Thursday, April 11, 2002

Lucio San Pedro's 'Sa Dalampasigan'

Lucio San Pedro’s `Sa Dalampasigan’ April 11, 2002 I WAS SO stunned by the grandeur and beauty of it--the orchestral music, the soaring voice, the lyrics--that my eyes moistened. It was like a grand sacred anthem. And I imagined Lucio San Pedro, about 70 at that time, wielding the baton, holding it like a magic wand as if signaling the heavens to pour down the music, please, now, on the beloved motherland, lupang mahal ng araw. The music was almost visual, more beautiful than a thousand sun-kissed islands on tourism posters.

God, I prayed, let there be traffic so I could listen to the car radio till the music’s end. My prayer was answered. And I could not help thinking, where do they hide Filipino music like this, why aren’t they played more often, why aren’t they on CD? Thank God for DZFE (98.7 FM).

One of the times I was driving when wished I would get stalled in traffic and not arrive at my destination right away was last Saturday evening. I was on my way to a special family gathering somewhere in UP when I tuned in to DZFE, the only station that plays purely fine and classical music. The evening program, “Bravo, Filipino”, was featuring music composed by Lucio San Pedro and those whose lyrics were written by Levi Celerio. The station was paying tribute to the two National Artists who died last week within days of each other.

San Pedro will be buried today, in his hometown of Angono, where the remains of National Artist Botong Francisco are buried. This was San Pedro’s humble wish. Celerio was buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani where National Artists are laid to rest.

One of the great pieces that was played on DZFE that evening I was on the road was San Pedro’s “Lupang Mahal ng Araw” (Land Beloved of the Sun), a 30-minute symphonic composition for orchestra and voice. (Should I call it a concerto for voice then? It had something like several movements and songs in it.)

The late soprano Lilia Reyes and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Orchestra performed, with no less than the composer himself conducting. It was a live recording of an October 28, 1980 performance, the program host said, and technology was not so good then, so expect some glitches. See, I memorized almost everything that was said even while driving. Who wrote the lyrics, I didn’t catch.

Well, something like that also happened to me some years ago when I heard for the first time, also on DZFE, San Pedro’s “Sa Dalampasigan” (On the Seashore), a composition for orchestra, chorus and solo. I lost no time and e-mailed DZFE, pleading to have a copy. Oh yes, the station sent me a cassette tape with “Sa Dalampasigan” plus several San Pedro piano compositions. Alas, it did not say who the performers were and who wrote the lyrics. But thanks!

“Sa Dalampasigan” swept me away. I kept playing this opus these past few days after San Pedro died, listening to it with closed eyes, trying to catch the sound of waves crashing, caressing. I did catch some of the words from the chorus.

“Ang munting alon...Buhat sa malayo...sumasayawsayaw, tumatakbotakbo...” And this one from the baritone/bass: “Nais kong matunaw, at muling iluwal ng langit, upang di ko madama yaring pagtitiis.”

Wow. Oh, and a lot of pagsusumpaan and buhangin. Imagine the music.

It is all very onomatopoeic, in both the sound of its music and lyrics. There is a part that reminds me of that climax in the wedding union in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”, I think.

The music peaks then one hears the cymbals go bang and the trumpets soar and the sky breaking open. And then the music recedes in peace and surrender, like waves going home to the sea. It is a mystical moment. Like tasting the grandeur of God.

There is something about San Pedro’s music that tells you it is distinctly Filipino, like the kundimans of Nicanor Abelardo and the hymns of Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros SJ. The sigh, the laughter, the longing, the ecstasy—they are Filipino. For the beauty of its melody, yes the melody alone, San Pedro’s “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” can stand proudly beside Mendelssohn’s immortal “On Wings of Song”. I heard “ Ugoy” on DZFE that Saturday evening I was on the road, being played by the UP Guitar Ensemble and it sounded universal in its beauty and simplicity, I tried imagining it being played on the Russian balalaika.

  If Abelardo’s undying”Mutya ng Pasig” has been made the theme song for the resurrection of the Pasig River, San Pedro’s “Sa Dalampasigan” should be the anthem of the movement to save our endangered coastal areas and corral reefs.

There is something about rivers and sea shores. Is it the water, the movement, the shape, the surge of life? They evoke something in dormant souls. And their spirit, when set to music by an Abelardo or a San Pedro, stuns you even while you’re behind the wheel.

I’ve had my moments with ocean and shore. Like when the water starts off as a slow symphonic movement then takes a sudden turn and climaxes with a roll of drums and an explosion of cymbals.

The sea quakes to a crescendo, then hurls itself against the rocks. Here before you is a concerto at its tempestuous peak. Water breaking into a million crystalline pieces. It is pure music. Salt melts in your eyes. Suddenly you are no longer afraid.

Find that hallowed place where sea and land wed in one turbulent embrace, and that place farther out where, sometimes, there is only the silence of the cathedral waves folding and unfolding. I found it in “Sa Dalampasigan” where San Pedro gave us a foretaste of the eternal shores. #