MANILA, Philippines - A mono vinyl record (we could tell from the scratchy sound) of Yoyoy Villame’s “Mag-Exercise Tayo” in Bisaya, with a rondalla, wafted through the house speakers at the CCP’s Silangan Hall.
It must’ve been the original version; since Villame, who was proudly Bisaya (Visayan), jump-started his career in his native Bohol.
As the song played on, organizers of the concert “Si Lapulapu, Si Rosas Pandan: A Bisaya Musical Extravaganza”—set Nov. 22, 8 p.m. at the CCP Main Theater (Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo)—dished out some interesting bits of music history and linguistics.
"Did you know,” asked Bal Endriga, president of concert presenter Kadugong Bisaya Foundation, “that the song ‘Sa Kabukiran’ by Manuel Velez was originally a Visayan ditty, and that the word ‘bukid’ in Bisaya means ‘mountain’?”
Endriga continued, “I felt proud when, in my youth, I learned that the tinikling was the national dance. Until then I had known it as a game we played in Leyte as children … we used bamboos named after a native bird, the tikling.”
He added that the classic Yuletide carol, “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit,” was, in fact, a Tagalog adaptation of the Visayan “Kasadya Ning Takna-a.” In other words, for Endriga and friends, it’s cool to be Bisaya.
The richness of Visayan culture is the focus of the presentation, which will star these performers mostly from the Central Philippine region: Leo Valdez, Joey Ayala, and former Bagong Lumad band mate Bayang Barrios, Cesar Montano, Elizabeth Ramsey and daughter Jaya, Verni Varga, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Rachelle Gerodias, Jose Mari Chan, the Philippine Dance Sports Association, Nonie Buencamino, Raki Vega, Deeda Barretto, Jerry Dadap’s Andres Bonifacio Choir, Ballet Philippines, Modern Ballet Dancers, and Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group.
“We’re not attempting to separate or distinguish ourselves from the rest [of the local cultural groups],” Endriga explained. “Rather, we want people to appreciate the diversity of regional traditions throughout the country. That is what makes Filipinos unique.”
Former UP president and Kadugong Bisaya chairperson Jose Abueva talked about the group’s goals, foremost of which is to make all Pinoys aware of, maybe even learn to speak and write in “Binisaya” or in its other linguistic kin, Cebuano, Ilonggo and Waray. Abueva believed this would ensure the survival of these dialects.
An interesting aspect of the concert, program director Chris Millado said, would be the set design by Kenneth Cobonpue, a renowned furniture designer, also Bisaya, whose clients reportedly include Brad Pitt and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
But more than anything else, the show promises to be fun. Villame’s songs in the repertoire is enough guarantee.