Saturday, July 25, 2009

Asi? The Concert: Rebirth of a musical culture

The Banton High School Alumni Association, headed by the tireless Lyndon Fadri, has joined Romblon’s cultural renaissance bandwagon, and will, with the support of Biniray 2009, mount a musical extravaganza at the Arellano University Gym on Legarda Street, Manila, starting at 6:00 P.M. on August 8.

This concert is for all: Romblomanons and non-Romblomanons alike.

If you are an Asi, you must block this date in your calendar and come. If you are an Unhan, you should set aside whatever you plan to do on that day and attend the event, aptly called Asi? The Concert. If you are an Ini, show up at the concert. You will be richer in emotional experience after.

If you are not a Romblomanon, but are a culture buff—interested in how the Asi weave their emotional dreams and aspirations and express their take on the current issues of the day through the universal language of music, I invite you to attend.

A ticket to the concert costs P250.00. Call 556 17 62 to reserve one.

With that sales pitch out of the plate, I will tell you more about the concert. Read on.

The biggest attraction of Asi? The Concert is, well, the singing talents of my ancient tribe, the Asi, a proud and brave Filipino race which antedates the coming of the Spaniards and whose members occupy the islands of Banton, Sibale and Simara and who founded the Asi towns of Calatrava and Odiongan in Tablas Island, Romblon’s biggest.

We, the Asi, have our own distinct cultural heritage, including a musical culture that the tribe’s cultural pillars recently started to propagate and promote. Thus, all the songs on the concert will be in Asi, our own language.

This language is unique and so rich that if I were an official of government, say, a congressman, I will push for its inclusion among the languages that are being used as basis in the development of the constitutionally-mandated Filipino national language. Yes, Virginia, there is such, but let us deal with that in another time.

So, if you are a non-Asi Romblomanon attending the concert, I urge you to bring with you the Tuk-anan, the first Asi dictionary that Lyndon Fadri published, to be able to better appreciate the joy and pathos of the Asi’s musical soul. Call him at 0918 918 2178.

Singing talents Catherine Lea Fietas-Beltran and Al Jandy Fadriquela have signified to participate in the concert. A group from Sibale, called IngSaBat will also join and sing two or three of my compositions. I will sing, if the weather cooperates.

The lead performer at the concert will be 1622-Unang Usbor, Romblon’s only performing band, which in my language will continue to be so unless other tribes in the province come out and disprove me.

The 1622: Unang Usbor has performed in April in Sibale and in May in Simara. Last February, they invaded the Asi population of Batangas with a post-Valentine concert and proved to all and sundry that Asi songs have not only an appreciative audience. They also promise to be with us while we continue to have babies to be lulled to sleep and emotions to express.

The Asi singing is a miniature replica of Philippine society casting out the devils of its impoverished, dilapidated, and oppressed existence. I make these comments in the context of the extraneous purposes of the concert, which are to raise funds for the BHSAA Scholarship and Medical Mission Funds and for the Biniray, Banton’s religious mecca.

I mind very much that private citizens like Lyndon have to supplant the provincial government’s role in ensuring that Romblomanons are well-educated and healthy. For if the likes of Rep. Budoy Madrona and Gov. Jojo Beltran are true to their calling as public servants, they would flush with shame in knowing that it is civic groups, like Lyndon’s, that are minding the public welfare.

But this is a parenthetical thought. The concert is what matters at the moment. “Our goal is to promote cultural heritage, provide local talents exposure to a bigger audience and help hone their talents, and promote closer ties between the Asi-speaking Romblonons,” Lyndon says.

Noble, these objectives are.

Lyndon is not alone, though in his admirable efforts.

There is the Asi Studies Center for Culture and the Arts (ASCCA) which, since September 2008, has been working tirelessly to build the musical skill of 1622-Unang Usbor.
The ASCCA derives much support from the online group RDL-CLEAR, which is on the forefront of educational, cultural and economic initiatives in the province. RDL-CLEAR members may be anonymous, but without them, ASCCA would not have been able to mount on its own its various cultural projects.

In the Philippines, ASCCA’s project director is another Asi. She is Nota Magno, who teaches anthropology at the Ateneo de Manila University. Ms. Magno’s invaluable efforts in the Asi’s cultural revival could put to shame our politicians’ years of strutting on the corridors of power. These politicians are a bunch of useless ignoramuses when it comes to Romblon culture.

“As artists,” Ms. Magno says, referring to the members of 1622-Unang Usbor, “their relevance is in the cultural work (that) they do for the Asi of Banton and of Romblon, not only the music that they bring. Their work extends from raising music appreciation among the Asi to the revival of the Asi language, a crucial element of Asi cultural heritage”.

The preservation, propagation and promotion of culture may be a lonely kind of work, but it is its own rewards.

On August 8, it will be time for these rewards to be harvested. Join us in the concert and share in the bounty of the Asi’s musical heritage.

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