed a great view of Taal Lake and Volcano, buffet-style meals, and cozy accommodations. Though it was brief, what more can we ask for? It’s a trip sponsored by my wife’s employers that gave us a chance to live like kings and queens for a day. From my own personal end, it provided me with an opportunity to refresh my creative juices and play a fantastic antique piano.

Other than the fact that it was a good opportunity for quality time with my wife and child, I thought of the trip as a way to get inspired to write some new music. Since we decided to bring our own vehicle instead of riding on a hired shuttle service, I was able to bring my nylon-stringed guitar and Zoom H4n recorder, and a laptop, essentially a portable studio ensemble. I was able to record a few musical ideas on the H4n after gaining a fresh new look at the sights, something that I have taken for granted on numerous occasions. However, the afternoon of that day led me to discover this antique piano.

The piano was an upright piano built in 1910 by the Fairbanks Piano Company of Southern California. It had the appearance and feel that you would expect from antique instrument. It was no Yamaha, Steinway or Bechstein but it did have a remarkable character or its own.

As you would have noticed, I am a sucker for pianos and other fine instruments. I just felt the need to play it and see what I can do with it. My wife was initially resistant but then she asked permission on my behalf so that I can play it. As you would see from these videos, I really took advantage of that opportunity.

In order to make my sense of shame and shyness disappear, every time I played on the piano I ordered a drink or two (one of which is for my son). I even managed to record my son playing J.S Bach’s “Bouree in E Minor” on that instrument. I also was able to perform a number of pieces while I was there.

About a few hours before returning to Manila, I was able to record myself playing that wonderful piano, and so here’s how it all turned out as I played for a very small audience consisting of myself, microbes, some flies and perhaps one or two people passing by. I played five pieces all in all: an improvisation, Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, Debussy’s 1st Arabesque and “Reflets Dans L’Eau” from Images Book I,  and a sketch of my original composition entitled “Waltz on Water”. You can watch and listen to my “live set” below courtesy of the all-powerful YouTube. I’d also like to dedicate this performance to the late Bernabe “Totchie” Galang, my uncle who’d probably have no idea what I’m playing:

01 – Improvisation

02 – “Revolutionary” Etude (Op. 10 No. 12) by Frederic Chopin

03 – “Arabesque No. 1” by Claude Debussy

04 – “Reflets Dans L’Eau” by Claude Debussy

05 – “Waltz on Water” by Mark A. Galang

Would I say that it was a concert-worthy performance? Of course not. I’ll be first to admit that even though I desire such skills, I’m no Lang Lang, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, or Cecile Licad. My excuse would be that I’m more of a composer rather than a concert pianist so I was more of trying to coax out some more creative juices courtesy of that piano rather than trying to please a crowd. After all, you won’t expect me to play pop tunes for solo piano for some people who merely dine and treat pianists as if they were Muzak machines. Anyway, the point is that I really felt happy being able to play a vintage instrument that was still in playable condition, and that doesn’t stop me from trying to act like as if I were a concert pianist, hehehe!


  1. Hello ! Can you tell me if this place is a jazz club? Do you know the quality of the program ? Have a look at the lists on my blog. Under each thumbnails concerning parts of the globe, you can find great addresses. If you could help to add one or more, it would be sooooo great :-). Thank you for this post and… for the music on an old piano !

    • Hello Celine,

      No, this isn’t a jazz club. How I wish it was! This is actually a resort I stayed at until this morning. In fact, I don’t think anyone was playing this piano until I showed up. The jazz scene in the Philippines unfortunately is weak unlike in other places like Europe or Japan. You can try checking out Ten 02 Bar (http://www.ten02.t83.net/) in Timog, Quezon City. It’s one of the few places I know where jazz is thriving. I was once invited by local artist Raffy Ignacio to try and perform there but I declined since I don’t have the time to commit to doing live gigs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s