Sinulog songs

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Sunday, January 12, 2014


I WAS in a taxicab Saturday and the driver amused me with his effort to drum up the fiesta atmosphere in his vehicle. He played a Sinulog song over and over, one that had the line, “isyagit og kusog” and “kang lolo kini.”

It reminded me of those days when my family would sit for one whole day in the grandstand of the Cebu City Sports Center to watch the culminating program of the Sinulog Grand Parade. The music used by the contingents was so infectious you would get the urge to stand up and dance two steps forward and one step backward in rhythm.

I have been listening to that music over and over the past few years but I never got to know its title and its composer. I finally Googled that yesterday and found these out: title--”Sinulog Theme”; composer--Dandin Ranillo. Dandin also composed another familiar Sinulog fare, the song “Cebu,” which has an English and Visayan version.

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But before that, I would first tackle what I also found in my search. When my wife Edizza was still my girlfriend, she used to drag me to the Basilica del Sto. Niño to attend the masses there. It was during those times that I got familiar with a song whose music I thought was appropriate for the theme, which was our worship of the Holy Child.

I am not referring to the “Batobalani sa Gugma,” which is very “churchy.” Rather, I am talking about “Sto. Niño Gugma Ko.” The first few lines:

“Santos nga Ginoo, sa tanang panahon/ Ikaw ang among hari, kagahapon ug karon/ Sa tanang katuigan, pagadaygon ka/ Walay tupong ang pagmahal nga gihatag mo/ Chorus: Sto. Niño, Sto. Niño, Senyor Sto. Niño/ O daghang salamat sa kaayo mo/ simbahon ka gayod/ Sto. Niño, Sto. Niño, Gugma Ko.”

I went to YouTube and found known singer-composer Manny Lapingcao singing the original version of the song. “I wrote this song,” he said.

“Daghan nang mga versions ang madunggan nato ani. I wrote this in the ‘80s, sa akong album nga ‘Unang Ani sa mga Huni ni Manny.’” Actually, I used to listen to Lapingcao’s songs also in the ‘80s, before he had an album.

Then again, nothing beats “Batobalani sa Gugma,” a gozos (a rejoicing) for the Holy Child. It was supposedly composed by a Spanish priest and first appeared in novena books in 1888.

That’s more than a century ago. No wonder the language used sounds old Cebuano (plus a Spaniard wrote it). But music transcends the nuances of language. Seeing people raise their hands while intoning “Kanamo maluoy ka unta, nga kanimo nangilaba” always sends shivers down my spine. (By the way, what does “nangilaba” mean?)

It was also in the ‘80s when the original “Jeproks,” Mike Hanopol, wrote what I believe was the first Sinulog song with the line, “Tayo na mag-Sinulog, tayong lahat mag-Pit Senyor!” (“Dali na, mag-Sinulog, kitang tanan mag-Pit Senyor!”) which has a slower beat than Ranillo’s “Sinulog Theme.”

That song was very popular in the early years of the festival when the dances were all Sinulog-based. The fast-paced, almost ati-atihan beat was used with the introduction of the Free Interpretation category.

Another distinct Sinulog music is the “Sinulog Drumbeat” that we often hear played by the drum and bugle corps that accompany every contingents during the grand parade.

I don’t know who composed it, but I reckon that it was conceived because of a need, which was to have something decent that drum and bugle corps can play during the festival. It’s not surprising that the drum section, the bugle section and the auxiliary instruments (xylophones) have important parts in it.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 13, 2014.

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