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PIA Press Release

Baclayon's "kirial" lands in heritage book

Tagbilaran City (19 May) -- Baclayon's rare sacred manuscripts for choral music formally called Kirial de esta Yglesia de Baclayon Aņo de 1826 is the subject of a heritage benchmark book launched recently by the Intramuros Administration.

Written by UST Professor and Musicologist Maria Alexandra Iņigo-Chua, the book discusses the Kirial, which contains mass cycle compositions used in the liturgical service of the Catholic Church in Baclayon during the late 18th to early 19th century.

The rare find, one that remained hidden in the musty cabinets of the 1595 church came out to the open after Inigo-Chua was introduced to it by now Boholano heritage scholar Fr. Milan Ted Torralba sometime in 1997.

Intriguingly enough, the music found in the Baclayon choir books was written in a now-obsolete mensural notation using neumes, characteristic of the Gregorian chanting.

As such, it had to be translated into contemporary notation, if it were to be rendered comprehensible to the modern musician, she admitted to reporters during the launch.

Unfortunately for Chua, she found no reference books to turn to for the task. She had to find her own way of translating the music into a readable score.

With persistence and insight, she eventually found a way to translate the pieces and indeed to perform them.

First heard again during the 400th jubilee of the church years ago, the Chua notations was sang by the famous Loboc Children's Choir and was accompanied by a Benedictine priest who has to read the score from another songbook providentially uncovered in the archives of nearby Dimiao church.

"Anyone who has felt queasy about singing at Mass the pop version of the "Our Father" would probably wonder what church music used to be like," Chua narrates.

"Today, a churchgoer is likely to walk into a liturgy where music is accompanied by Casio organs and minus one tapes, along with karaokes, guitars, microphones, and speakers. In the early 19th century, was church music as informal?" she asks.

The music scholar describes the 19th century Baclayon church music as "simple and conservative," reflective of the kind of plainsong and chant favored in Spain at that time.

She notes, however, that while the melodies were simple and monophonic, like that of typical Philippine folksongs, the choir was accompanied by the majestic pipe organ.

It is a clear and unique evidence of the wealth of our Filipino-Spanish encounter and heritage, says culture worker and baclayon parishioner Lutgardo Labad, when he heard the music interpretation the choir.

In 1999, after probably more than a hundred years, the kirial's Misa Baclayana was performed by the Loboc Children's Choir under the baton of Alma Taldo and accompanied on the organ by Fr. Maramba.

With tears in their eyes, the audience sat rapt as the melodies unfolded from the choir, wafted, and soared through the entire church, resonating with a musical modality which is both Western and native, so spiritual, so original, and yet so deeply anchored in local soil, Labad recalls.

Meanwhile, Fr. Torralba said "it is important that an ordinary Boholano can read this book ?because the Boholano must not only identify with this work, but must first claim Misa Baclayana and the entire cantorales as his or her own: that the Boholano must say that he or she belongs to these and these are resources that belong to Bohol's cultural heritage treasury worth preserving, restoring, and perpetuating."

"Heritage, you see, although it speaks of the past, belongs to the future. We in this 'now,' in this present, are the stewards of heritage," Fr. Torralba said. (PIA-Bohol) [top]

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