Halad - museum for the heart
STRAWS IN THE WIND - Eladio Dioko () - June 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Last week a very memorable event took place in Cebu. This was the formal opening of Jose (Dodong) Gullas’ Halad museum. Designed as a simple and quiet happening, the affair was attended only by select guests, among whom were His Eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma. A klatch of culture-conscious Cebuanos were also on hand to give meaning to the occasion. And the composers themselves, at least those whom the years have been a little kinder, venerable presence all, with their loved ones, were also there.

 In this city there are actually a number of museums most of which house the usual museum artifacts – ancient pottery, and gadgetry, Spanish-era appliances and furniture, photographs of long forgotten people, places and others. But not one of them contains the treasures of the Halad museum: Records of traditional Cebuano songs and information on their composers plus the musical instruments with which they were created. In this house of songs, for example, you can see the very piano which Ben Zubiri or “Iyo Carpo” used in giving birth to his immortal “Matud Nila.” And as you gaze in awe at this almost sacrosanct object you can get lifted up in ecstatic state as you listen to the haunting strain of this nostalgic love song.

 Singer and songs transport you to your days of wine and roses when the grass was greener and tender always was the night. And you ask yourself, “Whose voice is that?” A few footsteps and you see a blown-up portrait of the Philippines’ diva of romantic songs: the ageless Pilita Corales. And you can see too in readable prints the very lyric of what you are hearing and your joy becomes complete.

 “Matud nila ako dili angay nga mag-manggad sa imong gugma. . .” A sad statement of a sorrowing heart, your own heart perhaps, for like the songwriter, most of us once felt that way when we were young. That song is actually a ballad of Cebuano love, always sad but always sweet, really reminiscent of the poet Tennyson who says that people “Look before and after/and pine for what is not. . . / Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.” Tennyson, an eighteenth century poet, must not have known about us, Cebuanos, but this line is reflective of a genuine Cebuano sentiment which, of course, is truly Filipino.

 This is the beauty of a museum for traditional music like the Halad. It appeals to your mind but at the same time it touches your heart. Knowing the past is important, but feeling that past is doubly important, for what is learning without the underpinning of soulful experience?

 On this score, the Halad is therefore unique. That’s why it is said to be the only one of its kind in the entire country. And the fact that it is in Cebu should make every Cebuano proud. Pride of one’s heritage – this is exactly what Dodong Gullas, the brain behind this project, wants to awaken in Cebuanos. This explains why in the past few years there has been a series of Halad cultural presentations in this city, all courtesy of Dodong Gullas, whose obsession has been the preservation of Cebuano cultural heritage, particularly in music and performing arts.

 This explains too why through his initiative and that of wife Nena, he has revived the UV chorale which to date, has become a globally recognized and multi-awarded singing ensemble whose native love songs have awakened in many Cebuanos love and appreciation of their ethnic culture.

 A presentation or a concert, however, is a one shot event, an ephemeral moment of delightful experience. After a few days that experience starts to fade until later only the ghost of it lingers in the mind. But if the music is captured in a software, it can be played and replayed indefinitely, thus keeping it fresh always for music lovers to delight on. And if the original composition is preserved with its lyric and notes, how enduring becomes the composer’s creation!

The Halad museum is therefore a tribute to Cebuano talents in music and arts as well as to all lovers of these. It is inspired by one man’s desire to showcase to the whole world the enduring appeal of Cebuano songs and music, a desire he must have inherited from his parents, the late Don Vicente Gullas and Inday Pining Gullas, both of whom were strong advocates of Bisayan performing arts.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with