High notes for regional folk songs (1)

Some Filipino culture buffs, among them musicians of small town bands up north, are raising notes for more open or covered auditoriums and stages for the country’s slowly fading out regional folk songs in the different keys and clefs.

They believe these songs can well keep up to the beat and melody as well as message of English songs that have made inroads in the industry.

They say, on the sidelines of the coronavirus pandemic which has checked erstwhile weekend musical rehearsals, that these Filipino folk songs can have the same lilting tune and mighty message as, for instance, the American singer-song writer Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” or ”If I Had A Hammer” written in 1949 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hayes.

Guthrie’s chorus has the lines: The sun comes shining as I was strolling/ The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling/ The fog was lifting a voice come chanting/ This land was made for you and me.//

The song “If I Had A Hammer,” a Civil Rights anthem of the American Civil Rights movement, has the words: It’s a hammer of justice/ It’s a bell of freedom/ It’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters/ All over this land.//

Some sources say the Philippines, which has several regions with major regional languages and musical brands, is literally a treasure trove for folk songs that give sheen to the country’s over-all culture as a Southeast Asian nation.

Music industry sources say people in the regions, particularly the younger generations, should be exposed to this wealth of Filipino folk songs “since it is an essential way to pass down tradition that has been the signature of their ancestors.”

There are also those who say singing these folk songs and helping the young ones appreciate the message helps preserve and protect these folk songs which cover a variety of musical styles although the song is commonly used to refer to a narrative song that uses traditional melodies to speak on a particular topic.

Folk songs – the music of a nation, a sub-culture or a community of people — address social and political issues like work, war, and popular opinion and communicates a message and has a strong meaning about them.

In the Philippines, these folk songs are abundant – from as far north as Ilocos Norte and Cagayan to the warrior-type Tausugs in Jolo in the far south – but are hardly known and heard, if at all, by young Filipinos.

Ilocanos take pride in their folk song Pamulinawen, among others they have in their chests, a song addressed to, a euphemism, a stone-hearted lady, ort Diro ni Ayat (Nectar of Love).

Part of the lyrics: Pamulinawen/ Pusok indengam man/ ‘Toy umas-asug/ Agrayo d’ta sadiam/Panunotem man/ Ti inka pagintutulngan/ ‘toy agayat/ agrayo d’ta sadiam.//

The loose translation in English by an Ilocano musician: pamulinawen/ please hearken to my heart/the one appealing/ has been under your spell/ please think of me/ the one you keep ignoring/the one beseeching/ enamored with your charm.//

Bicolanos take pride as well, apart from “Katurog na Nonoy” and “Sarung Banggi,” in the song “Babaeng Taga Bikol: Maogmahon sa Kabicolan (2x)/ Madia kamo sa Kabicolan/ Dae nindo malilingawan/ Babaeng taga-Bicol.

Which means – again loose translation – it’s nice to be in Bicolandia (2x)/ Come on over to the region/ and don’t you ever forget/ a lady from Bicol.//

In the Cordilleras, the Bontocs have a funeral song on Inan Talangey. This is about the life of a dead person and is sung by two or three groups of people during the evening wake, a practice common in northern Philippines.

The Kalingas also have their folk songs, like Banao, a lullaby song which relates the story of a baby sitter – perhaps a sibling or a close relative — while the child’s parents are out there in the farm.

The song says the baby-sitter lulls the baby to sleep by rocking it in a forward-backward movement of the torso and bending the knee a little, while singing: O-wah, o-wah, o-wah-wi-iyi-i/Nasigab man-tagibi-iyi-i/ Maid suyop no labvi/ Anosan ta’n bvobva-i-i-i/ Siya’t kopyan dji bvo-bva-i/ O-way adjo’t ligatmi-i-iyi/ Man-i-goygoy no labvi/ O-wah, o-wah, o-wah-wi–iyi-i.//

The loose English translation by someone who has gone to the area: O-wah, o-wah, o-wah-wi-iyi-i/ Baby sitting is rather difficult/ No sleep at all at night/ We women can only bear/ That’s what women are born for/ Although there is much to suffer from.// (AI/MTVN)

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