Cenizal nominated for National Artist
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc () - May 5, 2008 - 12:00am

Google-search “Josefino Cenizal” and onscreen will pop up 717 entries, a third of which have nothing to do with the musician. Type in “Hindi Kita Malimot,” a love song he wrote in 1939, and 8,500 articles will appear, including reviews and fond adaptations as concert or ad titles. “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit” has 11,200 items, showing that the Christmas carol he composed (lyrics by Levi Celerio) is more known than him. But Cenizal doesn’t mind. Weightier for this prolific songwriter-arranger is that Filipinos enjoy the songs as their own. For his dozens of creations that reflect the Filipino character apart from entertaining the Pinoy soul, the Film Academy has nominated him for National Artist.

Cenizal’s works span seven decades. He began arranging and composing music for the movies at age 23 in 1937. He has served as pianist and music teacher, bandleader and musical director. To this day, at age 94, he is active in the music and movie industries, and sits as trustee in the Mowelfund (Movie Workers Welfare Fund), Filscap (Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and the United Film Music Directors of the Philippines.

Cenizal best describes his music: “romantic, folksy.” Most are love songs, like “Pagsamo”, “Bakit Mo Nilimot”, “Agam-Agam”, “Wala Kang Kapantay”, “Silayan Mo Ako”, and “Tanging Pag-Ibig”. His balitaw is catchy, as in “Ang Paglalaba”, “Masaganang Kabukiran”, and “Amihan sa Bukid”. Daughter Moppet, herself into music and the arts, categorizes Cenizal’s works into two periods: the early movie era from 1936 to the 1960s, and the “modern ’60s” to the present. The first consists mostly of classic Filipino love songs, usually themes for the early movies. It was during the period that he wrote the music for “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit”, which Celerio converted into a Christmas song. Cenizal’s first stint was making up the music for Malayan Films’ Nasaan Ka, Irog. Two years later he accepted the lead role with Raymunda Guidote in the movie Rosa Birhen, for which he wrote the theme “Hindi Kita Malimot”. Three directors took turns handling the shootings, but Cenizal ended up seeing to its completion and arranging the scoring. The dimpled, dashing young Cenizal became a star; his song, an instant hit.

The second period mirrors the pop beat and themes of the new era. This includes unpublished inspirations for Cenizal’s wife Olivia, the cinema star of the ’50s-’60s (recently deceased), and Moppet. He also wrote marches for the Rotary and Lions Clubs and top universities, and hymns to St. Paul and the St. Augustine Church in his hometown of Tanza, Cavite. Cenizal rehashed two earlier movie themes into Christmas tunes, “Simbang Gabi” and “Noche Buena”, favorites of the Mabuhay Singers in the ’70s and ’80s. Going strong in 1993, he wrote new pieces and jazzed up old ones into two albums produced by Dr. Demetrio Quirino. Among the interpreters of his songs were Olivia, Ruth Abao Espinosa, and Ayen Munji. Then there was “Nasaan Ka”, another carol in 1995, rendered by Diomedes Maturan. It was distinctive of the day, of two lovers separated at Yuletide by overseas work like millions of Filipinos.

Cenizal still composes on the piano. Sit him by his ebonies and ivories a few inspired moments with his grandchildren, and he’ll come up with ditties about Filipino life and times. Cenizal’s is a national treasure; his songs form part of cultural heritage.

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Caloocan City Rep. Oscar Malapitan retorts to my piece last Friday:

“I will let justice take its course in the complaint against my son and others for the incident involving two minors. But info I received indicates that the minors did not complain of rape. They were apprehended for two curfew violations on two separate dates, but both were not touched. Then, a political rival of my son induced them to file a rape complaint. The father of one of the complainants gave that info to my son and sought help. The rival offered him (father) money to pursue an inexistent case. Even before any complaint reached the police, the Public Information Office of my political rival fed the news to tabloids on Apr. 25. The complaint with the police was lodged only on Apr. 26. That my rival has blown the incident out of proportion is plain from the fact that it was entered into the police blotter twice, the first at 12:38 a.m. and another at 8 p.m. of the same day. A formal complaint was lodged with the prosecutor only Apr. 30. I did not name my rival but surprisingly he made statements refuting his complicity thereof.”

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It would be interesting to read what that father has to say, in case he swears by the alleged bribe for his young daughter to file a rape case. Until then, the word of the two girls stand, along with the medical report on their sexual injuries. Late complaining is not fraud. Meantime, the congressman’s son, brother and co-accused are presumed innocent.

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 E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

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