Author: Lianne Palmenco

KUWERDAS Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements:

Curators:
Cecilia S. De La Paz, Ph.D.
Mapee DZ Singson

Main Text Written by:
Cecilia S. De La Paz, Ph.D.
Ramon P. Santos, Ph.D.

Supplementary Text by:
Verne de la Peña, Ph.D.
Celso Espejo
Loen Vitto

Graphic Designer:
Wesley Valenzuela

Music Instruments provided by OC Bandilla

Project Manager:
Riya Brigino

Research Team:
Mapee DZ Singson
Loen Vitto

______________

Photos courtesy of:
Cultural Center of the Philippines Library
Centro Escolar University Library
Lopez Museum and Library
The Manila Times Library and Morgue

Photo Sources:
Daily Mirror (various publications from 1967 to 1970)
Graphic (August 6, 1927)
NEPA Handbook (1938)
Manila Bulletin (August 21, 1998; October 1, 2004)
Manila Chronicle (July 1, 1995; June 20, 1995; July 23, 1995)
Manila Chronicle Entertainment Guide (January 2, 1965; December 18, 1965; March 12, 1966; February 26, 1966)
Manila Times (various publications from 1967 to 1970)
Mobilways, vol II (October 1956)
Philippine Daily Inquirer (February 01, 2004)
Philippine Free Press (April 16, 1955; December 10, 1955)
Renacimiento Filipino (August 28, 1910)
Rizal Review (June 19, 1923)
Taliba (various publications from 1967 to 1970)
The Women’s World (July 1935)
Weekly Women’s Magazine (July 29, 1955)

References:
Bacatan, Jose S.J. Rondalla Handbook. Quezon City: Manlapaz Publishing Co., 1970.
Dadap, Jerry. “A Milestone in Philippine Music,” Manila Chronicle, July 23, 1995.
—. “More on the Rondalla.” Manila Chronicle, June 20, 1995.
—. “PASAGURO – Savior of the Rondalla.” Manila Chronicle, July 17, 1996.
—. “The Philippine Rondalla- Our National Native Orchestra.” Manila Chronicle, June 4, 1995.
Dadap, Michael. The Virtuoso Bandurria. 4th. Dumaguete City: UniTown Publishing House, 2007.
de la Peña, Verne. “The Philippine Rondalla.” Quezon City, February 2004.
De Leon, Felipe P. “Tungkol pa sarondalya.” Sadaigdig ng musika. Taliba, February 23, 1970.
Espejo, Celso. “Rondalla Basics: Organization and Teaching.” Las Piñas City, February 2007.
Giliw Ko. Directed by Carlos Vander Tolosa. Produced by Narcisa de Leon. Performed by Fernando Sr Poe and Mila del Sol. 1939.
NAMCYA 5th Anniversary Souvenir Program. Pasay: NAMCYA, November 1997.
Pasamba, Angelita Cariaso. Rondalla Music. Quezon City: Rex Bookstore, 1985.
Patricio, Maria Cristina Llige. “The Development of the Rondalla in the Philippines.” Quezon City, March
1959.
Rubio, Hilarion, “The Roving Rondalla,” Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation. Alfredo Roces, ed. Vol. 9. 10 vols. Quezon City: Lahing Pilipino Publishing, 1978, pp. 2256-2262.
Santos, Ramon, ed. Musika Jornal: Music of Plucked Strings (UP Center for Ethnomusicology) 8 (2012).
Tiongson, Nicanor, ed. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. Vol. 6. X vols. Pasay: Cultural Center of the
Philippines, 1994.
Vitto, Loen, “Strings of Unity: Isang Pag-aaral ng International Rondalla Festival (Cuerdas) Bilang
Pamamahala ng SiningsaPilipinas,” Thesis, MA Art History, UP College of Arts and Letters,
2013.

Interviews:
Buenaventura, Alfredo, interview by Loen Vitto and Aurea Lopez. Alfredo Buenaventura Interview
(December 5, 2013).
Espejo, Celso, interview by Loen Vitto and Aurea Lopez. Celso Espejo Interview (December 7, 2013).

The Philippine Rondalla in Diaspora

The Philippine Rondalla in Diaspora

From the 1960’s to the present, Filipino communities abroad started using the rondalla as a platform to express their cultural identity. Through migration and foreign employment, the rondalla has spread to other countries and has developed until the present. 

Many rondalla groups in South California and other parts of the United States are still very active. Some of these groups are the Fil-am Veterans Rondalla (California, USA), Iskwelahang Pilipino Rondalla  (Boston, USA), Rondanihan (Australia), and the Bayanihan Rondalla (Singapore).  Even foreign musicians have learned playing rondalla music such as the National University of Singapore (NUS) Rondalla headed by Joseph Peters. Musicians such as Bayani de leon, Michael Dadap and Ricardo Trimillos,  set up rondalla schools  and taught rondalla classes, attracting students of various nationalities to the music tradition.

The Bicolano folk song Sarung Banggi performed by the SOSA Rondalla Ensemble of Toronto, Canada

The Rondalla as National Icon

The Rondalla as National Icon

The role of the government, from the national to the local level, have been crucial in the directions rondalla music has traversed throughout the years, thereby constructing and affirming its status as a symbol of Philippine culture.

The National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) was formally organized in 1973 as a response to the “imperative need to preserve, develop and promote Philippine music as an art and as handmaid of cultural development; and in recognition of the Filipino’s innate love for music.” Bandurria was included in the solo instrument category, and the family rondalla in the ensemble category. In 1996, under the guidance of Dr. Ramon P. Santos as Secretary General, the rondalla was included as a regular category in the competition.

In the 1980s, the Pambansang Samahan ng Rondalla (PASARON), a national organization of rondalla groups was organized by Celso Espejo, Benjamin Lucas and Teodorico Cosejo. The organization became one of the avenues in sharing new knowledge in the rondalla through its festivals, informal gatherings, training, and performances.

The local government also plays a big part in the development of the rondalla by supporting  performances in community events. In Negros Oriental, the Dauin Rondalla, the Canlaon Senior Citizens Rondalla, and the Tanjay Rondalla are being supported by their local government. One of the government-supported rondalla groups is the Rondalla Marikina (organized 1960’s), one of the Philippine representatives in the  Smithsonian Folkways exhibition held in Washington , D.C in 1998.

Finally, the strong support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for  three The Strings of Unity: International Rondalla Festival  (2004-2018) has been significant in gathering plucked string musicians from all over the world to gather together to witness and share their musical traditions.

  • Logo of the National Music Competitions for Young Artists or NAMCYA

  • Logo of the Strings of Unity: International Rondalla Competition

The Rondalla in Competitions and Philippine Media

The Rondalla in Music Competitions and Philippine Media

One of the most important events that shaped the rondalla today were the competitions as it brought popularity and public patronage. 

In the 1960s,Hamon sa Kampeon was broadcasted on television and radio (Channel 3 and DZAQ) and  hosted by Dely Magpayo and Pepe Pimentel. Dominic Salustiano became a regular juror in the competition, and many of his compositions were played in the competition including Overture No.1, Serenata, Pizzicato, Maligaya and the Pasa Doble Series.

Dely Magpayo and Pepe Pimentel hosting the competition Hamon ng Kampeon in the 1960’s

In 1967, the Manila Times sponsored the National Symphonic Rondalla Composition Contest where Jerry Dadap’s work Philippine Symphonic Medley for Rondallan won the prize.

In 1970, Felipe Padilla de Leon organized the Taliba National Rondalla Contest, where the Pio del Pilar High School Rondalla from Makati won the prize. The composition of Capt. Fulgencio Gragera also won first prize. In 1982-83, Barangayan, a television show sponsored by the Ministry of Human Settlements and hosted by Helen Vela and Booby Gonzales, featured rondalla and solo instrument competitions won by the Parañaque District III Rondalla and Elaine Juliet Espejo.

The Rondalla in the Philippine School System

The Rondalla in the Philippine School System

Schools and universities have also contributed to the development and sustenance of the rondalla in terms of broadening the musical repertoire, codifying and systematizing rondalla practices.Rondalla scholars and musician-mentors such as Francisco Santiago, Nicanor Abelardo, Antonio Molina, Felipe De Leon, Antonio Buenaventura, Alfredo Buenaventura, Hilarion Rubio, Jose Santos and Ramon Tapales, among others, served as judges for the various rondalla competitions. 

The Centro Escolar University (CEU) Rondalla (1926) was one of the oldest school-based  rondalla groups on record. Founded by Dr. Conception Aguila and Lourdes Guzman, the members are high school students of CEU, they were often invited to perform in recitals of the CEU Conservatory of Music. The University of Santo Tomas Pharmacy Rondalla was also founded in 1927, headed by Juan Silos and composed of female students of Pharmacy.

Other groups include the Philippine Normal University (PNU) Rondalla(1954) composed of faculty and staff of PNU, headed by Corazon S. Maceda and the University of the Philippines (UP) Rondalla, founded by Edna Culig in 1995 and revived in 2009 under Elaine Espejo-Cajucom, the same year that the UP included the bandurria as a major course in the College of Music.

The Division of City Schools of Manila was supportive of rondalla organizations through yearly competitions. A consistent winner was the Ramon Magsaysay High School conducted by Angelito C. Pasamaba.

In 2000, Rondalla  was taught as part of the curriculum in music through the Special Program for the Arts (SPA) of the Department of Education (DepEd). Seeking to improve the skills and teaching techniques of music teachers, the DepEd organized training every summer for art teachers that handle the courses.

  • Colonel Antonio Buenaventura, Dr. Antonio J. Molina and Felipe de Leon judging of a Rondalla contest, December 2, 1967

  • Rondalla of the Centro Escolar University

  • Rondalla of St. Paul College Manila, November 22, 1963

  • “Only 5 of 23 members of Padre Burgos Elementary School Rondalla are men (From left Emiliano Salvador, Antonio Galang, Mirardo Cristobal, Victoriano Pacariem, Bernardo Antonio).” Weekly Women’s Magazine. July 29, 1955

  • Legarda Elementary School Rondalla

The Rondalla in the Philippine School System

The Rondalla in the Philippine School System

Schools and universities have also contributed to the development and sustenance of the rondalla in terms of broadening the musical repertoire, codifying and systematizing rondalla practices. Rondalla scholars and musician-mentors such as Francisco Santiago, Nicanor Abelardo, Antonio Molina, Felipe De Leon, Antonio Buenaventura, Alfredo Buenaventura, Hilarion Rubio, Jose Santos and Ramon Tapales, among others, served as judges for the various rondalla competitions.

Colonel Antonio Buenaventura, Dr. Antonio J. Molina and Felipe de Leon judging of a Rondalla contest, December 2, 1967

The Centro Escolar University (CEU) Rondalla (1926) was one of the oldest school-based  rondalla groups on record. Founded by Dr. Conception Aguila and Lourdes Guzman, the members are high school students of CEU, they were often invited to perform in recitals of the CEU Conservatory of Music. The University of Santo Tomas Pharmacy Rondalla was also founded in 1927, headed by Juan Silos and composed of female students of Pharmacy.

Rondalla of the Centro Escolar University

Other groups include the Philippine Normal University (PNU) Rondalla (1954) composed of faculty and staff of PNU, headed by Corazon S. Maceda and the University of the Philippines (UP) Rondalla, founded by Edna Culig in 1995 and revived in 2009 under Elaine Espejo-Cajucom, the same year that the UP included the bandurria as a major course in the College of Music.

Rondalla of St. Paul College Manila, November 22, 1963

The Division of City Schools of Manila was supportive of rondalla organizations through yearly competitions. A consistent winner was the Ramon Magsaysay High School conducted by Angelito C. Pasamaba.

Legarda Elementary School Rondalla

Only 5 of 23 members of Padre Burgos Elementary School Rondalla are men (From left Emiliano Salvador, Antonio Galang, Mirardo Cristobal, Victoriano Pacariem, Bernardo Antonio).” Weekly Women’s Magazine. July 29, 1955

In 2000, Rondalla  was taught as part of the curriculum in music through the Special Program for the Arts (SPA) of the Department of Education (DepEd). Seeking to improve the skills and teaching techniques of music teachers, the DepEd organized training every summer for art teachers that handle the courses.

The Rondalla in Philippine Community Life

The Rondalla in Philippine Community Life

Rondalla music plays an integral role in community life as music for fiestas, weddings, baptismal, birthdays, Holy Week processions, Christmas traditions such as daygon and pastores, courtship, even funeral rites.  Rondalla music is highly associated with the performance of traditional folk dances. As a resilient musical tradition, it has adapted to the times through innovations and transformations in the musical instruments and musical repertoire.

Party tendered by Jose Desiderio in his estate at Barrio San Antonio, Cavite, Cavite Renacimiento Filipino. August 28, 1910

The sustainability of the rondalla tradition may be traced to the strong support of families who comprised the core group of musicians in a community from one generation to another. In the province of Bicol, the family-based music ensemble flourished. At present, the Espejo family continues the tradition with the advocacy to develop rondalla music for a contemporary audience.

In Pampanga and Cebu, families of instrument makers of rondalla instruments have flourished into the present, handcrafting and innovating their processes and products.

Aside from community-based groups, there were rondallas and comparzas formed by family members, especially in the province of Bicol where the music tradition has also flourished. Some of the members of these family rondalla groups joined and won the NAMCYA competitions

In Negros Oriental, the Dauin Rondalla, the Canlaon Senior Citizens Rondalla, and the Tanjay Rondalla are being supported by their local government.

In the early 1900s the rondalla spread to America through luxury shipping lines that included cultural performances in their voyages. Many of Filipino musicians and dancers were employed in these ships to perform Philippine folk dance with the rondalla  as accompanying music, such as the Comparza Joaquin (1905-1913) among others.

In 1940, the Manila Yellow Taxicab Rondallawas organized by the owner of the company, Don Enrique Montserrat, composed of amateur musicians and drivers. Some of the conductors who led the group were Antonio Molina, Honorato Asuncion, and Felipe Padilla de Leon. Another rondalla group composed of drivers and bus operators in Bohol is also documented.

The Manila Yellow Taxicab Rondalla organized in 1940 by the owner of the company, Don Enrique Montserrat

Initial research suggests that rondalla music was introduced in Mindanao when settlers from Luzon and the Visayas came to Davao as part of the migration project initiated by the government in the 1930’s. Migrants from Ilocos, Baguio, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Bohol and Leyte tilled the rich natural resources prevalent in Mindanao, while other migrants provided services to a developing city, including comparza music and eventually, rondalla music in the schools.

Mrs. Kelly’s School in Bua, Benguet (ca 1890), from the American Historical Collection

The Rondalla and the Plucked String Tradition

The Rondalla and the Plucked String Tradition

The plucked string ensemble tradition is a testimony to a collective artistic creation and social interaction, continuously transforming in the process of adapting to local settings. Some scholars think that this musical tradition originates from the nomadic culture of the Gypsy people traveling in Asia and Europe, bringing with them a musical practice that may have influenced the musical landscapes that hosted them. Another possibility of its spread can also be attributed to the Silk Route trade in the 13th-14th century from China and India going into the heart of Europe. Travelers brought with them string instruments that were eventually adopted for different social functions and community activities.

  • Comparza

    Comparza refers to highly trained musicians in Spain who performed onstage for the elite in society. However in the Philippines, comparza refers to a group of itinerant musicians in the Visayan region with rural roots, who perform for different occasions in their communities, most especially during the Christmas season.

  • Murza

    Murza or Murga refers to street musicians begging for alms in Spain. In the Philippines, music scholar W. Pfeifer mentions the murga as “a group of wandering minstrels similar to the Visayan kumbanchero.”

  • Estudiantina

    Estudiantina, sometimes abbreviated to Tina or Tuna, are groups that play in universities in Spain, wearing pirate costumes. In Bicol, estudiantina groups flourished during the late 19th century to the early part of the 20th century, performing during religious processions.

The Rondalla and Its Instruments

The Rondalla and Its Instruments

The rondalla refers to a group of young men who went around towns regularly playing and singing in front of houses in Spain – a practice later introduced in Mexico and the Philippines. At present, it is a group composed of musicians of string instruments played using a plectrum, which belong to the family of lute and zither. The main instruments of the rondalla are the banduria, octavina, laud, guitar, and bass. In some cases a piccolo banduria is added, for music that requires higher tones and the mandola for lower tones.

A medley of compositions by Alfredo Buenaventura performed by Kwerdas Filipinas, featuring players with the five main instruments of the Rondalla.

  • Bandurria

    The bandurria is a pear-shaped instrument with 14 strings. It is the lead instrument and provides the main melody for the ensemble.

  • Octavina

    The octavina is a guitar-shaped instrument but smaller in size. It also has 14 strings and the tuning is an octave lower than the bandurria. It serves as the alto in the ensemble.

  • Laud

    The laud is also an octave lower than the bandurria. It is pear-shaped with two f-holes in its body.

  • Guitar

    The guitar has 6 strings and it serves as the accompaniment in the ensemble, playing the chords of the music.

  • Bass

    The bass has 4 strings which gives the lower tones to the ensemble. Although the most common used today is the upright bass with a tailpiece that serves as the stand, very few groups still use the bajo de uñas or a bass shaped like a big guitar and played by using a thick plectrum or the finger nail.

KUWERDAS: Philippine Rondalla Cultures

KUWERDAS: Philippine Rondalla Cultures

The rondalla as a musical tradition in the Philippines is a story of a vibrant artistic production in various contexts and societal changes. Kuwerdas: Philippine Rondalla Music Cultures explores the historical and cultural intersection of plucked string music in the Philippines, and how communities have transformed rondalla music as an embodied platform of creativity and anchored vision of Philippine cultural expressions.

The exhibit offers a glimpse into the sites of engagements that rondalla music is created and produced, constructing a musical soundscape in the Philippines wherein cultural traditions, aesthetic sensibilities and identity constructions become grounded in community and collective experiences.

In celebration of National Heritage Month, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in partnership with Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc., together with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and Security Bank Corporation are presenting a preview of this forthcoming exhibition about rondalla music heritage.

  • The Rondalla and Its Instruments

  • The Rondalla and the Plucked String Tradition

  • The Rondalla in Philippine Community Life

  • The Rondalla in the Philippine School System

  • The Rondalla in Music Competitions and Philippine Media

  • The Rondalla as National Icon

  • The Philippine Rondalla in Diaspora

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