Readers, I urge you to visit the Internet website, http://www.sanrokan.com, where Lyndon Fadri, one of Banton’s most articulate intellectuals, is a resident blogger. His site, Lyndon, contains mostly his musings on Banton arts and culture and his many active engagements in Banton affairs.
Just recently, he posted a record of what I consider a watershed event in Asi culture: the coming of age of a Banton musical group, the 1622-Unang Usbor.
To the ignoramuses in Banton history and Asi language, here’s a little education about 1622 and Unang Usbor.
1622 is the year the pueblo—township—of Banton was founded and established by the Spaniards, specifically the Recollect friars. This was exactly one year over a full century after Fernando Magallanes landed in the Philippines, in 1521, and whose coming changed the course of Iberian civilization.
But don’t be misled. This doesn’t mean that Banton was inhabited only in 1622, or that a Banton community did not exist before that date. Archaeological proof is available that tells us Banton is more ancient than we could imagine; and so 1622 is a period only for reckoning recorded Banton history, not its pre-Spanish existence.
Unang Usbor, on the other hand, is literally the first fresh outgrowth or bud of a plant in the Asi language. Usbor means the first sign of a plant’s life and, taken in the context of life itself, it means hope—hope of survival and of growth.
Thus, 1622-Unang Usbor—as band members Jake Faigao, Bong Faigao, Cecille Fetalvero, Tupi Fedelin, Archie Faigao, and Andres Fababeir, Jr. call themselves as a group—is not only original. It is also historical and pregnant with symbolisms, as well as reflective of the inherent creativity among members of the Asi tribe. Whoever thought of the band’s name had an acute sense of drama and historical perspective. He/she deserves praise.
Which also goes true with the music of 1622-Unang Usbor.
When I first saw Lyndon’s post of the band’s performance of Bantoon, Banwang Pinalangga, a Filamer Fegalan composition (2003), my mind raced to fathom the depths of the Bantoanon soul’s pathos. Having Bantoanon blood in my veins myself, it was not difficult for me, a Sibalenhon, to conclude that 1622-Unang Usbor races, too, like the Fegalan piece, to claim through their craft a unique identity—the Asi identity.
And now the Asi is singing, and singing heartily. Lend them our ears, for their music, like the poetry of Ish Fabicon and Lyndon Fadri, is no longer theirs alone. It is ours as Asi people. It is an additional identikit, a badge of honor we can carry wherever we go. No, wherever we roam, for the Asi is a roaming people.
Now, no amount of criticism, if any will come 1622-Unang Usbor’s way, can diminish the dreaming that ASCCA President Abner Faminiano, Manong Ish, and Jake Faigao, the band’s leader, invested in 1622-Unang Usbor’s coming into being.
According to Lyndon, it was Abner and Manong Ish who facilitated the acquisition of the band’s instruments from the Ugat-Faigao clan in the United States early this year, which enabled the band to rehearse their repertoire in time for the band’s launching last May 6, a date that Lyndon described as the “unveiling of fresh Bantoanon musical talent and a reawakening of Bantoanon consciousness of its culture and history”.
I have not met the band members, but have heard Jake (lead guitar/lead vocals), Bong (bass guitar), Cecille (lead vocals), Tupi (rhythm guitar/keyboard), Archie (drums), and Andres (rhythm guitar and also sound technician) perform.
What can I say, in addition to my raw observation that the Asi is now singing?
Listen to them. Or, better, as an Asi, sing their songs with them. That’s what I should say. Invite them. Celebrate your birthdays and other special occasions with the 1622-Unang Usbor as your front act performers, instead of the ubiquitous karaoke that emits noise rather than music, and which invites mayhem and murder, if news stories are to be believed about people getting knifed to death because they sang My Way out of key.
Lyndon says the band also plays popular English songs and Asi adaptations of both English and Tagalog songs. “The band aims to encourage the flourishing of the Asi language and Bantoanon artistic expression through music by playing mostly Asi songs and adaptations,” he said.
He reported that among the songs presented during the band’s launch were Tamboy Tamboy Agong, Pamintana, Usang Pananamgo, Ako'y Usang Pispis and Ciribiribin. “They also played Sinakugan, their adaptation of the English song Never on a Sunday (which itself is an adaptation from the original Greek song by Manos Hadjidakis) and Pagbalik, their adaptation of Pagbabalik, the song by Lolita Carbon and Pendong Aban, Jr., popularly known as the folk music band, Asin,” Lyndon writes.
“1622 also performed some of their original compositions that night, including Unang Buscar, a somber song about unrequited love; Kuto't Baylehan, an upbeat song inspired by the baylehan, one of Romblon's much-loved social activities; and my instant favorite, Martir,” he added.
I myself have listened to the band’s performance of Pamintana, also at Lyndon’s U-tube post at the Sanrokan website, and I was so moved by its haunting melody that I resolved to sit down with the band soon and do an interview.
Now, go and visit the Sanrokan website.