FOR A PROFESSOR, explaining a complex history while keeping the audience interested can be a daunting task. But wrap this lecture around an elegant musical show, and one can definitely have the best of both worlds.

Canciones de la Revolución Filipina: Songs of the Philippine Revolution from 1872 to 1898 is a lecture-concert presented by Tawid Publications with support from Ministerio de Cultura of Spain, Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation and Instituto Cervantes de Manila. The event was held last April 24 at Salón de Actos, Instituto Cervantes in Ermita, Manila.

The night featured an all-Thomasian performing arts cast led by UST Conservatory of Music Dean Raul Sunico, who’s an international concert pianist and also the vice-president and artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Sunico was the lecturer, musical arranger and composer of the event. Other performers were UST alumnus Ronan Ferrer, one of the Philippines’ finest tenors; Enrique Barcelo, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal flutist; pianist, organist, arranger and conductor Jason Ros; Ruben Reyes, the coordinator for the guitar department of the UST Conservatory; and Coro Tomasino, the university-wide choral group.

“The main purpose of the lecture-concert is to show that there is a literary culture in the country as early as 1872, which bestowed a path for the development of Philippine Music as inspiration for Filipino soldiers, expression of lament from oppression and the primary outlet for a sense of nationalism,” Sunico said.

This lecture–concert first discussed the events that transpired during the Philippine revolution against Spain, and how these events affected the Filipino psyche, leading them to create the compelling musical pieces that were then played after each short lecture.

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Canciones de la Revolución Filipina also served as an exposition for the anthology of songs and poems from 1872, when martyrs Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora were executed, and the desire of the “Indios” for constitutional reform led to the revolution of 1898.  

Primarily, the songs presented were in the genre of Kundiman, a portmanteau of “Kung Hindi Man” and a variety of traditional Filipino love songs characterized by gentle rhythm and smooth-flowing melody. This genre was inspired by Western music brought about by Spain, and does not only depict love for somebody but also love of country, which Filipinos used back then to conceal their growing patriotism from the Spanish colonial establishment.

Most of the songs in the first part hailed from Nueva Ecija, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan which were the cradle of the Philippine revolution.  These were Halina, Sa Dalampasigan (also known as Ang Mga Martir), Mula ng Mauso Damit na Kundiman, Sa Iyo ang Dahil, Iginanti’y Pinatay, Alerta Katipunan, Ako’y Pinabayaan, Naghihintay and Jocelynang Baliwag.

Sa Dalampasigan was Dr. Sunico’s favorite from all the musical arrangements for the lecture-concert. It came from Guimba, Nueva Ecija in 1897. It commemorates the martyrdoms of Jose Burgos and Jose Rizal, who were both executed in Luneta, the park by the Manila Bay.

“The music and lyrics are the things we really have to treasure and try to perpetuate, so that we will know the history of our own compatriots,” Sunico said.

The second half of the concert presented Rizal’s literary works such as Sa Magandang Silangan, Sa Aking mga Kabata (or Wika ni Rizal) and Kundiman ni Rizal, but with a musical twist by Pedro Gatmaitan Santos and Pedro Cadsawan, composed in the late 19th century. Other renditions were Rizal’s Alinmang Lahi and La Deportacion arranged by Sunico.

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Trece Martires, a song of lament and sympathy by Julian Felipe, was also performed during the second part. It is dedicated to the 13 martyrs of Cavite who were executed by musketry on September 11, 1896 for cooperating with the Katipunan.  The controversial Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan  by Juan Nakpil, (which was supposed to be the national anthem as suggested by Andres Bonifacio) was also played.

The event ended with Bonifacio’s poem Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, with musical composition by Sunico.

Sunico acknowledged official Spanish support for the project. “We cannot change the course of time, we may look back at the painful history but nevertheless we must always look forward for better things,” he said.

“The lyrics were pessimistic because the era was really not a happy time. Basically, the songs are about love for freedom,” he explained. “When one has no liberty, one learns to fully appreciate it.”

Filipinos during the revolution used literature and music as creative vehicles for their passion and zeal for freedom, the catalyst for art. The creative forms become a tapestry of Philippine history.

“The uniqueness of this concert is that it has presented something which is largely unknown; it is a welcome supplement to our history,” Sunico said.

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