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MARCH 25 01


Get to Know Western Visayas

By Rex S. Salvilla


During the Spanish Time, Ilonggo composers seemed to be partial to danza - a plaintive music form in two-quarters with Spanish element and now a vanishing specie. Some of these were: Ay, ay kalisud, Walay angay, and Malakat ka na gali.

At the turn of the 20th century, thew Americans came and introduced public dance music. Dance orchestras flourished over the land playing sweet music for the slow drag and jumpy Latin American airs for charleston, tango, rhumba, samba, conga and boogie-woogie. The Ilonggo songs were relegated to the background. The most famous of these dance orchestras was the Butterfly of Juan Anonoy.

In Negros, the famous dance bands were the Bacolod Romancers and Manhattan Orchestra.

The early American time marked the golden age of the zarzuela - a folk opera. Some arias or theme songs of the zarzuelas became hits among the Ilonggos like Belong-belong of Angel Magahum, Sr. who was the only zarzuela writer who composed his own music. He also composed the unofficial song of Iloilo - Iloilo, ang banua ko.

Other Ilonggo hits of the period were: Tingug ni nanay of Rosita Jara Mesa set to music by Soledad Idemne Mirasol who also composed the song Ay Rosing and the now classic Daigon (Christmas carol) - O dungga man dinyo…

There were also waltz songs: Ang pispis nga bukaw and Maghirupay Kita.

During this period, too, Philippine operatic stage was dominated by Diva Divina Josefa Fuentes of Capiz - an internationally famous operatic soprano. She made the Filipinos cry with her Ay, ay kalisud.

The brass bands during the Spanish time time continued to flourish in the towns playing during the town fiestas.

During the war, the Ilonggos continued to be musical despite the constraints of the times. In the mountains, the guerillas danced on the bare ground under the mango trees. For lack of orchestras they produced music by singing tra-lala accompanied by whistles and bamboo sticks or tin pans. They called this lang-lang music.

In the Japanese-controlled areas, the Ilonggos even held carnivals in Iloilo City and public balls in town plazas with the guerillas dancing under the very noses of the enemy.

During the war, the Panay Guerillas was the only guerilla movement in the Philippines or even perhaps in the whole world, with a band, it had a 45-piece band known as 65th Infantry Regiment Band under the baton of Eliseo Gellor organized by Major Epifanio Cabalfin.

Many songs were composed during the war. Aside from war duties, two songs survived up to the present. The first was Tuburan composed by Cesar Mirasol inspired by a mountain spring at Tapaz, Capiz where his family evacuted. The other was dalawidaw of Mayor (later congressman) Augurio Abeto of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental, composed also in the mountains.

During the war, too, saw, the tragic death Capt. Alfonso Fresnido of Dumalag, Capiz at the hands of the Japanese at Fort Santiago, Manila togetjher with Col. Walter Loving, the conductor of the famous pre-war Philippine Constabulary Band whom Fresnido succeeded.

Earlier, during St. Louis World Exposition in the United States in 1904, the PC Band won special prize for finishing a piece despite lights out of the middle of the piece. That piece, Aires Filipinas, was arranged by Arcadio Calero of Cabatuan, Iloilo (a band member) while the leading trumpet player was Eliseo Gellor if Tubungan, Iloilo. In the same exposition, General Adriano Hernandez won first honors for his La marcha de Conant.

Lastly, there was Vicente Gella (later national treasurer of the Philippines and Governor of Antique) who taught Dr. Jose P. Rizal in Spain how to play the flute.