by: Gwendalene Ting
"Cebuano" comes from the root word "Cebu," the Spanish version of the original name
which most probably comes from the verb "sugbo," meaning "to walk in the water." In the old days, the shores of the Cebu port were shallow, so travellers coming from the sea had to wade in the water to get to dry land. The term is suffixed with "-hanon" to refer to the language, culture, and inhabitants of Cebu; hence "Sugbuhanon" or "Sugbuanon." The Spaniards later modified
Sugbuhanon to "Cebuano" and the early Americans to "Cebuan." Today Cebuano may also refer to the speaker of the language no matter where he comes from.
The Cebuano are also called "Bisaya," although this is a generic term applying not only to the
Cebuano but to other ethnic language groups in the Visayas. The etymology of "Bisaya" is uncertain although it is probably linked either to the word meaning "slaves," for the region was either target or staging area for slave-raiding forays in precolonial and early colonial times, or to the word meaning "beautiful" which was what a Bornean sultan declared upon seeing the islands according to a popular tale.
Cebuano is the first language of about a quarter of the Philippine population or around 15 million Filipinos today. It is dominant in Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Camiguin, section of Leyte and Masbate, and most of Mindanao. It belongs to the Austronesian family of languages which, in the Philippines, has split up into many language groups or subgroups.
The Cebuano language chiefly defines the Philippine ethnic group also referred to as Cebuano. The core area of this group is the province of Cebu, an elongated mountainous island with some 150 scattered islets. Encompassing a total land area of 5,000 sqkm, Cebu province is bounded in the north by the Visayan Sea, in the east and northeast by Bohol and Leyte, and in the west and
southwest by Negros across Tanon Strait. Cebu is located in the geographical center of the archipelago. This region-with 4 provinces, 9 cities, 123 municipalities, and almost 3,000 barangays-has a combined population of 4.6 million. The cultural reach of the Cebuano, however, extends beyond Central Visayas. Due to factors like a dense population and a lack of arable land, Cebu and Central Visayas are an important source area for population emigration. It is for this reason that the Cebuano have also come to constitute a significant part of the populations in other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao. Moreover, the role of Metro Cebu, the country's second largest urban concentration, as southern center of education, media and transportation, enables Cebu to exercise cultural influence beyond provincial or regional boundaries.
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As early as the 13th century, Chinese traders noted the prosperity of the Cebuano with whom
they traded various porcelain plates and jars, from the late Tang to the Ming, which were used by
the natives for everyday life or buried in the graves. The traders also remarked how the Visayan,
when not engaged in trade, raided Fukien's coastal villages using Formosa as their base.
Reportedly, the Visayan rode on foldable bamboo rafts, and, when attacking, were armed with
lances to which were attached very long ropes so that they could be retrieved to preserve the
precious iron tips. In the early 16th century, the natives of Cebu under Rajah Humabon engaged in an active trade which bartered woven cloth, embroidery, cast bronze utensils, and ornaments. The settlement also had small foundries producing mortars, pestles, wine bowls, gongs, inlaid boxes of betel, and rice measures. Humabon himself was finely clad in a loincloth, silk turban, and pearl, and gold jewelry, and was supposed to have demanded tribute from East Indian, Siamese, and Chinese traders. At that time, densely populated villages lined the eastern coast of the island, while the highland villages hugged the streams and lakes. The coasts were linked to the hinterlands either by rivers or trading trails. Communities were composed of bamboo and palm leaf-thatched houses raised from the ground by four posts and made accessible by a ladder, the area underneath reserved for domestic animals. Humabon's large house resembled that common dwellings, towering like a big haystack over smaller ones(Pigafetta 1969).
On his way to the Moluccas, Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu on 7 April 1521 and planted the seeds of Spanish colonization. Rajah Humabon and his wife, baptized Juana, were Christianized following a blood compact between conquistador and native king. However, Lapu-lapu, chieftain of Mactan, refused to accept Spanish sovereignty. Outnumbering the foreigners by 1,000, his men killed Magellan, 8 Spanish soldiers, and 4 of Humabon's warriors. Duarte Barbosa and Juan Serrano who took command after Magellan's death were also massacred along with their soldiers during a goodwill banquet hosted by Humabon. The remnants of Magellan's expedition under Sebastian del Cano sailed homeward defeated but proving, for the first time, that the earth is round. The second Spanish expedition to the Philippines headed by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Andres de Urdaneta reached Cebu on 27 April 1565. As in the earlier experience, the native reception of Legaspi was initially amiable with a blood compact with Sikatuna, chieftain of Bohol. Later, Tupas, son and successor of Humabon, battled with the Spaniards who easily killed some 2,000 warriors, who were equipped merely with wood corselets and rope armor, lances, shields, small cutlasses, arrows, and decorative headgear. Their native boats "built for speed and maneuverability, not for artillery duels" (Scott 1982:26) were no match to Spain's three powerful warships. Legaspi, accompanied by four Agustinians, built the fort of San Miguel on 8 May 1565. This was the first permanent Spanish settlement in the archipelago. Tupas signed a treaty tantamount to submission on 3 Jul 1565 for which he was given 13 m of brown damask. On 21 May 1568, shortly before his death, Tupas was baptized by Fr. Diego de Herrera- an event which propagandized Spanish rule. On 1 Jan 1571, the settlement was renamed the Ciudad del Santissimo Nombre de Jesus (City of the Most Holy Name of Jesus) in honor of the image of the Child Jesus found in an unburned house in the wake of the Spanish invasion of 1565 (the site of the present Augustinian Church). It was believed to be a relic of Magellan's expedition, the same one given to "Queen Juana" upon her baptism. Cebu was the capital of the Spanish colony for six years before its transfer to Panay and then to Manila. Many Cebu warriors were recruited by Legaspi, Goiti, and Salcedo to conquer the rest of the country.
In the 1600s, Cebu had been one of the more populous Spanish settlements in the country, usually with about 50 to 100 Spanish settlers residing there (not including the religious). However, this dwindled sharply after 1604, when Cebu's participation in the galleon trade was suspended. Cebu had annually outfitted and dispatched a galleon to New Spain. Profits were minimal because of restrictions imposed on the items that could be loaded, at the instigation of Spanish officials who wished to maintain the Manila-Acapulco trade, which was the more profitable venture. Moreover, one galleon from Cebu sank in 1597. The nonparticipation of Cebu in the galleon trade greatly diminished its importance, and by the late 1730s, there was only one or two Spaniards who lived in Cebu City who was not a government official, soldier or priest. Few Spaniards owned land in the countryside, a situation further buttressed by a decree that forbade the Spaniards from living among the Filipinos until 1768. The works of Italian traveler Gemelli Careri in the late 17th century and of French scientist Le Gentil both noted Cebu's commercial poverty. The island had become a mere outpost. Inter island trade was further restricted by two factors: the threat of so-called Moro raids from Mindanao and Moro pirates on the seas, which continued way into the late 1790s; and the attempts of the alcaldes-mayores or provincial governors to monopolize domestic trade for their own personal economic advantage. These alcalde-mayores were allowed to purchase the special license to trade to make up for the fact that the Spanish central administration perennially lacked funds to give as salaries to its local officials and bureaucrats. As Spanish officials recovered from the short-lived British occupation of Manila from 1760 to 1762, they began to institute reforms which eventually made the atmosphere more conducive to trade. Cebu's trade slowly rejuvenated. The opening of the Philippines to world trade in 1834- and of Cebu in 1860- stimulated economic activity in Cebu. Sugar and hemp became important cash crops for Cebu's economy. Sugar had already been previously grown in Cebu even before Magellan arrived. Identified as one of the four varieties of sugar to be found in the Philippines during the Spanish period was a strain called "Cebu Purple." The vastly increasing demand for cash crops meant, as in most other areas in the Philippines, a big change in land ownership patterns. Land was increasingly concentrated in the ownership of a few hands, usually through the method of pacto de retroventa, where land was mortgaged by its original owners to new cash-rich landowners on the condition that it could be bought back at the same price on a certain date. This system, which favored the creditors, created a new class of wealthy landlords and a mass of landless agricultural wage laborers, both groups of which began to agitate against the Spanish administration and the power of the religious. This pattern was familiar to the rest of the country. The Cebu revolutionary uprising was led by Leon Kilat, Florencio Gonzales, Luis Flores, Candido Padilla, Andres Abellana, and others. On 3 April 1898, they rose against the Spanish authorities in Cebu. Furious fighting took place on Valeriano Weyler (now Tres de Abril) St. and other parts of the city. The revolutionaries drove the Spaniards across the Pahina River and finally to Fort San Pedro. They besieged the fort for three days but withdrew when the Spaniards sent reinforcements from Iloilo and bombarded the city.
Spanish rule in Cebu ended on 24 Dec. 1898, in the wake of the Treaty of Paris signed on 10 Dec. The Spaniards, under Cebu politico-military governor Adolfo Montero, withdrew to a caretaker committee of Cebuano citizens. The Philippine Government was formally established in Cebu City on 29 Dec. 1898, and revolutionary head Luis Flores became the first Filipino provincial governor of Cebu.
The American occupation ended the republican interregnum. Under threat of US naval bombardment, Cebu City was surrendered to the Americans on 22 Feb 1899. However, a province-wide war ensued under the leadership of Juan Climaco and Arcadio Maxilom. Cebuano resistance to US rule was strong but had to submit to superior American arms with the surrender of the Cebuano generals in Oct. 1901. In 1901, a civil governor, in the person of Julio Llorente, was appointed in Cebu. The Americans, introduced public education, promoted industry, and reorganized local government. All previous laws and ordinances observed were permitted to continue, although the municipal board positions were no longer filled by the appointment but through popular elections. Cebu became a chartered city on 24 Feb. 1937. Vicente Rama authored and secured the approval by Congess of the Cebu City Charter. The Charter changed the title of presidente to mayor. Alfredo V. Jacinto served as mayor by presidential appointment. On 10 April 1942, the Japanese landed and seized Cebu. Over half the city was bombed.
Cebu's USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) and Constabulary forces and some ROTC units and trainees surrendered to the Japanese on orders of Gen. Wainwright, supreme commander of the United States Forces in the Philippines. Many fled to the mountains and later reorganized into guerilla bands which harassed the Japanese throughout their occupation and facilitated the American "liberation" of the province. As elsewhere in the country during wartime, suspected collaborators were tortured and killed. Notorious for such summary executions of suspected collaborators in Cebu was the group led by Harry Fenton, who held sway in northern Cebu while James Cushing controlled those operating in central and southern Cebu. For his many abuses against comrades and civilians, Fenton was executed by the guerillas on 1 Sept 1943. James Cushing assumed command of the anti-Japanese resistance movement in Cebu, which was one of the most effective in the country. By the time MacArthur returned to the Philippines in Oct 1944, Cushing had about 25,000 men, half of whom were armed and trained.
Juan Zamora administered the city of Cebu during the war. Upon the return of the Americans in March 1945, Leandro A. Tojong was appointed military mayor of Cebu. Following the
post-"liberation" general elections on 23 April 1946, Manuel Roxas was elected Philippine president. In 1946 he appointed Vicente S. del Rosario as mayor of Cebu, the first to serve the city at the dawn of the Third Republic. The Charter of the City of Cebu was amended in 1955 to make the post of mayor elective. Sergio Osmena Jr. was overwhelmingly elected mayor.
The present city of Cebu recovered impressively from the wreckage of the last World War, and
has grown to be the second largest metropolis in the nation.
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RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
Many Cebuano, especially the less Westernized and the rural ones, continue to be firm believers in the existence of spirits. Despite the fact that this belief stem from pre-Christian animist tradition, they persist to this day, and are very blended with Catholicism. There is strong belief in spiritual beings who are capable of assuming any form and causing illness to those who offend them. The evil spells they cast on people can be driven away by performing rituals, reciting prayers in Spanish or Latin, making offerings, using the crucifix and holy water. Often times the folk healers or mediums like the babaylan, tambalan, and mananapit are asked to perform rituals to drive away the spirits. Spirits may appear as: the tamawo, a fairy that dwells in big trees, and occasionally falls in love with mortals, who upon death enters the spiritual world of the tamawo; the tumao, the creature with one eye in the middle of its face that goes out only during new moon; the cama-cama, a mountain gnome of light brown color, whose great strength may cause
great pain on all mortals who displease it; and the aswang, an evil spirit which can be disguised as a man or a woman at night, helped by its agents like the tictic and silic-silic birds.
Birds often act as agents or messengers of the spirit world. When the sagucsuc bird sings "suc, suc, suc," it announces rain. A kind of owl, the daklap, is believed to conceal its nest on the seashore so cleverly that anybody who finds the eggs but keeps the secret becomes a curandero or healer. The hooting of the owl is considered a bad omen, specially if it comes from the roof of the house of a sick person. When the kanayas (sparrow hawk) appears, a typhoon is anticipated as they are the agents of tubluklaki, the god of the winds. Other animals also serve as portents of good or bad omens. Cats are often regarded as possessing special powers. Their eyesight enables them to see evil spirits. Fisher folk and hunters use the eyes of wildcats as charms to enable them to have an abundant catch. A talisman is made by a special arrangement of the bones of a black cat. The arrival of rain is announced when a cat gets wet during a drought. On the other hand, bad weather expected when a cat stretched itself in the morning.
Dogs become more ferocious if fed with wasps' nests, and see evil spirits like the tumao when they bark continuously during a new moon. To scare away aswang, cow/carabao horns or tortoise shells are thrown into red coals. People recite the Ave Maria backwards to escape the poisonous stings of the alingayos (wasps). When the dahon-dahon (praying mantis) enters a house, it foretells misfortune for the occupants. Almost all aspects of agriculture are governed by beliefs and practices. The tambalan is often called to perform the practice of bayang or buhat before virgin lands are cultivated. A dish of white chicken or white pork is offered to the unseen owner. Before planting, a table with cooked rice, chicken, wine or buyo is set in the open and offered to the spirits who are asked to grant a good harvest. If planting is to be done during a new moon in May or June, rice is toasted and then ground with sugar in a mixture called paduya. The paduya is then baked, divided into 24 parts, and wrapped in banana leaves and offered the night before planting to the aswang who protects the field. For harvest blessings pangas may also be prepared in a basket from a mixture of rice, medicinal herbs, palm fruit and a wooden comb.
There are specific practices depending on the crop being planted. During the planting of rice, one must not hurt or kill the taga-taga, an insect with protruding antennae believed to be the soul of the palay, or else this will cause a bad harvest. A good harvest is likely when its tail points upwards. In planting corn, the first three rows should be planted at sundown. This is the time when chicken and other fowl are in their roosts and if they do not see where the seeds are planted, they will not dig up the seeds. If it rains while the farmer is planting, it is a sure sign that the seeds will not germinate. Persons with few or broken teeth should not plant corn to prevent the corn from bearing sparse and inferior grains.
In coconut planting, so that the nut will grow big and full, seedlings must be placed on open
ground during a full moon. They should be planted at noontime when the sun is directly overhead and shadows are at their shortest. This is so the coconut trees will bear fruits soon, even if they are not yet very tall. While planting coconuts, it would help if one is carrying a child so that the tree will yield twice as many nuts. Bananas should be planted in the morning or at sunrise with young plants carried on the farmer's back so the branches will have compact and large clusters. Sticks should not be used when planting cassava lest the tubers develop fibers which are not good to eat. Ubi, on the other hand, is a sacred root crop. If it is dropped on the ground, it has to be kissed to avoid divine fury called gaba. Planters must lay clustered fruits on three hills for an abundant harvest of camote or sweet potato. It is believed that planters must remove their shirts, lie on the ground, and roll over several times during a full moon. Crops planted near the diwata'a place or during thunderstorms will become rat infested.
During harvesting, if the crops are poor, the farmers prepare biku, budbud, ubas, tuba, guhang,
12 chickens, pure rice, tobacco, and tilad. These they placed under a dalakit tree in the fields as
offering to the spirits. Rice harvesting entails more intricate rituals. A mixture called pilipig is prepared from seven gantas of young palay added to ubas (grapes), bayi-bayi (ground rice), grated coconut, and sugar. This mixture is pounded in a mortar and brought out at midnight. At midnight, the farmers call the babylan to chant prayers while they surround him/her with smoke.
Fisher folk have their own ways of soliciting the favors of the other world. During a full moon, a
mananapit is asked to pray for a good catch and to bless the fishing nets and traps with herbs and
incense. To cast off evil spirits, fisher folk at sea mutter tabi meaning "please allow me to fish."
They keep a small yellow copper key under their belts to protect themselves from being devoured by big fish. Divers eat the flesh of cooked turtle for greater stamina underwater. Fisher folk avoid bad luck by neither sitting nor standing in front of their fishing gear and by returning home by way of the route used when setting out to sea. To avail of future bounty, fisher folk using new traps must throw back half of their first catches. That spirits are believed to roam the world of the living must be considered in building houses. Spirits like dwelling in caves and ought not to be disturbed by the construction of a house nearby. A good site for a house is determined by burying 3 g of rice wrapped in black cloth at the center of the lot. If a grain is missing when they are unearthed three days after, the site is not suitable for it will cause illness. February, April, and September are the months to build houses. To bring prosperity and peace to the owners, coins are placed in each posthole before the posts are raised. The ladder of the house should face east to ensure good health. A full moon symbolizes a happy home life when moving to a new house. For the moving family to be blesses, they should boil water in a big pot and
invite visitors to stay overnight in their new house. A ritual is also performed against evil spirits
during the inauguration of public buildings, bridges, and other structures. The Cebuano, like other Catholic Filipinos, are devoted to their patron saints. Their most popular devotion is to the Santo Nino of Cebu whose statue venerated in the Augustinian Church in Cebu City is the oldest Christian religious relic in the Philippines. The Holy Child is believed to be a savior during fires and natural calamities and a performer of miracles big and small, from shielding the island from the foreign invaders in earlier times to playing harmless pranks. A grand week-long celebration during the feast of the Santo Nino is highlighted with sinulog dances and a candlelit evening procession. During other fiestas, novenas are prayed, candles lit inside the churches, and the
image of the patron saints kissed in homage and thanksgiving. The masses are preceded by the
processions to prevent misfortunes during the year. From 16 to 24 December the misa de gallo, a
dawn mass, is held nine consecutive days. There are solemn Lenten rituals, long processions, and
Christian folk religiosity is most apparent and typical in the lenten procession of Bantayan Island, held on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. In this major lenten spectacle, the Bantayanon garb their children in angel and saints costumes and follow the carriages of their favorite saints. Apart from the lifesize statues of San Vicente, San Jose, Santa Teresa, San Pedro, and Santa Maria Magdalena, there are around 20 other floats depicting scenes from Christ's passion.
VISUAL ARTS AND CRAFTS
Cebu's liturgical art manifests its deeply rooted Catholic tradition. Relief or three-dimensional
santos or holy images, murals, and paintings for altarpieces, gold and silver vestments, and altar
accessories have always been Cebuano expressions of religiosity that are stylistically similar with those of Bicol.
Cebuano folk art includes basketry and the hand-crafting of jewelry and musical instruments.
Basketry was developed by the inter island trade which regularly demanded cargo containers.
Baskets and planters are made of cocomidrib, rattan, bamboo, or sigid vine. The island's furniture industry is related to this art. Chairs of rattan and buri ribs are fashioned using basket-weaving techniques. Mactan produces guitars and ukuleles from langka or soft jackfruit wood. Cebu's abundant shells and coral can be transformed into ornaments, some of which are set with precious metals. Popular Cebuano arts of the 19th century like sinamay weaving, dyeing, and pottery (especially the alcaaz or water jars of fine red clay), have since declined. Such is the creativity of local artisans, however, that new crafts, e.g., stoneware, are constantly being developed.
Painting was the first secular art that appeared in the mid-19th century. Initially unsigned and undated, they were personal rather than professional. Gonzalo Abellana of Carcar, Canuto Avila from San Nicolas, Raymundo Francia of Parian, and Simeon Padriga were early painters and sculptors who actively participated in the period of transition from religious to secular art. Aside from their works, Cebuano masterpieces include Diosdado Villadolid ("Diovil")'s finger paintings, Oscar Figuracion's paintings of the Bilaan community of Davao, Julian Jumalon's lepidomosaic art, Silvester "Bitik" Orfilla's historical mural entitled Ciudad del Santissimo Nombre de Jesus (City of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), and Carmelo Tamayo's tartanilla series. Aside from these painters, others contributed to the flourishing of Cebuano visual arts in the 20th century: Mary Avila, Jose Alcoseba, Vidal Alcoseba, Virgilio Daclan, Sergio Baguio, Emeterio Suson, and Jesus Rosa. Martin Abellana is the "dean of Cebuano painters." Though primarily a figurative-impressionist, his later works nevertheless show a desire to reconcile the figurative and the abstract. Notable of his works are The Farmer's Son, Job Was Also Man, Rocks, and Korean War. Cebu and the Central Visayas have also contributed to the Manila art scene such artists as Manuel Rodriguez Sr. and National Artist Napoleon Abueva, who are distinguished for their pioneering ventures in Philippine graphic arts and modernism in sculpture, respectively. An important catalyst in the development of the Cebu art scene was the founding of the Cebu Art Association (CEARTAS) in 1937 by Julian Jumalon, in association with artists like Oscar Figuracion, Jose Alcoseba, Emilio Olmos, Fidel Araneta, and others. CEARTAS promoted community awareness of the visual arts as well as the exchange of ideas among artists. In the postwar period, the older practitioners were joined by younger artists like the Mendoza brothers (Sofronio, Teofilo, and Godofredo), Romulo Galicano, Gamaliel Subang, Fr. Virgilio Yap, Jose Yap Jr., Tony Alcoseba, Gig de Pio, and Mardonio Cempron. Some of these artists-notably, Sofronio Y. Mendoza ("SYM") and Romulo Galicano- later moved to Manila and foreign countries to gain a much wider reputation and audience.
Today, Cebu has what is probably the largest community of artists outside of Manila. Although many of the young practitioners for landscapes in the Abellana style, they are also influenced by various modern styles in the country, like those of Jose Blanco of Angono and the late Vicente Manansala, as well as from abroad. Today's crop of artists includes Isabel Rocha, Mariano Vidal, Boy Kiamko, Fred Galan, Wilfredo Cuevas, Manual Panares, and Rudy Manero. The town of Carcar, hometown of Martino Abellana, has produced a new generation of artists led by Gabriel Abellana, Martino Abellana Jr., and Luther Galicano.
The opening of the Fine Arts Program of the University of the Philippines (UP) College Cebu, the first formal fine arts school south of Manila, has dynamized the Cebuano art scene. Soon after its founding, Manila Artist Jose Joya initiated in 1978 the Annual Joya Art Competition, which has showcased new talents from UP Cebu, such as Raymund Fernandez, Javy Villacin, Edgar Mojares, Arlene Villaver, Janini Barrera, and Karl Roque. Although present-day Cebuano art is concentrated on painting, sculpture has had its noteworthy practitioners in the past, notably Fidel Araneta and Ramon Abellana. Today, young artists like Jet Florendo are making their own innovative expression in this art form. There are support institutions and networks in Cebu that keep interest in the visual arts alive. Apart from the Cebu Art Association and UP Cebu's Fine Arts Program, Cebu City has a good number of art galleries and painting exhibits are regularly held in such places as Casa Gorordo Museum, College Assurance Plan (CAP) Center, and the City Museum established by the city government in 1992. The city has a fairly large number of art patrons and collectors. The city's private collections are varied, ranging from the antique collections of Lydia Aznar-Alfonso, Leocadia Binamira, and Ramon Arcenas, to the philatelic collection of Victorino Reynes, the Shell Collection of Asela Franco, the photographic collection of Galileo Medalle, and the lepidoptera and lepidomosaic art collections of Julian Jumalon. A good number of local art patrons, however, have collections of modern art, creating a market which enables local artists to survive. Cebu is well on its way towards becoming a viable center for contemporary art and no longer is it necessary for local artists to move to Manila to practise and develop their art.
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Rarely can a Visayan be found, "unless he is sick, who ceases to sing except when he is asleep"- thus remarked 17th century Jesuit chronicler Francisco Alzina on the prodigious activity of Visayans in the field of music. He noted, with much amazement, not only the fact that Visayans seemed to be singing all the time but that they played musical instruments with such dexterity, they could-by just playing such instruments as the kudyapi (guitar of lute) and korlong (fiddle)- "speak and make love to one another" ((Alzina 1668, III:64, 678-69).
The field of Visayan and Cebuano music is vast. This is indicated by the array of native musical instruments in the Visayas, which include percussion tubes called bayog and karatong, drums called guimbal and tugo, ribbon reeds called pasyok and turutot, lutes or buktot, violins or litguit, jew's harp or subing, clarinets or lantoy, flutes of tulali (Takacs 1975:126-27).
Ubiquitous too was vocal music since songs called ambahan, awit, or biyao were sung for many purposes and occasions. Songs included saloma (sailor songs), hila, hele, holo, and hia (work songs), dayhuan (drinking songs), kandu (epic songs), kanogon (dirges), tirana (debate songs), the balitao romansada (song form of the balitao) as well as religious chants, courtship and wedding songs, lullabies and children's songs, and songs that accompanied various types of dances ad performances. Note an excerpt from a saloma (trans. by Simeon Dumdum Jr.):
Tapat ako magsakay
Nga dili sa dagat nga malinaw
Kay unos dili ako malunod
Malunod ako sa mga kamingaw.
I'd rather ride the waves
Than the calm of the sea
Because no storm can sink me
More surely than solitude.
Spanish colonial rule exposed Visayans to Western music traditions. Alzina (1668, III: 66) notes
that in the 17th century Visayans could already play Spanish musical instruments with "notable skill." The Spanish guitar called sista in Cebuano, superseded indigenous string instruments akin to it and became so popular that the Visayas, particularly Cebu, has acquired a reputation not only for guitar players but for the manufacture of fine guitars. Other instruments, like the alpa (harp), also became widely diffused in the Visayas. The Spaniards also introduced the Christmas carol called dayegon and a more Latin touch to the serenade or harana. Below is a representative of the Cebuano harana (trans. by Erlinda K. Alburo):
Nga ginapaniba sa kalanggaman
Ginadugok kay bulak mga mahumot
Uban sa hinuyuhoy
Ning tun-og sa kagabihion.
Of this heart
Supped by the birds
Whose fragrance attracts many
Wafted by the breeze
In the cool night.
Catholic liturgical music and associated religious songs also became an important part of the music tradition of the Visayas. Little is now known of Cebuano composers of early liturgical music and no adequate study has been undertaken on the adaptation of this music to the Visayas or of its influence on secular music in the region. While there was a tendency towards rigidification in liturgical practices in the Spanish period, artistic cross-fertilization undoubtedly took place. After all, the early missionary accounts themselves frequently cite how the Spanish missionaries appropriated native songs and reformed their content to facilitate the communication of new messages. At the very least, Catholic liturgy- with the important role played in it by songs and chants- nourished the native passion for music. American rule also introduced new musical influence into the Visayas, particularly through the public schools, the stage (as in case of vaudeville or bodabil), the phonograph, movies and radio.
The first half of the 20th century saw a flowering of Cebuano music composition. A major factor was the rise of Cebuano theater in the early 1900s, with the sarswela or musical play as the most popular dramatic form. Hence, there was a demand for music-and-song performances. Teatro Junquera (later Oriente) in Cebu City showed Cebuano sarswela and Spanish zarzuelas, Italian opera, and American-style bodabil in the early 1900s. Plays by Buenaventura Rodriguez and
Florentino Borromeo were staged with a complement of as large as a 32-member orchestra. Off-theater, there were open-air plays staged in Visayan villages as well as neighborhood performances of the Cebuano balitao. Then, one must also consider that, beginning with the Spanish period, the social calendar was filled with religious festivities that created occasions for musical performances. Hence, it was a standard for a town, and even many barrios, to have a local orchestra or band. In later years, Cebuano movies and radio programs also stimulated the creativity of composers and performers.
The 20th century saw the advent of the music recording industry in the Philippines. In the 1920s and 1930s, Cebuano songs and singers were recorded on phonograph discs. In 1929 for instance, the premier Cebuano singer of the time, Conception Cananea, had already cut 27 songs for Disko
Odeon while her husband, composer Manuel Velez, had 12 songs recorded. (Velez also owned at this time the Santa Cecilia music Store in Cebu City, which sold musical intruments, sheets, and phonographs). In 1931 there was an Odeon Palace in Cebu City selling phonograph records of compositions by Velez, Brigido, Lakandazon, Piux Kabahar, Hermenegildo Solon, Rafael Gandiongco, Ben Zubiri, Domingo Lopez, and Tomas Villaflor. Lakandazon, a Tagalog who
married a Cebuana and settled down in Carcar, Cebu, was an all-round music man who played several instruments, acted as local bandmaster and music teacher, and composed music for Cebuano sarswela. Songs composed during this period included "Sa Kabukiran" (In the Mountains) by M. Velez, with lyrics by Jose Galicano, "Rosas Pandan" and "Kamingaw sa Payag" (Loneliness of the Heart) by Domingo Lopez, "Salilang" and "Dalagang Pilipinhon" (Filipino Lady) by Celestino Rodriguez, "Wasaywasay" by Piux Kabahar, "Aruy-aruy" by Tomas Villaflor, "Garbosong Bukid" by Hermenegildo Solon, and "Mutya sa Buhat" (Pearl of Labor) by Rafael Gandiongco. The prolific character of the prewar and immediate postwar period can be inferred from the large number of Cebuano composers: Vicente Rubi, Emiliano Gabuya, S. Alvarez Villarino, Diosdado Alferez, Manual Villareal, Dondoy Villalon, Vicente Kiyamko, Estanislao Tenchavez, Ramon Abellana, and the Cabase brothers (Siux, Sencio, Narding, and Mane). In addition, Cebu produced excellent performers and singers: the couple Manuel and Concepcion Cananea-Velez and their daughter, Lilian Velez, Eulalia Hernandez, Teodora Siloria, Presing Dakoykoy, Pablo Virtuoso, and Pilita Corrales.
In time, the growing dominance of Western music and the promotion of Tagalog music (favored by the fact that Manila is the capital art and entertainment) eclipsed Cebuano music composition. Musical activity, however, has remained active in Cebu through the work of such composers, teachers, and performers as Pilar B. Sala, Rodolfo E. Villanueva, Ingrid Sala-Santamaria, and the Cebu Symphony Orchestra. Promotional activities by such groups as the Cebu Arts Council,
Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission, Cebu Arts Foundation, Cebu Popular Music Festival which has done notable work in encouraging Cebuano composition of popular songs, and local music schools and radio stations have encouraged composition and performance in Cebu. There are indications that Cebuano music composition may again be entering a new energetic phase in its history.
Cebuano dances are varied. This variety features the colorful surtido Cebuano of Bantayan, the
maligonoy of Consolacion, the la berde and the ohong-ohong of Carcar, the sampaguita of San
Fernando, as well as the pasa doble. In Sibalon, Negros Oriental, San Antonio of Padua is honored with the gapnod dance; and in Cebu the sinulog and Pit Senyor is performed by devotees before the image of the Santo Nino. Children dance and sing the yuletide pastores, a portrayal of the shepherd's adoration of the Child Jesus. The Cebuano penchant for mime is demonstrated in the mananagat, a dance about fisher folk at work, and the dalagang gamay or "little maiden" in which a girl, singing and dancing with a handkerchief, plays at being a lady. More unique are the la berde wherein a boy dances not with one but two girls, and the maramyon, another pantomime which is accompanied by the singing of dancers or the audience. The ohong-ohong dance of farmers similarly invokes audience participation. Performers of these dances are costumed as in other Visayan dances; the women in patadyong, camisa, and panuelo, and the men in barong tagalog. Generally, the outward flings and extravagant movements in Cebuano dances manifest the carefree and fun-loving outlook of the Cebuano.
The traditional Cebuano dances have been preserved even if their popularity has declined. though the balitao was a prewar favorite popularized by Pedro Alfafara and Nicolasa Caniban, and later, by Antonio and Pacing Bohol, it is rarely performed today because of the general preference for Western dance. There are hopeful signs, however, that traditional dances like the balitao and sinulog will not only be preserved but creatively adapted by contemporary Cebuano choreographers and dancers. Opportunities are provided by festivities like the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City and the work of school-based dance groups, like those at the University of San Carlos, Southwestern University, University of Cebu, and University of the Visayas.
There are as well groups dedicated to the promotion of modern dance forms. The Cebu Ballet
Center, established by Fe Sala-Villarica in Cebu City in1951, was the first institution outside Manila to promote training in classical ballet and has produced such artists as Noordin Jumalon and Nicolas Pacana.
The indigenous matrix of Cebuano drama is formed by a host of dramatic and quasidramatic
performances associated with religious rituals, like the paganito or pagdiwata ceremonial worship, as well as festive occasions, like the pamalaye and kulisisi debates and the pangasi drinking sessions. Such survivals of precolonial practices as the sinulog, the Cebuano dance of worship, and the balitao, the song-and-dance debate, contain mimetic elements of rudimentary drama. Formal teacher had its start in the Spanish period. Early plays include a comedia, written by Jesuit Francisco Vicente Puche, presented in the Cebu Cathedral on the occasion of the inauguration of a Jesuit grammar school in 1598 and a Bohol play, presumably in Cebuano and thus the first recorded Western-style vernacular play in the Philippines, on the life of Santa Barbara in 1609. The Catholic religion, with the celebration of the Mass and the rich array of church-related pageants and performances, inspired theatrical activity in the Visayas and elsewhere in the Philippines. There were then twin streams of theater in the region, one associated with indigenous practices and the other tied to Catholic religious life.
Secular theater in the modern manner did not become significant until the 19th century. The
moro-moro or komedya, or what came to be called linambay in Cebuano, an elaborate costume
play dramatizing plots drawn from European metrical romances, began to take root in Cebu, first in the Cebu port area and later in surrounding towns and villages. It reached the height of popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The last two decades of the 19th century are particularly important. The komedya flourished with
the works of such turn-of-the-century playwrights as Salvador Gantuangco, Rafael Regis, and
Benigno Ubas, and others working in various parts of Cebu and the Central Visayas. Religious
plays were staged, such as Augustinian Antolin Frias' one-act Spanish play, La Conquista de Cebu (The Conquest of Cebu), 1890. Later, Cebuano priests Juan Alcoseba, Ismael Paras, and others also wrote and staged religious and doctrinal plays. The sinakulo, a dramatization of the Passion and death of Christ, did not become as popular in Cebu as it did in the Tagalog provinces. Nevertheless
Cebu's Lenten and other Catholic rituals have never lacked dramatic flair. In performing the
kalbaryo, devotees climb Ditta, Talamban, as though following Christ's path up Calvary. A
spectacular procession in Bantayan Island highlights the semana santa. Sugat (meeting) dramatizes the reunion of the resurrected Christ and the Blessed Mother, an integral part of the Easter Day celebration in Minglanilla. Nativity plays called tambola and pastora are staged during the Christmas season, at the end of which the Los Tres Reyes pageant graces the feast of the Three Magi. In the 1880s, the Spanish zarzuela was introduced into Cebu, performed first by visiting Spanish troupes from Manila and later by local aficionados. Such Manila-based zarzuela companies as those of Navarro and Balzofiori performed in Cebu in the 1890s. From Cebu City, the sarswela spread to other places like Carcar and Barili in southern Cebu. In the early 1900s events of the sarswela were incorporated into the minoros or opereta bisaya, a shortened and localized form of the komedya. An important event was the establishment in 1895 of Cebu's first permanent playhouse, Teatro Junquera on Colon St. Later called Oriente, this theater became a focus of theatrical activity. It was here that Vicente Sotto staged his Ang Paghigugma sa Yutang Natawhan (Love for the Native Land), the first Cebuano language play in the modern, realistic manner, on 1 Jan 1902. Sotto went on to write other plays and his example was quickly followed by other Cebuano playwrights, creating a period of intense dramatic activity in Cebu and other places in the region.
Playwrights of the "golden period" of Cebuano theater from 1900 to 1930 included Buenaventura Rodriguez, Piux Kabahar, Florentino Borromeo, Celestino Rodriguez, Vicente Alcoseba, Alberto Ylaya, Silverio Alaura, Jose Galicano, Francisco Labrador, Jose Sanchez, Zacarias Solon, and Victorino Abellanosa. Composers, actors and other theater artists included Sabas Veloso, Sebastian Lignatong, Antonio Kiyamko, Eulalia Hernandez, Concepcion Cananea, Manuel Velez, Isabelo and Jose Rosales. Plays were staged in makeshift, open-air stages, cockpits, warehouses and city playhouses. There were also attempts to organize theater artists into professional groups, the earliest attempt perhaps being Vicente Sotto's Compania de Aficionados Filipinos, 1902, and troupes that went on giving Cebuano playwrights exposure over a large geographical area. Cebuano theater artists also played an important role in early attempts in the prewar period to produce Cebuano movies. They also supplied talent to the making of soap operas and musical variety programs in Cebu's radio stations in the postwar period. However, the advent of these new forms of mass entertainment-movies and radio- also led to the eclipse of Cebuano theater. The postwar period failed to recapture the high creativity of the early 20th century. Old plays continued to be staged, paricularly during town fiestas; new playwrights emerged; and some of the older artists, like Emiliano Gabuya and Leox Juezan, continued pursuing the art by bringing their companies of performers to towns and villages in the southern provinces. There continued to be avid audiences in the towns to the plays of writers like Diosdado Alferez, Lorenzo Alerre, Galileo Varga, and Anatalio Saballa. The linambay lived on, albeit fitfully, in the rural areas. Yet, there was a slackening of theatrical activity as plays in Cebuano lost the prestige of the days of Buenaventura Rodriguez and Piux Kabahar.
Today, theater has become an occasional activity, kept minimally alive by colleges and universities staging annual plays, by local art associations, and by dedicated theater persons. These urban institutions and individuals have also played a role in presenting to local audiences modern Western plays in English, such as those by Tennessee Williams, Bertolt Brecht, or Neil Simon. Cebuano theater still has to fully break out of its postwar stagnation. There are interesting signs, however, beginning with the 1970s and 1980s, of renewed interest in Cebuano-language with the revival of Cebuano sarswela by university theater guilds, the efforts of playwrights and theater artists like Rodolfo Villanueva, Delia Villacastin, Claudio Evangelio, Allan Jayme Rabaya, and Orlando Magno, and the work of nationalist cultural organizations linked to other groups in the country dedicated to the promotion of a "national theater movement."
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