KUWERDAS NG PAGKAKAISA: Philippine Rondalla Festival, A launching event of the Cuerdas Global project
12-16 February 2014/ Cultural Center of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines
Initiated by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts with its National Committee on Music, through the Museological Society of the Philippines (MSP) and with the support of the U.P. Center for Ethnomusicology (UPCE), this event ushered in the 10th year anniversary of the Strings of Unity International Rondalla/Plucked String Festival before the latter was mounted in another country. Titled Kuwerdas ng Pagakakisa: Philippine Rondalla Festival, it underscored the Filipino excellence in music particularly of rondalla, and was also an occasion to honor the composers, conductors and dedicated rondalla teachers who have nurtured this music tradition in the country and abroad. As an international initiative, the Festival also extended special invitations to ensembles from Taiwan, Indonesia and Vietnam to participate. The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) was host to the gathering.
The Festival featured the following 7 rondalla groups who were judged best after passing the rigorous auditions held in Manila, Davao City, Dipolog City and Silay City: Celso Espejo Rondalla (Las Piñas City, Metro Manila), Dipolog Community Rondalla (Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte province), Harmonya: the Strings Ensemble of U.P.LB (University of the Philippines-Los Baños, Laguna province), Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble (Silay City, Negros Occidental province), Lucban Pahiyas Community Rondalla (Lucban, Quezon province), Maco Heights Central School Rondalla (Maco, Compostela Valley province), University of the Philippines Rondalla (University of the Philippines-Diliman, Metro Manila).
The international guests were: Fu-Shing Junior High School Plucked String band (Yilan, Taiwan), NTNU Chinese Plucked Instruments Ensemble (Taipei, Taiwan), Mulih Rasa (Indonesia), Phong Nguyen Ensemble (Vietnam).
As the Festival’s main event, concerts were scheduled three times a day over three days at the CCP Little Theater. They presented a repertoire that included classic and avant-garde compositions by Filipino composers; Baroque composition by Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Arcangel Corelli and George Frideric Handel; and overtures by Filipino and foreign composers.
In the Closing Concert, rondalla pieces with solo voice and choir were performed, as well as an excerpt of a ballet production with rondalla music entitled Daragang Magayan. Just like in the previous International Rondalla Festivals, the final concert brought together the participating 200 rondalla/plucked string artists to play three compositions: a Visayan Medley arranged by Ramon Santos, a Beatles Medley arranged by Josefino Toledo, and Kuriri, also composed by Dr. Santos.
The Festival held a one-day forum on “Rondalla Instrument Development” that addressed a need long expressed by the rondalla practitioners. For the first time in the Philippines, rondalla instrument makers, designers and manufacturers were convened to a dialogue with rondalla artists, where they discussed the ways of enhancing the rondalla instrument making in the country.
Title: “The Philippine Rondalla: Legacies and Continuities”
The exhibit offered a glimpse into the sites of engagements where rondalla music is created and produced, shaping a musical soundscape in the Philippines wherein cultural traditions, aesthetic sensibilities and identity building are grounded in community and collective experiences. A historical overview of the Rondalla music tradition in the Philippines was presented, exploring the context of production of the rondalla as cultural practice through the years.
Kuwerdas ng Pagkakaisa solemnly ended with an awarding ceremony on its Closing Night. The Gawad Rondalla Award was given to the pillars of rondalla music tradition in the Philippines and to those of the Strings of Unity festivals. It was a tribute paid to the artists, teachers, composers who had greatly contributed to the development of rondalla music in the Philippines. In doing so, this special ceremony hoped to tell the public of the unwavering commitment of the awardees towards carrying the tradition of rondalla music forward.