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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, December 01, 2014

entry arrow1:12 PM | Priscilla and the Visayan Folk Song

I still can't get Priscilla Magdamo's lecture on "The Art of the Visayan Song" out of my mind. It went beyond awesome. And such a rare talk it was. There she was, one of Silliman University's -- nay, the Philippines' -- greatest cultural treasures, talking about her passion, and doing it with gusto. The venue of her talk was quite full, but I wish more people heard her speak. In the 1950s, armed with a grant from Ford Foundation, she scoured all of Visayas and Mindanao to collect endangered Visayan folk songs -- and later arranged and recorded them, and published several books as well. "Necessity is the mother of invention," she told us this morning. "I loved these folk songs. I wanted to sing them, but I could not find anything. And so I collected and arranged them myself." When she began her lecture by singing a duet with Melody Enero culled from the forgotten Valencia folk song "Inday Kamingaw" -- a song done in echoes that demonstrates how women in the cold hills of Valencia sang and talked to each other through snippets of music, demonstrating how lonely they were -- we were hooked.

When National Artist for Music Lucrecia Kasilag celebrated one of her anniversaries here at the Luce Auditorium some years ago (I remember this, because I was there), she was given full honors in a program dedicated to her. When she spoke, she told the crowd that she owed her work in ethnomusicology to the one person who paved the way before her. "She deserves the title of National Artist for Music," Ms. Kasilag said, and then asked Ma'am Prescy -- who was in the audience -- to stand and be recognized. Alas, technicalities count in recognising cultural treasures. Ma'am Prescy, long an immigrant to Vermont, is a naturalized American citizen.

I'm suddenly thinking: we should make this musical lecture a full-blown concert featuring the best of Visayan folk songs next cultural season!

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