The choir-boys of Santo Domingo Church, popularly known as the “tiples” are well known for their angelic voices which can be heard every Sunday at the 10:00 a.m. Mass and especially during the yearly novena to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval in the month of October. The boys range from 8 years old to 14 and sometimes a little bit older. The word “tiple” is Spanish which means the soprano voice of a boy. When boys reach the age of puberty their voices change either to a tenor or a bass. There are many choir-boys in the world the more well-known among which are the Sistine Chapel Choir in Rome, the Vienna Boys Choir in Austria, the Little Singers of Paris in France etc. In the Philippines we have the Tiples de Santo Domingo, a group as ancient as the church itself.

    One of the first Dominican priests to arrive to the Philippines in 1587 was Fr. Pedro Bolaños, O.P. who had a knack for organizing and training boys to sing in the church. It is historically documented that he established such a choir in Bataan where he also passed on to the next life. The first Santo Domingo Church was built on January 1, 1588 inside Intramuros and tradition has it that a boys’ choir was also established to sing at the chapel of the Virgin of the Holy Rosary venerated in this church. It can, therefore, be said that the “tiples de Santo Domingo” has already been an integral part of Santo Domingo Church since the 16th century especially when the present image of the Virgin of the Holy Rosary was sculpted in 1593 and Santo Domingo Church became known as her shrine.

    When the venerated image of the Holy Rosary of La Naval was brought to UST chapel during the Second World War until 1954 a boys choir was also formed and when the new church of Santo Domingo was built in Quezon City where it now stands and inaugurated in 1954 the “tiples de Santo Domingo” was revived with Fr. Marcelino Diaz, O.P. as choir director. The “tiples” of UST continued for some time but later on gave way to the “tiples” of Santo Domingo.

    The tiples have sung not only inside the confines of Santo Domingo Church but in many varied locations. Many times they have been invited to Malacañang to entertain guests of Philippine presidents and first ladies. They have regaled kings and queens with their angelic voices. They have had several concerts at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, at the former American Air Force base in Clark Field, and in other provinces and cities of the Philippines. In the 1970’s, after two concerts called “Papuri I” and “Papuri II” they rendered a command performance at the same CCP venue during the General Chapter of the Dominican Order in 1977, held for the first time in the Philippines with delegates coming from different parts of the globe.

    Many boys’ choirs have been formed in the Philippines and several are still being formed. Many have also come and gone but the “tiples de Santo Domingo” is the pioneer of them all. They are the privileged singers surrounding the altar and image of our Blessed Mother, the Queen of the Holy Rosary. In the history of choirs and church music in our country the tiples have found their niche which will forever be their own.

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