LAST week, while expressing my thoughts about the film “Heneral Luna” in this column, I wrote of how powerful a medium film is, with its ability to inspire, entertain, challenge and inform audiences.
Movies shape the way we see and understand the world, and it shapes the way the world and others see and understand us.
You can say the same about music.
Propagating and playing traditional music can also promote our culture and nationality in ways no other medium can.
This is why I take time to commend the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) of the Philippine Women’s University for propagating and preserving with such interest and vigor the rondalla tradition of Filipino music.
The Filipino rondalla goes back to Spanish times. It is an ensemble of stringed instruments that are played using the plectrum or pick. All are made from locally available materials like tortoise shell and indigenous wood.
Those old enough are certainly familiar with some of its stringed instruments, the most popular of which is the bandurria. When we were young a typical rondalla’s repertoire would include folk songs but recently I have heard rondalla groups play diverse interpretations that include contemporary music.
Rondalla is a source of national pride and identity. I was fortunate enough to hear a performance of the JASMS Rondalla, one of the best rondalla groups here and abroad, and I can tell you the music these kids (yes, teenagers all of them) play on their indigenous instruments has the unique ability to uplift spirits.
Each plucked string somewhat stirs emotions and echoes something deep within one’s identity. It’s also a happy music and you see it on the kids’ faces while they are playing—they are actually smiling at each other and having a good time.
The JASMS Rondalla, I understand, recently qualified as a finalist in the rondalla competition of the National Music Competitions for Young Artists Foundation (NAMCYA).
I wish to congratulate the young members of this group, their school and especially their musical director, Noli Rodriguez, for working so hard to preserve and promote traditional rondalla music.
Their school, by the way, also produced the globally famous national dance company Bayanihan, which also promotes and propagates the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines through its musical artistry and dance.
Bayanihan’s founder is Senator Helena Benitez, who is also the chairperson of PWU’s Board of Trustees.
During her stint in the Senate (1968-1973), Senator Benitez authored laws on education, manpower and youth development, family, housing and environment.
She received numerous citations and awards from many government and non-government entities for her contribution in education, women, environment and habitat, civic and church work and international affairs.
It is no wonder, indeed, that the school her family owns and operates could produce national treasures and cultural champions like the JASMS Rondalla and the Bayanihan.
Kudos to you too, Madam Senator.