Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Missing the Gamelan Gang

I was rummaging through my drawers yesterday in hopes of getting rid of not-so-useful things so that I can make additional closet space for my books. I stumbled upon some important documents I thought I lost, a couple of unread paperbacks purchased from book bargains, and the green clearbook where I put a myriad of papers from high school: certificates, letters, old notebooks and *gasp* my drafts for the class prophecy! There was also a thin sketchbook of editorial cartoons, and in between its pages I found this:

..never mind that they got my surname wrong

This is my Cultural Center of the Philippines performer ID back from high school. But no, I'm not a dancer; I never became a part of our high school’s renowned Sining Lahi Dance troupe. I was there as a member of the Himig Kawayan Ensemble, a gamelan orchestra that provided music for our dance troupe’s performance.

One quick tidbit about gamelan: it’s a musical ensemble from Indonesia made up mostly of bamboo flutes, metallophones, gongs, and similar instruments. I was the player of angklung, notes for B and B-flat melody (ti and ti-flat) in the pentatonic scale. For the curious, click here to see how angklungs look like.

Just seeing it makes me want to touch the instrument again. Four years is such a long time but my memories are fresh as if they're just conceived yesterday. I remember as we angklung club members sat scale-wise while waiting for our conductor, cleaning our instruments with rugs and furniture wax. There were angklungs, bum-bongs, marimba, and a drum set. We memorized and played songs like “La Cacuracha”, “Ili-ili Tulog Anay”, “The Prayer” etc. We sometimes played “Mabuhay” to welcome visitors to our school; we sometimes played the National Anthem. We performed in churches, city halls, and attended social functions as musicians. We were featured in “Concert in the Park” twice at ABC5. We answered invitations and traveled to provinces. And I remember those happy December nights when we went for caroling! Imagine how strange it looked: more than a score of kids laughing and strolling in the night, toting rare-looking bamboo instruments in their arms. People were in awe when we gave them our music. :’) We got only a few money, but the experience was priceless. It’s so nostalgic.

And of course, our performance night at the CCP—who could forget that? The rehearsal nights were choked with pressure and fun (we usually went home at about 2am), but nothing beats standing on the stage producing music while the spotlights washed down on us. It was…glorious. We couldn’t see the audience when we played, but they gave us their own sort of music that made our hearts sing after the curtains closed: their roaring applause. :)

I wonder about the new generation of angklung members now. For sure, our conductor and mentor, Mr. Agusto Baldoz, would continue our legacy (yep, we’re the pioneers) in our school. I wish them the best of luck! Perhaps I’ll pay them a visit one of these days. I miss my alma mater anyway.

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