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Filipino Diatonic Harp CHAPTER 3


In this chapter, Cebuano-Bisayan harps are described and compared to another genre of Filipino harp, that of the Ilocanos. Also included periodically are general comparisons to the field of European and Latin America Hispanic harp as a whole.


3.2 Components of the Harp

Diag. 3.1--Components of the Diatonic Harp

3.2.1 Structural Glossary for the Diatonic Harp

I. Resonator box (sometimes called the soundbox)- The largest resonating structure of the harp and is made up of various structural components.

  • A. Soundboard- The primary vibrating surface to which the strings attach at a perpendicular angle. The soundboard is an integrated component of the resonator box.

    B. Staves- Triangular shaped boards which are joined together to make the angular sides and conical shape of the resonator box

    C. Foundation block- The structural component integrated into the resonator box to which the staves, soundboard and neck connect. Usually not present on one-piece resonator boxes.

    D. Edge moldings- Narrow, angular lengths of wood, mainly ornamental, that serve to strengthen the frame of the resonator box where the soundboard joins with the staves (present on most Filipino harps).

    E. Center strip- A thin piece of wood or bamboo which runs down the center and outside of the soundboard. Holes drilled down the length of the center strip are guides by which the strings pass through the soundboard and are attached inside the harp.

    F. Sound holes- On Filipino harps (and other harps), soundholes are usually circular or oblong in shape and are cut into the resonator box at the rear middle stave. Sound holes allow for the flow of air and sound as well as facilitating attachment of the strings inside the harp.

  • II. Neck (wrest plate)- The curving, horizontal structural component which connects with forepillar in front and to the resonator box at the rear of the harp. The neck also allows for the numerous tuning pegs (or pins) placed horizontally along its length.

  • A. Tuning pegs (pins)- short wood dowels, steel pins or nails placed horizontally through the neck. These are turned to alter the pitch by tightening or loosening the string's tension.

    B. Strings- Various diameters and lengths of nylon or steel strings which span a length between the tuning pegs and the soundboard surface.

  • III. Forepillar or post- Vertical post in front joining the neck on top to the base of the harp.


    IV. Base- On Filipino harps bases are usually flat and are cut in geometrical configurations basically on the theme of a rectangle. Mortise and tenon joints connect the resonator box and the forepillar to the base at separate points of contact.

    3.3 Classification of Regional Harps

    Harps can be quantified and categorized into types, for instance; those having either staved or hollow log resonator boxes, straight or curved forepillars, different neck shapes and curvatures, those having different shapes and placement of soundholes, or with other characteristics such as individualized or standardized ornamental motifs; in addition to a harp's deviations in overall structural proportionment compared to others. This being the case, there is invariably enough subtle difference and variety, to make qualified categorizations of harp types based on specific models from a locale or region or even individual harps made by specific harp makers.


    3.3.1 Two Regional Filipino Harps; Cebuano-Bisayan and Ilocano

    The two genres of Filipino harp studied during this research, Cebuano-Bisayan and Ilocano, show enough contrasting design differences to be viewed as separate genres. Adaptations in Filipino harps were possibly due to historical differences in demographics and the geographical isolation of the two distinct linguistic regions. The two genres can now be easily distinguished in a majority of Filipino harps. Considering periodic cross-cultural exchange and migration between the islands, however, there are hybrid exceptions.



    3.3.2 Individuality of the Cebuano/Bisayan Harp and Homogeneity of the Ilocano Harp

    Bisayan harps, called alfa or alpa in the vernacular, can be generally distinguished by their aesthetic and structural individuality. One reason for this distinction is that many of the forty-three Bisayan harps presented in this research were made by harp players themselves, usually in rural and often isolated settings. Aesthetic adaptations of harps made for or by a specific player tend to be as individual as the player himself.

    The Bisayan harp's individuality is contrasted to the fairly close structural and aesthetic homogeneity of Ilocano harps, called arpa or harpa in their vernacular. Certain distinctive regional genres of Latin American harp appear to be structurally and aesthetically homogeneous as well, conforming in overall structural proportion and ornamentation.


    3.4 structural and aesthetic details of filipino harps

    3.4.1 "Families" Within a Genre

    Inasmuch as Bisayan harps tend to show distinguishable and individualistic features, certain "families" of Filipino harps, or groups of harps made either by the same person or by a closely related family, exhibit certain similarities in aesthetic and structural features. In both Bisayan and Ilocano areas one finds harp "families" showing similar aesthetic features due to the limited number of harp makers in that particular area. In Ilocano harps, differences were much more subtle given the genre's overall homogeneity.

    3.4.2 Low and High-headed Harps

    One characteristic considered in the categorization of Hispanic harp types is determined by the difference between the front and rear heights. Low-headed harps have frontal heights at the same height or lower than that of the rear of the harp. A high-headed harp has a frontal elevation decidedly higher that the rear. The modern pedal harp is a good example of a high-headed harp, with the "head" or top of the forepillar significantly taller than the rear of the harp, where the box joins with the neck.

    Latin American and early European Hispanic diatonic harps are generally seen by Schecther as favoring low-headedness, although, there are harp genres in Latin America that are high-headed. (Sadie 1980:v4:197) Both low and high-headed harps are found in Ecuador, for instance. Of four photographs shown in Mendoza's Panorama de la Musica Traditional de Mexico, three harps are low headed and one is high-headed. (Mendoza 1956: Figs. 39, 40-41, 48) Filipino harps are always high-headed as a rule. Only a limited few Bisayan harps examined could in any way be considered low-headed; and the individualistic nature of Bisayan harp can be used as an explanation for any deviations from the high-headed norm. No Ilocano harps were found to be low-headed.

    3.4.3 Front and Rear Heights of Filipino Harps

    Frontal heights are measured at the tallest point either at the neck or the forepillar depending on the design. On Bisayan harps, a wide variety of different heights exist. Of the forty-three Bisayan harps measured, the minimum frontal height was 96 cm and the maximum was 163 cm.

    The harp's rear height was measured from highest point at the neck where it joins with the resonator box. Of forty-two available measurements for the rear heights, Bisayan harps showed a minimum of 83 cm and the maximum 142 cm. Of forty-three harps the average frontal height stood at 124 cm and the average rear height at 107.3 cm. (see Table 3.1 and top of Graph 3.1) Altogether, Bisayan harps tended to be smaller than their Ilocano counterpart which averaged 147 cm for the frontal height and 127.8 cm at the rear. This was using statistics from 21 harps of the Ilocano genre. Frontal heights from these ranged in extremes from 135.5 cm to 166 cm with rear heights from 114 cm to 140 cm. (see Table 3.2 and bottom of Graph 3.1)

    The heights of the Ilocano harps tally closely with the 18th century Talbot harp which was 147 cm high and certain Latin American harps, such as the Ecuadorian folklorica of 142 cm, the Paraguayan of 140 cm. (Schechter 1992) Harps, even smaller than those of the Bisayans exist in specific Latin American regions such as the Indian harps of the Ecuadorian imbabureņa and Mexican Chiapas. These "Indian" harps are relatively small, usually measuring under 90 cm from the top to the ground.

    Small Filipino harps, basically playable miniatures, are also found in the Philippines. Only one type of miniature Bisayan harp was available for examination on the Island of Bohol (see Fig. 3.1). This was built by the harp maker featured in the following chapter. Two small "children's" harps were examined in Ilocano regions and they appear to be representative of a traditional harp product. None of the small harps were used in the overall statistical analysis as they were problematic and deviated too much from the norm of both genres.

    Fig. 3.1 -- Example of smaller harp made by Mr. Abecia at Lagtangon, Maribojoc, Bohol. The larger harp in the rear can be used as reference

    On Luzon, one can also find very small unplayable harps which are sold as souvenirs to display as bric-a-brac. (see Fig. 3.2) In fact, even large unplayable harps are made and sold purely for a household decorative furnishing. This again refers back to the Filipino harp as an icon of the Spanish colonial past.

    3.4.4 Resonator Boxes

    A staved resonator box is characteristic of almost every harp of Hispanic ancestry. The most common Hispanic harp design has five staves, some have only three or four, and there are harps with as many as seven, nine or possibly more. The European triple harp is of a similar staved design and is believed to have originated in Italy. This later became associated with the Welsh harp. Due to structural similarities these two extant harp genres seem to have some familial relationship to the Hispanic harp. (Hadaway 1982:8-9) All twenty-one harps examined of the Ilocano genre had a five staved resonator box. Of Bisayan harps, thirty-three had resonator boxes carved from a single log. Of the ten staved Bisayan harps, five harps had five staves and a five harps had four staves.

  • Width and Depth of Resonator Boxes
  • The resonator box width and depth combined with the frontal and rear heights are important elements basic to the proportion of the harp. Nearly all Bisayan harps have fairly shallow resonator boxes with narrow to medium frontal widths where the soundboard of the resonator box joins the base. Of forty-three Bisayan harps, the depth of the resonators varied from as shallow as 12 cm to a fairly deep 30 cm, with an average of 18.7 cm overall. The width at the base of the forty-three harps ranged from 21 cm to 46 cm. The overall average width of the genre was 29.8 cm. (see Fig. 3.3, and see Table 3.3, top of Graph 3.2 in appendix)

    Fig. 3.2 -- Tiny toy harps made as souvenirs in Cagayan, Luzon

    Of twenty-one Ilocano harps surveyed, measurements for the resonator box depth ranged from 27 cm to 38 cm with an average of 31.1 cm. The width of the resonator at the base averaged 58.9 cm and ranged from 50 to 67 cm. (see Fig. 3.4) Statistics concerning the frontal heights and resonator widths and depths show a fairly obvious pattern regarding regionality. (see Table 3.4 and bottom of Graph 3.2 in appendix)

    Latin American harps, because of the number of genres, vary in many ways. Most low-headed "Indian" harps, for instance, show resonator boxes which are both wide, averaging 53.2 cm, and deep, averaging 33.9 cm, while being fairly short and squat, approximately 85 cm tall. (Schechter 1992:227-240) Other Latin American genres, on the other hand, have proportions closer to those of Filipino harps.

  • One Piece Hollowed Log Resonators
  • Hollow body resonators made of a single log (except for the soundboard and moldings), a feature on thirty-three of the forty-three the Bisayan harps, presents an interesting divergence from the usual norm of the Hispanic harp field. Nearly all Bisayan hollow log harps still kept a traditional aesthetic, with the carved resonator formed into the shape of a

    Fig. 3.3 -- A hollowed log harp found near Dalaguete, Cebu with a shallow depth and short width resonator box, note the unusually shaped soundbox holes and the staggered tuning peg system

    Fig. 3.4 -- Harp found near Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Luzon with a wide soundboard, note the metal and wood forepillar construction

    Fig. 3.5 -- A hollowed log resonator box, part of an old Bisayan harp found in Antiquera, Bohol, the outside shape is reminiscent of a five staved construction

    five staved harp, reminisicent of staves. (see Fig. 3.5) Although, a few hollow log harps showed somewhat rounded exterior box features or a mixture of both angular and round, the main aesthetic was a five sided "staved" shape.

    One reason for the narrowness in depth and width of many Bisayan harps is in part that the resonator box is made from a single log. For a harp to have much larger dimensions the initial log would have to be quite large. A 120 cm to 150 cm (4 to 5 feet) length of log would have to measure over 60 cm or about two feet in diameter. Other reasons, such as portability for traveling musicians or regional variations in material culture, may also be the cause of smaller harps in the Visayas. It is also possible that the Bisayan harp represents an original structural model once widespread throughout the Philippines that has ceased to exist on Luzon.

    Only one harp seen by the writer, purported to be of Ilocano origin and one hundred to one hundred fifty years old, was made in the hollowed log design. This particular harp, which can be viewed in the Central Bank's Museum of Folk Life in Quezon City, shows beautiful workmanship but is problematic because it resembles the structure and proportion of Bisayan hollow log models more than any other contemporary Ilocano harp examined. (see Fig.3.6) Therefore, because this harp so closely matches the generic qualities of what is termed the Bisayan harp, it is included in the statistical comparison with the Bisayan harps.

    One may surmise that because the dominant five angled, hollow log structure is not actually staved, it is not characteristic of Hispanic or European origin. Harps with one piece resonator boxes do have historical counterparts, at least, in Mexico, Europe and the British Isles.

    Fig. 3.6 -- Hollowed log harp found in the Central Bank Museum in Manila, note the wood pegs without string guides and the extreme thickness of the solid wood base

    An interview with a harpist/harp maker member of the Ballet Folklorica de Mexico who performed at the University of Hawaii in 1991 revealed that hollowed body harps (his term, carvata) do exist in and around Veracruz, Mexico, but are rare. An Italian harp in the Naples Conservatory carrying the mark 'Stradivarius, Cremona 1681' has a resonator box "shaped as if in five ribs, though it is actually made in one piece." (Sadie 1984:140) Ancient bardic (Irish) harps are also renowned for their one piece resonator boxes. (Sadie 1980:v.5:195)

    Because of the craftsmanship, one would be hard pressed to differentiate some hollowed log harps from staved harps at first viewing, as the entire resonator is sculpted to fit the staved aesthetic. A hollow log resonator harp found on Bohol is an excellent example of this type of imitative craftsmanship, giving the impression of a staved instrument shown in Fig. 3.7. Notice the smooth lines where the neck connects with the top of the resonator and how the angles of the box gives a realistic impression that it is staved.

    Whether adaptations in harp making on Luzon replaced one piece soundboxes is not known due to lack of specific documentation and artifacts. It appears from this isolated example that both staved and hollowed body resonators might have existed throughout the Philippines at one time. As mentioned before, both hollow log and staved harps are found in Cebuano-Bisayan areas. The following chapter is devoted to the construction of a staved Bisayan harp.

    Fig. 3.7 -- Hollowed log harp found in Guiwanan, Bohol, note the neck carved into horse's mane motif, note the forepillar ornamentation with the square stock at the end and the interspersed concentric ring pattern

    There seems to be no specific ideal concerning the interior shape of a hollow log resonator box, even though different interior shapes or textures would in some way change the quality of acoustic resonance. It is unknown if there is any preconceived notion of this by any Bisayan harp maker. Most interiors of hollow log resonators are fairly smooth and rounded. (see Fig. 3.8)

    Single log resonators do tend to age better compared to staved resonators, mainly because the glue between the staves often loses contact over time and, if not checked, the resonator box will fall apart. This was the case of a few staved harps examined, both Bisayan and Ilocano. The oldest extant harps found were of the hollow log type.

    It is a moot point whether one piece resonators were purely assimilated from Spanish colonialists or were syncretically adapted, evolving through a transcultural process by indigenous Filipinos. Hypothetically, the boat lute, called koriapi (also kudyapi), made by pre-Hispanic Bisayans was primarily of a one piece design. The koriapi was known as an important ritual and entertainment instrument supplanted by the harp and other Hispanic instruments during the seventeenth century. (Kobak 1977) Pre-Hispanic instrumental construction practice in the Visayas may have influenced hollowed log harp designs. Another transcultural process involving the horse head representation (described on p. 97), used on some Bisayan harps is a cultural phenomenon found occasionally throughout South-East Asia. This type of cultural syncretism was also mentioned in Chapter 2. (see Fig. 3.9)

  • Foundation Blocks
  • The foundation block is an integrated component of the resonator box to which the staves attach and by which the neck is connected using a mortise and tenon joint. (see Fig. 3.10) The foundation block is usually not a separate element on hollowed log Bisayan harps nor is there a real need for it. (see Fig. 3.11) However, foundation blocks are separate components on a limited few hollow log harps. (see Fig. 3.8)

    The foundation block on staved Filipino harps, as an entire field, varies in shape and size. How the mortise is cut to fit the neck joint also varies. Different structural and sculpted foundation block configurations are seen on Bisayan harps; (see Figs. 3.8, 3.12), Ilocano harps also show interesting variations. (see Figs. 3.13, 3.14)

    On several Ilocano harps made in the region of Cagayan on Luzon, the mortise joint connecting the foundation block to the neck is offset to the right side (when viewed in playing position). (see Fig. 3.14) This offset joint allows the neck to be positioned in a way as to allow the strings to come off the neck at a more perpendicular angle to the center of the soundboard. This design difference might be a more contemporary adaptation. Older Ilocano harps examined did not display this offset design and only harps made in Cagayan showed this particular feature.

  • Internal Structure of the Resonator Box
  • Of all Filipino harp found, except for one very unusual instrument,

    Fig. 3.8 -- Interior of hollowed log resonator seen in Fig. 3.5, note the rounded inside construction

    Fig. 3.9 -- Maranao kulintang found in the Cultural Center of the Philippines Museum in Manila

    Fig. 3.10 -- Foundation block of Bisayan harp featured in Chapter 4 from Maribojoc, Bohol showing the mortise cut to which the neck tenon would attach

    Fig. 3.11 -- Bisayan hollowed log harp made in Naga, Cebu without a foundation block

    Fig. 3.12 -- Bisayan hollowed log harp found near Dalaguete, Cebu without a foundation block but carved to give the appearance of having one

    Fig. 3.13 -- Rear view of Ilocano harp foundation block showing sculpted lines. Harp found near Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Luzon

    Fig. 3.14 -- Front view of Ilocano harp foundation block made in Cagayan, Luzon with an offset mortise and tenon joint, note ornamentation of shape

    Fig. 3.15 -- Inside construction of Ilocano harp made in Cagayan, Luzon, see the small pieces of wood used between the different stave joints to strengthen the structure, note the inside molding used at the bottom where the base meets the resonator box

    there was no use of internal rib bracing for the staves. In one unfinished Ilocano harp, numerous tiny blocks were placed inside the box across the stave joints. These appeared to be used to facilitate nailing and gluing of the staves together and were not seen as specific structural bracing. (see Fig. 3.15)

    Information concerning the internal structure, such as the bracing of staves and the soundboard in the interior of the resonator box of Hispanic harps, is very limited. Schechter mentions the use of five to seven internal

    ribs in two different genres of Ecuadorian harp, the arpa imbabureņa and the arpa folklorica. (Schechter 1986:127-133)

  • Soundbox Holes
  • No Filipino harps of either genre exhibited frontal soundbox holes. However, owing again to the individualistic nature of Bisayan harp there were several soundhole shapes and sizes used, sometimes in conjunction with uncommon hole placements located on different staves or parts of the hollowed resonator box. (see Fig. 3.3) Ilocano harps, on the other hand, always had round or oval soundholes located on the rear middle stave.

    A good percentage of Latin American harps referenced are said to have frontal soundbox holes placed directly on the soundboard. Often these frontal sound holes alternate, each hole placed in opposition on either side of the strings, then decreasing size as they ascend toward the upper portion of the soundboard.

    Like all Filipino harps, certain Latin American harps, such as the jarocha harp of Veracruz, Mexico have sound holes located on the rear of the resonator box. (Wolfe 1973:3) (see Figs. 3.5-8) Beside the acoustic reasons for soundholes, one main function is to facilitate access into the resonator box to attach the strings inside.

  • The Soundboard
  • The soundboard is an important constituent enclosing the resonator box and functions as a principle bridging and vibrating surface for the strings. In general, all Hispanic harp soundboards are trapezoidal, but fairly triangular in shape. (see Fig. 3.4)

    Talbot's description of the 17th century Spanish harp notes, "its Belly generally Cullen Cleft scooped in roundish [form]." Schechter believes this refers to a harp with a rounded or arched soundboard design, as seen in his arpa imbabureņa of Ecuador and other related Highland Indian harp genres of Peru, Columbia and Mexico. The rounded belly is accomplished by the structural configuration of the breech or integrated base at the bottom of the resonator box. The breech functions as a skeletal frame giving curvature to the soundboard. On both Filipino and several Latin American harp genres the soundboard is flat, having no distinguishable curvature.

    Three types of soundboard construction were found on Bisayan harp: 1) a multi-segmented board made from slats of wood which were butt jointed together with the grain oriented horizontally (see Fig. 3.16); 2) a one piece soundboard made from plywood (see Fig. 3.17); 3) three Bisayan harps had soundboards made out of galvanized iron. (see Figs. 3.29, 3.30)

    Fig. 3.16 -- Bisayan harp found in Guihulngan, Negros showing a multi-segmented soundboard

    Fig. 3.17 -- Harp from Naga, Cebu showing a plywood soundboard, note the chrome automotive molding, the unusual base made of reinforcement iron, the attached music stand (upper right), and the tuning system made of steel plates and nuts and bolts as pegs.

    Judging by available photographs, some Latin American harps also feature multi-segmented soundboards with horizontally aligned grain. Ecuadorian imbabureņa harps photographed by Schechter show one piece soundboards with the grain oriented vertically. The idea of Latin American harps having plywood soundboards is feasible but no statistical evidence of this was readily available. Most of the Ilocano harps examined had the multi-segmented type of soundboard. Only two had soundboards of plywood. The following chapter shows the construction of a multi-segmented soundboard for a Bisayan harp. Soundboard materials will be discussed further on in this chapter. (pp. 118-119)

    On most Filipino harps the soundboard is moderately thin, measuring approximately 0.5 cm or less than 1/4 inch. In Filipino harps at least two different aesthetic approaches are used in constructing the soundboard.

    One is purely for acoustic quality while the other is for strength and beauty. Another variable in construction is the availability of materials. In general it seems that strength and/or visual beauty dominate over acoustic considerations for Filipino harp makers.

    The soundboard is the weakest component of the harp as a rule, with the full stress of the string tension brought upon the entire length of the soundboard's central section. Soundboards are almost always the first thing to break and be replaced. Plywood soundboards have both adequate strength and good sound quality because thin material can be used, which in addition is easy to work with. The use of variant materials such as plywood or galvanized iron for harp soundboards, away from the traditional norm of a multi-segmented structure made of available native woods, might be due

    to the popular perception by Filipinos that modern technical innovation is a way of being "progressive."

  • Internal Soundboard Bracing
  • Use of internal soundboard bracing was found on a few harps examined in Ilocos Norte. One type of bracing consisted of a wooden strip inside the box on the soundboard opposite the centerstrip. This was used to reinforce the vertical length of the soundboard from the upward stress of the strings. Most modern pedal harps have a vertical strip inside, plus bracing on each side of the soundboard for added strength, similar to the inside bracing of guitars. Another type of soundboard bracing seen on certain Ilocano harps utilized small, very thin, diamond shaped, wood patches placed horizontally over the connecting butt joints of the multi-segmented soundboard. These patches invariably keep the thin soundboard slats from pulling apart at the joint, a common problem of these soundboard types. (see Fig. 3.18) This particular kind of internal soundboard bracing or reinforcement was not seen on any Bisayan harps examined.

    All in all, internal resonator box or soundboard bracing does not seem to be a common contemporary Filipino diatonic harp characteristic. The most important soundboard brace is the centerstrip placed on the exterior of the soundboard's surface running down the center in which holes are drilled for the strings.

    On most Filipino harps the strings are knotted onto small twigs or larger pieces of string placed inside the resonator box so they will not pull out through the soundboard when tensioned. In certain Latin American

    Fig. 3.18 -- Inside soundboard bracing on harp made in Piddig, Ilocos Norte, Luzon, note the small pieces of wood used to clamp the joints of the multi-segmented soundboard and the inside wood strip to support the stress of the strings

    Fig. 3.19 -- Ilocano harp found in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Luzon showing ornamental centerstrip made out of alternating square pieces of wood and bone, note how the forepillar construction is slightly inset into the soundboard

    harps, the strings are pegged or "toggled" onto the front exterior of the soundboard, similar to the way many steel string guitars are strung. This eliminates the need to place a hand inside of the harp when changing the strings. No Filipino harps examined used this "toggled peg" system of attaching strings to the soundboard.

    While soundboard centerstrips are usually made of a thin strip of solid wood, or sometimes bamboo, two Ilocano harps showed centerstrips made with alternating squares of bone inlayed into a wood strip. (see Fig. 3.19)

  • Types Ornamental Edge Moldings
  • Edge moldings, in some form, are seen on all Filipino harps, the most common being the moldings around the soundboard at its connection to the resonator box. The molding serves a dual purpose, one, it helps secure the soundboard from coming apart and, two, serves as an ornamental trim. It is usually an angular length of wood touching both the face of the soundboard and the sides of the resonator box. Certain Bisayan harps used chrome steel moldings similar to automobile side moldings, possibly again as a statement of progress. (see Fig. 3.17) Wood moldings are often thicker at the bottom, becoming narrower as they ascend toward the top of the soundboard. (see Fig. 3.4)

    Moldings are also seen around the bottom of the resonator box where it joins to the base. (see Figs 3.2, 3.3, 3.19) Certain harps showed molding designs around the foundation block where it joins with the staves as well. (see Fig. 3.7)


    3.5 The Neck

    The harp neck is virtually always curved, with most being in the shape of an arch or an inverted S. (see Figs. 3.1-3, 3.6-7) Besides its importance as structural support, the neck's other function is to hold the tuning pegs or pins in place. (see Figs 3.1, 3.3, 3.6-7, 3.12) Therefore numerous vertically aligned holes are always present, either in line, following the curve of the neck, or, rarely, in a zigzag pattern, also following the curvature of the neck. (see Fig. 3.7)

    Nearly all Filipino harp necks are made from one solid piece of wood with the grain aligned, more or less, horizontally. The inherent curvature of the harp's neck design is possibly due to a concern for material stability. For instance, if numerous holes were drilled perfectly in a straight line, that piece of wood could more easily split along the grain, either during manufacture or with the later tensioning of the strings. Splitting at the peg holes was a problem on two older harps examined.

    Neck measurements for forty-three Bisayan harps surveyed averaged 67.7 cm in length. The minimum neck length was 57 cm and the maximum was 83 cm. The range in size was fairly evenly displaced between the two extremes. (see Table 3.5 and top of Graph 3.3 in the appendix) Ilocano harp necks averaged only slightly longer, 70. 4 cm, of the twenty-one harps seen. The shortest neck length was 61 cm and the longest was 80 cm. Bisayan harps had both the shortest and longest lengths while both genres had nearly the same average measurements. Twelve out of the twenty-one Ilocano harps had necks that measured between 67 to 73 cm in length. (see Table 3.6 and bottom of Graph 3.3 in the appendix)

    There are too many variables in the neck's width and curve configuration to give all the measurements. Therefore, measurements for the neck width are presented only at the narrowest and widest points. For instance, a common Ilocano harp's neck might vary in width from 5 cm at the narrowest point on the curve to upwards of 19 cm near the forepillar. Ilocano harps show less variation of width and a more standardized formula of curvature than do Bisayan harps, which is another area pertaining to heterogeneity/homogeneity dicotomy between the diversity in structure and aesthetics of the two Filipino harp genres compared here. Extreme examples include one of the horse head harps which is 4 cm at the narrowest and 29 cm at the widest portions of the neck where the head of the horse is located. At the other end of the spectrum there was a Bisayan harp neck measuring 7 cm at the narrowest and 8 cm at the widest showing only a 1 cm difference overall. (see Fig. 3.3)

    Of forty-three Bisayan harps, neck widths averaged 7.1 cm at the narrowest and 15.2 cm at the widest. They had an extreme range between 4 cm and 15 cm at the narrowest and 7 cm and 29 cm at the widest part of the neck. (see Table 3.5 in the appendix)

    The twenty-one Ilocano neck widths showed an average of 5.5 cm at the narrowest and 15.9 cm at the widest. The extremes ranged between 3.5 cm to 11.5 cm at the narrowest and between 8 cm and 19 cm at the widest. (see Table 3.6 in the appendix)

    The depth or thickness of the neck on Filipino harps, while not showing as large a variation, still shows a distinct pattern separating the two genres, even if the averages are close. Of forty-three Bisayan harps the

    average neck depth was 3.5 cm. with the minimum and maximum measuring from 1.5 cm to 7.5 cm. Twenty-one Ilocano harps averaged 3.0 cm. in depth with the minimum and maximum varying from 2.5 cm to 4 cm. Significance of a thicker neck is possibly the additional weight and strength it adds to the structure.

    Five harps made by a "family" of harp makers were examined that exhibited characteristics seen only within this group of harps. This was an extended family including a father, two sons, and an "uncle" (actually a distant cousin). The main distinction of this group of hollow log harps was the design of the neck which was more in the shape of a rectangular or trapezoidal board than the more common S-shape. These harps were also unusual because they used metal pegs (actually nails) which were aligned in a straight line. Two harps from this family, both made by the uncle, had plywood necks, the only ones found during the research.

    Wood grain on plywood is laminated with the grains juxtaposed horizontally and vertically in thin sheets so there is greater strength. Therefore, if a harp neck is made from plywood it can be of a thinner depth. It was one of these harps that produced the mean depth of 1.5 cm above.

    On the same two harps with plywood necks another innovation seen, in addition to the straight peg alignment, was a type of tuning system unlike any other seen in the Philippines or anywhere else. This was constructed with lengths of steel sheeting placed on both sides of the neck which acted as a double plate to hold bolts with nuts used as string tensioners. Turning the bolts tuned the strings and the nuts were tightened to keep the strings from slipping. (see Figs. 3.17, 3.20)


    Fig. 3.20 -- Close-up view of Bisayan harp found near Naga, Cebu (same harp as Fig. 3.13). The tuning system is made of sheet iron plates with nuts and bolts as tuners; other points, string guides made from the bent iron plate, pegs are in a straight line, plywood neck

    While most harps follow a design scheme where the strings emanate from only one side of the harp's neck (the left side when in playing position) (see Figs. 3.6-7), another type of neck design, one familiar on Paraguayan harps, has the strings emanating from a hollowed slot made down the middle neck's length. (Schechter 1992:86-87) This allows the stress from the strings to pull down on the neck evenly from the center, versus the unbalanced pressure which pulls only on the one side, often making the neck twist downward toward that side over time. Only one Filipino harp maker, interviewed in Negros, developed his own center-slotted neck design with wooden tuning pegs placed on both sides. (see Fig. 3.21)

    Neck ornamentation can be as simple as linear grooves along the top and sides, or shallow angular cuts where the pegs sit to allow the strings vibrating distance from the neck. This type of design is shown on the Bohol harp in the next chapter. Floral patterns were common on several Filipino harps, both Bisayan and Ilocano (see Fig. 3.22), but were mainly found in the Ilocano harp, either with designs pre-made and attached separately onto the neck to give an embossed texture, or patterns carved directly into the surface of the neck. (see Fig. 3.23)

    Neck ornamentation of the Bisayan harp is more diverse than that of the Ilocano harp and several Latin American harp genres as well. While several of the forty-three Bisayan harps presented showed necks to be unadorned or with simple designs, there are numerous variations in neck shapes and ornamentations. Neck shapes vary in length, width, thicknesses and degrees of curvature as noted in previous statistics above. Types of carved ornamentations, in addition to floral patterns, include circular and


    Fig. 3.21 -- Slotted neck design of harp from La Libertad, Negros, see wood tuning pegs located on either side of the neck


    Fig. 3.22 -- Bisayan harp found near Dalaguete, Cebu with carved floral relief; notice how forepillar connects to the neck


    Fig. 3.23 -- Harp found in Cayayan, Luzon, this Ilocano harp neck shows string guides beneath the metal pegs; note the detailed carved floral pattern spiral designs. Sometimes added ornaments such as a photograph or mirrors are placed on the neck. (see Fig. 3.24)

    In addition, eleven of the forty-three Bisayan harps showed zoomorphic or anthropomorphic features. More numerous are animal representations. Of these the kabayo or horse head motif was a dominant feature on eight of the eleven harps. Other features include; a face, a bird, a snake, and a dragon.

    One of the most interesting Bisayan harps examined displayed several carved and painted zoomorphic and floral figures in an integrated design theme, a lizard, a dragon, a centipede and a large yellow flower. This harp was unique in craftsmanship and artistic quality. (see Figs. 3.25-26) Another Bisayan harp seen in Fig. 3.27 shows detailed carving of an abstracted form which is not immediately recognizable. It seems it could either be a horse or a dragon figure.

    Zoomorphic and anthropomorphic representations on Filipino harps were seen only on Bisayan harps. This does not necessarily preclude animal figures in the Ilocano genre, but none were found during the limited time spent for research on Luzon.


    3.5.1 Horse Head Motif

    Kabayo, Cebuano for horse, was the most common term used to describe the component of the harp's neck by everyone familiar with the harp in the Visayas. In the curving lines of a harp's neck one can easily imagine features of a horses head and curving back. The horse motif is, for


    Fig. 3.24 -- Bisayan harp found in Misamis, Mindanao showing an added mirror as an ornament, like an eye; notice the carved sea horse design

    Fig. 3.25 -- Side view of the neck of a harp from Antiquera, Bohol which exhibits a dragon, a flower, and a centipede as ornamental features painted in various colors, notice all the centipede's legs are also carved and painted with detail; also, wood pegs without string guides

    Fig. 3.26 -- Frontal view of the neck of the same harp seen in Fig. 3.25 showing the additional zoomorphic feature of a lizard; notice the detailed cut made for the flower as well


    Fig. 3.27 -- Bisayan harp found in Barili, Cebu and made by the man shown in the picture when he was a young boy; notice the detailed carving which extends down the forepillar

    four of the Bisayan harps, only an abstracted feature. (see Figs. 3.6, 3.28) Four harps clearly showed a horse head figure, and two of these include eyes, ears, and real hair implanted for the mane. (see Figs. 3.29, 3.30)

    Ilocano harpists and harp makers always referred to the neck component using the term arco, or arch. No Ilocanos interviewed used the term kabayo, even if explicitly questioned about it. This variation in terminology shows a regional difference in the perception of the harp's basic structure and ornamentation. Variant terms suggest differences related to historical and cultural practices. Further discussion of the kabayo will be presented at the conclusion in Chapter 5.


    3.5.2 Pegs and String Guides

    Tuning pegs found on the Bisayan harps can be made either wood or metal, with wood being the most popular material used. (see Figs. 3.3, 3.21-22, 3.24, 3.27) All tuning pegs examined on Ilocano harps were made of metal. Lanzon, Spanish for nail, was usually the term used by Ilocanos to describe the tuning peg component. The term liso, Bisayan for twist, was the term used for tuning pegs. Liso can be either a noun or verb depending upon context.

    Another definitive design difference between Bisayan and Ilocano harp was the use of the string guide placed beneath the peg and which acts as one of the boundaries for the vibrational span of the string between the neck to the soundboard. String guides are usually made of bone or wood, and sometimes metal. The guides essentially determine the evenness of the gap between the strings, as well as establishing the string's true vibrating


    Fig. 3.28 -- Bisayan harp found in Boljoon, Cebu showing a simple abstraction of a horse with the prominent ears sticking up


    Fig. 3.29 -- Bisayan hollowed log harp found in Barili, Cebu showing horse head with eyes and ears; also has galvanized sheet iron soundboard; holes drilled in sides of the resonator box were to reduce the weight


    Fig. 3.30 -- Bisayan harp found in Dumanjug, Cebu with even more detailed horse head feature carving of; soundboard made of sheet iron; forepillar ornamentation of concentric rings on square stock with angular cuts interspersed

    length. (see Fig. 3.23) Without the guide the string vibrates freely from the peg itself to the soundboard. No Bisayan harps examined used string guides.

    It is not clear in some photographs of Latin American harps available, whether they have strings guides or not; this was not specified in any texts either. The use of string guides is most likely dependent upon regional design practices and denotes a somewhat more refined construction practice. Latin American Indian harps of Mexico and Ecuador, seen in photographs, the Bisayan harp, do not seem to have string guides.


    3.5.3 Strings

    The number of strings an instrument has is another a distinguishing harp feature. The number of strings a harp holds is usually dependent upon the length of the neck, although more can be added by lessening the gap between the strings. Among forty Bisayan harps used for this particular analysis, 29 was the average number of strings per harp with a minimum of 24 and a maximum of 35 strings possible. The number of strings actually present on Bisayan harps totaled a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 35 with an average of 28 strings. Ilocano harps showed an average of 36.6 possible strings per harp with a minimum of thirty and a maximum of forty. The number actually present averaged 35.1 with a minimum of 29 and a maximum of 40. (see Tables 3.7, 3.8 and Graph 3.3 in the appendix)

    Another data variable used in research was the shortest and longest strings possible on a given harp. Forty-three Bisayan harps averaged 14.6 cm and 105.7 cm respectively with minimum of 6 cm and 83 cm and maximum of 26 cm and 142 cm in length. Twenty-one Ilocano harps averaged string lengths between 13.2 cm and 119.8 cm with minimum of 10 cm and a maximum of 131 cm. (see Tables 3.7, 3.8 and Graph 3.4 in the appendix)

    The difference between 0.5 cm of string gap can make a tremendous difference to a player. Each harp or the genre as a whole may have subtle variations in string gap. Overall data shows that the gap systems on Bisayan harps were a bit wider and more unevenly spaced than Ilocano harps. The lack of string guides is probably the cause of unevenness of gap between the strings on most Bisayan harps.

    One way a system of harp strings can be gapped is by making the treble strings slightly closer together, gradually widening the gap towards the bass strings. Since the bass strings are of a larger diameter, this type of system appears to be the best in my judgment. For instance, one Ilocano harp which exhibited the least amount string gap, measured from 0.8 cm apart at the treble to 1.2 cm apart at the base. Still, between Ilocano and Bisayan harps differences were minimal, usually no more than 0.3 cm on the average.

    Traditionally, gut strings, from sheep, dogs, cats or other animals were common on early Hispanic harps and are still used on certain Latin American genres. In 17th century Europe, wire strings were available and used. Irish harps traditionally used wire strings. On various harps in Latin America, steel strings are used, sometimes in conjunction with gut and nylon. In the Philippines, gut strings for instruments were manufactured and used in the 17th century. Also, pre-Hispanic Filipinos had access to metal strings made of copper or brass. In a contemporary setting, either nylon or, sometimes, stainless steel wire are used. No evidence of the manufacture or use of gut strings was seen during research. Copper wire, Chinese silk strings called langking, senit, abaca, and fiber strings derived from the pineapple (piņa fiber), plus the rugged long roots of the coconut were mentioned by some informants to have substituted for harp and other musical instrument strings in the past.

    All Ilocano harps examined had nylon strings. Of forty Bisayan harps twenty-nine were strung with nylon strings, eight had metal, and three had a mixture of both. Usually, the only affordable way to string a harp in the Philippines is if the material is bought cheaply in bulk. For instance, both stainless steel and nylon fishing line of various diameters could be bought by the pound.


    3.5.4 Tuning Devices

    A wide variety of templador, devices designed to twist or turn tuning pegs were found, nearly as many different kinds as there were harps. These devices were made either of wood or metal or a combination of both. Some tuners appeared to be cast especially for the purpose. (see Figs. 4.31-33)


    3.6 Forepillar

    Forepillars are invariably straight on all harps of Hispanic ancestry, though often differing in ornamental or iconic attributes and types of jointing, both at the base and at the neck. In Filipino and other Hispanic harp genres, forepillars most often begin as rectangular lengths of straight

    Fig. 3.31 -- Cast metal templador from Ilocos Norte, Luzon used for turning metal pegs


    Fig. 3.32 -- Another example of metal templador from Cagayan, Luzon


    Fig. 3.33 -- Bisayan templador from Argao, Cebu made of wood and brass used to turn wood pegs

    stock which are rounded or carved to fit an aesthetic ideal, or may just as well be left a plain rectangular length with very little added ornamentation as exemplified in the Bisayan harp in shown in Fig. 3.2 and in the Zurbaran painting (Mendoza 1956 Fig.40). Some forepillars are carved in the shape of a cylindrical pole while leaving the opposing ends rectangular (like the Boholano harp in Chapter 4). (see Figs. 3.2, 3.6, 3.19) "Turned" concentric rings spread out at intermittent distances along the forepillar's length, was a feature often found by Schechter on various genres of Latin American harps and this type of ornamentation also showed prominence on several Ilocano and Bisayan harps. (see Figs. 3.2, 3.6, 3.21, 3.23) Lengths between the turned, intermittent rings may be left rectangular, or totally rounded, or a combination of both rectangular and cylindrical features were interspersed the length of the forepillar (see Fig. 3.28). (Schechter 1973; Schechter 1992: Figs.6-7, 19, 21, 29; Mendoza 1956: Figs. 39, 41, 48; Vogt 1969: Figs. 131, 133, 135; Wolff 1973: Figs. 1-2, 5) Placement of intermittent rings could be either close together or far apart, with rings or rounded embossments cut singularly or in sets.

    Bisayan harps as a genre, and as usual, exhibited more overall variation in forepillar ornamentation than Ilocano harps or any other Hispanic harp genre seen in available references. (Grauberger 1993) Besides those harps with ornamental features similar to the ones given above are several harps that can be described as having a variety of angularly cut patterns which utilize the basic rectangular shape of the forepillar as the basis for design innovation. (see Figs. 3.27, 3.30, 3.35, 3.37)


    Fig. 3.34 -- Bisayan harp from Antiquera, Bohol seen in Figs. 3.25-6 showing spiral design carved in the forepillar


    Fig. 3.35 -- Bisayan harp found near Barili, Cebu with forepillar ornamentation of a combination of concentric rings on square stock and angular cut patterns with a sculpted cylindrical shaped middle portion; notice the unusual box base with wheels placed in the back


    Fig. 3.36 -- Ilocano harp found in CCP Museum in Manila with two piece forepillar joint at base



    Fig. 3.37 -- Common sitting position for player of a Bisayan harp

    Forepillar and neck ornamentation on certain Filipino harps show similarities to designs seen on styles of Filipino furniture. One motif in particular is an embossed spiral pattern which looks somewhat like twisted strands of rope. The following chapter shows how this pattern is carved in more detail. (see 3) The spiral forepillar design was seen on six Bisayan harps plus the Central Bank Museum harp put in the Bisayan genre. (see Figs. 3.1, 3.7, 3.25, 3.34) Only one Ilocano harp was found to have this spiral motif. Another furniture style motif was the carved floral leaf pattern seen on the Ilocano harp seen in Fig. 3.23.

    The forepillar motif most common on Ilocano harps is the cylindrical post, usually plain with a fairly constant diameter. Cylindrical forepillars were seen with and without added ornamentation on the top end. Most often, the bottom end of the cylindrical forepillar was left rectangular in shape, some with carved motifs. (see Figs. 3.4, 3.19) The most common upper end forepillar motif was "turned" concentric rings and rounded embossments, as mentioned before. On some, the rings were placed at intermittent points down the entire length with rounded tapered portions between the rings or sets of rings. A few older Ilocano harps exhibited what might be described as a torch-like motif at the top of the forepillar near the neck. (see Fig. 3.40) One harp found in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte had this type of cylindrical forepillar, with the small torch on top and rectangular box at the base. This harp was unique because the forepillar was made entirely of cast metal with an integrated carved wood, cube-like block at the base. (see Fig. 3.3) Another Ilocano harp shown in Fig. 3.4 has a plain metal forepillar without any cast ornamentation. No Bisayan harps examined had metal forepillars.


    3.6.1 Forepillar/Neck Joints

    Two main types of joints are common where the neck meets the forepillar, termed by the author, horizontal and vertical. Out of a total of sixty-six Filipino harps in both genres, ten harps used a joint that was a cross between both vertical and horizontal. (see Figs. 3.22, 3.24, 3.35)

    Diag. 3.2--Two Types of Neck/Forepillar Joints

    The Boholano harp in the following exhibited a vertically jointed forepillar. (see Fig. 3.1) This type of joint is much less common that the horizontal joint. (see Figs. 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.6, 3.21, 3.23, 3.25-30) While probably more difficult to build, it appears stronger structurally. The angle at which the strings pull down on one side of the neck make it easier to twist the neck of a horizontally jointed harp compared to vertically jointed one. The majority of Filipino harps, however, have horizontal neck/forepillar joints.


    3.7 The Base

    While some sort of base is found on all harps, many Latin American harps integrate the base (sometimes called a breech) and the forepillar into the resonator box structure itself. On all Filipino harp and certain Latin American harps the base is a separate structural feature, not an integrated component of the resonator box.

    The notion of the base as a separate structural unit on Filipino harps pertains to the fact that the base furnishes separate points of connection for the forepillar and the resonator. In other words, the forepillar/base joint is separate from the resonator box/base connection compared to an integrated base/forepillar/resonator box design seen in some Hispanic harps.

    On most Filipino harps, the resonator box is inset into a shallow groove cut into the surface of the base itself. This is detailed in the next chapter. Instead of insetting the resonator box into the base, edge moldings may be used to keep the box stationary.

    The dimensional configuration of various harp bases were quite varied on Bisayan harps. Several different shapes and sizes were seen. Two harps were built on top of hollow boxes, and one of these even had wheels for portability. (see Fig. 3.35) Certain harps had bases that extend a distance back from the rear of the resonator box and some were fairly thick in depth. The harp at the Central Bank Museum had a solid wood base 15 cm (6 in) thick. Combined with the hollowed log resonators, harps such as this could be quite heavy. One harp had a base made of rebar to make its overall weight lighter. (see Fig. 3.17)

    Ilocano harps showed much similarity in base designs, usually being

    fairly shallow depth, from 1/2 to 1 inch thick. On the whole, the bases were larger because the resonator boxes were wider and deeper than most Bisayan harps. Because the bases were thin and the resonator boxes staved, the Ilocano harps had a tolerable weight for their size. The configuration of the base was most often not much larger than the resonator box at the sides and rear and the forepillar in front. Variations in the shape occurred, but they were much more subtle when compared to the Bisayan genre.


    3.7.1 Forepillar/Base Joints

    The way the forepillar joins to the base is another area where some variation is seen on Bisayan harps. Most forepillar/base joints are mortise and tenon. The mortise is the female part of the joint cut into the base to a certain depth, sometimes all the way through. The tenon is the male counterpart cut on the forepillar and inserted into the base mortise. The following chapter shows this kind of joint in more detail. On certain Bisayan harps the forepillar at the base is cut in an inverted L-shape which fits over the front edge of the base and is nailed or bolted in. (see Figs. 3.34, 3.35) Of forty-three Bisayan harps, six had the L-shaped joint the rest appeared to be mortise and tenon only.

    Ilocano harps all appeared to have mortise and tenon joints for the forepillar/base connection. In a few harps the bottom rectangular part of the of the forepillar was not of a single piece construction. In other words, the forepillar connected into a separate box-shaped structure that was attached

    to the base with some kind of mortise and tenon joint. (see Fig. 3.36) Some of the older Ilocano harps have this box-shaped structure of the forepillar which is partially cut into the soundboard. (see Fig. 3.19)


    3.7.2 Legs

    On many Latin American harps documented, legs extend from the back of the resonator box with the integrated base. These legs may be short or long and ornamented depending upon regional characteristics. The legs are to keep the box off the ground so as to enable better resonation and to position the harp so it can be easily played depending on whether the player is in a sitting or standing position. Legs are often separately attached, extending from the center of the breech or bottom of the harp. Legs on these Latin American harps are usually cylindrical with concentric turned rings or are rectangular with concentric rings. Frontal legs are seen on one harp documented by Mendoza. (Mendoza 1956: Fig.41) The position of the player is standing and he pushes the harp forward to play.

    Filipino harps examined do not use legs of any sort, although the base almost always extends past the rear of the box allowing it to be tipped back without wavering, essentially performing the same function as would legs. Filipino harps can be played either standing or sitting. (see Fig. 3.37, 3.39) One interesting Bisayan harp found in Mindanao had a base configuration which gave the impression of having short legs. (see Fig. 3.38)


    Fig. 3.38 -- Bisayan harp from Misamis, Mindanao with base carved to have separate legs; notice the use of metal molding around the edge of the base


    Fig. 3.39 -- Ilocano harp teacher living on Panay; playing in sitting position on large harp made by craftsmen from Cagayan, Luzon


    Fig. 3.40 -- Copy of an Ilocano harp made by this man from Jagna,Bohol; note size and ornamentation of torch shape at the forepillar/ neck connection and the star on the neck


    3.8 Types of Wood and Other Materials Used on Filipino Harps

    An excerpt below from a U. S. Forestry "Bulletin #14 Commercial Woods of the Philippines," gives an interesting description of musical instrument making in Manila, circa 1916.

  • At least 95 per cent of the musical instruments made in the Philippines are guitars, mandolins, and bandurias. Beside these, a few harps are made in Manila and one firm manufactured piano cases for some years.

    The thin lumber for the instruments of the guitar family is sawn by hand from boards or small logs. As a general rule, the back and sides of an instrument are made of the seme wood, the back being almost invariably made of two adjacent leaves of veneer opened out and jointed so that the grain makes a symetrical figure. The following are the woods used for the various parts.

    Back and sides.--Most commonly banuyo, the camagons, calantas, lanutan, malatinta, nangka, narra; less commonly acle, amugis, antipolo, balinghasay, balu, banaba, banalo (rare), bitanhol, dao, catmon, lamio, lanete, pagatpat.

    Sounding boards.- Almost invariably of American or European coniferous box lumber. In Ilocos Sur, Benguet pine is sometimes used.

    Necks.--Lanete for the great majority; more rarely amugis, aptong, balinghasay, lago, various lauans, palosapis, santol.

    Heads.--The head is not, as in a violin, carved in one piece with the neck, but make of a separate piece (generally of the same wood as the neck) attached at an angle by a lapped or dovetailed joint; over this is glued a piece of the same thickness as the upper end of the fingerboard and almost always of the same wood as the back and sides.

    Finger boards.-Bolong-eta, camagon, ebony, or malatinta are the most used; less commonly dao, dungon, ipil, supa.

    Keys, tailpieces. Camagon, ebony; less commonly, dungon, narra.

    Trimmings.-- The very narrow strip inlaid around the edges is almost invariably of lanete, though sometimes rattan is used. Inlaid ornaments on back or sounding board are generally of the various camagons, ebony, or red narra; tortoise shell, mother of pearl, and metals are also used for inlays.

    Interior reinforcement.-The cross battens of the back are generally of coniferous box lumber or lanete; very narrow strips of rattan are glued along the joints as reinforcement.

    Harps are made only in very small numbers and to order, but the woods used are very uniform.

    Base Not built up, but shaped of a solid block, generally apitong [dipterocarpus grandiflorus, Blanco] or some similar cheap, fairly hard wood. Duhat is also used.

    Back and sides of body.-Banuyo [albizzia], nangka, lauan (luaan) [Anisoptera thurifera, Bl.], palosapis [shorea floribunda,kurtz], the latter two generally stained red.

    Sound board.-Coniferous box lumber.

    Pillar-Apitong (black finish), narra [pterocarpus indicus, Willd.] (natural finish).

    Wrest plate (neck)- Amugis [odina speciosa, Bl. var. multijuga, Vid], dingon, narra.....(Schneider 1916:73)

  • From this thesis research data, the woods used in the Visayas for all Filipino harps were: nangka (Autocarpus heterophylla), red lauan [Shorea negrosensis], mahogany [Swietenia mahogani and S. macrophylla], antipolo [Autocarpus blancoi], white and red tugas (sometimes called molave) [Vitex parviflora], bayok [Pterospermum diversifolium], gita (unknown), narra [Pterocarpus indicus, Willd.], bagalgnga (?), himulbla (?), lumboy (type of fruit), marine plywood (various woods used), santol [Sandoricum koetjape], ngkalubas (?), sibucao [sapotaceae], calamansi (type of citrus tree), ipil-ipil, white luaan [Pentacme contorta and P. mindanensis], acasia, bulbulan, paluchina (any kind of coniferous wood), ipil [Intisa all species or Afzelia bijuga, A. Gray.], kamasilis (?), lumbayau [Tarrieta javanica], talisay [Terminalia catappa]. Kawayan (bamboo) and rattan, while not wood materials, were used at times for exterior trim or for the center strip on the soundboard.

    It was unclear in several cases of what kind of wood a harp was made, so the data in this area are incomplete. One could only believe what people said or thought was true when examining the harps. No destructive splinter tests were done on any of harps to find exactly which wood was used.

    Nangka, the wood described and used for the soundbox of the Boholano harp discussed in the following chapter, is overwhelmingly the favored wood, if it is available. Ilocano harps examined were constructed primarily of narra [Pterocarpus indicus, Willd.], although nangka (called langka in Luzon) was in high regard; it was used on only one Ilocano harp found. All the rest were made of narra. People in rural areas basically used materials which were readily available. Of forty-three Bisayan harps, twenty-three appeared to have resonator boxes made of nangka. Other woods used for soundboxes included, bayok [Pterospermum diversifolium], narra, talisay [Terminalia catappa], antipolo [Autocarpus blancoi], lumboy (type of fruit tree), red luaan [Shorea negrosensis], gita, and marine plywood.

    For the Bisayan harp necks the woods used were; nangka, mahogany [Swietenia mahogani and S. macrophylla], ipil [Intisa all species or Afzelia bijuga, A. Gray.], tugas, acasia, bayok, narra, gita, red and white tugas, santol [Sandoricum koetjape], and plywood.

    Woods used in the forepillars were; nangka, mahogany, antipolo, bayok, luaan, nalige, bakan, red and white tugas, ipil, and santol.

    For tuning pegs the material of choice was almost always sibucao, but one harp maker used guava wood.

    Almost all Ilocano harps were made entirely of narra, but a few had soundboards made of paluchina, which is a coniferous wood such as pine or cedar.


    3.9 Transference of Regional Harp Within the Philippines

    Within a fairly closely knit island country, such as the Philippines, outside incursions of the regional harp design into other geographic areas due to the ease of migration and travel are possible. Two examples of this sort are worth mentioning in the Visayas, one in the area of Iloilo City, Panay the other in the municipality of Jagna on the Island of Bohol. Both were examples of Ilocano harps found in the Central Visayas.

    Harp practice in an Ilongo linguistic region in and around Iloilo City on Panay was a transplanted tradition with the credit for introduction of the instrument given to one dedicated school teacher who was herself an Ilocana from Apari, Cagayan in Northern Luzon. She initially brought Ilocano harps and harp instruction to Iloilo City area students in her younger days (circa 1940's) and was still teaching in 1991. (see Fig. 3.39) Only one harp maker/player was found in the Ilongo linguistic region of Negros; he was a Cebuano man originally from Southern Cebu.

    Another Ilocano harp transference occurs on the Bisayan island of Bohol (Cebuano speakers) above the municipality of Jagna. Whereas harps found in other municipalities of Bohol could be categorized as purely Cebuano-Bisayan, a "family" of three harps examined in Jagna had a specific ancestral relationship to one harp bought by a Jagna family in the early 20th century. This harp was said to have been purchased from a Spaniard and had all the characteristics of a thirty-three string regional Ilocano harp. Using this particular harp as a model, a local Jagna craftsman began making his own harps. One harp he made was so close in proportion and style that it was included in the Ilocano harp statistics. (see Fig. 3.40) One could, nevertheless, argue whether the harp was actually Bisayan as there were slight deviations from the original model and it was built by a Cebuano.


    3.10 Ages of Extant and Contemporary Harps

    The ages of harps in the Philippines range from new to over one hundred years old. For several harps the ages were unknown but believed to be seventy to ninty years old. One had to take the word of people interviewed as to the ages of most harps. Harps were often passed down to relatives and some were made by elderly people when they were young. Most Ilocano harps were about forty years old with some new ones under five years old. Bisayan harps averaged over fifty years old. Several harps were believed to be nearly one hundred years old. (see Fig. 3.41)

    In a summary evaluation, structural features distinguishing Bisayan from Ilocano harps are; the size, Bisayan harps tend to be smaller; resonator boxes are most often made out of hollowed logs, though some are staved; wood pegs; the lack of string guides below the pegs; the use of animal features as ornamentation. These are generalized characteristics and not mutually exclusive, but hold true in a majority of Bisayan harps.


    Fig. 3.41 -- Harp believed to be over 100 years found near Montalongan, Cebu