Vicente Rubi and the story of "Kasadya"
- Garry B. Lao () - February 20, 2007 - 12:00am
Everyone can effortlessly sing or hum the possibly most popular Philippine carol, "Kasadya Ning Taknaa." But little is known of the man who composed this Visayan Christmas song since its inception in 1933.

SO, WHO WAS THE MAN BEHIND THE "KASADYA"? BORN ON JANUARY 22, 1903, VICENTE DACLAN RUBI, A CEBUANO COMPOSER OF DAYGON (CAROL) AND BALITAW (SONG), WAS 30 YEARS OLD WHEN HE COMPOSED THE "KASADYA" (LITERALLY MEANING "MERRY"), WHICH WAS PURPOSELY WRITTEN TO BE SUNG IN A CEBUANO STAGE PLAY THAT FEATURED A SCENE WITH CAROLERS. VICENTE, IN HIS EARLY AGE, WORKED AS A CONTRACT LABOR FOREMAN IN THE SUGAR FARMS AROUND THE PROVINCE OF CEBU. THE TRADITIONAL TITLE OF RESPECT OF "NOY" WAS AFFIXED TO VICENTE'S NAME. THOUGH NOY INTING ONLY FINISHED HIS ELEMENTARY YEARS AND NEVER HIGH SCHOOL, HE NEVERTHELESS PUT HIS GIFTED TALENTS TO USE BY COMPOSING SONGS.

THE "KASADYA NING TAKNAA" IS BOTH CATCHY AND MELODIOUS, EXUDING THE JOY OF THE TRADITIONAL FILIPINO "PASKO" AND EVOKING VISIONS OF AGUINALDO MASSES, SIKWATE AND PUTO FOR BREAKFAST, AND THE WARMTH OF FAMILY REUNIONS AMIDST CAROLERS SERENADING HOMES.

VICENTE, WHO MARRIED BRIGIDA ASENIERO RUBI, HAS FOUR CHILDREN - RUDOLFO A RUBI, 79; ALBERTO A. RUBI, 76; LUDIVINA RUBI NAJARRO, 72; AND EDILBERTO RUBI, 70.

STORY HAS IT THAT VICENTE COMPOSED "KASADYA" WITH LYRICIST MARIANO VESTIL AT A TIME WHEN THE MOST POPULAR FORMS OF ENTERTAINMENT IN CEBU WERE LIGHT MUSICAL PLAYS.

THE Freeman VISITED LUDIVINA RUBI NAJARRO'S RESIDENCE AND WAS SHOWED A BOXFUL OF COMPOSITIONS, WHICH FAMILY MEMBERS CONSIDER AS THE ONLY PRICELESS POSSESSION LEFT TO THEM. THE BOX CONTAINED SOME NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, PHOTOGRAPHS AND COMPOSITIONS OF HER FATHER, WHICH WERE WRITTEN IN LONGHAND AND HAVE YELLOWED WITH AGE.

"MAO GYUD NI ANG PINAKAMAHAL NGA BUTANG NGA GIBILIN SA AKONG AMAHAN. BISAN NAWALA NA SIYA ANING KALIBUTANA, ANG IYANG AWIT NAGPABILIN. BISAN TINGALI MAWALA NA PUD MI ANING KALIBUTANA, ANG AWIT NGA KASADYA MAGPABILIN HANGTOD SA HANGTOD," NAJARRO SAID.

NAJARRO SAID THEIR FAMILY IS ALWAYS PROUD EVERY TIME THEY HEAR THE SONG "KASADYA" PLAYED OR SUNG. "DAGHAN ANG WALA NAKAHIBALO NGA AKONG AMAHAN ANG MIMUGNA SA MAONG AWIT APAN BISAN PA MAN NIANA NALIPAY KAMI NGA PADAYON GIHAPON ANG PAGKANTA."

NAJARRO RECALLED HOW HER FATHER LOVED MUSICAL DRAMAS. SHE SAID THAT HIS FATHER WOULD MAKE MUSIC WITH HIS GUITAR. IT WAS HIS WIFE WHO HELPED IN SETTING THE NOTES AND LYRICS OF VICENTE'S COMPOSITIONS INTO FORMAL MUSIC SHEETS.

THE STORY OF "KASADYA" WAS BORN WHERE THE RUBI FAMILY FORMERLY LIVED-WHAT IS NOW P. GULLAS STREET. NEARBY THEN WAS PILI-KANIPAAN (NOW MANALILI STREET) WHERE THE GRANDEST FIESTA IN CEBU WOULD TAKE PLACE EVERY DECEMBER.

RAFAEL POLICARPIO, A CEBUANO PLAYWRIGHT, NEEDED A SONG FOR A DRAMA, WHICH CALLED FOR A GROUP OF PEOPLE WITH TANSANS (SOFTDRINKS CROWNS USED AS IMPROVISED CASTANETS) TO SING DAYGON AT THE GATE OF A BIG HOUSE IN EXCHANGE FOR A "PINASKUHAN." HE NEEDED A SONG FOR A CHRISTMAS SCENE AND ASKED VICENTE FOR A COMPOSITION. DURING ONE OF THE REHEARSALS, VICENTE'S NEIGHBOR PROVIDED THE LILTING MELODY WITH LYRICS.

THE SONG BECAME A HIT AFTER THE PLAY WAS STAGED SOMEWHERE IN OPON, NOW LAPU-LAPU CITY. AUDIENCES THEN CAME FROM AS FAR AS BOHOL, NEGROS, LEYTE AND THE NEIGHBORING TOWNS IN THE PROVINCE. HOWEVER, CONTRARY TO EXULTANT ATMOSPHERE OF "KASADYA," VICENTE SUFFERED FROM THE PAINFUL EXPERIENCE OF HAVING THIS CHRISTMAS CAROL OF HIS UNFAIRLY CREDITED TO TAGALOG COMPOSERS WHO CAME OUT WITH THE TRANSLATION, "ANG PASKO AY SUMAPIT."

IT WAS IN 1950 WHEN VICENTE AGREED TO SELL HIS SONG TO THE MARECO RECORDING COMPANY IN MANILA, WHICH GAVE HIM A P50 ADVANCE PAYMENT FOR ROYALTIES AND THREE CENTAVOS FOR EVERY RECORD SOLD. RECORDS OF MARECO'S BOOK SAID THAT VICENTE SONG SOLD 62,812 RECORDS FROM 1966-1975, BUT WHAT VICENTE GOT WAS ONLY P110.25 ROYALTIES IN 1967, WHICH LESS THAN A TENTH OF THE P1,994.63 THAT WHAT WAS OWED TO HIM THEN.

NAJARRO RECALLED THAT THEIR FAMILY DID NOT RECEIVE ANY MORE PAYMENT FROM MARECO'S AFTER VICENTE AND HIS WIFE TRANSFERRED RESIDENCE TWICE, AFTER REPORTEDLY REFUSING TO LIVE WITH THEIR MARRIED CHILDREN. MARECO WAS SAID TO HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO LOCATE THEM.

IT WAS IN THE YEAR 1976 WHEN VICENTE FILED A SUIT AGAINST MARECO IN QUEZON CITY FOR HIS UNPAID ROYALTIES AND RIGHTS. VICENTE'S LAWYER, RAMON CENIZA SAID THAT WHILE MARECO ISSUED CHECKS IN THE NAME OF VICENTE, THE COMPANY DID NOT BOTHER TO LOOK FOR VICENTE IN HIS NEW ADDRESS. BUT THE CASE HAD TO BE DISMISSED SINCE VICENTE COULD NOT EVEN AFFORD TO TRAVEL TO MANILA.

NEVERTHELESS, VICENTE NEVER GAVE UP. IN THE SAME YEAR, THEY PETITIONED THE NATIONAL LIBRARY TO GRANT A COPYRIGHT FOR VICENTE. BUT A LETTER FROM THE NATIONAL LIBRARY SAID: "THE SONG CAN NO LONGER BE COPYRIGHTED FOR RUBI BECAUSE THE WORK IS CONSIDERED BELONGING TO THE PUBLIC AND NO PROTECTION CAN BE SOUGHT UNDER PRESIDENTIAL DECREE 49 OR THE LAW ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY."

IN 1979, VICENTE'S LAWYER CENIZA FILED ANOTHER CASE BEFORE A CEBU COURT AND ASKED THE COURT TO EXEMPT HIS CLIENT FROM LITIGATION FEES SINCE HIS CLIENT IS A POOR MAN.

IT WAS IN 1988 WHEN THE CEBU COURT, JUDGE HERNANDO SALAS, GAVE A DECISION IN HIS FAVOR ENTITLING HIM TO GET P1,884.34 DUE HIM FROM 1966-1975.

BUT LIFE RAN OUT ON VICENTE EVEN BEFORE THE DECISION IN HIS FAVOR CAME. BY THEN, VICENTE HAD PASSED AWAY IN NOVEMBER 12, 1980 AFTER LOSING HIS BATTLE WITH PROSTATE CANCER. HE WAS BURIED IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CARRETA CEMETERY.

"PAGKAHIBALO NAMO NGA NAKADAOG MI SA KASO PWERTE NAMONG LIPAYA KAY BISAN WALA NA AKONG PAPA, ANG IYANG GIPAGLABAN NGA KATUNGOD AMONG GIPADAYON," NAJARRO SAID, SAYING THAT EVEN IN HIS DEATHBED, HER FATHER PLEADED TO HER TO KEEP ON THE FIGHT AND PURSUE THE CASE IN COURT FOR HIS AND HIS FRIEND VESTIL'S SAKE.

NAJARRO RECALLED THAT DURING HER FATHER'S LAST FEW MONTHS, VICENTE CONTINUED TO COMPOSE SONGS WITH "MAHANAW ANG TANAN" AS HIS FINAL SONG, PERHAPS INDICATIVE OF THINGS TO COME. AMONG HIS HUNDREDS OF COMPOSITIONS WAS ALSO "CARMELA," WHICH HAS BECOME A POPULAR CEBUANO KUNDIMAN AND IS STILL SUNG BY BALLADEERS TO THIS DAY.

VICENTE PROVED TO BE INEXHAUSTIBLE, COMPOSING SUCH SONGS AS "AMONG DAYGON," "PASKO NGA HALANDUMON," "PASKO NA," "NAG-AMBAHAN," "MAGLIPAY KITA," AMONG OTHERS.

THOUGH HE COMPOSED HUNDREDS OF OTHERS, IT WAS "KASADYA" THAT TRULY ACHIEVED NATIONAL PROMINENCE.

Following his death, Rubi garnered several posthumous awards. Among those who recognized his contribution to Cebuano music were then Cebu City Mayor Florentino Solon, the Province of Cebu, the Cebu Arts Foundation, the Basic Industries Foundation, among others.

Vicente Rubi will also be one of the first recipients, along with "Matud Nila" composer Ben Zubiri, of the Jose R. Gullas Awards, in coordination with The FREEMAN, Banat News and ABS-CBN's dyAB, for attaining the "pinnacle of achievement." "Kasadya" lyricist, Mariano Vestil, will also be recognized in the said occasion that will take place on February 28, 2007, 6pm at the Casino Español de Cebu. Several of their renowned compositions will be performed by the award-winning UV Chorale. Indeed, while Vicente died a pauper, his family, nevertheless, continues to take pride in his priceless and timeless contribution in making Christmas a whole lot merrier and brighter through his song.

BANAT NEWS CEBU KASADYA NAJARRO RUBI SONG VICENTE
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