By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 10-Feb-2019  ·  
585 views  ·   0 comments  ·  
A view of Benticayan barrio from Balacay Point. I learned the folksong "Ay Ay Alibangbang"in that village by the sea.

Early one morning, I thought I’d like to know more about a song which was the lullabye I grew up with in Benticayan, a coastal village in my hometown.

I know the song by its first lines, “Ahay Alibangbang.”

In my early youth, I thought I always sing it every time the family hiked all the way to the village where my mother taught as a part-time teacher.

It was a most requested song and in time, I wonder why it is one folk music requested of me as a child.

Even my cousin Danny invoked the song which I know dated back to our childhood days in the island.

Did I learn it from my mother? Or from our household help named Malda whose husband perished in the deep blue sea?

In my recent island visits and while reflecting at my favorite haunt, the Balacay Point in the island, I see the coastal village framed by mountain and the sea. I grew up there and always, that lullabye follows me.

When I turned to the internet one early morning, I discovered my favorite lullabye is actually a popular Ilonggo folksong.

As I listened to the guitar version, images of the coastal village instantly flashed in my mind and midway through the music, I see the seashore and another islet which dots the wide Pacific Ocean.

The folksong begins on a happy note (the YouTube visuals show maidens prancing around a flower garden) but midway through the music, you hear a hint of melancholy and of an early life long gone.

One of the nominees for Best Actress in the coming Oscar Awards is Yalitza Aparicio who played the maid Cleodegaria "Cleo" Gutiérrez in the acclaimed Alfonso Cuaron film, “Roma.”

It is a profoundly moving story of a maid in a middle-class Mexican family and to make the Oscar nomination significant, the first-time actress didn’t have to deliver lines. She went about her work-a-day world with dispatch and with so much love for the couple’s children without the benefit of elaborate dialogue. It made one film critic point out that what the character needed was a voice.

When I saw the picture of the actress for the first time, I was jolted to see that she looked like the household help who took care of me as a child growing up by the sea.

At the time, we never consider maids as helpers. They were treated like extension of a family.

Looking back, Malda must have taught me the song, “Ay Ay Alibangbang” (The Butterfly) which I could still hum to this day. Funny that my cousins remember me as a passable interpreter of that folksong a long time ago.

Nevertheless, the folksong virtually brought me back to the island of the 50s.

One way or the other, it is my own Scenes from Childhood before I discovered Schumann.

I can still see my childhood odyssey as I relish the lines from the folksong–

       Oh! Paru-paru kung ikaw ay lumipad

       Iyong alalahanin ang lahat ng mga bulaklak

       Baka sa huli'y ikaw ay makalimot

       Kawawang Gumamela, sa lupa Ahay! mahulog.

       Oh! Paru-paru kung ikaw sumipsip ng bulaklak

       Iyong alalahanin ang daan na dadaanan  mo

       Baka sa bandang huli, matinik itong paa mo

       Kaawa-awang katawan, masayang lang ang dugo mo.

       A rough translation:

       (Oh Butterfly When you are flying

       Just remember all the flowers

       Oh Butterfly sucking the nectar of the flowers

       Remember the path of the roads you have passed by

       Perhaps later, your feet will encounter thorns

       When it happens, I pity you since blood will flow.)

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