ROCKFORD, Ill. – Binangonan Rizal native Rolando Maaba, 54, promised himself a better life when he left the Philippines at age 22. Financial hardship challenged Maaba to stay positive and hopeful.
“I was advised in life how to make money in a good way and not in a bay even it’s a small thing they’ll notice it in heaven,” said Maaba. “In heaven they understand us and will give us what we wish for just as long as you work for it.”
Maaba does not own a piano and did not go to professional music school but this did not stop him from playing and sharing his passion – a gift that he has had since he was a child.
Wanting to provide the best future for his kids, Maaba works multiple jobs.
He’s a meat porter, a pianist at an Italian restaurant, and a janitor at Rockford Health System where he got discovered when a co-worker posted a video of him playing the piano at the hospital lobby – a routine he does during his 15-minute breaks.
“All of them are waiting,” said Maaba. “As soon as I was playing they always want me to be there. Some of them even want to sleep there waiting for me.”
With over 100,000 YouTube hits, several TV appearances on Good Morning America, WIFR, ABC News, and social media presence, Maaba became an overnight star – something that Maaba never imagined would happen to him.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Maaba. “I was in the news in different parts of the world. I never knew it would be like this. People commented that they loved me and appreciated my singing. I helped the visitors, the patients who had terminal illnesses. I gave them happiness even in their last minutes.”
“I’m very proud of him,” said Rolando’s wife Fern. “There’s a lot of people who recognize him because of his talents.”
Maaba’s sacrifices all paid off as both his kids have graduated from college, but now he’s even more fulfilled.
“I want to be able to live longer so that I can give joy to people especially for patients who have medical conditions in hospitals,” said Maaba.
Maaba says he is committed to continue spreading happiness through his gift of music.