RECENTLY I found myself humming again. I was pulling weeds in the garden. The puppies were tussling nearby after exhaustively planting their muddy paws on my pajamas and shirt, an early morning ritual they enjoy and I have come to accept.
The moment I noticed I was humming, I stopped. I was in time to see all eight ears pricked up, the K-pups as startled by the cessation of the humming as I was by its discovery.
According to ethnomusicologist Joseph Jordania, animals developed the evolutionary reflex to make frequent contact calls to each other, partly to locate separated members and partly to reassure that the herd was safe from predators.
Among humans, humming serves the same evolutionary purpose, theorized Jordania. Humming wells up from a deep sense of well-being. A humming person is content, if not happy. Humming reassures the listener (except if one is a spectator of a movie, waiting while a psychopath, humming, contemplates the victim).
I wonder what Jordania would say to my realization that humming happens below the radar of self-consciousness. I stopped when I caught myself humming. Does one ever hum on purpose?
In Cebuano, “hagonghong” is as related to whistling as talking to oneself is to delivering a speech. The melody I was humming is taken from Emil Losenada’s “Inday”: “Inday pinangga ko man unta ikaw/ Ngano bang gisakit mo intawon ako/... Pagkabangis gayud sa akong palad/ Kanunay lang intawon ako nga gipaantus mo...”.
That the singer’s agony and the beloved’s heartlessness percolate and bubble in my innermost well-being and escape as a hummed ditty on a bedewed morning is not so strange. This song is part of the collection “Visayan Greatest Hits Volume One,” which I first heard on and downloaded from Spotify.
All classic Sugbuanon love songs are steeped in regret. The pathos translates best when it is sung in inebriated company, for as long as someone can strum a guitar and there is a baritone that can recreate the fantasy that love to be ideal must be unrequited. Anything else is domesticity and banality.
In my late father’s household, his radio was fixed after Sunday dinner until midnight to an AM station that played dolorous Sugbuanon songs dedicated to unabiding affections and treasonous memories.
Rushing inevitably to finish school assignments due the following morning at 7:30 a.m., I was captive to this vocal self-flagellation. I felt deeply the singers’ wretchedness but vowed never to get entrapped in the similar torture of desiring the unattainable or chaining myself to the cruel and fickle.
Blood calls to blood. The Sugbuanon penchant for pain and regret? Listen to my hagonghong.