WEB AND WEAVE: The Metamorphosis of Ilokano Songs

This time, we listen to inaudible songs. Songs that we don’t hear in this column but frequently heard among radio networks and even at homes. We just try to append the songs in the later portion of this column for you to interpret and affirm or deny what the authors have discovered.

The research of Dr. Benjie Gapate, a faculty in UNP Vigan in collaboration with the author, will provide the gist of this investigation.


Wherever these ethnic and linguistic groups are found, the same people recognize the truism behind this statement: language is the place where meanings are produced; the principal site for the production of social realities and political conflict (Obrero: 1999); songs, as one form of literature are not just a reflection of a monolithic social reality but, an articulation of contending ideologies, interests, and discourses; and song writing/composing is a political and socio-cultural practice.

In particular, Ilokano music is indeed a source of inspiration. Sharp contours on the Ilokano’s identity, particularly, how Ilokano ideals, wit and folly are represented, portrayed, and imagined in Ilokano songs. With the airing of these songs during pasala (box social) with the monophone still in use and the big disk (plaka) available, it’s impact far reaches not only the ears of all the joyful Ilokano folks but also their innermost feelings, their psyche and their dreams.

Traditional representation and imaging of Ilokano fold is revealed in reading of the songs. However, in exposing the lines, the parameters of the songwriter’s mind including the gaps and silences of the songs, a crevice is opened where the “otherwise” other than the manifest meaning is explicitly shown.

The richness of one’s culture could not be denied in songs. One reflecting mirror is the composition of the people, how they overwrite their sentiments which will end in an attempt to affix with tunes. One remembers with a smile in his lips: I was still a lad when I started to fine tune indigenous songs as I sit above my carabao’s back while I herd the beast. The chirping of the birds becomes my “orchestra”

Music is claimed by many to be a classic form of poetry. Indigenous music then, is the people’s ultimate narration usually accompanied by notes. A noted researcher showed in her findings that the Iloko songs, poetry, stories and drama included, offer a mine of information about the ideals and customs of the Filipino people; a display of emotions and feelings.

Classical Ilokano songs rival those that were written either in Tagalog or English. To cite one would be the all-time hit folk song, Pamulinawen. Its carefully crafted lines surely run into one’s memory: just like blood circulating / invading all the arterial and venial lines of our being. Definitely, when listened to with music, it extols Ilokano pride, dignity and identity.

Let’s take a look with it. Let’s listen.

Pamulinawen /Pusok indengam man  /Toy umas-asug /Agrayod’ta sadiam.

Panunotem man /Inka Pagintutulngan /Toy agayat, agukkoy dita sadiam.

Essem a diak malipatan /Ta nasudi unay a nagan, Uray sadin ti ayan,

Lugar sadino man, /Aw-awagak di agsarday /Ta naganmo kasam-itan.

No malagipka, pusok ti mabang-aran…

Adu a sabsabong, naruay a rosrosas /Ti adda’t ditoy a di a mabuybuya,

Ngem awan man laeng ti pakaliwliwaan/ No di dayta sudim ken kapintas.

Aywen, biagko, indengam man. / Iyas-asugko nga inaldaw /Ta diakto a kayat

Ti sabali nga imnas /Sika laeng, o, biagko /Ita ken uray tanemman

No malagipka, pusok ti mabang-aran.

Dakay nga ub-ubbing, / Didakam’ tultuladen /Ta dakkelkamin nga agiinnarem

Ta ituloyyo ta panagadalyo / Tapno inkay magun-od  /Kakaligumanyo

Essem a diak malipatan /Ta nasudi unay a nagan, /Uray sadin ti ayan,

Lugar sadino man, /Aw-awagan di agsarday /Ta naganmo kasam-itan.

No malagipka, pusok ti mabang-aran. No malagipka, pusok ti mabang-aran.

Though some songs deal with life’s harsh realities, as portrayed in this song, Laguerta ti Langit, values are likewise emphasized here. Just for purely laughing matter, this much-liked song intends no pun against anybody. As they say, with malice towards none, this song reflects a happy ego of the merrymakers during reunions or goat-together of some easy-going folks.

Once more, let’s open our eyes as we listen to this funny song.

Laguerta ti Langit

Laguerta ti langit agkansion ni umel/ Agsigsigunda ni baed

Agdengdengngeg met ti tuleng / Aggitgitara ni pukol

Agsalsala ni pigsol/Adda met ni duling nakamulengleng laeng.

Ni tangad binaonda/ ‘pansimmukmon iti arak

Nasabatna ni singkol/Sinikolna diay botelia ket naburak.

Kinatawaan ni gusing/Kinusilapan ni gilab

Adda met ni lupoy, /Ta sipat la a sipat.

Ni kissiw isu’t kosineroda /Nga aglutluto ti kanen ken sidada

No madanonanen tay oras panagkissiwna/Banga ken pariok, /ikusaykusayna.

The two identified songs are just a spectacle of the many-splendored songs of the Ilokano color. Both narrate the wit, the lighter side of Ilokano identity. Without this, boredom would replace the much favored Ilokano OPMs.

However, as this paper tries to assert, purity of thoughts are contaminated with Western orientations. Not only our education and interests are heavily influenced, so is the way we articulate gender-biased and sex-mocked ideals. The Ilokana concept of a birhen, from the morally accepted idea of chastity, has been continuously rocked by modifications. Songs that extol positive Ilokano values are now damaged, i.e. lines become color-separated (green becomes the most dominant color).

If we can’t arrest this growing menace, since media is the greatest culprit and best endorser,  we soon find ourselves in the dungeon of vulgarities and vanities. Our children definitely will suffer our insensitivity and conscious non-intervention. From thereon, families will soon become the arena of kabastusan.

Giving meat to this accusation, let your ears, eyes and mind attend to this: (the altered version of Pamulinawen, which children love to chant, verbalize and speak about, even in throngs of mature people).

Pamulinawen, bo*** (male reproductive organ) a timmangken,/ uray no taltalem, di pay a lumukneng/ ammok ti agasna, o** (female reproductive organ) nga agdardara, ammok pay ti agasna, urmot ti Kastila.

In here, terms used are explicitly vulgar; they cheaply denigrate sacred unions, and Christian values. They mock sensitivities, and put the Ilokano community in utter embarrassment.

Oh, what a nonsense song. But children love to repeat, even with scornful and spiteful ingratitude to the old, women and educated people alike. Included too are Women Objectified, Female Domesticity, Sexual Allusions, and Women Ridiculed.#