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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Harana in Aklan and its Cultural Implications

Harana in Aklan and its Cultural Implications
Melchor  F. Cichon
Revised: July 21, 2013

Harana is one way of courting a girl. It has been practiced in the Philippines many years ago by Christian male Filipinos. It must have been introduced  in the country by the Spaniards when they colonized the Philippines.
Except in Aklan, the practice is done this way: A group of young men will visit the house of a lady visitor and sing a love song outside of the house. If allowed by the owner of the house, the serenaders are requested to go upstairs. The lady meets them after some hesitations. After some greetings and introductory conversation, the serenaders would start singing love songs. It is expected that the lady will likewise sing. At times though, the lady would not sing perhaps because she has no voice for singing. After the exchange of songs, and some teasings and joking, the serenaders would bid goodbye. They then sing their farewell song and leave.
Since the middle of 1970's, harana has become unpopular among the Filipino rural youngsters for the following reasons:
 (1) With the introduction of electricity, hard liquor and prohibited drugs, the rural youngsters have acquired more leisure activities than before.
2. The imposition of Martial Law and the imposition of Curfew Hours have dramatically changed the life-styles of the rural people: they no longer go out at night.
3. The moral values of the youngsters have changed: today, any place is a courting place, unlike before where the only courting place was the house of the lady.
4. The tempo of  today's music has changed from dansa to disco and rap. 
5. Filipinos have become more westernized in such a way that harana is forgotten.
Harana is the Filipino term for serenade. But unlike in Europe, harana in the Philippines is generally a formal way of getting to meet lady visitors in rural Philippines . [1]  In harana, the songs that are usually sung are dansas like "O Ilaw", "Maala-ala Mo Kaya", "Hinahanap Kita", "Dungawin Mo Sana,"[2] and other love songs from America, like "Fools Rush In".
In provinces where skills in music composition have been refined, songs in local dialects are sometimes sung in harana. Like the serenade of Europe, a dansa is a love song with simple  and melodic tune. It is sung by a young swain under the window of his beloved. The enamored expresses with it his passionate pleas, its melody heartfelt and melancholy.[3]  If he has no voice for singing, he brings along a friend who can beautifully sing for him. the songs are usually accompanied by a guitar. But others use violin, and other string instruments.
Harana has been a cherished pastime among our rural young Christian male Filipinos[4]  We say Christian male Filipinos because the Muslims in Mindanao do not practice harana as a way of courting a girl, although rendering songs to Muslim women is not against the teachings of the Koran. Courting a girl without prior approval from her parents is against the tradition of the Muslims.
Harana must have been introduced  by the Spaniards to the Filipinos when they colonized the country.[5]  The Spaniards must have adopted it from the Italians since the word serenade comes from the Italian word serenata, which means evening song.
Before the imposition of Martial Law in the Philippines in 1972, harana has a favorite pastime among the rural Filipino young men. But since the middle of the 1970's, this cultural practice has  become unpopular among the rural youth. In fact in many parts of the Philippines like Cavite, Negros Oriental, North Cotabato, and in Aklan itself, harana is no longer practiced. In Miagao, Iloilo, however, harana was still alive as experienced by some students of the University of the Philippines who happened to stay overnight in barangay Mat-y, Miagao, Iloilo 1991.[6]
Many reasons have been attributed to harana's diminishing popularity, but let us first present how harana is practiced in the Philippines and Aklan particularly.
In general, harana in the Philippines is done by young men in the barrio, now called barangay. It is done when there is a visiting lady or when there is a newly arrived young balikbayan lady in the barrio. Harana is not usually done to the ladies who have been staying in the barrio unless the serenader, as in Aklan, is his boyfriend. Harana is also done when a group of people from a community would like to honor a visiting high government official or a distinguished personality who happens to be in the barrio. But to our purposed we will concentrate our discussion on the romantic side of harana.
Harana is done after supper. A young man and his barkada would visit the house of their target. They usually bring along a guitar.  Upon reaching the house of the lady, the serenaders would sing love songs. If the tagbalay of the lady would allow it, the tagbalay would open the window and invite  the serenaders to upstairs; otherwise she would inform the serenaders to leave. Once upstairs, the tagbalay would encourage her daughter or her lady visitor to meet the serenaders.  At first, the lady would show hesitancy (hiya) in meeting the young men, but after some proddings, the lady would agree to meet them. After some preliminary greetings and introductions, the young men would start singing, and generally, their songs would convey messages of their romantic feelings toward the lady. After a young man has sung, the group would request the lady to sing also. And usually, the lady would sing even if she has no voice for singing. Between the exchanges of songs, some casual conversations take place. And oftentimes  jokes and teasings are injected to keep the company lively. But sometimes the jokes and teasings  have hidden romantic messages. The exchanging of songs would last for one to three hours depending on the  mood of the lady and of the tagbalay. At times, the tagbalay would offer some light snacks to the serenaders; sometimes, the serenaders themselves would bring some native delicacies for the whole participants and the tagbalay to partake. The youngsters in the house are just as willing to listen and witness the harana as well as to wait for the signal for them to get a part of the merienda, that is if they are still awake. After the singing, the gentlemen would bid goodbye. They would then sing their favorite farewell song. One of the favorite farewell songs in harana has this lyrics: "Goodbye, I hate to see you go, but have a good time."
If the lady happens to stay longer in the barrio, and if during the serenade a cordial relationship was achieved, the same young men would invite the lady and her barkada to a picnic in a nearby place.  Or the young  men would accompany the lady visitor to the place where she could take a ride home.
If something positive had taken place during the harana and in the picnic between the perspective suitor and the lady he was eyeing, the objective of the harana has been accomplished. At any rate, the harana is stopped. By then, it becomes the prerogative of the prospective suitor whether to continue the courting or not.
But in Aklan, harana is practiced differently.
A suitor or a would-be suitor along with his friends would serenade a lady between 10:00 p.m. to 3:a.m. usually on a moonlight night. The suitor or his friend who could beautifully sing would render love songs. In Aklan, since local music composition is not yet well developed, the young serenaders would sing Tagalog or English love songs, although some serenaders should not mention the name of the lady they are serenading at. The name of the lady is mentioned in the third or fourth song. The mentioning of the lady's name in the song is done even if there is only one lady in the house. For example, if the song runs like this: "O ilaw sa gabing madilim," the serenaders would change the word "ilaw" to the lady's name. So it would run like this: "O Pilma, sa gabing madilim..." By this time, a kerosene lamp is lighted by one of the members of the household and securely place it away from the window. If the lady being serenaded at has not awaken yet, then she would be awakened, Without washing herself, the lady would walk slowly towards the window where the serenaders are, and slowly and carefully open it.  This could be the main reason why the lamp is securely placed away from the window--to hide the face of the lady.  By this time, the serenaders, except the suitor, would have moved to a place where they could not be clearly seen by the lady so as not to be identified. The suitor or would be suitor would now walk towards the opened window to greet her. After some preliminary greetings, the suitor would start his serious talk with the lady. it is here where he would open his romantic intention to the lady. Or it could be the time when he continues his courtship or where he would strengthen his love to her. Other topics like town fiestas, life in the barrios, etc. are at times talked about in harana.  The soft and restrained conversation would last for fifteen to thirty minutes depending on the mood of their conversation. Meanwhile, the rest of his friends would sing some more love songs that express inner feelings of their friend towards the lady. Or they just talk among themselves.
Throughout the serenade, the haranistas would stay outside of the house.  And they are never invited to go upstairs. One reason here is that the rest of the family are already sleeping. Besides, the sala is also used as a sleeping quarter and it would be improper to allow serenaders to stay in the sala while there are some people sleeping in area.
The following morning, the lady becomes the object of teasing among her brothers and sisters, and if she happens to be a visitor, from her hosts. At times, the serenade becomes the talk of the barrio especially when an unusual happening had taken place, like when the house was stoned or when the chickens were stolen.
Of course, as in the movies, some serenaders are not that welcome always, particularly when the parents or the lady herself does not want to meet or talk with the serenaders. Or when the serenaders have been staying in the house late, the parents at times would prepare beddings in the sala to force them to leave. No untoward incident would happen if the serenaders are politely turned down. But once the serenaders are repeatedly treated rascally, the possibility of creating trouble is great. The serenaders would either destroy the fence and the ornamental plants around the house, or worse, stone the house and steal the chickens. This makes some people say that the serenaders were serenading the chickens, not the chicks.
Going back to the question why harana has become unpopular among the young rural Filipinos, we advance the following reasons:
1. The youth of today have more leisure activities now than before. With the introduction of electricity in the rural Philippines in 1972, more and more television sets, betamax, radios, family computers and other electrical gadgets have penetrated many homes in the rural areas, especially now that cell phones, laptaps and internet have penetrated the remotest barrios or barangays. With these numerous gadgets, our youth of today would rather stay in their homes and watch their favorite TV programs, etc., than go out and serenade.
2. The peace and order in the rural areas are not desirable. This situation had dramatically changed the lifestyles of our rural people particularly the youngsters. With the imposition of Martial Law on September 21, 1972 and with the imposition of Curfew Hours plus the rampant violation of human rights like salvaging, kidnapping, strafing, etc., our rural people did not like to around at night.
3. With the proliferation of hard drinks and prohibited drugs, our youngsters have preferred to stay indoors and enjoy themselves instead of going out and serenade.
4. The moral values of our youngsters with regards courtship have dramatically changed. Unlike before where the only proper place to court a girl was the home, now any place is a courting place. Now the girl is just a text away. And it does not matter to the girls.
5. The music of the 1970's, 80's and 90''s are not suited to harana. Where before we had the dansas, now we have disco and rap music. They are music with opposite tempos.
6. Many of our rural youngsters go to the cities and when they return to their hometowns the values and cultures they have assimilated from the cities are carried throughout their lives. Eventually, they set aside their rural cultural heritage, like harana.
7. The Filipinos have become more Westernized where harana or serenade is not a part of their culture.
Now, as students of Filipino cultural history, what are we to do with this diminishing precious cultural heritage, shall we just leave it to die? Can we not do something to repopularize it?
As part of our advancement, the Philippine society is bombarded with so much cultures from many parts of the world particularly the western countries. Thanks to the proliferation of mass media in our country. Thanks also to the information we gather from outside our place of residence.  The information we get outside our localities become a part of our lives, and without knowing it our lives have been transformed into another personality. Eventually, we develop a new society.
But against this backdrop, we believe that we can still help revive or strengthen harana and remake it a popular cultural pastime in the rural Philippines. For example, our Physical Education teachers/professors could introduce the concept to their students and then require them to conduct researches on harana. Or they can introduce the practice in their classes by including harana as part of their cultural presentations. This harana concept can also be introduced by our Humanities teachers/professors as part of their subjects, particularly the musical of harana. Or perhaps some cultural groups could present cultural shows to the greater public, that features harana. Or a contest could be held where new compositions suited for harana are presented to the public. Or local radio stations like the DYFM Bombo Radyo could feature a one-hour program that exclusively features harana.
Many ways could be thought of in reviving or strengthening harana in our country, but there is one thing in our country that we should give utmost priority: the gathering of local musical compositions suited for harana so that our next generation will have the materials to use.

[1] Corazon S. Alvina and Felice Sta. maria. Halupi: Essays on Philippine Culture. Quezon City: Capitol Publishing House, 1989, p. 282.
[2] Amdis Ma. guerrero. "Spell of Kundiman." Manila Times, September 18, 1991, p. C1.
[3] Serenade". Encyclopedia American. Connecticut: Glolier, Inc. 1985, vol. 24, p. 574.
[4] Interview with Mario Lao of Jolo, Sulu, September 18, 1991.
[5] Interview with mrs. Ester Legaspi Pador, oct. 6, 1991.
[6] Interview with Ninfa Ladera of Miag-ao, Iloilo., September 20, 1991.

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