Get to Know
By Rex S. Salvilla
M U S I C
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
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,
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.
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