In Memoriam Rita K. Ledesma

In Memoriam: Rita K. Ledesma

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Rita K. Ledesma, a former leader, trustee, and colleague at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, and lifelong advocate of Philippine art, culture, and history.

Speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Chairman Jose Y. Campos, Jr. said, “We are grateful for her invaluable contribution to the MET, and to her lasting achievements during the many years that she served as president and vice-chairman of the Museum.”

Rita K. Ledesma (1938-2021) was President of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET) from 1993 to 1997, and Vice-Chairman from 1997 to 2001. Under her leadership, the Museum broadened its capacity for exhibition and museum programming, undertaking the first of the major renovations that saw the expansion of the Upper Galleries as well as the construction of the Basement Galleries. She paved the way for landmark MET exhibitions such as And They Will Come Afar: 2000 Years of Vatican Treasures (1994) and the exhibition of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas permanent collection of Pre-Colonial Gold and Pottery (1996 to 2015).

Vice-Chairman Doris Magsaysay Ho added, “Rita contributed so much to the Metropolitan Museum. She had so much passion for art and culture, and it was infectious. When the MET needed more space in the early 1990s, she convinced the BSP to approve the concept and worked with esteemed architect Lor Calma to design the second-floor galleries. She raised the funds with such determination, that we achieved the expansion in record time.”

Ms. Ledesma received many accolades for her contributions to Philippine arts and culture, and for being at the forefront of civic organizations such as the Friends of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Heritage Conversation Society, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Philippines. An avid writer, her byline appeared in the Lifestyle section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where she wrote about topics ranging from personal reflections about life to ruminations on Philippine art, history, and culture. In 208, she edited the two-volume book on her close friend, the Spanish-Filipino artist Betsy Westendorp, which was published by De La Salle University Publishing House.

Her love for the MET was abiding. She continued her patronage of the Museum and its programs beyond her terms on the Board of Trustees, always advocating for the spirit of volunteerism and the privilege of service during lectures and talks for different museum audiences. Even in times of adversity, most particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, she remained steadfast in her dedication to the Museum and was wholeheartedly committed to our mission of Art for All.

“Rita remained committed and unwavering in her support of the Museum and the art and cultural community to the very end. Up to a few days ago, we had enthusiastic discussions to work together on an archiving project of the history of the MET Museum. She will be greatly missed. In her honor, the MET will carry on her legacy and passion,” said Museum President Tina Colayco.

Rita K. Ledesma centered her life around art, culture, service, faith, and family. We extend our prayers and heartfelt condolences to her bereaved family. 

In Memoriam Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr.

IN MEMORIAM

BIENVENIDO TANTOCO, SR.

Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr. (April 7, 1921 – July 6, 2021) was the Museum’s first President from 1976 to 1986. Under his ten-year tenure, he, together with founding Director Arturo Luz, brought in over 100 landmark shows, introducing Filipinos not just to the works of acclaimed artists overseas – Picasso, Klee, Warhol, Lichtenstein and even Old Masters among them – but also to a wide range of art expressions. Throughout the years, Amb. Tantoco received many awards and accolades for his outstanding business achievements as the patriarch of the family behind the pioneering retail company Rustan’s, and for his societal contributions as a leading diplomat during his term as ambassador to the Vatican. 

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.

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