Rachelle’s art songs on CD/A song of the Revolution: ‘Birola, birola, birola’
SUNDRY STROKES (The Philippine Star) - January 11, 2014 - 12:00am

During the holidays, I received Rachelle Gerodias’ CD of Philippine art songs with Raul Sunico as her assisting artist.

The art songs are

1. Sa Kabukiran

2. Bituing Marikit

3. Kundiman ng Langit

4. Mutya ng Pasig

5. Ako’y Kampupot

6. Nasaan Ka Irog

7. Dahil Sa Iyo

8. Tag-Araw

9. Ang Bilis Naman Dumaan ng Panahon (Premiere Recording)

10. Pamaypay ng Maynila

11. Saan Ka Man Naroroon

12. Hindi Kita Malimot

13. Ano Kaya Ang Kapalaran

A leading soprano of our time, Gerodias has an incredible control of dynamics that can quickly shift back and forth from pianissimo to fortissimo. Her voice is astonishingly powerful for a petite, frail-looking woman. Besides her tremendous technical skill, she has an artistic, sensitive expressivity that is deeply moving. All these qualities are manifested in the art songs.

Sunico, despite being CCP president and UST Conservatory dean, finds time to often serve as accompanist, an excellent one. His multiple roles also include being a celebrated international pianist who regularly concertizes here and abroad, an arranger-composer, an author of books for the young and a pedagogue.

The combined talents of Gerodias and Sunico should make the CD a most valuable acquisition for music lovers, particularly for singers and pianists.

A song of the Revolution

My mother, Severina Luna-Orosa, M.D., nick-named “Binay,” inherited her musicality from her mother who played operatic arias on the harp. The oldest child in the family, Binay must have been eight years old when the Filipinos revolted against Spanish colonial rule. To escape the ravages of war, Binay’s family sought refuge in the mountain fastness of Batangas. In their hideout, Binay would hear the rebels singing “Birola, Birola, Birola” as they went up and down the mountains.

The soldiers, who were not expected to be good in Spanish, rendered the song in Tagalog and pidgin Spanish, with Binay listening to the song over and over again. Having a keen ear, a retentive memory, and a sufficient understanding of Spanish, Binay learned the song by heart.

Many years later, she taught me how to sing “Birola.” Here it is with my translation of the Spanish portion.

Birola, birola, birola,

Los Castilas subieron montes,

The Spaniards climbed mountains,

Birola, birola, birola,

Los Castilas siguieron atras.

The Spaniards retreated.

Se marcharon los casadores,

The laborers marched,

Se marcharon guardias civiles,

The civil guards marched,

Mandaluyong y Sta. Ana,

Griteron guardia a formar.

They shouted: Form guard.

Makati, Guadalupe,

Armaron bayoneta,

Armed with bayonets,

Y al toque de la corneta,

And at the sound of the horn,

Ninguno se escapo.

No one escaped.

Teteroteo, pak bong!

Que Cañonazo, bong bong!

Firing cannons, bong bong!

Los Hispanos no ganaran, no ganaran,

The Spaniards won’t win, won’t win,

Y al fin de esto,

And at the end of this,

Se marcharan, se marcharan.

They’ll leave, they’ll leave.

Viva, Emilio, Pio del Pilar,

Vivan los soldados, valor singular.

Long live those soldiers of singular valor.

Alla Pio, donde se ataco,

There, Pio, where we attacked,

Fuego derecho, esquierda,

Firing right and left,

Ang Castila nag takbo!

When someone asked my permission to sing the song at an Instituto Cervantes session, he asked me later, what “Birola” meant. I could not think of any other answer except “Biro lang.”

At the launching of my book “Turning Back the Pages,” wherein “Birola” is reprinted along with the music as arranged by Raul Sunico, I sang the song audaciously. To my considerable surprise, the audience liked it so much I had to render “Birola” again.

Those who wish to learn the song “Birola” may acquire “Turning Back the Pages” from the National Book Store or the Solidaridad Bookshop.


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