eK! is electronic Kabalen, a web-exclusive Kapampangan journal of ideas

rosendo m. makabali
rosendo m makabali AS EARLY as October, if you took the escalator or stepped down the stairs from Nepo Mall beside the Camalig, you would have caught from a nearby sound system the unmistakable strains of Christmas tunes, albeit rendered in arrangements you couldn't at first quite place.

And if you were listening closely enough, you also would have found yourself struck, in a eureka moment of recognition, by the stream of Kapampangan lyrics the songs carried.

An oldtimer would internalize the experience marveling at the elevation of even the pedestrian chorus of "Ey! Pasku na / Pasku na / Nananu ko pa?..." ("Pasku Na," Kapampangan adaptation of "Jingle Bells") to the soundtrack of commerce surging into the season of gift buying and giving and marathon feastings.

* * *

Christmas in Pampanga gained a new impetus with the launch of the CD   conceptualized and produced by Camalig honcho Marco D. Nepomuceno, under the independent label NepoMusik.

The October release marked the beginning of Historic Camalig Restaurant's (home of the famous Armando's Pizza) celebration of 25 years in the business that culminated that December.

Recruited for the project were, by channel of Kapampangan researcher Mike Pangilinan (aka Siuala ding Meangubie), Jimmy Baul (aka Jimming Bini), a noted don of the "pulosa" tradition, and the Starlicks, a superlative 8-member combo based in Arayat.

A good number of the adaptations were done by Baul (Bini), who also contributed some stirring original songs. Collaborating on the rest of the adaptations were Nepomuceno, himself a published author and respected preserver and promoter of Kapampangan culture and artifacts, and Titus Toledo, a reluctant renaissance being who would rather limit credit for his involvement with art cover and sleeve design of the CD.

The CD was recorded at STL Lights & Sounds, under the capable hands of sound engineer Samuel T. Lopez, sometime September, somewhere in Villa Teresa, Angeles City.

* * *

The range of the 18-song album embraces, for one, adaptations that may be considered as seriously plausible versions of well-loved noels—"Alang Kapupusang Tula" ("Joy to the World"), "Benging Mapayapa" ("Silent Night"), "Keni Tamu at Lumapit" ("Adeste Fidelés"), "King Aré Ya Mikera" ("Away in a Manger"), "Ing Bingut a Jesus" ("Mary's Boy Child"), "Ding Angel Magkanta La" ("Hark! The Angels Sing"), and "Dios a Pekamatas" ("Angels We Have Heard on High").

Take, for instance, "Keni Tamu at Lumapit" ("Adeste Fidelés"): "Keni tamungan / At lumapit Kaya / Dalauan ta Ya ngan / King Bethlehem // Kambé ning tula / At magpuri ta Kaya / King Aring mibait / Guinung Jesu Kristu / Ipasyag tamu ngan / Aleluya! // Pati ing banua / Mitmung kagalangan / Ing Dios a matas / Migkatauan tau // Kristung mayubu / Binyeng kagalangan / Ukbu da reng angel / Ginulisak da …"

At the other scale of the collection are the humorously contemporized, localized, carols—"Pasku Na" ("Jingle Bells"), "Paskung Kapampangan" ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"), "Oy! Balen" ("Winter Wonderland"), "Paskung 'Yamanan" ("Jingle Bell Rock"), and "'Tang Kulas Mayayat" ("Santa Claus is Coming to Town"). Giving away the Kapampangan's propensity for feasting and revelling—Christmas-time or not—are "Paskung Kapampangan" ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") and "Paskung 'Yamanan" ("Jingle Bell Rock").

The first serving goes: "'Tin lang pabu, regalu / At nanungan pamu / Ubas, mansanas, peras / At castañas / Pero balu yo / Nung bakit ini ing favorite ko // King Paskung Kapampangan / Number one ing pamangan / Catered o turu-turu / Da best ya pangalutu // Dila man o dilata / Pabu man o pabuklat / Ing timplang Kapampangan / Tuneng alang katapat // Simpli mu ing sikretu / Dagdag a rekadu / Timplan meng lugud, abé / Ing asan, karni, gule // At potang atakman de / Tutung alang kapante / Lutu mu menapnap ne / Puedi no kanung maté // Mal man, mura, o libri / Manyaman tang dili / Ing noché buena ta keti / Dagdag kang tabureti // Oren na ring bisita / M'ranup la pa keng hapon / Sinaklu nong serbesa / Keti no kanu mapun? // 'Ya ing Paskung Kapampangan."

While the second advises: "Ninu man, nanu man ing problema / Lelé ta pa ing heavy drama / Ing peruisyu sadyang delubyu / Adiang ngeni mu pung Pasku // Ing amun, ing mamun, ing adobu / Ing ubing alé iyapag mu ne / Ing gitara, tambul a lata / Oras nang magkanta // King saya mu, king saya ku / Miaua ya ing yatu / Nung magsaya ka, masaya ya / Ing pasku mu 'diang 'la kang pera // 'Yamanan, 'yamanan, nanu pa man / Ing pamagmalunan / Makasobring lugud, iya'ng pamudmud / Pasku bayu ka matudtud // Ing abo, ing sabo king lababo / Ing ubing alé, kinidnap da ne / ok mu ita, atin mu sang gitara / Payo ne'ing magkanta // King saya mu, king saya ku / Miaua ya ing yatu / Nung maglungkut ka, malungkut ya / Ing Pasku mu 'diang dakal ka pera …"

Approach with caution, though, "'Tang Kulas Mayayat" ("Santa Claus is Coming to Town"): "Magtaka ka, mabigla ka / Mibulang ka kang Papa Santa / 'Tang Kulas kayayat na na // Manupaya, magpasensya / Nung king Pasku, mayna ing sadya / 'Tang Kulas kayayat na na // Ing sadyang very chubby / Ngeni very sexy / Ing sadyang very cute and fat / Ikua nang mengayayat // Manupaya, magpasensya / Ala neng pera i Papa Santa / 'Tang Kulas kayayat na na // Matas ne ing panialuan / Itas da pa kanyan / Ing ditak a para keka / Oy tana, i-tax da pa / Manupaya, magpasensya / Ing aguinaldu ala neng kwenta / 'Tang Kulas kayayat na na …"

Interspersed in the CD's program are Baul's compositions that are informed by the triumphs and travails of the hardy but relatively laid-back people in the central plains of Luzon—"Paskung Pamagsaya," "Deng Bulan Bayu Pasku," "Pasku da Reng Melalang," "Ing Pamanyiklaud neng Pasku," and the plaintive but charged "Masaplala Sana ing Pasku."

The reviewer opts to appropriate here Baul's Paskung Pamagsaya: "Masayang Pasku / Payabut kekayu / Ibat keng pusu ku / Kareng sablang tau / Mikalugud sana / At misaupsaupan / Uling yang tiru na / Ning Mikikébaitan // Pasku na, Pasku na / Mamagkanta ta na / Pasku na, Pasku na / At miterakan ta pa // Masaya sana / Ing paskung daratang / Pasalamatan king Dios / A miglalang / Inale ne ing bie na / Para kekatamu / Ginung Jesu Krsitu / Ngeni kabaitan na // Pasku na, Pasku na / Saupsaup ta na / Pasku na, Pasku na / Mikalugud ta na."

* * *

The trust of idea, sentiment, effort, and talent invested in the making of   is something to reckon with. The appeal of Baul's accessible, homely vocal stylings will last as long as the CD enjoys heavy rotation in Christmases present and future. Ditto for the Starlicks, whose performance whips up delectable blends and turns of indie and pop, "kundiman" and "pulosa," big band swing and jazz, and Beatlesque rock and roll.

Toledo confided to the reviewer that there were one or two leftover cuts from the sessions that would in time spur Nepomuceno to assemble more adaptations to complete a follow-up CD. The present volume succeeded more than just as a celebratory gesture for Camalig; we have in it the Kapampangan's yet another enduring gift and contribution (in the league of the giant lanterns of San Fernando) to the Filipino nation's unrivalled feat of holding the longest and brightest Christmas observance in the world.

  CD is still available at Camalig. Barely a month after its official 2005 release pirated copies have started circulating in the banketas. It is a crying shame to miss out on doing the good deed of buying the original (lyric sheet included), as the proceeds from legitimate sales benefit the Batiauan Foundation's support fund for emerging local original Kapampangan music.

[About the author. Rosendo M. Makabali is literary editor of , a website dedicated to new underground guerrilla exploratory art + literature in the new medium. He has published poetry in several Philippine print magazines and online in spreadhead.net and . A few of his poems appear in Slam the Body Politik, the Revolutionary Multi-Arts, Multi-Media CD ROM released in 2004 by the Australia-based . A chapbook of his, Last Words and Other Poems, came out in 2005, as a grant under the UBOD New Authors Series project of the National Committee on Literary Arts (2001-2004) of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.]

-Posted: 1:20 AM 12/12/07 | More of this author on eK!

Papa Osmubal (of Macau) writes...

Whatever Sendong Makabali writes, he writes it with the quill of the Parnassian muses. I have seen (read) so many Capampangan writer/poet in English, past and present, but no one has captured my poetic palate than Sendong Makabali has. Typical of a seasoned songster, Sendong Makabali's words don't tell, they show.

-Posted/Via Email: Fri, 14 Dec 2007 17:26:07 -0800

Orlando Lacsamana (of Toronto, Canada) writes...

I wonder if the Kapampangan CD is still available? My niece will be home from Toronto, Canada on January 12. Taga-Magalang kami, at pasali kung Kapampangan Christmas carols kaya. Abalu ke ini kang Marcial Caniones, one of the contributors at . Is Camalig in Angeles or San Fernando? Malambat na kami keni Canada, at buri kong damdaman deng kantang Kapampangan.Dakal a salamat. Masayang Pasko at Masaplalang Bayung Banua keka, abe, at kareng pamilya mo.

P.S. Pamu pala, keng panatindi ku, abe, keng site ayni buri yeng gambulan ing lugud king Amanung Sisuan---obat karaklan keng amanung English la deng articles a ababasa ku? Panupaya mu, abe, oyni mu ing apapasin ko.

-Posted/Via Email: Sun, 23 Dec 2007 19:40:34 -0800

The author Rosendo Makabali (of Calibutbut, Bacolor, Pampanga) replies...

Wa, abe, atin pang asasaling kopya na ning "A Camalig Christmas"—keng mismung Historic Camalig Restaurant, Sto. Rosario Street, Angeles City (proper). Makasali ya mu naman karin ing pawnakan mu a "Aslag-Kapampangan Commemorative Pop Music" CD, a kalulwal na pa anyang Nobyembri. Makaulu la reng CDs a reni keng kawa mung makaramdam kantang Kapampangan keng Canada.

Keraklan pin kareng columns keng , abe, keng English la makasulat. Oneng sangkap ne man king pake ning ing pamamudmud a bayung interest ampo keng alang tuknang a pamagaral keng kekatamung Amanung Sisuan. Anya ating mapilan mu naman a columns ampo poesya ing ababasa ta keni. English man o Kapampangan man (o Tagalog man) la susulat deng kekatamung writers, Kapampangan langan daya. Makisanmetung la keng obrang pamamupul keng "Kapampangan state of mind," a kakargan tamu keng pusu ampo papakit keng lugud, lasa, porma, ugali, kimut—nokarin man keng yatu tamu mipadpad. Dakal a salamat keng puna mu, abe. Madagul yang ambag ini bangkanita apalawak ta ya pa ing pamanyalbag keng eganaganang bage a makagaling ampo makalagu keng pamanisip ampo pangatau ning Kapampangan.

I wish peace and power to you always, kabalen.

-Posted/Via Email: Mon, 24 Dec 2007 18:21:07 -0800

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