Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rhythm from the Roots

Cordillera Music Tutorial and Research Center 
         On a stage covered wholly covered with interwoven strips of bamboo, a salute to the main industry of Maasin, Iloilo, where the concert was staged, a young Panay Bukidnon woman, Rolinda Gilbaliga, from the nearby town of Calinog, in traditional dress of red with geometric designs and ornamental stitching, started the program with a plaintive chant. Few understood what was actually chanted, but it can be gleaned that it was a call to a god, a call for blessing, a greeting, a way of opening. 
           After her, different indigenous groups performed music and danced one after another, creating primal beats and rhythm echoing olden times, passed from generation to generation; telling stories of heroes and their exploits; recreating the motions of life and living things with their bodies. They brought with them the musics, sacred and recreational, that accompanied their ancestors and most likely themselves in many stages of their lives. The sounds, created from instruments made from materials of their surroundings and many inspired by the sounds of nature, were reminiscent of forests, mountains, rivers, rain, despair, love.
           The Taal-Tunugan: Philippine Musical and Vocal Forms in the Vernacular gathered six indigenous groups, two from each island cluster of Luzon, Visayas and MindanaoKalinga and Ifugao from northern Luzon, Hiligaynon and Panay Bukidnon from Western Visayas, and Subanen and Mansaka from Mindanaoin Maasin, Iloilo, to create awareness on and foster appreciation for traditional indigenous music in a country drowning in pop music.
           The concert was mounted by the National Committee on Music of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the government agency for arts and culture, and the Baglan Art and Cultre Initiatives for Community Development, a non-government organization composed of humanities professors, visual artists, cultural workers and students engaged in cultural work. They were supported by the local government of Maasin, led by its mayor Mariano Malones.
Taal-Tunugan, held from February 27 to 28, 2014, was part of the Philippine Arts Festival (PAF), NCCAs grand event to celebrate the February National Arts Month. Under the musical direction of ethnomusicologist and National Artist to-be Ramon Santos, with manager Riya Brigino Lopez, Taal-Tunugan was both a heartfelt and educational journey, aptly annotated and competently staged, among the best of the PAF events. It followed the indigenous leaning of last years Tunog-Tugan: International Gongs and Bamboo Music Festival, also a flagship project of the National Committee on Music for the Philippine Arts Festival and held in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte; and Maasin, Iloilo. Different indigenous groups, including Bagobo Clata, Kalinga, Ifugao, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Panay Bukidnon, Yakan, Subanen and Teduray, as well as participants from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos highlighted gong and bamboo instruments and their similarities in form and use among the different groups.
           We at the National Committee on Music of the NCCA has conceptualized Taal-Tunugan, derived from the word taal, which in Tagalog means native, and tunugan, with its root word tunog that is literally translated as sound,’” explained Austragelina Espina, a member of the National Committee on Music. Thus Taal-Tunugan means native sound, a convergence of various musical forms from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. These are not the usual musical expressions that we encounter in our everyday life. These musics are in the brink of disappearing. These musics reflect the richness of our culture, of our being Filipino. Taal-Tunugan shall be an avenue for hearing and sharing these diverse musical forms in an attempt to inspire the public to partake in the promotion and preservation of our rich cultural heritage.
           The Panay Bukidnonupland dwellers of Panay Island, found in the towns of Calinog, Lambunao, Janiuay and Maasin in the province of Iloilo; Tapaz and Jamindan in Capiz; Valderrama, Bugasong and Lawaan in Antique; and Libacao in Aklanplayed the gong (agung) hung from a stand and drum (tambur) to accompany the dance binanog, which sometimes imitated the movements of birds and at one part depicted celebration and courtship. A chanter sang a fragment of the sugidanon or epic Amburukay. Special guest Frederico Caballero, chanter declared Manlilikha ng Bayan or National Living Treasure, and his wife Lucia Caballero joined Reychel Mae Lastrilla, Ann Marie Lastrilla, Wilson Lastrilla, Jhon Paul Biadora, Gloria Caballero and Fritz Cire Yanco in the performance. 
           The predominant people of Panay, the Christian lowlander Hiligaynon, sang folk Christmas songs called daigon, which is also a term for the dramatization of the birth of Jesus Christ practiced in the islands of Panay and Negros. In the town of San Joaquin, Iloilo, one family continues this traditionthe Sigaan family. The farmer Ciriaco Sigaan and wife Felicia Siblario organized a group, including their six children, for daigon, and it is said that they had been doing singing as early as the 1930s, traveling through the remote barangays of San Joaquin. The group, whose members were all elderly, took the stage, the women Celedonia Sigaan, Josefina Sigaan, Gelli Espargoza, Anita Kangleon, Lorenza Ligaan and Pia Pangganitansinging while the menSofronio Sigaan, Salvador Seterra, Ramon Saragena and Salvador Seismondoplayed the guitar, for a few songs. A song told the story of how Joseph takes Mary to be his wife. They ended the performance with a villansico, telling the birth of Jesus Christ.
           Musics of the Kalinga and other ethnic groups of the Cordillera Region were presented an all-male ensemble of the Baguio City-based Cordillera Music Tutorial and Research Center (CMTRC), founded on October 26, 1998, led by its founder Benicio Sokkong. Jason Barcelo, Jess Jess Damagon, Ariel Delim, Jefferson Dongga-as and Shane Lindaoan played bamboo instruments patatag, patangguk, balingbing, saggeypo, tongatong, tongali, kulibao and peyjong as well as the ubiquitous gangsa (gong). The CMTRC group was one of the visually delightful performers and their music, subtle but pulsating.
           Anita Domio Bandangan, Rosalia Umangal Kindipan, Irma Bungalian Talupa, Ana Timuo-og Tundagui and Dourine Gapyao Tupongelderly women and a young girlof Poblacion Hingyon Cultural Organization from the town of Hingyon, Ifugao, chanted a fragment of the hudhud, the Ifugao chant cycle sung during the harvest of rice, the weeding out of rice stalks, funeral wakes and bone-washing (bogwa) rituals. Said to have originated during the seventh century and declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the hudhud comprises more than 200 stories with 40 episodes each, thus taking several days to complete. 
           The young membersHerold Acalista, Jared Tyrone Dag, Ramilio Ganlag III, Edito Latab and Krizia Anne Sulongof the Teatro Benalembang (meaning butterfly) from Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur, a group organized by the municipal government of Lapuyan and its tourism officer Francis Duhaylungsod, gave a sample of Subanen music using the dlabo, the low-tone gong, and the dlayon, the high-tone gong. It was accompanied by the dance sot, the boy wielding the dlasag and thalek or shield, and the girl flourishing the kumpas, a bunch of dried rattan leaves. The performance was highlighted by the ritual dance called shelayan, which is traditionally performed under the moonlight for healing with a gbelyan or shaman. The shelayan is known for its large wooden swing on which dancers take turn to ride, swinging it ever higher.  
           Three generations of Mansaka family from Tagum City, Davao del Norte, headed by Datu Rudy Onlos, mounted traditional dances and played music. Onlos performed the binanig, a piece of music performed by a balyan or shaman during rituals to ask for blessings, abundance, protection and peace, and the pasugaw, about man asking a woman permission to go to another place, using the kudlung, the Mansaka two-stringed lute. Meanwhile the performers, Shiela Mae Castillon, Faith Hannah Orios, Ralph Justine Castillon, Hasel Sandi Baroman and Jessel Kate Dansigan, danced the banay, which is to bless guests during a special occasion; the banug-banug, which depicts two eagles swooping down on a chick; the sisid sang pag abi-abi, a dance to welcome visitors; and the sisid nang bagani, a warrior dance. The group concluded their performance with Bayok sang Pagkaimun, a chant of gathering and welcome, performed during rituals to acknowledge the spirits.

           Taal-Tunugan provided a venue for these kinds of music to be heard and appreciated by a larger audience. It was also a simple effort to keep them from completely vanishing. 

Poblacion Hingyon Cultural Group from Hingyon, Ifugao
Cordillera Music Tutorial and Research Center 
Cordillera Music Tutorial and Research Center 

Cordillera Music Tutorial and Research Center 

Cordillera Music Tutorial and Research Center 
Daigon group from San Joaquin, Iloilo
Mansaka of Tagum City, Davao del Norte 

Rolinda Gilbaliga 
Panay Bukidnon from Calinog, Iloilo 

Teatro Benalembang of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Norte 

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