‘Waray Waray,’ let’s rock!
Before anything else, let me share what my friend, actor-activist Joel Saracho of T’bak-Pilipinas, posted on Facebook last Sunday (during the Pacquiao-Rios boxing bout in Macau) which got lots of “likes” and “LoLs”: “I have this nagging suspicion that today, a lot of people will temporarily cease being disaster management experts. They will become boxing commentators and sports analysts.”
This caricatured the blamers, finger-pointers, flame-throwers and I-told-you-soers who added to the fallout of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” that leveled most of the Waray-speaking Eastern Visayas (that is, the provinces of Leyte and Samar) and parts of Western Visayas. Of course, the morning-after experts all sounded like they meant well, but after a while the ululations, especially from those with obvious malice intended, could get annoying.
Soon after The Great Howler left, people in devastated areas crawled out of the rubble with nary a possession, many with their entire brood missing. The stories of loss, survival and heroism—there’s an ocean of them. Now, more than two weeks later, international, local and government relief groups still have their hands full, but things are beginning to look up and people are starting to break into smiles, sing songs, and play basketball. And what a bonus that boxing idol Manny Pacquiao won with nary a cut on his face, and promising to pay the survivors a visit and share his prize money.
I last visited Samar and Leyte in 2010 to see for myself community-driven development projects. I visited Balangiga, in Eastern Samar, the historic little town that fought to the death the colonizing Americans on Sept. 28, 1901. The event that happened during the waning years of the Philippine-American war is now known as the “Balangiga encounter.”
To resist domination, Balangiga tribesmen attacked the elite Company C of the 9th US Infantry Regiment. It was a suspenseful strategy that showed the Filipinos’ boldness and daring in the face of a superior force. Forty-eight Americans perished and 28 native combatants died. (I remember watching the movie “Sunugin ang Samar” directed by Joey Gosiengfiao.)
In retaliation, the Americans waged a scorched-earth campaign and turned Samar into a “howling wilderness,” earning for Gen. Jake Smith the sobriquet “Howling Jake.” Hundreds of Filipinos were killed. The Americans took with them three church bells of Balangiga. (There is an unrelenting campaign for their return.) I hope the lifelike replica of the bloody event by National Artist Napoleon Abueva in front of the Catholic Church of St. Lawrence was not ruined by Yolanda.
I bring up this historical fact—no offense meant—even while US forces are here, helping in post-Yolanda relief operations and after the giant warship USS George Washington came to deliver aid and personnel. As an Inquirer report said, it was like MacArthur’s return in 1944 all over again.
It’s been a harrowing two weeks even for those of us who write from several islands away. Believe me, I’ve been having strange dreams at night, not nightmares, but relief-operations-related ones that have little logic in them.
Don’t judge or mock me, but sometimes I resort to imagining Yolanda as only a movie, like “Hurricane” starring Mia Farrow that was adapted from the novel (by authors Nordhoff and Hall of “Mutiny on the Bounty”) whose Classics Illustrated version I read as a child. I try to distance myself from the reality by imagining a movie soundtrack of my own making—a thousand voices thundering with Orff’s “Carmina Burana” at Yolanda’s landfall. Then, in the aftermath, Mozart’s soaring “Lacrimosa.” An earthshaking soundtrack, I must say.
I am not being facetious. My imagination saves me. To each her own coping mechanism when one is deeply affected, and to think that I am not even there on the ground, weeping, searching, thirsting. And there is that realization that one’s proverbial widow’s mite is not even a drop in the surging sea of tears.
But what the heck. With families on the devastated landscape now slowly rising and building, I now resort to happier sounds: “Waray Waray!”
Why, I ask, is this song of grit, about Waray women at that, not being played—at all or often enough? The last time I heard it was on Bro. Jun Banaag’s “Dr. Love, Always and Forever,” a radio program on dzMM that features no-birit oldies.
From my googling I learned that “Waray Waray” is a Leneyte-Samarnon folk song (composer unknown). Its Filipino version was used for a 1950s hit movie that starred the spunky Nida Blanca and the debonair Nestor de Villa.
Soprano-comedienne Sylvia la Torre popularized the song. The irrepressible Elizabeth Ramsey has her own wacky version that always brings the house down. (Do watch her on YouTube.) The late American jazz diva Eartha Kitt sang it, too, with a lot of oomph and with English spiels in between (“The women of waray waray have muscles of steel, and we can fight any battle, but our kisses are as sweet as wine”).
So, no more heart-stopping soundtracks for me. Let’s rock to “Waray Waray” and make it an anthem of Samar and Leyte’s rising again. Let’s bring it on, for the Warays.
Waray Waray hindi tatakas/ Waray Waray handang matodas/ Waray Waray bahala bukas/ Waray Waray manigas!
Waray Waray tawag sa akun/ sa bakbakan, diri magurong/ sa sinuman ang humahamon/ kahit ikaw ay maton!
Likas sa ating paraluman/ kami’y palagi mapagbigay/ ngunit iba ang Waray Waray/ walang sindak kaninuman.
Kaming babaeng Waray Waray/ ay siga siga kahit saan/ ngunit iba ang waray waray/ kapag hinamon ng away.
Waray Waray sadyang di siya tatakas/ Waray Waray handa nang matodas/ Waray Waray bahala na bukas/ Waray Waray manigas!
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