Music

Awit at Laro: A Dose of Child’s Play and Folklore

During the last week of October, Mr. Pure Energy himself, Gary Valenciano, together with Bambi Mañosa Tanjutco, launched Awit at Laro, a project that celebrates the spirit of play (Awit at Laro, 2018). It presents modernized versions of traditional Filipino folk songs, as well as new compositions inspired by the well-loved Filipino games, such as Piko, Jack ‘En Poy, etc. Accompanied by Awit at Laro’s music is a coffee table book which contains the songs’ lyrics and artworks created by artists of Ang INK (Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan), which may be purchased either online or in one of Awit at Laro’s mall tours. Proceeds from the coffee table book sales will be for the benefit of Unicef and Tukod Foundation while the door art sales will be for the benefit of Museo Pambata. This project was also made in partnership with Shining Light Foundation.

The Awit at Laro album is produced by Star Music, Manila Genesis Entertainment & Management Inc., and GV Productions. It contains two parts, namely Awit and Laro. The Awit album contains nine recordings of traditional Filipino folk songs with modern twists, as well as “Bawat Isa Sa Atin,” an original song written and sung by Gary Valenciano. On the other hand, the Laro album contains ten recordings of originally written songs inspired by the most-loved Filipino games.

This article will feature the songs included in the album, as well as detailed descriptions of each song.

AWIT

Bahay Kubo” is one of the most popular Tagalog folksongs we have learned in our childhood years. Apart from the vegetables planted in the backyard, immaterial things, such as love, happiness, peace, and other intangible yet positive things make the “bahay kubo” not only a house filled with vegetation, but also a home that instills positive values. With the song’s recurring instrumentation (flute, djembe, humming, and kulintang), Jona’s vocals were light yet sincere, which complete the song’s positive feel.

“Sitsiritsit Alibangbang” may have had the innocent melody but its song’s last two stanzas talked about human trafficking.

Mama, mama, namamangka

Pasakayin yaring bata

Pagdating sa Maynila,

Ipagpalit ng manika.

Ale, aleng namamayong

Pasukubin yaring sanggol

Pagdating sa Malabon,

Ipagpalit ng bagoong.

These verses were even raised by comedian Vice Ganda during one of the episodes of It’s Showtime while the hosts were discussing the issue on the possible change of our National Anthem’s lyrics. Going back to the track itself, the bridge part served as a commentary to the aforementioned verses:

Pasensya na kung di maintindihan

Huwag ipagpapalit ang tao sa kabagayan

Pagsabihan lang pag sila’y nangungulit

Pagtiyagaan na lang, di na nauulit muli

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Musically speaking, the TNT Boys’ version of this folksong has a dance-like feel, which had a fusion of 1990s Eurodance feels and milennial whoop. While the boys have a consistently seamless harmony, Mackie’s rap is clearly done and Keifer’s whistle register is consistently on-point. Francis’s belting lines are also powerful.

Katrina Velarde’s version of “Leron Leron Sinta” had a reggae and R&B feel. While the song’s lyrics were written as they are, Velarde’s voice was powerful yet soulful. Not to mention, her melismas were on point.

Paru-Parong Bukid” is another Filipino folksong with a fusion of rock and rondalla, interpreted by Yeng Constantino. The interesting part about the song’s arrangement was that the rondalla trills blended well with the pop-rock arrangement.

Magtanim ay Di Biro,” a Filipino folksong that talks about a farmer’s life, was interpreted by Bamboo and the Band (composed of Junjun Regalado, Simon Tan, Ardie de Guzman, Kakoy Legaspi, Abe Billano, and Ria Villena-Osorio).  The sound has the usual rock feel, reminiscent of 1990s Rivermaya (led by Bamboo). The song’s melody departed from the original during the first time it was sung.

Lea Salonga’s “Pakitong-Kitong”  is rather a commentary on bashing in general.

Bakit ba may ibang nambabangga at nananadya?

While the song’s original version talks about the struggle of catching crabs in the sea, Jungee Marcelo, the song’s composer has a different take on the “crabs” in the society. The so-called “crabs” are the ones who would do everything out of envy to pull successful people down, in favor of themselves. Musically, the song’s character is dark, which matched Salonga’s theatrical vocals.

Sam Concepcion’s version of the Bikol folksong, “Sarung Banggi” was a mix of Bikol and Tagalog lyrics. However, the Tagalog lyrics were not direct translations of the original Bikol text. Musically speaking, the song’s melody has a slight departure from the original and it has an EDM feel.

“Ati Cu Pung Singsing” is also in EDM, sung by Janella Salvador. The song commences with the Kapampangan folksong’s Tagalog translation, followed by some English lyrical content. It is sung in its original Kapampangan text during the middle part.

“Nanay, Tatay,” is a children’s game song which is reflective in the claps in the song’s beginning. Interpreted by Darren Espanto, Anne Curtis, and Gloc 9, it talks about patience, giving, and perseverance.

Tulungan mo ang sarili mo. Subukan mo at ang mararating mo ay malayo

Ending the Awit segment is Gary Valenciano’s and Mandaluyong Children’s Choir’s “Bawat Isa Sa Atin.” It is a ballad which talks about giving hope to the children, despite them being born out of struggles.

Bawat isa sa atin ay tulad nila.

Naghahanap ng pagmamahal at pag-aaruga

Kung ituloy ang laban,

Karapatan ng bawat batang nilalang

Balang araw nating masasaksihan

Buhay ng bawat batang

Matupad ang pangarap nila.

LARO

Patintero,” performed by Lara Maigue and Mel Villena’s AMP Band, clearly shows how the game patintero is played. It also encourages children to play patintero to promote physical and mental alertness. Musically, it is set in big band jazz.

Similar to “Patintero,” KZ Tandingan’s “Tagu-Taguan” is a clear demonstration of the game. It is set in EDM.

Piko,” performed by Morissette Amon, has the distinct sound of the Indonesian saron, especially in the beginning, which later transitions into EDM. Lyrically, it shows how popular the piko is, being a budget-friendly and environment-friendly game.

Joey Ayala’s “Luksong Tinik” is musically interesting. It does not only show how the game luksong tinik is played. It is a fusion of EDM and folk elements (guitar, kulintang, and kudyapi), reminiscent of what the UP TUGMA (an organization in the UP College of Music that focuses on Asian Music performance) is currently doing. The “Takbo, takbo, takbo, lukso” part is also playfully done.

Gary Valenciano and Ogie Alcasid’s “Sipa,” is a dance pop song which shows how the game sipa is played. It also describes how the ball used in such game looks like.

Tumbang Preso,” performed by Kiana Valenciano and Billy Crawford, is basically a creative presentation of the tumbang preso scene. Musically, tinges of the pateteg and the takik are fused with EDM.

Bullet Dumas’s “Jak en Poy” does not only describe how the game is played.  Dumas’s lyricism is creative, especially in the part, “Bato, talo sa papel, talo sa gunting.”This part reminds me of the choral arrangements of Filipino folksongs used in high school choral competitions, in terms of rhythmic structure.

“Pitik-Bulag,” performed by Julie Anne San Jose is an R&B love song. It likens the pitik bulag game to romance in general which is full of surprises.

“Touch and Move” talks about the touch and move game by itself. This song molds AC Bonifacio, not only as the dancer who won in ABS-CBN’s Dance Kids, but also as a total performer who can actually sing!

The Laro portion ends with Gary Valenciano’s “Saranggola.” Written by Ebe Dancel, the song talks about letting our dreams (represented by the kite) fly higher and holding onto them with our supporters’ guidance (represented by the kite’s string). The song itself is anthemic and powerful.

The album itself is kid-friendly because those listening to the tracks will not only enjoy the songs’ modern feel. The songs also impart important lessons through the lyrics added. The coffee table book is also a great gift this Christmas season.

To have a sneak peak of the album, here is the Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.

Awit at Laro in a nutshell

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Music

THE BELLS OF SUCCESS

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Prof. Butocan and student Eva Cuenza during one of their kulintang sessions.

For the longest time, formal tertiary music education has been overly focused on practicing the art of playing mostly Western musical instruments, such as the piano and the violin. However, with the great determination of professor Aga Butocan, the art of playing the kulintang in the formal tertiary music education setting was made possible.

Butocan was born to copra farmers in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. She was the youngest in a brood of six, with a sister serving as her first teacher in playing the kulintang. When she was eight years old, her older sister would make Butocan sit on her lap and guide her hands on the saronay (a smaller version of the kulintang) while playing. The kulintang music was familiar to her since it was the music often heard in the village. She would later develop her proficiency in the instrument as she “jammed” with her cousins living in the community.

Her Simuay hometown is quite far from the poblacion (center) that it took her more than a fifteen minute-walk along the unpaved roads to attend elementary classes. Her high school life was quite tough for it took her three hours via motorboat to arrive at the campus so she had to stop her high school education for a year.

However, she was able to finish her high school education and later pursued her certificate in Elementary Education for two years. She later obtained a scholarship from the Commission on National Integration which allowed her to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Education at the Arellano University.

In 1969, Dr. Jose Maceda, then-chair of the Asian Music Department, invited Butocan to play kulintang at the University of the Philippines College of Music. Little did she know that she would be invited to formally teach kulintang in the college.

Her first two years of teaching were quite tough for her because it was not a common practice in Maguindanao to teach the instrument using written notation. Until one time, she noticed that while the gongs were arranged similarly to a xylophone, she thought that numbers may be used in notating the instrument. It became one of the most effective ways which made her students learn the instrument more efficiently.

“Ginawa ko ito parang kombinasyon lang ng parang quarter at tsaka eighth notes (laughs). Yung simpleng idea ko sa music,” Butocan said. Through the years, Butocan has been learning a lot from her students in developing her kulintang teaching methods. She was later able to incorporate the Western principles in her pedagogy, such as dynamics (control of loudness/softness).

Through her innovations in teaching kulintang, as well as in preserving the tradition, Butocan was recognized by the Ateneo de Manila University with the Gawad Tanglaw ng Lahi award in 2016. She was likewise able to perform and conduct lectures in other countries like Japan, the United States, Germany, and many more.

However, for the case of the kulintang majors, Butocan still tries to reapply the oral transmission to the students. Unlike in the other majors wherein the number of pieces determines the student’s playing ability, it was not the same case for kulintang playing.

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With Jun Legson, one of my good friends in the Musicology Department.

“Nung napunta ako sa kanya nung third year ako, una niya sa’king pinagawa is kabisaduhin yung piyesa na hindi lang nakatingin. Parang binabalik niya sa’kin yung oral tradition talaga na hindi lang sa utak yung piyesa dapat, sabi niya,” narrated Jun Legson who is taking his major in kulintang and is preparing for his upcoming recital.

Butocan is like a mother to her students, some of whom are now teaching in the Musicology Department and have adapted some of her principles in teaching and communicating with students.

“Maging considerate, adjust ka sa iba’t ibang klase ng estudyante,” said Froilan Canlas, an instructor in the Musicology Department and a recent winner in Tawag ng Tanghalan. Canlas said he always remembers what Butocan taught about the approach being always suitable to every type of student.

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With Tawag ng Tanghalan singer and UP TUGMA founder-turned-Koto instructor, Mr. Froilan Canlas.

“Yung composure in teaching, sabi niya pag nagku-kulintang ka, dapat relaxed,” instructor Lilymae Montano said. Butocan is more of an encouraging professor who always reminded her students to be less tense when playing the instrument.

“She’s not the type of teacher who just criticizes you because she wants to criticize,” said Janine Liao, another instructor in the Musicology Department, who is now teaching kulintang and Philippine Music Literature. Liao added that Butocan always addresses her students’ kulintang playing concerns in a rather calm manner.

However, despite the fact that they are now colleagues in the department, they still run to Butocan for pedagogical advice. “Naextend na yung becoming a teacher to a confidante, parang, very close friend and we would share stories,” Montano said.

Through several decades, Butocan has also inspired students in the formation and innovation of UP TUGMA (Tugtugang Musika Asyatika), a performing organization established in 2007, based in the College of Music that specializes in playing Asian musical instruments.

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With Prof. Lilymae Montano, one of my teachers in the Musicology Department.

“As a cultural bearer ng Kulintangan, ine-encourage niya to push yung boundaries ng Philippine traditional music na kung gusto naming mag-collaboration, gusto naming mag-fusion, gawin namin,” said Julia Yabes, current president of UP TUGMA and a former kulintang major. Nowadays, it is evident in the group that they look for possible ways in exploring the instrument.

“Yes, traditional instrumentalist siya,

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With UP TUGMA current president, Julia Yabes

traditional musician siya, pero sa kanya mismo nanggagaling na huwag magpakulong sa traditional,” added Elizabeth Arce, one of the Executive Committee members of UP TUGMA.

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Me with Prof. Butocan.

One should not be afraid to improvise, Butocan would always remind her students.

“Ang importante talaga, kahit isa o dalawang piyesa lang, basta alam na alam mo siya. Kasi, pag traditional musician ka, marami kang pwedeng gawin,” Butocan said.

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With UP TUGMA Executive Committee member, Elizabeth Arce.

I originally wrote this for my Feature Writing class.

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