Verily, there are Filipino culture buffs, among them elderly musicians of small town bands in the north and in the outskirts of Manila, who are playing syncopated notes for more open or covered auditoriums and stages for the country’s slowly fading out regional folk songs.
In their book, they tap the Italian musical term morendo for the country’s regional folk songs – literally dying—which indicates a decrease in volume or tempo, but often affects both or the sound is slowly dying away.
Morendo creates the effect of a slow ritardando and a diminuendo with an extreme fade.
These culture buffs believe these regional folk songs can well keep up to the beat and melody as well as message of English songs that have made inroads in the industry.
They agree the traditional music of this country of 114 million people reflects the Philippines’ diverse culture, originating from more than 100 ethnolinguistic groups and shaped by a widely varying historical and sociocultural milieu.
These folk songs – traditional and generally rural music that originally was passed down through families and other small social groups – are written and sung in the different Philippine languages, including Ilokano, Pangasinense, Pampango, Bikolnon, Bisaya and Tagalog.
They reflect the lives of rural people and their connection with nature, including themes like harvest, fishing or love, as well as religious traditions introduced during the Spanish colonization that began in the 16th century and ended 377 years later from 1521.
The characteristics of Filipino folk songs include simple structure; their melody (song or tune) is rhythmical or easy on the ear; they are sung in a relaxed and easy voice; they are either in duple or triple meter; and they consist of simple harmony (pleasing combination or arrangement of different things).
Musicologists say typically, folk music, like folk literature, lives in oral tradition; it is learned through hearing rather than reading.
And it is functional in the sense that it is associated with other activities, and it is primarily rural in origin.
The term folk music and its equivalents in other languages denote many different kinds of music; the meaning of the term varies according to the part of the world, social class, and period of history.
In determining whether a song or piece of music is folk music, most performers, participants, and enthusiasts would probably agree on certain criteria derived from patterns of transmission, social function, origins, and performance.
Experts add the central traditions of folk music are transmitted orally or aurally, that is, they are learned through hearing rather than the reading of words or music, ordinarily in informal, small social networks of relatives or friends rather than in institutions such as school or church.
Some sources say the Philippines, which has 17 administrative regions with major regional languages and musical brands, is literally a treasure trove for folk songs that give sheen to the country’s over-all culture as a Southeast Asian nation.
Sources say people in the regions, particularly the younger generations, should be exposed to this wealth of Filipino folk songs “since it is an essential way to pass down tradition that has been the signature of their ancestors.”
There are those who say singing these folk songs and helping the young ones appreciate the message help preserve and protect these traditional songs which cover several musical styles although the song is commonly used to refer to a narrative song that uses traditional melodies to speak on a particular topic.
Folk songs—the music of a nation, a sub-culture or a community of people —address social and political issues like work, war, and popular opinion and communicates a message and has a strong meaning about them.
In the Philippines, these folk songs are abundant—from as far north as Ilocos Norte and Cagayan to the warrior-type Tausugs in Jolo in the far south – but are hardly known and heard, if at all, by young Filipinos.