Susan Fuentes and the Hermeneutics of a Bisdak Medley

DIYANDI - DIYANDI By Cora M. Almerino () - August 21, 2005 - 12:00am
It takes a Sunday morning and an open window, at least for me, to listen to Susan Fuentes singing a folk Bisdak medley.

The reason for these self-imposed requirements is not as simple as trying to be nostalgic or to be in my Miss True-Blue Self again. As far as I know, to prefer to listen to this folk Bisdak music by Susan Fuentes is to seek meaning in places where meaning is often said not to be found.

Music lovers of this recent generation who have immersed themselves in hip-hop and other western music may not deem this Bisdak medley by Susan Fuentes relevant to their sensibility. I am not surprised at all if I will be weirded out for choosing to listen to Susan Fuentes (who may be dead, by now) in all the Sundays and opened windows of my life.

I listen to Susan Fuentes and her folk Bisdak medley because I am making legitimate claims in terms of the discursive meanings of the Bisdak music; supporting critical interpretations of text by positing their meanings as not extra musical but exactly connected to the legitimacy of what might be a Bisdak lifestyle that we have lost to the extreme assemblage of western practices.

In other words, I would like to know how this Bisdak Medley of Susan Fuentes becomes an inevitable process of a continuous representation of my Bisdak culture. In other words, I am attempting an ambitious hermeneutics of a Bisdak medley.

In doing this hermeneutics, I have to open this hermeneutic window and welcome three views. One is a Kantian lens on music as "pure sensations without concepts, and so does not, like poetry, leave something over for reflection." The other is a J. L. Austin lens which distinguishes constative and performative utterances. The third lens is mine.

Susan Fuentes, my eternal diva, in her Awitnong Bahandi album, sings this folk Bisdak Medley: Rosas Pangdan, Pobreng Alindahaw, Krutsay, Kamingaw sa Payag, Matud Nila, Ang Bol-Anon.

This Bisdak Medley is a combination of Allegretto melody and rhythm measured in ¾ meter and the rich semantics of Bisdak lyrics. I am not quite safe in saying that this melody is devoid of western appropriation but I guess I am safe in claiming that this melody is not guilty of semantic bleakness and conceptual absence. I am safe in claiming that this medley can rise to the Kantian challenge of "leaving something over for reflection."
Take these lines from Rosas Pangdan:
Ania si Rosas Pangdan
Gikan pa intawun sa kabukiran
Kaninyo makig-uban-uban
Niining gisaulog ninyong kalingawan
Balitaw ray akong puhonan
Maoy kabilin sa akong ginikanan
Awit nga labing karaan

Rosas Pangdan is absolutely the anti-thesis of Dalaga sa Bukid. Though the same songs have the same situation where the lady from the countryside goes down to the plains and discovers a quite different culture, Rosas Pangdan is not guilty of essentializing herself as a countryside woman. In Dalaga sa Bukid, the lady somehow defines what essentially is a dalaga sa bukid but in setting the parameters she is also outrightly judging the other culture. Rosas Pangdan simply and sweetly says that all she has is her gift for Balitaw. But for a woman to have a gift for Balitaw is not to be taken for granted. That gift clearly warns that such woman is set on engaging herself in any challenge of wit. I can smell this gift in every Cebuano woman whether she comes from the countryside or the city. Next song in line is everyone's familiar song, Pobreng Alindahaw. Akoy pobreng alindahaw Sa huyohoy gianud-anud Nangita og kapanibaan Ahay! Sa tanaman sa mga kabulakan ...Di ka ba maluoy ning pobreng alindahaw

I used to teach my nieces and nephews this song. But when I listened to it closely, I began to feel the need to help my nieces and nephews take this song in a proper perspective. I am guilty of looking past the sexual undertone in it. I was carried away by the sensation of the melody to the point of thinking it could be a good nursery song! Stupid me.

Pobreng Alindahaw shows the rich metaphorical consciousness of the Bisdak. Alindahaw is among the archetypes we have for the male. This song poses a political conjecture not on the flower and dragonfly, bee and flower, butterfly and flower, but on the flower as symbol for openness. The openness here is both constative and performative. It demonstrates the signification that is both sexual and political. The openness in the symbol of a flower is also a political power of the woman, which she may indulge in and which could go out of hand. This same openness can either be submission or subversion for her. One of the themes in this Bisdak medley is how the Bisdak deal with life as expressed in the song, Krutsay.
Timbang kamo
Hinubig kamo
Dagan ngari
Dagan ngadto
Haaay kalaay
Wala nay modaug
Ingon sa kibahuhing sakayanon
Ang uwan og init
Giantus namo sa way pagpasilong
Ania pay kakapoy ug kagutom pa gayud intawun
Giantus ang tanan kay gimbut-an sa kapalaran
Midag-um midag-um na dapit sa atong kahabagatan
Pagbantay-bantay mga kauban
Ang timbangan dili pagbiyaan
Antuson ta kini kay maoy atong panginabuhi
Antuson ang tanan kay gimbut-an sa kapalaran

I personally did not put much weight on the lines, "Antuson ta kini kay maoy atong panginabuhi/ Antuson ang tanan kay gimbut-an sa kapalaran." I instead took my lens to the part of this song where I found the philosophy of life of the Bisdak organic intellectual. For the Bisdak organic intellectual, his way to survive his frequently stormed life is to strike a balance as shown in the situation described by these lines, "Timbang kamo/ Hinubig kamo/

Dagan ngari / Dagan ngadto/ Haaay kalaay/ Wala nay modaug/ Ingon sa kibahuhing sakayanon/ Ang uwan og init/ Giantus namo sa way pagpasilong / Ania pay kakapoy ug kagutom pa gayud intawun / Giantus ang tanan kay gimbut-an sa kapalaran / Midag-um midag-um na dapit sa atong kahabagatan/ Pagbantay-bantay mga kauban Ang timbangan dili pagbiyaan.

The playfulness found in the melody of this song legitimizes the sense of humor of the Bisdak in negotiating through his own tragedies. This is the same playfulness that outwits such tragedies. For those who think that Matud Nila overkills its own sentiment, I think this song is something that must be left over for political reflection.
(Matud Nila)
Matud nila ako dili angay
Nga magmanggad sa imong gugma
Matud nila ikaw dili malipay kay wa akoy bahandi
Nga kanimo igasa.
Gugmang putli mao day pasalig
Maoy bahanding labaw sa bulawan
Matud nila kaanugon lamang sa imong gugma
Ug parayeg.
Dili maluba kining pagbati
Bisan sa unsa nga katarungan
Kay unsa pay bili ning kinabuhi
Kon sa gugma mo hinikawan
Ingna ko nga dili ka motuo
Sa mga pagtamay kong naangkon
Ingna ko nga dili mo kawangon
Damgo ko ug pagsalig sa gugma mo.

Matud Nila more than just a love song is actually a reflection of the vulnerability of a personal and loving relationship to social stratifications, and the early Bisdak composer saw the ugliness of this stratification. This same issue is still hovering the Bisdak community to this day, only that it attacks people in all sorts of relations in another form: political and cultural privileging.

These very songs need a whole time for listening for they must be transferred to the mind where there is a reserved space of culture that informs their meanings. These very songs coalesce in the mind and body of the Bisdak. Thus, the songs are subjectively autonomous, devoid of any aesthetic insecurity because it has created its own interiority, independent of any criteria.

Susan Fuentes is probably the first Bisdak of hermeneutic attitude though she might not have been conscious of it. With the way she sings these songs she somehow gives me the feeling that she is trying to lessen what is obvious and skillfully brings the obvious to the level of unsaying that a listener like me would end up groping in the dark, finding a metonym for the Bisdak. It is only through a hermeneutic window that understanding of the Bisdak medley can be plausible.

Susan, my hermeneutic diva, is singing structural tropes of my Bisdak sensibility. A legitimate claim. A medley that has spoken a thousand and one undocumented theories of unassuming intellectuals.

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