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There are more than 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines and over eighty languages spoken. Malayan/Indonesian and Chinese trade spread to the Philippines long before Spaniards forced a foothold in most north and central Philippine lowland areas by the 16th century. After over three hundred years (circa 1560's to 1900) of Spanish rule, the United States came into power during the 20th century. A visit to Manila shows a highly progressive and commercial metropolitan city with giant shopping centers and American fast-food outlets. As the seat of the national government, Manila has considerable influence throughout the rest of the island nation via a centralized national television and radio system and an educational system (Department of Education, Culture and Sports) that extends into the most isolated places.

Bisayan linguistic regions make up most of the Central Visayas which includes cultural and linguistic groups outside the Bisayan culture as well. The three largest linguistically related Bisayan groups are the Cebuano, Waray, and Ilongo. The Cebuano-Bisayan is the principal focus group in this diatonic harp research. The speakers of this group, for the most part, occupy island areas of Cebu, Bohol, South-western Negros, South-western Leyte, and (mainly) northern areas on the large southern island of Mindanao. They speak the Cebuano language called just Bisayan or Binisaya or Sugbuanon. The majority of research material used in this thesis centers upon geographical areas of southern Cebu and areas of Bohol near Tagbilaran. Other Bisayan locations mentioned in this study include Negros, Panay, and northern Mindanao. The harp comparison in Chapter 3 also incorporates data from the geographically distant and linguistically separate Ilocano regions of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and Cagayan in northern Luzon.

Of the two other Bisayan linguistic groups visited, the Waray on Leyte, and the Ilongo on Panay and Negros Islands no available Bisayan harps distinctly connected to these two linguistic regions were found to examine. This does not, altogether, mean there are no harps peculiar to these regions but does show a general tendency weighted toward Cebuano areas concerning density of distribution.


Using the island of Cebu as a model, the following ethnographic description presents an approximate template of Cebuano urban and rural lifestyle.

Cebu is an oblong shaped island centered between Bohol on the East, Leyte on the North, Negros on the West and Mindanao in the South. Very little land on Cebu is flat. Most area is rolling mountainous property, sometimes steep, usually denuded of trees and limited in water resources. The majority of the population live on land situated near the shoreline.

Barangay is the common Filipino ancestral term for communal locations, derived originally from an extended family or group arrangement. This derivation is based upon the immigration of an ancestral group which originally sailed to the end location in a balangay or ancient boat. (Landa 1967: 56-7) A datu or headman traditionally controlled each barangay and he in turn served a sultan who collected tribute at given times. The barangay, now sometimes referred to as a barrio, still keeps its distinction as a communal unit and geographic location which is analogous to a small village within a county, in the Philippines called a municipality. In rural barangay the majority of the residents are often related in one way or another. Family relationships are close, with even the most distant relatives recognized within the extended family. Generosity and hospitality are respected cultural attributes. No matter how poor a family is, strangers often get the best available considerations, sometimes to the detriment of the host.

Common in rural areas, impoverished and disenfranchised small farm dwellers live a day to day existence off a variety of crops grown for survival. A drought or flood is almost always devastating. Upland rural Cebuanos live in dry mountainous areas, growing crops on sometimes very steep slopes. Many depend upon small amounts of highly salted dried fish (buad) for supplemental protein. An approximate average income of a rural Filipino family is 200-300 pesos a month (US$1 = ~25 pesos in 1991).

Lowland rice farming is desirable if flat, wet rice-plains land is available. Lowland dwellers have easier access to the ocean resources. If well off, a farmer owns a carabao (water buffalo) to pull a plow. Cattle, goats, pigs and poultry provide nutritional sustenance or needed hard currency. Poultry is culturally important because it supplies meat and eggs as well as entertainment. Cock breeding and fighting is an all consuming endeavor for many men. Nearly every community has a legal cockfighting ring open at least once a week for fights.

Common crops grown by Cebuano farmers include staples of corn, rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, taro, coconuts, bananas, mangos, guava, nangka (jack fruit), kulo (breadfruit), melons, lumboy, balimbing (star fruit), tambis, caimatoes (star apple), avocados, peanuts, eggplant, chilies, kalamungay (a small tree bearing edible leaves), mung beans, and others. Money crops include mango, coffee, tobacco, copra (dried coconut), firewood, and any extra fruits or staple crops vendible during the weekly shopping day at the municipal market place (tabu). Coconut (copra) plantations occupy the bulk of land used to date but copra is loosing ground as a commercial crop. Aquaculture of fish and shrimp is becoming a fairly large industry along the coast. The mining of various minerals in Cebu such as gold, coal, and dolomite give employment to some, but jobs are scarce and unavailable to most Cebuanos, especially in rural areas.

Since water is scarce many rural people spend a good part of their day hauling water. Wells are frequently few and far between. In rural areas most people cook over a wood fueled fires. Some families own their own land, others must lease property from wealthy "hacendero" families, while many are squatters living on private or public lands. Hacendero families usually control both the politics and economy in rural areas. Cash is scarce; although there is a legal minimum wage of 125 pesos (US$5) a day (in 1991), few receive this much. Minimum wage laws are rarely enforced against local businesses.

People who own houses in the rural Poblacion (most common name of the central municipal barangay) or any nearby municipality are considerably better off that those living on isolated agriculture lands. Many central townspeople make a daily living of some kind, usually as a vendor or shop owner. Either this, or they work as government employees, policemen, schoolteachers, and administrators or are from independently wealthy and landed families. However, squatters are also found in urban or municipal areas.

The majority of harps and harp players found during this study were outside the urban Cebu City area. Most of the harp players interviewed were in areas accessible by public transportation. Some of the most interesting harps existed in mountainous areas, off dirt paths where transportation is primarily by foot. Limits to research in certain areas were sometimes determined by lack of decent transportation or risk of danger. Stories of Communists (New People's Army [NPA]) living in certain locales abound. Consideration concerning this acted as a restraint, so some places avoided might have produced valuable data. No particular trouble with any communist contingency actually occurred during the research period, even in isolated areas.

Cebu City, Cebu is now the third largest city in the Philippines behind Manila, Luzon and Davao, Mindanao. It has extended port areas for transshipment, and an international airport on adjacent Mactan Island (the Island where Magellan died). What is now part of Cebu City was the first formal settlement established by conquistador Legazpi in the 1560's. There are several colleges and universities in Cebu City. Only one college, however, grants a music degree, an undergraduate in piano.

Cebu City encompasses all strata of society. Several important national political personalities had their origins there. Urban areas around Cebu City are metropolitan in essence. A good percentage of the population has at one time migrated from rural areas in the Central Visayas and Mindanao to the Cebu City area. Pollution is evident everywhere and many live in squalor. There are few social programs available and medical services are almost always restricted to those who are able to pay.

At the moment (1992) Cebu City is experiencing rapid growth, humorously named "Ce-boom" by the residents, with new sub-divisions for the wealthy positioned in the hills above the city. In addition, new immigrants moving in to the city compete for jobs and domestic space. Cebu City is progressive, offering commercial and health care amenities available in any large metropolitan area. Sally Ann Ness's recent (1992) publication Body, Movement, and Culture gives a more detailed description of Cebu City in the chapter called "The Looks of the City."



Traditional music of the Visayas generally fits into a classification described by Philippine musicologists as indigenous Hispanic music of the Christianized lowlands. (Maceda 1963) Trimillos refines this particular classification (which is only one part of his overall musical typology) in a slightly different way as "Hispanised musics based upon indigenous forms or traditions." (Trimillos 1972) This precludes influences assimilated during the American regime starting at the turn of the 20th century. Ragtime, jazz (boogie woogie), country western, rock and roll, disco, etc., infiltrate almost all folk repertories at some point. Traditional music in Cebu City, and even some Church music, is subsumed by contemporary, globally influenced, popular musical genres. Traditional extant Hispanised music found now is mainly in rural provincial areas or in urban areas where probinsyanos (urban term for rural dwellers) live.

By the 17th century, introduced Hispanic musical instruments, such as the harp, guitar, violin, various bandurria types (flat backed mandolins), bass viol, organ, clarinets, trumpets, flutes and other instruments became popular and displaced most pre-Hispanic instruments once used. The Filipino harp is definitely an offspring of a European prototype (its history is discussed further in the following chapter). Christianized indigenous populations absorbed European music and musical instruments rapidly taking them on as their own, but often in their own fashion. For instance, Trimillos theorizes that musical attributes inherent in the Filipino rondalla (stringed ensemble) is a co-option of Spanish music, and uses a means of improvisation related to other South-East Asian musical genres. He posits similarities of improvisation in Indonesian gamelan as an analogy.

In Cebu and many areas of the Philippines, older musical traditions offer an interesting contrast to contemporary popular commercial genres readily available through television, radio, and recorded media. In Cebu, most commercial media are controlled through the cultural hegemony of Manila. Regionalistic fervor for linguistic distinction, nevertheless, is still strong. The language format of almost all local radio stations in Cebu is Cebuano-Bisayan (rarely English). Tagalogs from Manila are surprised when they visit, to find there are no locally generated Pilipino radio stations However, nationally produced radio is available. Television is primarily nationally based, usually presented in Pilipino, Taglish (Tagalog interspersed with English phrases) or sometimes in English. There are hardly any television programs, besides the local newscast, broadcast in the Bisayan language. The majority of all newspapers in the Philippines are printed mainly in English. Magazines are often in Filipino vernacular languages.

Bisayan radio stations play various contemporary styles of music, like, jazz, popular, rock and roll, Tagalog popular songs and new movie tunes, etc. Very popular in both rural and urban areas are radio soap operas, usually presented in the vernacular language of the region. Certain songs presented through these soap operas become quite popular, infiltrating folk music repertories and may stay popular for decades, such as the song "Usa Hai" ("Once in a While") in the Visayas. In the 1950's and 60's there was a thriving Bisayan cinema industry which is now gone. Songs from these movies were also popular.

The traditional Bisayan form of the folk song genre called harana, has air play on radio stations periodically. The harana, though still popular with the older population tends to be losing ground to modern "progressive" tastes. Harana is almost always slow and sad, a heart felt love song which is verbally expressive. Typically, the traditional harmonic progression alternates between a major and minor tonality (usually parallel, but sometime relative), common to many Hispanic influenced music genres found in the Philippines.

New Bisayan language songs composed for an annual popular music contest in Cebu City usually emulate contemporary popular music styles. The traditional major/minor tonality shift does at times survive incursions into the new music compositions of this contest. Whether this is a conscious effort or subliminal reaction is an interesting question. The electronic keyboard plays all instrumental accompaniment during this particular contest.

Each year a Manila based organization promotes a contest of Tagalog kundiman, an Hispanised song form common throughout much of the Philippines and believed to have pre-Hispanic origins. Competition is strong in the Visayas for this contest, with regional contests determining who represents local regions in Manila.

The mobile disco service, with its loud sound and blinking light displays, is found at virtually every fiesta celebration where traditional musical ensembles once dominated. Even the most isolated areas are affected by this technological invasion, changing cultural practices which were once fairly static.

Conservation of older traditions is rarely funded by any government agency as "progress" is the usual buzzword for success. For instance, the harp is considered "antique" and "obsolete" to many, extinct to some. Others do not know of its existence at all, especially in urban areas. This holds true as well for certain extant traditional forms of music and dance. Some rural areas take it upon themselves to conserve older common traditions. In Barili, Cebu, for instance, there was a "cultural revival contest" whereby only locally based traditions were allowed to receive the limelight. In the 1991 contest a ninty-year-old harpist won first prize.

Though certain regional genres persist, traditional culture is usually portrayed by Manila's superculture view of Filipino culture. For instance, the Bayanihan Folk Arts Company, originally developed for light tourist entertainment at the Philippine Women's University in Manila, is now the common model for Filipino traditional music and dance programs presented in the Philippines and around the world. (Trimillos 1986:109) At least this was the case at fiesta events attended on Cebu and Bohol during the author's 1991-92 research period.

An aggregate mixture of Filipino sub-cultures are represented in the commercial Bayanihan style, usually performed to audiences using taped music over an amplified system. Dances are foremost in performance, such as the Muslim sinkil or the famous Waray-waray tinikling. Both dances have people manipulating long bamboo poles, slapping them horizontally together and then against the ground in a rhythmic sequence during the dance. Dancers show coolness and agility by stepping through the bamboo in correct time, thus preventing their feet from getting smashed, to the enjoyment of the audience. Similar bamboo pole dances genres exisit in South-East Asia. Popular European and Hispanic colonial dances such as Polka, Habanera, Waltz, Mazurka, and others may also be presented at the same venue. Frilly Spanish colonial era costumes are often worn for these dances.

Music performed in the Catholic Church service on Cebu is both interesting and diverse. Over ninety percent of all Filipinos are Catholic, and most are devout, attending church at least once a week. Many church members participate in choirs. Musical orientation is usually in a contemporary setting, the content left up to the discretion of an individual priest, and may differ from one parish to the next. Churches usually have an organ and/or a piano. Guitar sometimes accompanies the choir as well. Songs in Cebu churches are sung in Cebuano-Bisayan, some in English, rarely in Tagalog. Masses in Cebu City are given in Cebuano or English. Old Church hymns (e.g. "Salve Regina", "Panis Angelica") in Latin and Spanish do survive and are sung at various times on the religious calendar, such as during Christmas, Holy Week and Novenas. Not enough is known about surviving Hispanic or Latin Church liturgy in the Philippines to give an informed analysis. This subject offers an interesting field of investigation.

The rondalla, another Spanish musical assimilant, is an ensemble of string instruments. Included in the ensemble are the bandurya, the laud, oktavina (more similar to a small guitar), guitar, pikolo (like a bandurya), bajo (four string bass guitar). In Cebuano areas the banjo bandurria is common. This instrument has a round metal resonator like a banjo but is otherwise like a bandurria with a short wide neck and six string courses totaling twelve to fourteen strings.

Rarely, rondalla ensembles are used Church services. In these services, it is often children who are the players and a knowledgeable priest or member of the community the group's leader. Four string banjos are also available and locally made ukuleles are common. Coconut shell ukuleles make their way into stores as tourist items.

Local rural music and/or dance ensembles still exist and perform in given areas, for fiestas or parties. A small rondalla group from Ginatilan, Cebu, consisting of a guitar, bajo, banjo bandurya and solo singer gave regular performances at a tourist hotel nearby in Badjian, Cebu. Similar groups such as this exist but a thorough study has never been done to ascertain any degree of distribution in the Visayas.

Two other interesting instruments encountered in Cebu were the kulintang and the chile (pronounced say-lee). The Cebuano kulintang, seen in Fig. 1.1, is not the same as the knobbed metal gong array common to Muslims in Mindanao, pictured in Fig 3.9 of Chapter 3. The Cebuano kulintang, shown in Fig. 1.1, an instrument now associated with rural areas is a bamboo keyed xylophone encased in a wood box and related more to the Sulu gabbang.

The chile, seen in Fig. 1.2, similar to the German bombass, is quite an unusual instrument not mentioned in any Filipino instrument catalog, though there is mention of structurally similar instruments in Takacs's catalog. (Takacs 1976) The most interesting thing about this instrument is that it uses an inflated pig's bladder as a bridge between the single metal string and the instrument's body (as did the bombass). The body is made of a fairly large diameter bamboo tube ( approximately 8 cm or 3 in) with the peg head and tailpiece made from a hard wood, these located on opposite ends of the tube body. The peg head has a carved spiral finial similar to a violin, but utilizes only one peg. On the body of the instrument there are two viol-like f-holes. A rectangular hole cut between the f-holes allows for the placement of the pig's bladder. An implement similar to a violin bow is used to vibrate the string. The man seen in Fig. 1.3 plays the instrument uses only his thumb, sliding it along the string to change the pitch. The string does not touch the body of the instrument but is played in the manner of an Indonesian rebab or Chinese erhu.


Fig. 1.1 -- Cebuano kulintang found in Antiquera, Bohol, notice the beater implement that the man uses to play intervals of a third



Fig. 1.2 -- Cebuano chile (say-lee) found in Ginatilan, Cebu, note the inflated pig's bladder bridging the single string


Fig. 1.3 -- Playing style of the chile, note the use of the thumb along the string



1.3.1 Daygon -Traditional Cebuano Christmas Caroling

The daygon is Cebuano Christmas caroling repertory and is a yearly tradition in Cebu. A good number of itinerant musical groups make their way to urban and provincial municipal areas to make money during this season which begins about December 15 and continues until Candlemas on February 2. Groups walk from shop to shop or from house to house singing songs and/or playing instruments to collect some type of tribute along the way. Singers with guitars and bandurrias are the most common ensemble but almost any instrument or group of instruments can be used. Unaccompanied carolers also perform. In downtown Cebu City I saw and tape recorded a Bisayan kulintang performance by a blind man during the Christmas season. This may be the only time when one can witness the playing of a harp in an urban setting. Even then it is unusual to see a harpist because of the rarity of the instrument. Espina gives a brief history of the Bisayan daygon:

The daygon, which was originally the Spanish villancico, is a Christmas carol and was sung throughout the whole length of the season from the first day of Advent [four Sundays before Christmas] to the sixth of January, which the Roman Church celebrates as the Feast of the Three Kings. Villancicos first developed as secular songs in Spain and were later applied to the popular religious songs that arose from the tradition of the Cantigas de Maria. They were first introduced into the Philippines in their pure style, both in music and texts and later translated into the different vernaculars. The term villancico was substituted by the Filipino term daygon. The only daygon were lengthy carols sung in the free and almost spoken fashion of the plainsong. Later on, they became more melodic and lyric, in the style of modern Christmas carols. (Espina 1961: 236)

One of the earliest forms of daygon still extant is the pastores , an orally transmitted Hispanised genre depicting the story of the Nativity, both acted out in dance, and sung in Bisayan (in Cebu), and historically related to Renaissance villancicos and pastorelas of Europe. In Cebu, this song genre in its epic form is most interesting and now quite rare in actual event. "Guitars, and tambourines supply the accompaniment while the dancers execute staccato and syncopated rhythms with castanets." (Espina 1961: 246) Harp usage for epic daygon and pastores is purely speculative, due to lack of specific documentation, but is consistent with ensemble practice used for daygon. Unfortunately, no live documentation of daygon was obtained during the research period of 1991-1992 due to the writer's illness.

1.3.2 Balitaw

Throughout the Philippines, in the past and in some circumstances until the present, there exist topical folk song and poetic genres which are performed spontaneously using courtship, marriage or other familiar topics as themes. Related forms of topical versification intersect a gamut of genres found in East and Southeast Asia and are still seen in some Filipino ethnic groups like the Manobo and Subanon indigenous cultures of Mindanao. In Alcina's Bisayan ethnography published in the mid-1600's similar courtship genres are mentioned with the use of musical instruments.

Another form of poetry is called balac, same meter but metaphorical. It is mostly between a man and a woman and commonly concerns the affairs of love. They use it in two ways, either inquiring or replying to each other vocally on matters of love, all off-color. They chant or sing these with remarkable wit and speed and/or render it to the accompaniment of two instruments. Now with these two instruments they converse and speak to each other about the subject as much as they wish. In this manner, with the coriapi [boat lute] for the man and the corlong [bamboo zither] for the woman, they are able to communicate the most intimate matters even from a distance and without a single word uttered. (Kobak 1977:36)

The Cebuano balitaw is the most important extant musical genre which uses the Cebuano-Bisayan harp. Balitaw is a song, dance, topical debate genre performed between a male and female, the original form believed to be derived from pre-Hispanic courtship genres mentioned above. (Abihay 1978:23, 38; Georsua 1987: 58-60) It is unknown how long the association between harp and balitaw has existed or when the balitaw in its Hispanic form emerged.

Balitaw in the Visayas is both a song and dance using lyrics which are ideally humorous and performed spontaneously to a preconceived theme, similar in ways to calypso singing on Trinidad. Most balitaw now, however, are sung to memorized verse using a standard melody and chord progression. Musically, the balitaw has evolved over time, incorporating melodic variants; even popular melodies can be substituted for traditional melodies in performance. (Gutierrez 1955)

Conservation of extant Hispanic genres is limited in the Philippines but there are individuals who do help keep alive traditional Hispanic instrumental and musical styles by conscious application. Also, the pursuit of a tourist economy gives incentive to preserve things 'native'. In airports of Cebu and Manila one can hear rondallas performed by blind musicians.

Sometimes local restaurants hire itinerant musicians in nearby communities to entertain, to create a "native" ambiance for tourists. This is a type of conservation of culture. "Conservation of this touristic type is within a pluralistic context. To illustrate, a regional repertory is performed in a commercial establishment which itself is regionally based. Further, the Bisayan harp within a specialized situation like this is a novelty and is promoted as such." (Grauberger 1993)

Older Hispanic musical genres that still survive can be described as micromusics disjunct from the contemporary superculture. (Slobin 1992) Unless the Filipino harp is actively conserved through public education or by encouraging its practice, the harp might be gone in few years. Most harp players now are very old and the younger generation does not, as a rule, carry on the tradition.

Traditional transculturated micro-music and dance styles found only in isolated areas stay disjunct from the hegemony of commercial or government sponsored media, in part, due to economic poverty and isolation from technological exposure. For instance, the disenfranchised poor cannot afford to buy radios, or the batteries to run them for that matter. However, this gap is lessening now with increased commercial media exposure and as mobile discos move into once isolated areas. The harp can be seen as a victim of this technology, beginning first with introduction of the piano in the 19th century and now with the infusion of popular music from modern commercial media sources of radio, television and movies.