A singing competition in Valenzuela City bucks trends with its rather traditional repertoire.
The fifty contenders in the Search for the Hari, Reyna, Prinsipe, Prinsesa, Munting Prinsipe and Munting Prinsesa ng Kundiman held at the Valenzuela City Center for the Performing Arts on September 4 were elementary and high school teachers and students who sang kundiman classics.
The competition repertoire was composed of: Jose Corazon de Jesus and Resurreccion Bunyi’s Huling Awit, Deogracias Rosario and Nicanor Abelardo’s Mutya ng Pasig, Jesus Balmori, Deogracias Rosario and Nicanor Abelardo’s Anak ng Dalita; Jose Corazon de Jesus and Nicanor Abelardo’s Kundiman ng Luha, Nicanor Abelardo’s Kung Hindi Man; Servando de los Angeles and Nicanor Abelardo’s Bituting Marikit.
Now on its 11th year, the competition is held by the Department of Education (DepEd) -Valenzuela City in observance of Buwan ng Wika in August.
Kundimans are traditional Filipino songs known for their complex form and sentimental lyrics which enjoyed popularity during the Spanish era in the 1800s through the American era in the 1930s.
“It has always been a personal advocacy to promote kundiman in the present times,” said Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health (MAPEH) District Supervisor Victoria Altoveros, who started the competition when she joined the local DepEd office 11 years ago.
In the 1950s through the 1970s, efforts to revive the genre were undertaken by artists like Ruben Tagalog, Ric Manrique and the folk musical group Mabuhay Singers.
Veteran actress Armida Siguion Reyna attempted to reintroduce kundiman to the mainstream entertainment scene through her show Aawitan Kita which aired from the 1970s through the 1990s.
Today, kundiman performances are largely limited to government-sponsored cultural events such as the Valenzuela singing tilt.
“The number of participants each year tells me that there is still hope for the kundiman,” she said.
Though it was Bernadette Santos’ first time’s to join the search, kundiman is nothing new to her. Santos, a Filipino teacher in Karuhatan National High School who was hailed Reyna ng Kundiman, has been singing since she was young and started singing the musical form in college.
“Singing kundiman is very different from singing pop,” Santos said. “Sa pop, mas malaya ka. Sa kundiman, may sistema na dapat aralin ng singer. Palaging head tones at chest tones ang ginagamit,” (With pop, the singer is free to interpret the song in whichever ways she chooses; while with kundiman, the singer has to learn a particular way. She always has to sing using the head tone and chest tone)
Competition judge and Valenzuela City Choral choirmaster Arthur Esguerra said a serious singer of kundiman should pay attention to the sudden shifts in tone in a kundiman.
“Kundimans are unlike pop songs which you can learn to sing by just one round of listening. It sometimes takes a trained ear to appreciate a kundiman’s musical nuances,” Esguerra said.
More than an art form, the kundiman, which are often about love, also reflects the colonial society’s views on relationships.
“Many think the sentiments in kundimans are exaggerated. But it was the simply the way back then. A lover would use everything in his employ to win the affection of his beloved, including expressing his love in beautiful words,” Esguerra said.
Search for the Hari, Reyna, Prinsipe, Prinsesa, Munting Prinsipe and Munting Prinsesa ng Kundiman 2013 Winners
Elementary and High School Teachers
Hari ng Kundiman: Noel F. Domigpe, Serrano Elementary School
Reyna ng Kundiman: Bernadette S. Santos, Karuhatan National High School
High School Students
Prinsipe ng Kundiman: Rey Justin S. Cornelio, Dalandanan National High School - Bagbaguin Annex
Prinsesa ng Kundiman: Abegail C. Perez, Canumay National High School
Elementary Students (Grades 3 to 6)
Munting Prinsipe ng Kundiman: John Vincent P. Cabagay, Karuhatan West Elementary School
Munting Prinsesa ng Kundiman: Mariel Kaila D.C. Reyes, San Diego Parochial School