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Stories, essays, readings, facts and trivia on Philippine music and the local music industry

Filipino Music Trivia

Did you know how many pieces of bamboo were used in the construction of the Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas?

“The bamboo pieces used were cut during the proper season to insure durability. For the same reason, they were buried beside the sea for half a year to treat them against weevils. Nine hundred fifty pieces of bamboo were used in the construction of the organ.”
(Source: Bañas, R. C. (1975). Pilipino Music and Theater. Quezon City: Manlapaz Publishing.)

Did you know that kulintang music is used for a cure of the sick?

“A special use of the kulintang applies to a cure of the sick bpagipat, the more complex of similar rituals among the Magindanaon… The music is a necessary part of the ritual… Many cures have been made… and the tradition persists, despite new beliefs introduced by Islam.” (From Gongs & bamboo: a panorama of Philippine musical instruments. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1998)

Did you know the inspiration behind the Christmas song “Payapang Daigdig”?

Inspired by the ending of World War II, this song is acclaimed as the local counterpart of the traditional Western carol “Silent Night, Holy Night.” It was composed by National Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon. (From the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, v. 6, p. 264-265)

Did you know that the lyrics of the Philippine National Anthem had versions in three languages?

The national anthem composed in 1898 remained without words until Jose Palma wrote the poem Filipinas, which was used as the anthem’s lyrics in 1899. In the 1920s, the American colonial government commissioned the translation of the original Spanish lyrics into English and the product of which was officially adopted by the Philippine Commonwealth in 1934. In 1956, the Filipino translation by Ildefonso Santos and Julian Cruz Balmaceda was officially proclaimed. Some revisions were still made in 1962, the product of which is the version which is now sung publicly.

Did you know that Arsenio H. Lacson was the first to use a campaign jingle?

“…it would only be after the war that Filipino politicians would have real use for campaign jingles. The first to use one was Manila city mayor Arsenio H. Lacson. Riding an emerging American musical trend of sensual African drumbeats and Cuban rhythms, the “Lacson Mambo” contributed to the mayor’s victories in 1951, 1955, and 1959.” (From PCIJ.org, 2004)

Did you know that Borromeo Lou was the Philippine “King of Jazz?”

In 1921, a Cebuano named Luis Borromeo returned from America and Canada as Borromeo Lou. It was he who brought “American-style stage entertainment” to the country. He redefined the traditional vod-a-vil (or bodabil) by integrating “Classic-Jazz Music” in shows. “Borromeo himself became a jazz bandleader, and became known as the Philippine “King of Jazz,” the title then given to the famous Paul Whiteman in America (From Pinoy Jazz Traditions. Pasig City: Anvil, 2004).”

Did you know that Maria Carpena was the first Filipino recording artist?

Maria Carpena, known as the first Filipino recording artist and sarswela star, recorded Ang Maya for Victor Records in 1913. She did the recording with the Molina Orchestra, at a makeshift studio in the Manila Hotel.
(From CCP encyclopedia of Philippine art, vol. 6)

Did you know that Atang de la Rama was the first Filipino actress to appear in the movies?

Atang de la Rama also became the lead star in around 50 zarzuelas in various languages and performed not only in locally-renowned venues but also in “open plazas” and “cockpits.” (From www.nhi.gov.ph)

Did you know that Atang de la Rama was once a singing telegram?

While rehearsing for a zarzuela, Honorata “Atang” de la Rama was brought all the way to Baler, Quezon to be part of Manuel Quezon’s courtship to Aurora (who later became Quezon’s wife) by singing for her. (From Looking Back. Pasig City : Anvil, 2010)

Did you know that Rowena Arrieta had written her first piano composition at age five?

Rowena “Winnie” Arrieta, a first rate pianist, learned to play piano at the age of two and read musical notes even before learning her ABCs at the age of four. She was officially proclaimed the first Filipino Tchaikovsky laureate, after winning fifth place in the Seventh Tchaikovsky Music competition, piano division in Moscow in 1982. (From FOCUS Philippines, Aug. 21, 1982)

Did you know that the song Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal was finished in one week?

Multi-awarded composer Ernani Cuenco wrote one of his favorite songs, Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal with his wife as his inspiration. He wrote it because he wanted to write something about love, not only love of husband for his wife, but rather a kind of universal love… love for fellowmen, love for one another. Due to some revisions, it took Cuenco one week to finish the song. (From FOCUS Philippines, Aug. 14, 1982)

Did you know that Epifanio de los Santos (whom EDSA was named after), was also a musicologist and considered one of the three best guitarists in the country during the American period?

A man of many talents, de los Santos was a lawyer, writer, historian, bibliophile, and antique collector. In 1918, while serving as fiscal for Bulacan and Bataan, he was designated technical director of the Philippine Census by Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison. He succeeded Trinidad Pardo de Tavera as director of the Philippine Library and Museum in 1925. He was also a gifted musician—a great pianist and guitarist. During his time, he was considered one of the three outstanding guitarists of the Philippines. The other two were General Fernando Canon, a revolutionary hero, and Guillermo Tolentino, a renowned sculptor.

Did you know that Sangdugong Panaguinip was the first Filipino opera?

Sangdugong Panaguinip is the first Philippine opera in the Tagalog language. It was composed by Ladislao Bonus who is dubbed as the “Father of Philippine Opera.” Bonus is the maternal grandfather of Felipe M. De Leon Jr., a music scholar and humanities professor at the University of the Philippines, and son of National Artist for Music, Felipe Padilla de Leon.

The one-act opera with five scenes was based on the Spanish libretto La Alianza Soñada by Pedro Paterno which was translated into Tagalog by novelist and dramatist, Roman G. Reyes. First performed at the famed Teatro Zorilla on August 2, 1902.

Did you know that the APO Hiking Society was formerly known as Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society?

The singing group composed of singers, humorists, and songwriters was organized in 1969. Before the group was trimmed down to three members: Jim Paredes, Danny Javier, and Boboy Garrovillo, it originally included Butch Dans, Lito de Joya, Gus Cosio, Renato Garcia, Chito Kintanar, Sonny Santiago, and Kenny Barton. The group is known for the distinctive urban sound and sense of humor in their music. (From CCP encyclopedia of Philippine art, vol. 6)

Did you know that Hotdog, a Pinoy rock and roll band initiated what is now known as the Manila Sound?

Manila Sound is a very light kind of pop music that uses colloquial language (or Taglish) and is expressive of juvenile sentiments. (From CCP encyclopedia of Philippine art, vol. 6)

Did you know that Levi Celerio wrote the lyrics of the song Sa Ugoy ng Duyan in just 15 minutes?

In 1948, he and other Filipino artists boarded the SS Gordon in Honolulu. Levi Celerio wrote it while the ship was still docked in Honolulu. (From Music in history, history in music. Manila : UST Publishing, 2004)

Did you know that the popular Christmas song Ang Pasko ay Sumapit was originally in Visayan?

The song’s original Cebuano text Kasadya Ning Taknaa (How Happy is this Time) is by Mariano Vestil and its music is by Vicente Rubi. It was translated into Tagalog by Levi Celerio. Its beginnings may be traced to the celebration of the Cebuano feast of the Pili-Kanipaan held in December. It was first performed in Old Opon (now Lapu-Lapu City) and was recorded under the Mareco label seventeen years later. (From CCP encyclopedia of Philippine art, vol. 6)

Did you know that Cecil Lloyd was the “Mystery Singer” of the 1930s?

Cecil Lloyd (1910-1988) started singing on radio in 1930. He was featured as the Mystery Singer on KZRM in 1934. He first recorded Tagalog compositions “Ikaw” and “Buhat” in 1939. In 1948, he established the first Filipino-owned record company, Philippine Recording System, which featured his renditions of Filipino folk songs. He is considered the Father of the Philippine Recording Industry. He was also a professional lawyer. He finished law at the UP in 1936. (From CCP encyclopedia of Philippine art, vol. 6)

Did you know that the term “Jeproks” from the song Laki sa Layaw (Jeproks) is a reversed version of “Project”?

The term “Jeproks” or “Project,” which was widely used in the late 1960s and 1970s, refers to the youth who come from the middle-to-low middle-income housing projects of the government (e.g., Project 2 and 3). (From CCP encyclopedia of Philippine art, vol. 6)