In 1997, Parokya ni Edgar asked, “Uso pa ba ang harana?” While the song “Harana” became one of the few standout OPM hits of the past two decades, its subject matter, the forgotten tradition of serenading, never resurfaced from the bowels of obscurity.
This very premise is the plot of the critically acclaimed 2012 documentary Harana: The Search for the Lost Art of Serenade, which follows musician Florante Aguilar on his quest to unearth, if not revive, the distinctly Filipino musical art form. In the film, Aguilar and his companions perform an authentic harana, something that notably differs from the harana that most of us know.
Harana, apparently, is not just a serenade. It’s not simply a guy singing cheesy love songs and acting silly in front of the house of the girl he’s wooing – with or without friends to back him up. According to the documentary’s website, harana is “a traditional form of courtship in the Philippines wherein men introduced themselves and/or wooed women by singing underneath her window at night. It was widely practiced in old Philippines with a set of protocols, a code of conduct and a specific style of music.”
Aguilar, who has somewhat become an expert on the topic, explains on his blog that harana has a formal structure. It begins with the “panawagan” or announcement of the haranista’s arrival, followed by the “pagtatapat” or declaration of the suitor’s romantic intentions, “panagutan” or the woman’s response, and ends with the “pamaalam” or bidding goodbye at the end of the night. All these parts are carried out by singing songs expressing each specific message. (Aguilar has all the details here: www.florante.org/blog/2010/10/28/the-different-stages-of-harana-serenading/)
In the traditionally conservative Philippines, where chastity and family values were of utmost importance, harana was one of the acceptable ways to woo a girl you liked, which of course took place under the watching eye of her parents. But those days are far gone.
The pamamanhikan – or asking parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage – is the sole survivor of the classic Filipino mating rituals. To a lesser extent, the panliligaw or long courtship still exists, but most people would rather date, see movies and eat out than entertain a queue of suitors at home with their mothers hovering.
Meanwhile, harana fell out of practice because it reached the point of irrelevance. In this age of social networking, playlists and emoji, you don’t have to do it. There are other ways to impress the object of your affection, most of which don’t involve making a fool of yourself with off-key notes in front of an audience consisting of her whole family and next-door neighbors.
But for a truly memorable and romantic gesture that’s all the way kilig and mom-and-dad-approved, our very own “lost art of serenade” is the way to go. So beg your grandfather to teach you songs from his youth, grab your friends and a guitar, put on your old barong, knock on her door and sing your heart out.
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