Monday, April 30, 2012

Pramdaken, Len of da Morning, Aymsoyang, Sopas da Boys and Other Songs We Sang as Kids in Dupax

WHEN I WAS starting school “I’m So Young” and “From The Can” were the popular songs in Dupax. Or so I thought, based on how many kids preferred to sing them. 

Back then we used the first words of the song as title. Thus, you would not find the two songs above in any list -- instead, they are “Diana” (sang by Paul Anka) and “From the Candy Store in the Corner to the Chapel on the Hill.”

Way back then, too, we used our Isinay and Ilocano pronunciations of the titles and lyrics of the songs. Thus, nobody minded when on rare public singing occasions such as weddings and fiestas, particularly their before and after parts when the microphone was free for "mayktes... mayktes..." by whoever was near the sound-system operator, one would answer Pramdaken or Aymsoyang when asked "Ania ti kantaem?" (What will you sing).

The National Anthem of the Philippines then was sang in English and I distinctly recall that at the Dupax Elementary School during flag ceremonies when I was in Grade 1 (after I transferred from Bambang) up to Grade 3, I loved that song so much that I even as I could not understand then what some stanzas meant, I would lip-sing them the way I heard older graders sang:

Len op da morning seldi seldi serning
Len dir en holi didi ar sols ador...

How did we learn our songs? First credit goes to Robin Angat, the only electrician and sound-system owner/entrepreneur then. His sound system did not only monopolize town fiestas and weddings but at times gave the St. Vincent Orchestra and the Eagle Swing Orchestra a run for captive audiences. Whenever it was hired, Robin's sound also lorded it over the whole town’s air. In fact, apart from the church bell and the Reyes sound system in December, Angat's music was the only sound you could hear all over Dupax. 

I digress, but up to this day I'm still amazed at how our ears during those days were working very well so much so that kilometers away we heard the kengkeng of the bells of St. Vincent Ferrer church. This was when the bells rang to tell the news of someone who just died, when they sounded the "koling" to tell kids and teachers that it was time to go to school (I'll write a separate post on this later), or when they summoned the devout to go to Sunday mass in a series of triple tang-tang-tang that, we heard, were codes for "Juan Dinu... umali at tu" sounded by the cantores' son Parasyo^ who was then chief sacristan and church caretaker.

I was in Grade 2 when Papa and Uncle Ermin each bought their own radio phonographs (as inseparable brothers, their Eveready battery-operated sets both looked alike and were of the same Fujiya brand). For many years these radios were a household fixture and from them we learned new songs via the Tawag ng Tanghalan program and the children’s singing contest aired every Sunday.

I’m not sure now, but the Manila-based stations that reached Dupax radios then were DZRH and DZAQ. I guess, apart from Robin's and the Reyes sound systems, these air stations could be credited for the talents of many Dupax singers when I was young. I was not able to join the amateur singing contests during Dupax town fiestas myself, but from the radio I learned "Run Samson Run," "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Winny Yellow Polkadot Bikini" and "High Noon", among many other songs.

Question: Who were the perennial singers in Dupax then and what songs did they sing? The following list is certainly incomplete -- sorry, it's been half a century -- but for now I recall the following:
  • Samuel Bautista (current songs from Manila)
  • RosieValdez (Isinay and Ilocano love songs)
  • Abraham Reyes ("Gone for the Summer" and cowboy songs)
  • Damian Guzman (good guitarist and sang "Sad Movies")
  • Tony Felix (good at yodeling with "You Are My True Love")
  • Armando Dalay ("Devil Woman" and Beatles songs)
  • Romeo Solis ("Let Me Be With You" and other top hits)
  • Ariston Laccay ("Wishing It Was You" and Beatles songs)
  • Arlyne Castro ("Delilah" and Vilma Santos songs)

Aside from constant listening to the radio, we got the wordings/lyrics of the songs from the Bannawag (it had a section called “Agkanta Tayo Man”) and years before Jingle became a bestseller, we made do with Song Hits, Song Cavalcade, and Top Melodies. I do remember having received a Cortal song hits booklet from an audiovisual van that came to advertise and sell medicine. It carried the lyrics of “Jambalaya” and it was part of our home library for many years before its pages became ripped with use or were eaten by a baby sister and later used as kindling material by the house help.

IF THOSE OF you who know our family are wondering why all of my sisters (especially Arlyne and Abeth) sing well, it was because our parents were lovers of songs. Yes, both Mama and Papa were a big influence on our part of the Castro and Pudiquet clan.

Back then, Mama used to sing “Changing Partners” and “Tennessee Waltz” as lullaby for Merlie or Tessie or Judith. For his part, Papa sang “Come Where the Lilies Bloom” and “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” aside, of course, from his favorite Isinay song "Dattut Ittuwam" and his favorite Ilocano song "Bannatiran." 

It may have helped that Mama was always giving birth – she had to sing songs to put my baby sisters to sleep. Papa’s being a teacher, too, was a big factor because I guess all teachers worth their salt then had to teach music and thus are duty bound to have good vocals.

I cannot recall what songs Uncle Ermin taught at the Dupax Elementary School because when he was my teacher in Grade 5 our music class was handled by Auntie Tating (Tesalonica?) Guiab-Fernandez. When he did his daily routine of sweeping starapple leaves all around his one-block lot, however, I would hear him sing “Uwak says the crow nagdakkel ti ubetmo!”

How about my grandparents? I don’t remember hearing Apong Pedro hum a tune, honest. Nor have I heard him even whistle while we were astride his carabao or when it was sweltering hot in the ricefield and other farm folks would whistle for the wind to blow.

Inang, of course, was a singer  in her own right. She was good at singing the Pasion during Cuaresma. She also bought these booklets from Malasin that had stories in verse form about kings and princesses and, using the same Pasyon tune, sang the words as sort of bedtime stories not only for me and my cousins but also for my Apong Lakay. I also remember that when Merlie was still under her care, I heard Inang sing “Tralalala ha ha” with her in addition to the Ilocano lullaby “Lal-lal-lay tukak, ipusna dalag, limmagto pilat!

The other adults then sang “Remember When” (along with its local churiwariwariwap of “tuduktuduken”) and the sad “A Tear Fell” that had an Ilocano version reminding of President Magsaysay’s death: 

“Ammoyo ni Magsaysay… napan idiay Cebu… 
naglugan ti eroplano… naibangbangga iti kaykayo.
Kaasi pay ni Magsaysay idi natay!”

ON WEEKENDS our part of Dupax became musical as Papa and Uncle Ermin competed with their full-volume playing of whatever 78 RPM and 45 RPM records that we called “plaka.” Uncle Ermin’s favorites then were “Fraulein” and “More” while Papa’s were “Mary Mary Lou” and “Susie Darling.” (I wonder where these collection items are now or what happened to them when the Fukiya phonographs were already not functional.)

Our love for songs deepened when Papa and Uncle Ermin again each bought ukuleles. One of Uncle Ermin’s katulong, Manang Virginia Madriaga, was a good strummer and it was she who taught me to sing and strum “I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door.” Uwa Andres Castro would often come to the house and also play the uke, ot pamaringana mot an mangarug si mariitar (use the opportunity to make friends with the young lady).

In Grade 4, I had an Isinay classmate named Rogelio Guinir who played the uke well. He must have imbibed it from his older brothers who owned a “bajo” (one-stringed bass with a gasoline metal canister for base) and were part of what we called then combachero that played during weddings and also did house-to-house "caroling" during Panagkakararua (Halloween).

Papa’s ukulele was colored pale yellow, had a clear varnish, and carried Hawaiian flower designs that were the “uso” in the 1960s. The instrument must have cost a lot because each time its walls/parts peel off, instead of buying a new one, he would buy white glue and we both would clamp the glued parts to hold the gaping pieces together.

We used the uke one time our Grade 4 class (1961-62), under Papa, had its turn to present a Monday flag ceremony program. I recall the piece we sand and played was Elvis Presley’s “Can’t You See” (“Wooden Heart”). Bruno Doctor played the ukulele, Roger Guinir brought his brother Etto’s bajo, and I played the selendro (harmonica).

When our ukelele was still new, Papa would use it on moonlit nights. He would sit by the window and sing all the songs he knew – including the Isinay songs “Osan Lavi,” “Dattut Ituam O Bilay U,”  “Kukkuyappon Maserot Podda,” and some improvised lines of the "Anino^" parts of which I remember up to this day thus:

Amunglan savung si lavay... anay
Susun bi-alar an navayvay
Mabves lan bebbevoy si lajay
Kada lavi an (na-olay).

The na-olay (I guess it means "limp" or "weak") is my addition -- I use it because, sorry, I could not now recall what was the exact word Papa used to make it rhyme with the other stanzas.

Incidentally, many Isinay kids then had their own made-up versions of the Anino. Yes, that's how creative many Dupax kids were then. After hearing actual poetic versions repeatedly sang in Isinay weddings, they would use their improvised anino^ to tease other kids. One version stuck to my memory, often addressed to a kid wearing fiery red shirt:

Abalayan si Kuwan Ito^
Nan-eeng si mandirito^
Toy immoy an nitaro^
Siri abalan da Uwa Nano^.

By the way, the same ukulele that my father used was also my cousin Peter Pudiquet’s favorite toy when he was a small boy. He would come from their house in Dupaj to stay overnight in our house in Domang and for hours he would strum the uke any which way while belting out “Panga… panga… inay!”

Arlyne borrowed a ukulele from her classmate Carmen Gonzales once. It was much sturdier than our first ukulele and played better music. It stayed with us for months, nay, a couple years, until it was recalled by Marsing, Carmen’s manong.

But while that stringed instrument was with our care, Papa and I varnished it. And I used it when I went "carolling" for tupig and other native delicacies during Kararua (All Saints/All Souls Day) in Iiyo. The same uke came in handy it when I was in third year at St. Mary's High School and I joined a group that sang the song “My Hometown” and "True, True Happiness" with the prop-wearing Arsenio Bautista of Bambang as lead singer and ukelele strummer.

When Baybee was fielded as candidate for Dupax Town Fiesta Queen, I sang “500 Miles” with the ukulele and fans threw coins for Baybee’s fund-raising. Mama and Papa had a duet with the song “I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore.”

Yes, children of Dupax today, half a century ago and long, long before the videoke started to rule the night sounds in Isinay country, we were already singers. 

And to my own children and would-be grandkids, long, long before the Sound of Music’s Von Trapp family sang their “Edelweiss,” we were already a family of singers!

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