Shirley Dimaano, a native of Batangas, Philippines, is an exceptional Pinay since she speaks three languages fluently – English, French and Hungarian. Aside from being a linguist. Shirley loves to sing chansons and folk music. She sings and composes her own songs, too.
“I was born in the Philippines on one of the 7000 islands 90 kilometers south of Manila, to a very modest family of 4 children. My parents were both elementary school teachers and I grew up in a small village of about 150 people. As a child I was always fascinated by music, especially Filipino folk music,” relates Shirley.
Shirley got her first guitar from her father on her 10th birthday. She began to practice with the guitar and was fascinated by the wonderful sounds that it made. One day I realized that I could teach herself to play the guitar.
“I sang mainly gospel songs in Filipino at our village church where I went every Sunday to sing … soon, it became apparent that together, my voice and my guitar made beautiful music,” Shirley added.
During her student years at the University of Manila, she met
Papa Charlie, a French Missionary. The good priest was helping the less fortunate young people in Manila. It was Papa Charlie who made a major difference in Shirley’s life.
“He felt my passion for languages and offered to send me to France to study. I finished my French studies in three years and then returned to Manila and began working as a French teacher at Alliance Française de Manille,” Shirley said.
During her studies in France, she met a Hungarian man that she fell in love with. When she was teaching at the Alliance Française de Manille, she realized that her heart was still with this man. Thus, she decided to move to Hungary where she lived for the next 12 years in the city of Szeged.
“I learned the language and I immersed myself into the Hungarian culture. The Hungarian culture was very different from my upbringing in the Philippines … and I lived the most decisive years of my life there. I developed my future goals to become an artist and share the vision about “Unity in Diversity”. This became a new target in my life, in addition to being a Mother to my only daughter, Luzviminda, 11 years old,” Shirley related further.
In 2007 she decided to move to Austria for her music career. Shirley found it difficult to integrate herself at the start. Her first attempt with a music agency in Burgenland failed. Since she is a linguist , she used her international education and returned to her original profession as a language teacher. She began working at Berlitz, in a well known language school in Wiener Neustadt where she taught English, French, and Hungarian.
“We only employ native speakers and people from the Philippines are not native speakers but, she came into my office and we spoke together in English since she could not yet speak German. I realized the accent is perfect. And so I decided to offer her to teach as full-timer in Berlitz,” Mr. Rino Carlei, Director of Berlitz, said.
In 2008, Shirley saw Helmut Berger on stage with an acoustic band in a “Heuriger” (Austrian wine house) where he played. 7
“He had gipsy roots and I felt immediately the flow of music in his blood. I was totally fascinated because his music related to my thoughts and feelings with his guitar playing. I teamed up with him and from that very moment, a new band, “KEY TO THE LIGHT BAND” was born!” Shirley related gladly.
“The “KEY TO THE LIGHT BAND” … has a very spiritual name but has no religious references. It is named with the concept of finding the LIGHT in us as human beings … the LIGHT that opens the hearts to LOVE, UNDERSTANDING AND TOLERANCE. My inspiration for the band is “ UNITY in DIVERSITY” and to attract people from any culture or social identity to relate to each other and “unite” as ONE. This is what I mean by my slogan “ONE WORLD, ONE MUSIC”, Shirley concluded.