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Pinoy Kasi

Heroic lullaby

/ 05:05 AM August 28, 2019

Many years ago, now retired UP professor Albina Peczon Fernandez mentioned in one of her lectures that there was a Kapampangan lullaby where the names of Rizal and Bonifacio are mentioned.

I was intrigued and made a mental note to follow up on the lullaby, but years passed and I lost touch with Professor Fernandez. I would ask Kapampangan friends about the lullaby. Some were totally clueless, while others were aware of, or had even heard, of the lullaby but could not recall the lyrics.

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Finally, last month, while waiting in a long immigration line and chatting with a faculty member of the UP College of Music, Jocelyn (Joy) Timbol-Guadalupe, I asked her if she might be familiar with that Kapampangan lullaby.

Joy’s face lit up. Of course she was aware, she said; the lullaby was sung to her many times in her childhood. She and husband, David, also with the College of Music, were quick to record the song, “O matas a banua,” which they sent to me together with the lyrics (transcribed from memory by Joy) and a translation into Filipino.

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O matas a banua paintungulan da ka
Mitungi kung batwin pakwintas ko keka
Bangalan ke ing bulan gawan king korona
Iputung ke keka iputung ke keka
Lalam ding violeta.

Gawa ra kang duyan king bigang maputi
Gawa ra kang tali asul puna-nari
Ipabanta ra ka kareting bayani
Doctor Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio
Lahi ding komanggi

The title means “oh, great sky,” and the first stanza is about wanting to be close to you (the child), having made a necklace of stars for her, and making the moon her crown, beneath the violets.

The second stanza talks of making a cradle from the white clouds, tied with a rainbow. Great heroes will watch over the child—Dr. Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, of our brown race.

Monday was National Heroes’ Day, but note that we’ve never had an official declaration by law of who a national hero is. Like saints, the “canonization” of heroes and heroines can be political. We hardly hear, for example, of Macario Sakay, who fought the Spaniards and continued on against the new American colonizers. Neither do we hear of Moro heroes, like the 500 men, women and children who in 1913 refused to surrender to the Americans from their mountain base, Bud Bagsak, in northern Jolo, and paid for their courage with their lives.

Pampanga has a long revolutionary history of rising against Spanish colonizers. During World War II, it was the heartland for the Hukbalahap, guerrillas of different political persuasions who fought against the Japanese. After the war, they were reconstituted as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and came to be known simply as Huks.

Joy explained that her maternal grandmother, Juanita Malang Bulaon or Apung Itang, was a sarswela singer who would sing the lullaby to her and her brother. In her youth, Apung Itang used to sing from the back of a truck to workers at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. She later moved to Bacolor, Pampanga, and joined a sarswela group.

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Joy’s paternal grandmother, Elena Dimaun, also sang songs about land reform.

Now, who would have thought that a lullaby could help keep alive the memories of our national heroes and heroines? Note, too, how these songs are transmitted through the women. And note, too, how the song seems to be directed toward daughters.

I did find a YouTube recording of a man singing this lullaby, which makes it sound more like a kundiman, a courtship song. There’s a thin line between romantic songs and patriotic songs, both speaking of love.

“Bayan Ko” (My Country) is also a kundiman. During the American colonial period, nationalist themes were often camouflaged in sarsuelas, originally a Spanish musical theater genre which found another use, that of circumventing colonial laws that banned pro-Philippine independence themes. Advocating independence could mean being arrested for sedition and subversion. During martial law, there was a resurgence of these patriotic love songs, despite the risks of being charged for violating the Anti-Subversion Act.

We are fortunate we no longer have an Anti-Subversion Act. But, the high heavens forbid (o matas a banua), there’s talk of restoring that oppressive law. Who knows what might happen then—maybe even lullabies will get labeled as subversive.

Dacal a salamat to Joy and David for uploading the song at https://m.soundcloud.com/dino-guadalupe-76676734/o-matas-a-banua

[email protected]

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TAGS: Albina Peczon Fernandez, Jocelyn Timbol-Guadalupe, Kapampangan lullaby, Michael L. Tan, Pinoy Kasi
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