The Harana and the ultimate playlist
By Darlyne Bautista
There are plenty of good singers in the Filipino community. There is no doubt about that. But how many can we say have used their talent entirely for love? How many have perfected a song to fill one’s heart with the idea of (dare I say) “forever”? What playlist could they possibly choose from?
Long before Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, and even SMS text messaging, a young Filipino man would proclaim his romantic intentions in a song. He waited until night to stand below his crush’s window with a guitar (or among his musician friends) for her and her household to hear his serenade or harana.
The art of the Philippine serenade or harana was once commonplace throughout the provinces. From the 1900s and into the 1970s, serenaders or haranistas followed known courtship codes and protocols through Tagalog, Spanish, and later English ballads. Nothing was kept secret. The entire “dating” process (as we might call it today) was an actual social event.
Imagine watching the young man risking all his effort to call for the lady at her window. You might cheer for him or you might laugh at him, but nevertheless, you join in on the idle tsismis (gossip). He sings Natutulog Ka Na Ba, Sinta? (Are you asleep, my love?) to make his presence known, but she doesn’t appear to come to her window. The first stage, the Panawagan (Announcement), has begun and he may go on singing until the sunrise beckons him home.
With some tenacity, he may eventually see her window open to capture her approving smile. He’s made it to the next round! He continues to prove to her (and her conservative family), with gifts and songs, that he’d like to be invited in. When the day that invitation comes, everyone is there to see him sing of his love’s beauty and virtue. The Pagtatapat (Proposal) stage is meant to gain the approval of her entire family. He sings Kung Ika’y May Alinlangan (If You Ever Doubt Me) just to get his point across.
Finally, she sings from her own playlist to publicly accept or reject him. The Panagutan (Response) could easily turn into a romantic duet or an unfortunate end. If she’s unsure (and feeling sorry for the guy), she might sing Ang tangi kong pag-ibig ay minsan lamang (True love for me is rare). Or, she might give in and accept his proposal with the line, O kay sarap mabuhay, lalo na’t may lambingan (Oh how sweet it is to live, more so in the presence of love and affection) from the ballad, Maala-ala Mo Kaya? She might outright reject him just for him to sing Pusong Wasak (Shredded Heart) or the melodramatic Laot Ng Dusa (Open Sea of Suffering). The Harana comes to an end as the inevitable Pamamaalam (Farewell) stage arrives.
Now, go grab your iPhone and glance at your playlist now. Scroll past all that bump and grind garbage and bitter breakup music. Look for the meaning in those coded lyrics of today. Do they spark the thought of a different kind of love, a romance? Do they invoke your own need to declare your heart’s wish? If so, take that ballad and practice. Upload it, share it, and send it for all to see. Let your inner Haranista sing.
Florante, Aguilar and Benito Bautista. Harana: The Search for the Lost Art of Serenade. haranathemovie.com 2010. (Cited 26/1/16).
Bella Ellwood-Clayton. “All we need is love - and a mobile phone: texting in the Philippines,” Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia. 2006.
Darlyne Bautista is a member of ANAK. She has a graduate background in History and Southeast Asian Studies. Please join us for a special Valentine Dinner with a screening of the award winning film Harana: The Search for the Lost Art of Serenade on February 18, 6:00 p.m. at Canad Inns Polo Park. Visit www.anak.ca for more information.