STARWEEK MAGAZINE: THE VISAYAN MUSIC MUSEUM
 

MANILA, JANUARY 15, 2012 (STARweek) By Nathalie Tomada (Cover photo by Fernan Nebres) There’s a cultural attraction in Cebu that gives a glimpse of the island-province’s musical past.

The Halad Museum has brought together memorabilia of Cebuano composers, both “immortalized and not duly recognized,” and whose works celebrate the Visayan language.

There’s the piano used by Ben Zubiri, a popular Visayan entertainer and radio personality in the ’50s to the ’60s who topbilled the first Visayan talking movie, to compose the haunting love song Matud Nila; the guitar of Minggoy Lopez, the composer behind the folk song Rosas Pandan (1938), now a favorite choral contest piece even among international choirs; and the original music sheet of Maning Velez’s Sa Kabukiran (1941), which was also popularized by his daughter, actress Lilian Velez.

Also on display are old photographs, musical scores, lyric sheets, vinyl records and other personal items that should serve as a connection to legendary Visayan composers, as well as those of Visayan artists who garnered national and international acclaim.

The museum is the brainchild of Jose Gullas under his Tipiganan sa mga Handumanan (Treasury of Memories) Foundation, with the main purpose of preserving and promoting the memory and legacy of what has been regarded as Cebu’s music greats.

“By setting up the museum, we hope to treasure and honor our beautiful Cebuano songs, including those forgotten and stolen. It would be a great loss if we just let these old songs fade away or openly abused,” Gullas tells STARweek.

[PHOTO - The façade of Cebu’s Halad Museum (halad means offering in Cebuano), established by Dr. Jose R. Gullas to honor legendary Visayan composers, musicians, and artists. STAR photos by Fernan Nebres ]

“Another reason for putting up the museum is to honor the memory of my parents, Vicente Gullas and Inday Pining,” adds the Cebuano educator and former congressman. “My mother was a good pianist. Every time she played, I would hear my father humming along. I got my passion for Cebuano songs from them.”

A visit to the museum can easily evoke nostalgic images, especially for those who grew up or experienced that time in history when women were serenaded, or when lifestyles assumed a gentler pace, or when tartanillas were a fixture on the streets.

For the younger visitors, the museum makes a fun and experiential opportunity for learning as it has incorporated multi-media elements. There are video screens and sound stations to play Cebuano classics in its various interpretations by Visayan artists from the past and present – from Pilita Corrales, Susan Fuentes to Dulce. There’s also a high-tech phonograph acquired from Europe, side by side with its much senior predecessor.

Meanwhile, it was a painstaking process to digitize the tracks to be stored in the listening stations, many of which were culled from the personal LP (“long-playing” record) collection of Gullas’ wife Nena, who was also instrumental in establishing Halad.

But it’s all worth it apparently, as what Pilita said in a previous interview that these songs deserved to be heard among the younger generation. “Cebuano songs are the most melodious, and I’m not saying this as a Cebuano but as an artist,” said Pilita, whose gowns, awards and hit records that earned her the title “Asia’s Queen of Songs” are also spotlighted in the museum.

[PHOTO - SOUNDS OF THE SOUTH: Manobo, T’Boli, Yakan, Subanon, Talaandig and Kulmanon traditional musical instruments are the museum’s newest acquisitions, all from Mindanao.(top left). A vintage harp (top) and old vinyl records are also on display (above).]

Gullas, for his part, hopes young visitors can learn a thing or two not just about musical history and heritage, but also about what life was like and what values were held dear when this music flourished.

The idea of the museum came after Gullas started in 2007 what would become a series of concert-cum-tributes to composers, one of whom was Vicente Rubi, composer of the Christmas carol Kasadya Ning Taknaa, which spawned its more popular Tagalog version, Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit. The carol, which was composed for a light musical play, was reportedly sold to a Manila recording company, but up until Rubi’s death, he along with his lyricist Mariano Vestil was not acknowledged nor paid a cent in royalties. They even went to court to fight for copyright, but Rubi didn’t live long enough to witness the day a court decision was made in his favor.

Gullas admits that he only came to realize the extent of the misconception about the origins of the song when in Manila, while heading to Congress, a radio announcer cited another person as the composer of the song. “I couldn’t believe my ears. I was deeply saddened because I personally knew Noy Inting Rubi when I was very young,” says Gullas.

That inspired a concert-cum-tribute, but it was clearly deemed as just the first step to what has to be a more tangible platform to preserve and disseminate these works. The Halad Museum came to be with the support of some of the families of the composers honored, who started donating and entrusting personal pieces for safeguarding under Gullas’ Tipiganan Foundation.

Apart from Rubi, among the artists whose life and works Halad has paid tribute to, mostly posthumously, were: Ben Zubiri, Maning Velez, Minggoy Lopez, Siux Cabase, Staxs Huguete, Metring Ylaya, Fr. Jed Billones, Mil Villareal, Maning Villareal, Mane and Shiela Cabase, Oscar Pagas.

[PHOTO - A kulintang ensemble from Marawi, Lanao del Sur performs.]

Before Mil Villareal, discoverer and mentor to many a Cebuano singer such as Dulce, passed away late last year at the age of 90 in Canada, he composed his last – the theme song of the museum.

There are other galleries in the museum, including the Kinaiyang Sugbuanon, where visual artworks depicting uniquely Cebuano traits and traditions, can be seen; one on The Freeman newspaper, the oldest paper outside Manila, existing since 1919 (it a sister publication of The STAR), which Gullas revived in the 1960s after it went out of print for roughly two decades; as well as a corner dedicated to his parents, Vicente and Inday Pining. In Cebu, they were held in high esteem, being educators and founders of the University of the Visayas. But Gullas says his parents gave so much importance not only to cultural appreciation and upliftment, but also to values such as simplicity, humility and love of God.

A section on Cebu’s leading choir, the UV Chorale, another pet project of Gullas, is also included. The newest feature, however, is a portion devoted to traditional Philippine instruments, sourced from all over Mindanao. It’s perhaps one of the most complete sections on traditional instruments in the country. All these and more at the newly-expanded Halad Museum, located at JRG Building at the corner of V. Gullas and Jakosalem streets.

Apart from more expansion and acquisitions, the Halad Museum has already produced an all-Visayan album and upon the encouragement of certain sectors in the music business, will be looking for ways to not only perpetuate but also further protect Cebuano composers and their works from abuse. The museum plans to eventually include notable composers and musicians from other Cebuano-speaking regions.

[PHOTO - Halad Museum founder Jose Gullas poses beside the guitar of Minggoy Lopez, composer of the folk song Rosas Pandan. ]

Former Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said of the Halad: “The museum is a testimony that the past is not dead, but is living and active. These valuable (music works) are given a forum to be appreciated and cultivated. Music is a very ephemeral art form, even in its written form, it is easily destroyed and adulterated, that’s why the preservation of these musical pieces is very important. In the age of Lady Gaga, there isn’t much sense of music nowadays, one longs for a time when music conveys enduring values, profound meaning and uplifting melody and I think this is the value of the museum.”

The Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum is open from Mondays to Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm, and on weekends by appointment. Entry for senior citizens is free. For information, contact halad.museum@gmail.com or tel. (032) 268-2579.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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