Friday, April 28, 2017


I WANT TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING. Kapampangans out on excursion trips usually brought their stringed instruments to make beautiful music while on the road, or while enjoying their picnic. People would sing along to add to the merriment of the moment. 

Pampanga’s musical traditions begin with folk songs and melodies. These are the first songs that you heard growing up, on your Ingkung’s knee; the lilting lullabye that Ima hummed in lulling you to sleep. These are also the songs that you sang in school, full of nonsense and made-up rhymes, songs about Atsing Rosing, Mariang Malagu and Kapitan Besyu.

They are the songs sang by peasant workers to fight off boredom and drudgery, to express pride in their labors, however humble. They are the stirring kantang Ukbu that galvanized a national movement, patriotic paeans to a country.

They are the dirgeful tunes you heard being chanted on Holy Week, the hymns and carols that you dutifully sang in church services and the frenetic beat that devotees danced to in annual kuraldals. From the plaintive serenatas of many a lovestruck swain, the sweet chords of a kundiman to the bawdy tunes that livened up many a drinking spree, these songs are a part of our race since time immemorial, wrought by anonymous wordsmiths, and handed down from generation to generation through oral tradition.

Folk songs we call them, music of the common people that says so much about how we live, love and laugh. There are various touchstones that define this kind of music.

First, the anonymity of authorship. Unlike formal poetry, where names like Crissot, Gallardo and Yuzon are associated, there are no such names to speak of in folk poetry. Because of the continuous transmission process, there are no fixed attributions and sources. Which means, the longer the transmission period, the more impossible it is to determine the originator.

Second, the language. Folk song lyrics are generated by common people who are largely untutored, with nary a care for the rigid disciplines of literature as taught in schools. They give free rein to ideas and emotions without a thought for forms, meters and aesthetics, telling stories with natural flair, earthy words and all. The lyrics are uninhibited, the language(s) raw, spontaneous and even mixed.

It is not:
Legwan king kaladua, legwan king katawan
Nung iti mikalu, sunlag ya ing legwan
Ugaling uliran, mayap a kaniwan
Selan at sampat lub, dit a pamagaral
Nung miakma iti king santing ning laman
Tunggen keng malagu, babai ninuman

But it is:
Y Mkaka kung Maria, mamuli yang tapis
Purung purung sutla, habing Camarines
Ninu ing tatalan, ninung talabitbit
I kaka kung Peping, anak ng Don Pedro

It is also:
Kabang teterak ku, lulundag, luluksu
Miyagnan ing sagakgak, pakpak ding gamat ku.
Emuku tiknangan, anggang mepagal ku
Susunga ku rugu, tutulung sipun ku..

And likewise:
One day, misan a aldo
I saw menakit ko,
A bird ayup kano
Flying susulapo

Third, folk songs are a work in progress. The Kapampangan folk song evolves by continuous alteration, as opposed to its formal literary counterpart where every word is fixed, the form precise and permanent. Folk songs are subject to versioning and customizing, in the course of their transference, a cultural process perfectly permissible to fit the needs of the times. Folk songs survive  because of effective adaptation and it is correct to sing:

Papatak, papatak
Magkanta la ring tugak
Magkanta la ring itik

But it is also okay to sing:

Papatak, papatak
Magkanta la ring antak
Lilintik, lilintik
Magkanta la ring Instik!

With the ongoing cultural renaissance in Pampanga, Kapampangan folk songs are being rediscovered and enjoyed.  Folk songs are no longer just the interest of historians, musicologists and seekers of quaint entertainment, but of late, they have found favor as part of the repertoire of youth bands, mainstream singers local music icons led by Pampanga’s best known minstrel, Totoy Bato. After all, folk music has played a very important part in almost everyone’s life. Without a doubt, the folk songs we learned from our childhood, from our parents and friends have been instrumental in shaping our taste for music in all its melodious permutations. There is no better reason to start singing them again. So pick up a guitar, raise your voices, and sing your heart out!

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