Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa 2007

CUERDAS SA PANAGHIUSA: 2nd International Rondalla Festival

19-24 February 2007/ Negros Oriental province, Philippines

Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa (“Strings of Unity” translated in the Visayan language) was brought to fruition thanks to the shared distinctive and indispensable resources of four major stakeholders: the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (with its National Music Committee and the Sub-Commission on the Arts), the Province of Oriental Negros under the leadership of Governor George Arnaiz, the University of the Philippines College of Music, and the Musicological Society of the Philippines whose vision is to provide direction and goals to existing musical and cultural traditions in the country. The Province of Oriental Negros included in its priority programs the holding of yearly arts and culture events as well as education and public service-related conventions.

The Participants

The Festival was able to enjoin 21 participating contingents. Ten (10) groups from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao represented the Philippines: Cainta Los Trobadores Jr. Rondalla (Cainta, Rizal province), Celso Espejo Rondalla (Las Piñas City, Metro Manila), Handuwaran (Santa Cruz, Manila), Kabataang Silay Performing Arts and Rondalla Ensemble (Silay City, Negros Occidental province), Kwerdas (Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Oriental Negros province), La Libertad Children’s Rondalla (La Libertad, Oriental Negros province), Nabua National High School Rondalla (Nabua, Camarines Sur province), Philippine Normal University Rondalla (Manila), Sta. Rita de Cascia Rondalla (Angat, Bulacan province), and Zamboanga del Norte National High School Rondalla (Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte province).

Eleven (11) international groups and individual performers came from ten countries: Rondanihan (Australia), Suara Sama (Indonesia), Mohsen Mohammadi (Iran), Three Plucked Strings (Israel), Ryukyu Kingdom Traditional Music and Dance Company (Japan), La Rondalla Magisterial Procrea (Mexico), Gitameit (Myanmar), Quartette Phoenix (Russia), National University of Singapore Rondalla & Philippine Bayanihan Society, Singapore Rondalla (Singapore), Chiang Mai Rajabhat University (Northern Thailand), and Mahasarakham University (Mahasarakham, Northeast Thailand).

International participation increased tremendously compared to the first festival with only 6 international groups. Aside from the increase in number, this second festival generated a strong representation from Asia that gave the event a distinct Asian musical character.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Performances

The wide global radius from where the participants came (Middle East, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania) spelled a great diversity in musical repertoires manifested in the performances – 7 regular concerts (at the Oriental Negros Convention Center), outreach sorties in the province, opening and closing ceremonies, spill-over concerts in Quezon City (Metro Manila), in the city of Muñoz (Nueva Ecija province) and Baguio City, as well as the special late night concerts volunteered by several groups on the final festival night, on different venues at Dumaguete City’s seaside boulevard.


While many of the Asian traditional repertoires were mostly unfamiliar to the musical orientation of the local audiences, other aspects of performance, like the sound colors of the instruments, dances, vocal styles, costumes, other visual and extra-musical properties, introduced the people to a new musical world. Such novel musical offerings provided a glimpse into the musical language of the saung gauk (Burmese harp), the modal improvisations on the Persian setar, the lively folk music of the Toba Batak hasapi (North Sumatra), the elegant music of the shamisen and koto in the ceremonial ensemble of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom in Okinawa, the spirited music of the phin and kechapi from Isan (region of Thailand), the sung poetry called so from Chiang Mai as accompanied by the 3-string sung, and the sophisticated strains of the Maguindanaon kutyapiq (Mindanao). In contrast to the esoteric musical experience provided by the Southeast Asian contingents, were the spectacular renditions of both standard Western classical pieces and composed popular and folk repertoires by the Quartette Phoenix, the Three Plucked Strings and the Celso Espejo Rondalla, particularly with the latter’s almost symphonic bravura performance of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. Complimentary to these breath-taking performances were the well polished and equally varied musical offerings of the other local groups, the Mexican group La Rondalla Magisterial Procrea, and the Filipino-Australian Rondanihan group from Canberra.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The audience of the concerts at the Convention Center was a regular crowd of more than 1,000 per show, drawing people from all the sectors of the province. They enjoyed familiar tunes as well as those pieces that engaged the participation of the audience to sing or dance.

At the closing concert, like in the First International Rondalla Festival, three pieces were performed by the more than 300 participating musicians on stage. The first piece, Garbo sa Kabisay-an (Pride of the Visayas), was selected to pay tribute to the hospitality of the province; it is composed by Mamerto Villegas and arranged for rondalla by Eric Wilbert Yuzon from the Silliman University. The music, in march tempo, conveys the graciousness and dignity of the Visayans. The second piece was Isahan sa Pagkakaisa, commissioned for Cuerdas nin Kagabsan, which became the Festival’s theme music. The finale was the newly commissioned piece for the Festival entitled “Cuerdas II Visayan medley”, composed and conducted by Dr. Ramon Santos. The piece consists of the popular Visayan folk songs Ahay Tuburan, Laylay Agolaylay and Rosas Pandan. The choral part was sung by the Silliman University Choristers and Ating Pamana Choral Group, also accompanied by the Kahayag Dance Troupe and joined by some dancers from Thailand. In this composition, a portion is specifically intended to be played by the domra of Russia, the saung gauk of Myanmar, the Japanese shamisen, the mandolin from Israel, the pia and kechapi from Thailand, and the gambus from Indonesia, bringing into harmonious end the highly diverse musical forces of Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa.

Outreach performances

For a period of three consecutive days (February 21-23), a total of 26 outreach concerts were mounted within the city and were hosted by almost all the municipalities of the province of Oriental Negros. Immediately after the festival in Dumaguete City, three more spill-over performances were held in Luzon: in the city of Muñoz, in the province of Nueva Ecija, and in Baguio City. Each concert had an audience attendance averaging 2,500 to 3,000 people, and these outreach concerts reached an approximate total of 70,000 people of all ages and walks of life. A shining achievement of the outreach was the series of performances held in the different social and service institutions such as the provincial jail, hospitals, orphanages and asylum for patients with special disabilities.


Macias Sports and Cultural Complex, Dumaguete City, 21-23 February 2007

The conference sessions were held in the morning, while the workshops were conducted in the afternoon. The conference papers were presented by local and international personalities in the fields of musicology, ethnomusicology, music performance and archaeomusicology. The workshops were conducted by local experts in music performance and instrument-making, as well as by the participating groups in the festival, namely Gitameit from Myanmar (led by Katherine ‘Kit’ Young) and the Quartette Phoenix from Russia.


Theme: “History and Diffusion of the Plucked String Tradition”

The historical significance of the plucked string tradition as a global heritage was explored. Foreign and local scholars exchanged important information that could contribute towards the construction of new notions and theories on the interconnection and diffusion of the said tradition. Their presentations ranged from discussing the global spread of plucked string music, its distant connections to cultures outside of the western hemisphere, to archeological evidences, and its assimilation and evolution in the local communities in the province of Oriental Negros, Philippines.


As most of the participants came from the public education sector, the workshops were designed to provide instruction on a range of topics: from the introduction to rondalla instruments, to creative techniques for playing plucked string instruments. Some workshop sessions were devoted to the mechanics of putting up rondalla groups, rondalla instrument-making and repair, as well as conducting and musical arrangement for the rondalla.

There were a total of 139 registered participants in the Conference-Workshop. Most of the participants were music teachers, music trainers and conductors of rondalla groups in the primary and secondary level under the Department of Education, from all over the country. Other participants came from private institutions, music foundations and local government cultural offices. The conference sessions were also attended by official participants of the Festival.

International Rondalla Congress

Oriental Negros Convention Center, Dumaguete City, 24 February 2007

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One culminating activity of the festival was a congress that attempted to establish a structure that would more permanently bind past, present, and future ‘stakeholders’ of the plucked string tradition. This exercise was enthusiastically undertaken by representatives of each participating group in the Festival; and even by interested participants of the Conference-Workshop only. There were 44 attendees representing Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Myanmar, Philippines, and Thailand. Organized into Group Discussions, they were meant to reflect on: the status of plucked string instrument traditions in their locality/region (its strengths, concerns, and problems); their vision on the direction of the plucked string tradition in their locality/region; and on how an organization for plucked string performers, practitioners and enthusiasts could contribute towards the fulfillment of their vision. The discussion led to defining the need to organize a more permanent organizational structure that could provide the venue for continuing networking and exchange among rondalla groups around the world. The congress’ group discussion sessions and open forum resulted in the election of an ad-hoc committee tasked with designing the organs of a World Rondalla Society (International Association for Plucked String Traditions), and discussing the mechanics of this new organization. The body agreed that this ad-hoc committee would be composed of three Filipinos and four non-Filipinos.


Title: “Cuerdas: Rhythms of Community Life”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Focusing on the local replication of a larger global phenomenon, the exhibit offered an abundance of knowledge and information on the significance of the rondalla in the social life of the entire province. It grounded rondalla musical practices to the traditions of the province. The field study of the research team was able to generate considerable data on the rich folk cultures in the different municipalities and villages of Oriental Negros. Just as in Cuerdas nin Kagabsan, the exhibition was able to honor and publicly recognize the heretofore unnamed and unknown artists and their unique contributions to the over-all cultural identity of the province, and the country as well.


Post-Festival Symposium

A two-day post-festival symposium hosted at the University of the Philippines College of Music in Metro Manila and entitled “Theories of Performance in the Music of Asia,” featured presentations by some of the Asian delegations’ leaders and participants of the Festival.


Click here if the video above is not showing,