Songwriter for the Lord
by Margaux Salcedo
He would be the last to admit it but Father Carlo Magno Marcelo is a national treasure.
Many do not know the humble priest but definitely we know his songs.
He has written and composed over 70 songs since he started writing as assistant secretary to Jaime Cardinal Sin in 1996.
His first project was an assignment for the Novo Millennio Ineunte. The Archbishop of Manila, who had found out that Fr. Carlo knew how to play the organ, asked him to create a song for the Jubilee Year 2000.
He composed and wrote the Jubilee Song which became an instant hit. It also gave Fr. Carlo his first Awit Award for Best Inspirational Song. The Awit Award is the most prestigious award in the Philippines for outstanding achievements in the music industry.
The Jubilee Song has since been translated into several languages including Korean, Japanese, Hindi, French, and Chamorro. The song also won the Catholic Book Authors Award as a literary piece.
Liturgical Lyricist and Composer
His next hit was Only Selfless Love, again commissioned by Cardinal Sin, this time for the 4th World Meeting of Families that would be hosted by the Philippines. The song got the approval of the Vatican and became the official song for the event.
But aside from the Vatican, Only Selfless Love in 2003 also got the nod from the Philippine Association of the Record Industry (PARI), which votes on the Awit Awards, and the song garnered not only one but two Awit Awards: one for Best Inspirational Song and another for Song of the Year.
For the Quadricentennial Anniversary of the first ordination of a Filipino priest, Fr. Carlo was once again commissioned by Cardinal Sin to write a song. He wrote and composed Paring Pilipino, which was thereafter recorded by the Bukas Palad Choir. For the Jubilee Year of Mission, Fr. Carlo was commissioned yet again by Cardinal Sin to write a theme song, which resulted in We Are Gifts. When Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales became Archbishop of Manila, his pet project was the Pondo ng Pinoy. The effort needed a theme song. Fr. Carlo wrote Kahit Isang Kusing, which was recorded by folk artist Noel Cabangon.
The few non-commissioned works of Fr. Carlo have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mother.
The first is Mary Most Holy, sung by Regine Velasquez, which was also recorded in the year 2000 and in fact competed with the Jubilee Song at the Awit Awards. (He competed against himself for Best Inspirational Song!) The second was Awit sa Ina ng Sto. Rosario. It was later included in Jamie Rivera's album Mysteries of Light. A few months after it was launched, the song was also chosen as the theme song for the Year of the Holy Rosary. The song gave Fr. Carlo his fourth Awit Award, winning that year in the category of Best Inspirational Song. It was also later recorded by the Madrigal Singers for the album Maria.
He also wrote the Hymn of the Manila Cathedral or Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception: PInagpala Ka Maria. This was actually written by Fr. Carlo when he was still a seminarian serving at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Pasig.
He also composed Birhen ng Guadalupe, the hymn for the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He voluntary wrote this when he found out that graduating students of the minor seminary did not have a hymn.
A very special one is Serviam, a song which he wrote for Cardinal Sin the night before His Eminence died. Jamie Rivera sang this live the night before Cardinal Sin's burial at the Manila Cathedral. Serviam was the motto of Cardinal Sin, who was himself a Marian devotee.
Maria, an entire Marian album with his songs performed by the Madrigal Singers, was released in 2015.
Fr. Carlo is one of the most prolific liturgical musicians we have in the country today.
Aside from the over 70 songs he has written and composed for the Church, he has also recorded 15 albums. His album Jubileum: In the Fullness of Time went quadruple platinum; Mother of All went double platinum; and Only Selfless Love album went platinum.
His other works include Only in Jesus, recorded by Fr. Gelo Parlan and performed at the first Philippine Conference on New Evangelization organized by then-Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle ; Stay With Me, recorded by Jose Mari Chan; Misa ng Sto. Niño de Pandacan, which was composed for the 400th Anniversary of the parish; the various station IDs of Radio Veritas 846, recorded by Jamie Rivera; and Manatili Ka Sa 'Min, the 50th Anniversary theme song of Radio Veritas, recorded by Alisah Bonaobra.
He also wrote and composed Laudato Si, a tribute to the encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment.
He also wrote Love and Sacrifice, which is played as a recessional for the Manila Cathedral online masses. His latest song is the theme song for the Year of Missio Ad Gentes or the Mission Song entitled We Give Our Yes. This has also been translated to Tagalog in collaboration with Msgr. Hernando Coronel of Quiapo Church, entitled "Awit ng Misyon" and animated by various parishes all over the country as well as translated into various dialects.
Come Holy Spirit
The beauty of Fr. Carlo's songs are that they are not only catchy and melodious but also meaningful.
His songwriting process involves extensive research on the theme given and the subject of the song and then waiting for the song to "come from the Holy Spirit".
No wonder he continuously surpasses his own creative genius. As he generously offers his talent, he is always accompanied in songwriting by the Lord!