>> write // chris trinidad y cancion tagalog: liner notes
Chris Trinidad: bass guitar (all tracks), octavina (3, 7, 11),
clave (1, 5, 7, 9, 11), cabasa (4, 8), voice (4, 5, 9, 11, 12)
Bo Razon: tres (1, 5, 9), bandurria (3, 7, 11), okonkolo (2, 6, 10),
itotele (2, 6, 10), iya (2, 6, 10), bombo (9, 12)
Raphael Geronimo: congas, bongó, timbales, güiro, maracas, bells (all tracks except 9)
Carlos Caro: tumba (9), quinto (9), tres sos (9), guagua (9), chekere (9)
David Lechuga: guitars (all tracks)
John Calloway: flute (1, 5, 9)
Reggie Padilla: tenor saxophone (4, 8, 12)
Kimwell Del Rosario: violin (2, 6, 10)
Mary Grace Del Rosario: viola (10)
Raquel Berlind: voice (9, 12)
Produced and mixed by Chris Trinidad at Elemental MusicWorks, Pinole, CA
Additional production assistance by Bo Razon
Recorded remotely in isolation in California, Hawaii, and British Columbia
from 1 June to 29 August during the Coronavirus Hibernation of 2020.
Mastered by Andro Ernst on 10 October 2020 at Art of Ears Studios, Hayward, CA
Layout and Design by Chris Stevenson
Insert Artwork by PJ Martin
Cover Pre-Philippine Calligraphy “Tagalog” by Kristian Kabuay
A Little History from Havana to Manila
The Spanish-American war broke out in February of 1898 when the USS Maine sank in Havana harbour. The United States
government sent the ship to Cuba in order to protect US interests and to signal to Cuban rebels that they were sympathetic to
their plight for independence. In May of that same year, Commodore George Dewey aboard the USS Olympia won a decisive
battle against the Spanish and took control of Manila Bay. Subjugated under Spanish colonial rule for 333 years, the Philippines
declared independence on June 12. The United States and the Philippines fought side by side with “Uncle Sam” having hidden and
perhaps selfish designs on what the future held for the Asian archipelago while their “little brown brother” thought they were
fighting for their freedom.
By the end of the year, Spain had ceded control of Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, and the Philippines to the United States for the sum
of $20 million US dollars and the Treaty of Paris was signed without the Philippines at the negotiation table. The United States
refused to recognize Philippine independence and ignored the young Republic’s desire for self-determination. President William
McKinley declared that the Americans came to protect the Filipinos “in their homes, in their employment, and in their personal and
religious rights.” Cuba, meanwhile, became a US protectorate.
In June of 1899, the Philippine-American war broke out amidst tensions. A little less than two years later, on April 19, 1901, the
Philippines proclaimed formal surrender to the US. By 1902, the war had effectively ended and occupation of the Philippines had
begun. The United States annexed the Philippines and, once again, the Philippines was subjugated only this time under United
States rule. For the next 4 decades, the Philippines became a United States experiment in the expansion of the empire exporting
education, language, public infrastructure, government, and culture to islands more than 10,000 kilometers away.
Of course, to be fair, some would argue that compared to the exclusion of the Indios (the name the Spaniards gave to the natives
of the Philippines) under the Spanish system of education, the US-instituted public school system was benevolent and egalitarian.
One could also argue that the introduction of the English language as the medium of instruction on the islands allowed for later
emigration of Filipino peoples to other parts of the world where their skill, ingenuity, and knowledge was respected. This was
certainly the case for my own parents who left the Philippines for Canada in the 1970s in search of opportunities for a better life.
Cultural Identity and Melancholic Melodies
In my youth, I had a yearning to explore my roots. Growing up in Canada as a person with Filipino heritage, I sought to understand
my cultural and ethnic identity. My parents had roots in the Tagalog provinces where the Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards
began in earnest. My father’s family hailed from Batangas while my mother’s side came from Bulacan. As such, my parents saw it
fit to teach Tagalog to my sister and I as they knew that culture, values, and traditions are transmitted through language.
At the same time, I had observed that my school mates, many of whom shared my first generation immigrant story sought to fill-in
their gap in understanding their heritage with the popular culture of the day. This was particularly true of my Filipino peers, who for
some reason, had little or no desire to connect with their ancestry. In hindsight, it could very well be that some Filipino parents had
such a desire for their children to acclimate and then assimilate into Canadian society.
My grandmother and my mother’s two youngest brothers immigrated from the Philippines to Canada in 1984 and they brought with
them a collection of Kundiman and Harana songs on audio cassettes to remember their homeland. Upon discovery of this treasure trove
of tapes and being the curious child that I was, I listened to those tapes on our family cassette deck. While melodic and melancholic, I
had difficulty understanding the Old Tagalog being sung, in spite of my familiarity with the language, and I had a hard time connecting
with the music itself. It was only much later when I grew to appreciate what the words meant and what the music said.
Fast forward some 16 years later, and as I was emerging as a musician, I had the opportunity to learn a range of Afro-Cuban music
through some of my earliest professional engagements. On my previous release entitled Con Todo, I rekindled my love for this
music. On this particular album, I wanted to musically investigate my identity as a Tagalog-speaking Filipino-Canadian while
continuing to explore Afro-Cuban music.
So, I ask the questions: What if Cuban musicians from the early part of the Twentieth century heard the kundiman, harana, and
danzas that came from the Philippines of the late Nineteenth century? Or, what if Filipino musicians had the opportunity to hear the
Cuban orquestas, charangas, and conjuntos? In what ways might Filipino composers incorporate the rich polyrhythmic musics of
Cuba which were originally a blend of Western European (Spanish, and later, French) form and harmony, and African (Yoruba and
Bantu) percussion musics? What if Cubans had a chance to hear the rich Rondalla traditions of the Philippines? Could there be a
musical bridge between the Philippines and Cuba given their shared Spanish colonial history? This project is my artistic response to
Beyond Musical and Culinary Borders
The music presented here is a continuation of three separate intersectional series of recorded works where I explore going beyond
musical borders. The first collection continues my exploration of Philippine culture which began with Subla Neokulintang which also
features my comrade Bo Razon. The second set, called Chant Triptych, looks at the collision of music traditions of the world with a
radical reexamination of Gregorian Chant as its foundation. The third group includes the aforementioned Con Todo where original
music of mine from an even earlier series was set to Afro-Caribbean rhythms and grooves.
In arranging this music, I wanted to present and preserve as much of the musical intention of the original composers and arrangers. I also
wanted to be faithful to the ways in which the Afro-Cuban rhythms supported the arrangements. The danger in any fusion of musics from
different traditions is that the resulting synthesis can potentially disrespect the antecedents and our ancestors. It is important for me, as
an arranger, to respect the origins of each tradition while simultaneously imagining the possibilities of what could be when joined together.
It is a fine balance.
Therefore, without attempting to overwhelm the senses through my own arrangements, I added a little ornamentation here, a dash of
orchestration there, with hints of savoury flavours, and tastes and textures from a bygone era. Like the reunion of distant Filipino and
Cuban cousins at a family gathering enjoying a meal with dishes from one another’s culinary cookbook, my hope is that a rekindling
of relationship is found within the intertwining of two musical cultures, of melodies and harmonies from one, with instrumentation and
rhythms from another. And, rather than create a melting pot of flavours where the sounds were assimilated into an indistinct
monocultural American stew, it was important to me that the distinct musical identities of the Philippines and of Cuba were presented
alongside one another.
A Lexicon of Flavours
A traditional Tagalog love song in 3/4 metre and set initially in a minor key which then transitions to a major key in a later stanza.
The word kundiman is said to be a contraction of the phrase kung hindi man which, roughly translated in English, means if not.
Kundiman words are often fatalistic, full of woe, and full of Filipino humility.
According to musician and researcher Florante Aguilar: “If there is a single art form that captures the Filipino character, kundiman
would be it for it is said that the Filipino’s humble nature and willingness to be trampled on is the main reason we allowed years of
colonization and oppression from Spain, America, and Japan.”
Another style of song sung by men to woo women. The use of Old Tagalog, simple accompaniment from a guitar, and the prominence of
the habanera or danza rhythm characterize the harana.
A pre-colonial style of dance and song that originated in Batangas, a province of the Philippines from where my Father’s family hails.
Originally from Spain, the rondalla is a string instrument ensemble. Consisting of the bandurria, the octavina, the laud, the guitar,
and the bass guitar, the musicians in the ensemble play the instruments with a plectrum. Characteristic of rondalla playing is the
liberal use of the tremolo which is the rapid alternate picking to simulate sustained sound.
The son arose in Santiago de Cuba (also known as Oriente province) with the synthesis of Spanish influences and Afro-Cuban
rhythms. The son uses basic European harmonic foundations and the guitar (and its descendant the tres) mixed with Afro-Cuban
percussion (including the clave) and call and response.
The traditional Cuban trova, a troubadour bardic music which eventually became the Cuban bolero, also originated in Santiago de Cuba.
The rhythm of the bolero as played on the bongó, congas, and maracas is set in a new way to fit the metre of the original Philippine
melodies of this set.
A descendant of the contradanza which had French origins through Haiti. The danzón is the official music and dance of Cuba. The
danzón shares the habanera rhythm with its Philippine cousin the harana. The use of timbales, a set of miniature European kettle
drums, and the African güiro, a hollowed gourd with notches provide the rhythmic structure. My arrangements on this album combine
the danzón and the rondalla together with the instruments of the latter taking the place of violins and flutes, instruments found in the
typical danzón orchestra.
Batá and Toques
The batá drums are a set of hourglass shaped percussion instruments played in an interlocking polyrhythmic fashion. The batá
drumming tradition had its roots predominantly with the Yoruba of West Africa and emerged in a uniquely syncretized way in Cuba in
the 19th century.
The rhythms presented here are secularized versions of otherwise sacred polyrhythmic compositions known as toques. The batá drums and
toques are from the Afro-Cuban Lucumí (also known as Santeria) traditions of Orisha liturgical music. It is with deep respect, reverence, and
ancestral acknowledgement that we humbly incorporate some of these timeless cultural elements into this musical project.
Presentation and Production
I prefer the traditional method of using pencil, piano, and manuscript paper to compose or arrange music. Given the current state
of the world, and, with the pandemic raging, I figured I would arrange the music directly into the notation software. Since it would
be impossible for me to gather the cast of musicians that I had assembled for this project into my favourite Oakland, California
studio I set about constructing demos in my digital audio workstation software. I then sent the audio demos and the arrangements
to all of the participating musicians and little by little fully realized and recorded tracks were sent to me in return.
The length of each song hovers between 3 and 5 minutes which is about the length of time available on a single 10 inch side of a 78
rpm record. At most, each tune features 1 or 2 soloists enabling the original melodies to take center stage. To provide a simple
sampling is the idea. Perhaps a return to the meal metaphor is apt: each selection is like a Spanish tapa, or a Filipino pica-pica,
while incorporating Cuban sabor.
In the same way that baroque suites were arranged with a series of movements based on popular dance types of the day, the songs
are presented in courses with one song from each hybridized Filipino-Afro-Cuban genre. Each course begins with a son, followed by
a kundiman con batá, a danzón-harana a la rondalla, and concludes with a bolero.
The “Chef” Collaborators
Bo Razon was my chief chef collaborator on this project. I first met Bo while working on Raquel Berlind’s Raq Filipina album. Shortly after
the conclusion of that project, Bo and I, along with Danongan Kalanduyan and Frank Holder formed Subla Neokulintang, a group which
blends traditional Kulintang music of Mindanao with jazz and contemporary idioms. Bo is a renaissance artist who is able to traverse
musical boundaries while playing “strings and skins,” or, lute-like and percussion instruments from various world traditions.
Born in Manila, Philippines, Bo’s maternal great-grandfather was a Thomasite, a group of 500 United States school teachers who shipped
out from the Presidio in San Francisco aboard the USS Thomas bound for the Philippines. They were tasked with laying the basic
frameworks of the US inspired public school system and training Filipino teachers. Bo’s great-grandfather decided to stay and eventually
a couple of generations of Filipino-Americans came to be, one of whom included Bo!
On a research trip to Cuba, Bo discovered that his paternal great-grandmother was from Havana. One could say that his love for
Afro-Cuban music was memetic. He recalled listening to his parents extensive collection of 78 rpm records of Cuban mambos.
Having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1970s, he connected with John Santos, Michael Spiro, and Karl Perazzo
which led to those study trips to Cuba in the 1990s to further his understanding. On this album, Bo contributes his expertise on
batá, the tres, and the bandurria. Bo was also indispensable in helping me to identify appropriate toques to use on several
Raphael Geronimo handles most of the percussion on the album. A mainstain musician in the Vancouver, British Columbia music
scene, I actually grew up admiring his band Rumba Calzada. As fortune would have it, I would eventually go on to play in his group.
Born in the Philippines, he learned to play congas, timbales, and bongó from his father, Rene “Boying” Geronimo and later studied
with Jose Luis “Changito” Quintana in Cuba.
Carlos Caro played on my album Con Todo. He makes a return appearance on this album as featured percussionist on the track Taal.
Originally from Habana, Cuba, Carlos studied at Escuela Nacionale Des Instructores De
Arte. Shortly after graduating he started his professional career as a member of the group Clave. Eventually, he became of the
legendary Cuban group Opus 13 (which became Paulito FG y Su Elite). He is a sought after San Francisco Bay Area percussionist
having collaborated with artists including Rebeca Mauleón, Omar Sosa, and having played with such bands as QBA, Avance, Candela,
Ritmo y Armonia, and Mayito y su Timbeko. He leads his own groups Vission Latina and VL Trio, with whom he has recorded and
released several albums.
Given its shared use in the Philippines and in Cuba, I knew that the guitar would be an essential voice on this album. Finding the
right player with the right approach was necessary. Thankfully, I met David Lechuga while on a gig with Mayito y su Timbeko.
David is a consummate improviser, a competent interpreter, and a collaborative accompanist. He plays on every single track on this
album. At times, I called upon him to play the arrangements with exactitude, and at other times, I asked him to use his better
judgment when it came to coming up with appropriate guitar parts. The variety of musical experiences that David has had and the
depth of his musicality is immediately evident throughout. Growing up in San Jose, David grew up playing classical piano, but since
switching to guitar, his musical concept has grown to include aspects of Afro-Caribbean music, Black American music, and free
I met flutist John Calloway while on a gig with Lina Torio’s Mestiza y La Ley in 2012. He has performed with Israel Cachao Lopez, Max Roach,
Omar Sosa, John Santos, Jesus Diaz, and many others. He leads his own ensembles and has three CD projects to his credit titled Diaspora,
The Code, and Asere Ko.
As an educator, John teaches jazz theory, Afro-Cuban and Latin American music in the School of Music and social science and humanities
courses with a concentration in Latinx and Afro-Latinx cultures in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. John holds
a BA in Music from the City University of New York, an MA in Music Education from San Francisco State University, and an EdD in Education
from the University of San Francisco.
John’s grandfather, Sergeant Major John W Calloway, was an American Expeditionary Force African-American soldier and served in the 24th
and 25th infantries (also known as the Buffalo Soldier regiments). He participated in the imperialist military campaigns against Cuba and
later against the Philippines. After some time, Sergeant Major Calloway empathized with the fledgling Philippine Republic’s struggle for
freedom and independence, the very same elements of liberty that he fought to defend as a United States soldier. In a letter he wrote to a
Filipino friend, he stated:
“... I was constantly haunted by the feeling of how wrong morally we Americans are in the present affair with you. What a wrong to crush
every hope and opportunity of a youth of a race … would to God it lay in my power to rectify the committed error and compensate the Filipino
for the wrong done. But what power have I? If I could muster every youth of the race under my hand I would say to them be not
discouraged. The day will come when you will be accorded your rights. The moral sensibilities of all America are not yet dead; there still
smoulders in the bosom of the country a spark of righteousness that will yet kindle into a flame that will awaken the country to its senses!”
Sergeant Major John W Calloway was dishonorably discharged and busted down to the rank of Private for empathizing with the “enemy.” He
lived out the remainder of his days in the Philippines amongst the people that he grew to love, married a Filipina woman, and had many
children, and then grandchildren, one of whom became his namesake.
Reggie and I met at the 10th Annual Los Angeles Filipino American Jazz and World Music Festival in 2014. Bo and I were there with
Subla Neokulintang and Reggie was a featured performer with his own jazz quartet. I was blown away with the quality of his
compositions and his command of the tenor saxophone. As this project came to fruition, I thought that Reggie would be the perfect
player that I would feature on this album’s boleros.
Kimwell Del Rosario
In 2002, I led a band onboard the Voyager of the Seas where we played to cruise ship passengers on vacation in the Caribbean. It was
on this ship where I met fellow musician Kimwell Del Rosario who played violin for the infamous Rosario String Quartet. After our
adventures on the high seas, we kept in touch. We even sang in a number of choirs together! I thought of Kimwell’s heartfelt playing as
I sought someone to feature on several of the kundiman.
Mary Grace Del Rosario
Mary Grace started her violin studies with several family members and eventually took formal study with Professor Arturo Molina.
Mary Grace is also one of the very few Filipino violinists to participate in the prestigious Jeunesses Musicales World Youth Orchestra
and was the Concertmaster of ASEAN Youth Orchestra. She was part of the Philippine delegation that accompanied Stevie Wonder
in Brunei, Luciano Pavarotti in both Manila and Malaysia, and Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick in Manila. Grace is married to
Kimwell and is featured on this album as a violist.
Raphael Geronimo handles most of the percussion on the album. Born in the Philippines, he learned to play congas, timbales, and
bongó from his father, Rene “Boying” Geronimo and later studied with Jose Luis “Changito” Quintana in Cuba. Raphael leads the
latin jazz group Rumba Calzada which he inherited from his father in 1995. A mainstay musician in various Vancouver, British
Columbia music scenes, I actually grew up admiring his band, and, as fortune would have it, I would eventually go on to
occasionally play in his group.
As nearly all of the musicians who signed on to this project also had to learn to become recording engineers overnight, there was
significant variation in sound and tone that I received in the tracks. As with other projects that we had worked on together, Andro
lent me his golden ears and gave some solid advice on my mixes during the mastering process.
I connected with Chris through recommendation from Jeremy Allen, a videographer and musician that I had worked with previously
on the promo for the Con Todo project. Chris knew that I had wanted to maintain the look and feel of my previous projects and he
was efficient and exacting in his execution.
Kristian Kabuay was born in the Philippines and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He returned to the Philippines during this college years where he honed his knowledge about the native ancient writing system
Baybayin. Kristian is a self-taught artist influenced by calligraphy, graffiti, abstract art, indigenous culture, technology, and writing
systems. I met Kristian about ten years ago at the San Francisco Filipino American International Book Festival where he
demonstrated his art and spoke about Baybayin. When it came to envisioning a cover for this project, I immediately thought of
Kristian's unique approach.
PJ Martin and I have been collaborators on a number of projects. He is willing to take on the challenge of actualizing my ideas in a
visual way. Being a musician himself, he understands the nuances involved in using the power of imagery to support the artistic
intentions of the music.
Alin Mang Lahi (Any People)
Alin Mang Lahi was a kundiman written by Philippine national hero Jose Rizal and transcribed by Antonio Molina originally for soprano
and piano with orchestral accompaniment. My arrangement pays tribute to the transcription and incorporates many of the orchestral
lines and contrapuntal melodies. I arranged for these to be played on the tres by Bo.
I also rendered the style similarly to a famous guarija-son that the Cuban poet and revolutionary philosopher José Martí wrote and
which the Cuban singer Joseíto Fernández sang. The song lyrics speak of resistance against foreign influence and impels people to
unite and defend the country even if blood is shed and life is lost: “Tuloy pinaghahandugan ng buhay at dugo kung kailangan.”
Mutya Ng Pasig (The Maiden of Pasig)
Composed in 1926 by Nicanor Abelardo with text by Deogracias Rosario, this kumintang was originally orchestrated and rendered as
an operatic art song. My arrangement pays homage to Abelardo’s composition by incorporating the original orchestral lines and
dividing them between the bass guitar and the classical guitar.
The accompanying interlocking batá rhythm is a toque called Yakota which is dedicated to Ochún the Orisha of femininity, beauty,
rivers and streams. As the patroness of Cuba, she is syncretized with La Virgen de la Caridad, or Our Lady of Charity, a Marian title for
the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The song is about a moonlit night and the appearance of a maiden with a message: she was a goddess who lost her power when
people stopped loving one another. Her spirit was already in the hearts of all and to allow her to live forever is to give away her love
freely and completely. My hope is that one can hear the strong trans-cultural connections of feminine divinity of Ochún and the
Mutya Ng Pasig.
Ang Tangi Kong Pag Ibig (My Only Love)
Originally devised as a danza, this song was composed by Constancio de Guzman. My version is a tribute to the original
arrangement by Rondalla master Juan Silos. The guitar comments on the conversation between the bandurria and octavina as a
kind of playful musical love triangle! I take a rare bass guitar solo and do my best imitating the melodic ingenuity of some of my
bass guitar heroes Pedro Aznar, Tony Levin, and Steve Swallow while quoting an old bolero-son by Miguel Matamoros.
Jocelynang Baliuag (Jocelyn From Baliwag)
This song was also known in Spanish as “Musica Del Legitimo Kundiman Procedente Del Campo Insurrecto,” or, the Kundiman of the
Revolution. Disguised as a courtship song to a maiden called Pepita (but whose real name was Jocelyn), it became a favourite amongst
the revolutionaries in the town of Baliuag in the province of Bulacan, which is where my grandmother grew up. While allusions to beauty
and longing are present in the text, the song became a rallying cry to resist the Spanish conquistadors and to liberate the motherland
from the colonialists.
Sampaguita (The Flower of Manila)
Inspired by the fragrant flower which would later become the official national flower of the Philippines, Dolores Paterno, at the age of
25, wrote Sampaguita. Subtitled “La Flor De Manila,” Paterno wrote the music in 1879 while her brother Pedro wrote the text. The
song was originally rendered as a Habanera or contradanza, a popular genre of the day. I arranged Sampaguita as a son montuno
with Bo taking a short solo on the tres. It is followed by a call and response section with Raph taking a bongo solo alternating with a
coro section exclaiming en español: “Sampaguita is the flower of Manila!” The melody for the coro was inspired by Cuban trova
singer and sonero Faustino Oramas better known as El Guayabero.
Sa Ugoy Ng Duyan (The Rocking of the Cradle)
I first encountered this beautiful lullaby upon introducing an arrangement of this song for a Vancouver-based chamber choir I
formed and directed called Kaisahan Voice Ensemble. The idea for this choir was to explore Filipino roots through choral music
arranged by Philippine composers. For a time, Kimwell Del Rosario was a member of this choir and it is fitting that he is also now
playing the melody on the violin for this project. By coincidence, it turns out that Lucio San Pedro, the composer of this song, was
Kimwell’s high school music teacher.
The integral batá accompaniment is a toque dedicated to Oduwa who is an Orisha associated with the womb and creative energy.
This particular toque is taken from the Oru Seco, the liturgical drum sequence of sacred rhythms played in Ocha (Orisha worship)
ceremonies in Cuba and elsewhere.
Kay Lungkot Nitong Hating Gabi (How Lonely Is This Midnight)
Written by Santiago Suarez in the mid to late 1950s, this harana was popularized by singer Ruben Tagalog. Suarez was a prolific
composer who wrote theme music for movies. He also provided instrumental accompaniment on passenger liners whose route
included two places I currently call home: San Francisco, California and Vancouver, British Columbia.
I arranged the song as a danzón and paid homage to Leopoldo Silos’s arrangement by incorporating and setting some of his
countermelodies as interplay between the bandurria and octavina. The solo section switches to a cha cha rhythm and features Bo and I
each taking a short stint in the spotlight. Bo quotes Roy Orbison in his solo and I quote Thelonious Monk in mine.
Iyo Kailan Pa Man (Yours Forever)
This kundiman was written by bassist and composer Angel Peña in 1953 with text by Levi Celerio. It is a straight up tragic love song
beautifully rendered by Reggie Padilla’s saxophone complete with an unaccompanied introduction as if to foreshadow the loneliness of
Taal (The Isle of Enchantment)
Taal is an original by Bo Razon that was featured on the first Conjunto Cespedes album. In Bo’s words: “The song was inspired by a
nostalgic yearning for the homeland, the native earth that one leaves and is away from for a long time. This ‘saudade’ is
superimposed on the physical environs and geography of Taal Volcano island, which sits in the middle of a lake that’s in the middle
of another island which sits in the middle of yet another lake. It is a magnificent land of tropical natural beauty, truly one of the
more majestic panoramas one will see in a lifetime. The melody combined with Tagalog lyrics evokes the longing and pining for this
native land. It is framed with a Rumba Guaguanco as the rhythmic bed.”
Lamig Ng Umaga (Cold Fall Morning)
Originally titled Cold Fall Morning with lyrics in Tagalog, and recorded on my first album called Common Themes I, this song is
perhaps uncharacteristic for the Philippines which only has a rainy season and a dryer season. Instead it is a reminder of many a
fall equinox growing up in British Columbia, Canada. Metaphorically, the song signals a change in heart as a new season dawns.
The cold is refreshing, the autumn leaves are falling, unrequited love and separation, all lead to the need for growth, and longing for
There are two secularized batá toques here. The first is called Omolode, also known as Zapateo de Yemaya which is a toque
extracted from a section of the Yemaya drum suite. The other toque, present in the second section of the composition, is called
Ñongo. It is a generic secular toque used to accompany songs for several Orishas.
O, Ilaw (My Star)
With inspiration from a vocal duet arrangement by Redentor Romero, O Ilaw is another harana that I arranged. After the statement
of the theme as a danzón, a series of percussion solos sees Raphael Geronimo dueling with himself on timbales then congas during
the cha cha section. This same section has a coro lilting in the background: “Gising at mg bangon! Buksan ang bintana! (Awake
and arise! Open up the windows!)” The chord changes in this section allude to a Clare Fischer song that also references the dawn
and new light. After the battery of percussion solos, there is a little sonic reprieve with the guitar having a go at a solo. An
idiomatic ending stamps this arrangement.
Bayan Ko (My People)
The text to this anthem of resistance was first written in Spanish by Philippine Revolutionary General Jose Alejandrino and later
translated into Tagalog by Jose Corazon de Jesus. In this arrangement, I thought it would be fitting to interpolate the Spanish and
Tagalog words to highlight the ways in which the texts were anthems against oppression. Raquel sang effortlessly between Tagalog
and Spanish. The Spanish text alludes to the many treasures that tempted the Anglo-Saxon thief to subjugate the people of the
Philippines. In this case, the Anglo-Saxon oppressors are indeed the imperialist Americans who, through their “benevolent
assimilation” policies, looked down condescendingly upon their "little brown brother."
The aspiration for freedom and liberation is clear in the Tagalog text and it is this version that was sung during the funeral of
assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino in 1983 and again at his wife Corazon Aquino’s inauguration celebrating the culmination of the
People Power Revolution which toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Indeed, the song was considered so seditious that Marcos
banned its public performance while he was in power. Today, Bayan Ko is once again in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people
as they wrestle with the human rights violator Rodrigo Duterte. Reggie’s saxophone takes a wild run during the last eight measures
ending with a blood curdling cry which at-once serves to remind us of the cries of the innocent, the cries of the marginalized, and
the cries of the silenced. May it also serve as a cry to awaken the Filipino people from slumber and complacency toward social
justice and action.
My appreciation goes to all who contributed to this project: Bo Razon, Raphael Geronimo, Carlos Caro, David Lechuga, John Calloway,
Reggie Padilla, Kimwell Del Rosario, Mary Grace Del Rosario, Raquel Berlind, Andro Ernst, Chris Stevenson, Kristian Kabuay, and PJ
Extra special thanks to my wife and life partner Pia who patiently sheltered-in-place with me during the Coronavirus Hibernation of
2020 and who shared me with the music.
This work is dedicated to my uncles Celso Puatu Rivera Jr and Alfonso Puatu Rivera. They, along with my grandmother, parents, and
sister, helped to guarantee that our household was full of laughter, joy, and love. Tito June and Tito Al also made certain that I spoke
in Tagalog and lovingly ensured that I never got away with anything when my parents weren’t home.
October 2020 | Filipino American History Month