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Friday, February 18, 2005

Pasko sa Pilipinas

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
December 20, 2004, posted at www.thefreeman.com

My senior editor and I were talking about a recent call of Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal on the playing of Christmas carols. The Cardinal urged all parishioners to play or listen to Christmas jingles that convey the significance of the Advent season.
As one big fan of ethnic/indigenous/tribal music, our conversations led me to sharing a collection of “lumad” songs I have which for five years now had replaced “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” (blah!), Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (whew! Haven’t even seen the “pilandok” in all of my life, reindeer pa kaha?), and “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night”.

Oh well! I have only been up close and personal with the bagrass tree – an endemic specie - once. So okey, I just decided to literally burn those CDs that are “inappropriate” for someone to keep who takes pride in being “lumad” (*grin!)

“Pasko sa Pilipinas” – a collector’s item – was released in 1999. It is a collection of traditional Filipino Christmas carols from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. It has been produced with the trademark that probably best characterizes us Filipinos - our being great singers! All over the world, we are indeed admired for our singing talent. Unfortunately, we almost always perform tunes of the dominant culture.

To celebrate Christmas here in “my space in space”, I would like to share SGS Far East Ltd. Economic Affairs Division’s effort in paying tribute to the Filipinos through the recording of native Christmas songs and carols belonging to us and embodying our culture – all wrapped up in “Pasko sa Pilipinas”.

To realize a project Serge Guillaume of the Manila Liaison Office called “ambitious”, he collaborated with Mike “Mitu” Tupas, a musician/craftsman and producer of a recording outfit, whom he admired as a great musician, and a Filipino who has taken to heart the mission of making the voices of Filipino heritage heard.

The compilation of songs stirs up the kind of emotion that only authenticity is able to generate. This is SGS’ modest way of sharing some undiscovered jewels of music, sounds and voices, of songs never ever before been recorded.

“Pasko sa Pilipinas” gives each listener the opportunity to explore the Philippines and embrace countless groups of musicians from all over. The carols, melodies, and arrangements of the album can be considered raw by modern standards, but the beauty of the songs lies in their simplicity and uniqueness.

To start with, there is Grupo Isabeleños of Isabela, Negros Occidental. Already in their 60s and 70s, the Grupo Isabeleños have been singing Christmas carols for more than 50 years. As virtuosos in guitar and homemade musical instruments, they are sought after during the Christmas season and other church activities. Their Christmas carols, being sung in what is known as “daigon” (caroling in Ilonggo), have been passed on from generation to generation. Their masterpiece “Yari Kami” (Here We Are) goes a little something like this: “Yari kami/Sa tion ag amon pagdaigon/ Kabay unta sa inyo indi makatublaw/Paskwa karon panahon, panahon sang kalipay/ Kay natawo na ang manonobos sang kalibutan/ Sing may alas dose ang gabi-i/May natawo sa pasungan/Gintakda kag ginatuohan/Nga manunubos sang kalibutan”. The Grupo Isabeleños is so grateful their songs are recorded to reveal the beauty of Ilonggo music.

The Tugawe, Dauin Rondalla took its name from barrio Tugawe which is about 5-km uphill from Dauin, 15 km. south of Dumaguete City where they reside. Founded by Brigido Alama in 1951, they have been pursuing tribal music throughout the province and in some areas in Mindanao. They were bonded by an original composition “Maglipay Kitang Tanan” : Maglipay kitang tanan/Sa ibabaw ning kalibutan/ Kay karon natawo na/ Ang Manunubos sa sala ta/ Kay tiaw pa bang pag-antos/ Ni Maria ug ni Jose/ Ilang gilikay si Jesus/ Kay si Jerudes naga susi.

The Popong Landero Organization is a collective group of musicians based in Davao City. They are known as one of the alternative musicians in town doing both theater and concerts. Popong Landero, the leader of the group had made three albums under his name. A composer, theater actor and a researcher of Filipino culture especially in the field of music, he formed this group to express the innermost soul of the Mindanao “lumads”, and make music inspired by their roots. The group continues to give workshops in some schools about songwriting and music composition to promote Filipino cultural heritage.

“Mikaransay” (Ringing) is one of the jolliest tunes in the album – one of my fave picks - Mikaransay ang lingganay/Ug mikagay sa kalipay/ Ang kagahub, ang kasaba/ Nga migitik kay Bag-ong Tuig/ Yayay mikaransay ang lingganay/ Sa tumang kalipay/ Ayayayay pagkasaba/ Nga migitik kay Bag-ong Tuig.

The JAMS Musicians are award-winning Kundiman singers. They said that the strong collective musical force brought them together to make beautiful nostalgic Christmas music. The thought of recording Ilocano Christmas songs together is a dream for them. All come from remote, but neighboring barrios chosen by their leaders to represent Ilocano musical ingenuity. Each member feels proud, challenged and excited about the project. This inspired them to research more on their long forgotten ancestral songs. JAMS members are hoping that the local government can help them preserve their rich and unique songs through more compilations of Christmas carols in an album.

And since I am Ilocana by lineage, I love “jammin’” with them to the tune of “Dios Ti Mangted Ti Naimbag a Rabiiyo”: Dios Ti Mangted Ti Naimbag a Rabiiyo/ Apo bumalay naimbag a paskuayo/Buenas Noches a la mano/ Umagep kam ta dakulap yo/ Agragraksak kam a padapada/ A mangiyebkas ken mangikankanta/ Ta buyugan tay timek ti musika/Ti nagasat a pannakayanak ni Jesus, Viva.

From the misty mountains and sunny island of Palawan, a homegrown cultural group has emerged and gained recognition for its unique repertoire of traditional folk song, and ethnic inspired original compositions. Its name SINIKA is derived from “Sining ng mga Katutubo” or Indigenous People’s Art.
The group has impressed both Filipino and international audiences with their numerous performances in Palawan and in Manila.

In the CD collection of Philippine carols, they performed the “Tabora” – the carols of the island that tell of the birth of Christ as introduced by the Spaniards in their pursuit to spread Christianity. In recent years, these songs are seldom heard because of the strong undeniable presence of another culture. Tabora is SINIKA’s contribution to revive and popularize the native carols.

“Vamos, Vamos Pastores”, which is their contribution to the project, depicts the ancient form of animation utilizing the domestic animals in the farm. Sounds of the carabao, cow, goat, chicken, and birds are mimicked in their songs for the Lord: Vamos, vamos pastores/ vamos sa Belen/ Ateng ing dadayao/ Si Hesus mi ang birhen/ Dagi kaming kebes/ Nga mga pastores/ Agalin sa bukid/ Ag pakon sa Belen/ Sa pag laao ki Hesus/ Nga bagong ing bata/ ateng manunubos/ Ang mga baka aga kanta maa maa maa/Sa mabael nga pasalamat nga natao ang mesias/ Ang mga kambing aga kanta mei mei mei/Sa mabael nga pasalamat nga natao ang Mesias.

And then there’s Mitu’s Tribe. Mitu, the album’s production guru, gathered this group of alternative singers and musicians. Mitu’s Tribe, similarly love the idea of preserving the richness of Filipino Christmas heritage. The group’s rendition of the famous Pinoy carol “Pasko Na” is a fusion of contemporary lyrics and melody with the mixture of tribal musical instruments like the kubing (Jew’s harp), tambol (skin drum), Tboli bells, flute, and more.

Musicians who took part in the completion of the album include Bayang Barrios and Noel Cabangon of “Kanlungan” fame. Our support to this compilation of Pinoy Christmas carols is our upholding of tribal wisdom.

(For your comments, reactions, suggestions, and contributions, crank up my addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. Maayong Pasko ug Mabulahanong Bag-ong Tuig Kanatong Tanan!)

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