Songs of the Peasants of Lipa, Batangas by Tarcila Malabanan, 1915 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Songs of the Peasants of Lipa, Batangas by Tarcila Malabanan, 1915 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Songs of the Peasants of Lipa, Batangas by Tarcila Malabanan, 1915

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1915 ethnographic paper written by one Tarcila Malabanan from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

Henry Otley-Beyer Collection

[Cover page.]

Tagalog Paper No. 60.
Folklore #167



Tarcila Malabana

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  1. TAGALOG: Lipa, Province of Batangas. Luzon.
  2. Folklore: Folksongs: Literature.

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[p. 1]



Tarcila Malabanan

One of the chief amusements of the peasants of my locality is singing and hearing songs. On May evenings just before the planting seasons, they gather together before a more or less decorated bamboo pergola illuminated with lights, and there dance and sing until the small hours of the night. During harvest time, after the day’s work of harvesting the rice is over, they assemble in merry groups and relax their tired limbs while listening to favorite songs.

But to the peasant youth, songs are not merely amusement, they are means by which he can publicly manifest his special inclination for a certain girl of his neighborhood. On moonlit nights, a group of young swains would sometimes serenade a popular young lady or young ladies of the community. In this serenade, the young lady is supposed to respond to the songs of the lovelorn youth. It must be said to the credit of the men of these peasants that they are very quick in framing appropriate responses, often inventing their own songs on the spur of the moment. The young men and the young ladies try to outdo each other in their friendly musical contest.

Songs also cheer the tedious hours which the farmer spends in the hot sunshine while tilling his fields. And frequently going in early morning to his patch of soil or returning home in the gray twilight he beguiles the loneliness

[p. 2]

of his way by humming old, familiar tunes.

From the Castilian words found in many of these songs and the reference to the Virgin, the Curate, etc., we learn that they were composed after the coming of the Spaniards. But in sentiment they are Malayan. The spirit of these songs is cheerful and carefree, bearing witness to the optimistic character of the peasants who composed them and sing them. They are devoid of the haunting melancholy that pervades the music and Kundimans (love songs) of the middle and upper classes of the towns.

These peasant songs are miscellaneous in character. Some of them are mere humorous complete many of them are amatory, and a few are narrative lyrics to more or less trifling topics. The peasants do not find it necessary to invent songs with heroic themes, because in the published metrical romances (called original in the dialect), such as “Princess Gloriata,” “Ibong Adarna,” “Juan Teñoso,” they find enough heroic material to satisfy their cravings in this direction.

If the peasant troubadour intends to sing a long song or tell a long story, he may begin with an invocation like the following:

“O enlightened and blessed Virgin
Mother who contained the glorious word
Come to the aid of my lips and tongue
That I may be able to say a few words.
And you planets, sun, and stars
Illuminate my darkened mind.

[p. 3]

And you sampaguitas and fragrant jasmines
Help me with your beauty and fragrances
Drop off your petals
And altogether leave your stems,
And offer something
To those who are gathered here.”

But if he intends to tell a story like the following, he generally does not make use of any introduction but begins at once.

“You diverse birds that fly
And soar in the region of the air
Many sages held a council and decided
To give you each a special office,
The king and chief of all
Is the charming bird “Piadosa.”
And the [blurred word] is the queen consort.
And the “guberdillo” is the secretary.
The “avestro” is the aide-de-camp
And the “araon” is the courtier.
The “tibaco” is the judge of lies
The “tagao” is the teniente mayor
And the “pugapog” is the justice of the police
Who sets as boss of the workers of the road.”

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“Don’t you know that in olden times
They tell a story of a beautiful female dove,

[p. 4]

Orphan of father and mother.
[Blurred word] by various other birds,
The “pipit” and the “tiguamanoc”
Wild dove, “gumay,” “bacas” and “sabucot”
Would not let the world asleep night or day
Because of their love.”

Sometimes, their narrative songs take a humorous turn:

“There is in my country in the east
A gnat passed by and I killed it;
I had its fat melted
And put in seven big jars.
I had its hide tanned
And made into seven chairs.
The people [blurred words] sit on these are all honorable
Ex-tenientes and wives of capitanos.
I had the bones of this great cleaned
And made into church pillars.
And the extra piece about the one-fourth of a [blurred word]
Was made into a ganta, half-ganta, and chupa.”

The lovelorn youth serenading his lady usually begins by singing either one of the songs given below:

“Hail! Master of the house, your dog is fierce,
Open your window and look down on me,
O master of the house if you are sleeping,
Please do not be angry with me.”

[p. 5]

“Hail, master of the house
At this our coming at an unearthly hour,
If you are sleeping,
I hope you will not take offense.”

After this, other songs will follow. The serenader may simply sing the praise of his beloved or may actually signify his feelings by a declaration in song. The sentiment is usually answered in figurative language:

“So you are there, beautiful lemon tree
With branches hanging to the ground
On which birds of different kinds perch,
Which however wild, becomes tame.”

- - - -

“Come my beautiful one
With the regular teeth and the charming smile.”

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“Miss ------- is a beautiful girl.
Her cheeks are as smooth as newly-ironed clothes.”

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“With your permission, I am going to pluck
A beautiful fruit of the “kalamias” tree
The one I’d pluck had better beware,
It is Miss ------- with a mole on her palm.”

- - - -

“Here comes the eagle
To perch on my breast and give me pain.”

[p. 6]

If I cannot catch it with snares and sticky guns,
I’ll catch it yet with constant looks and glances.”

A song like the one below usually accompanies the giving of a glass of water or some other drink:

“Drink, drink for it comes from my hands,
Even if this were poison, it would not kill you,
And if you die through my fault,
Send for me even were I far away.”

- - - -

“Love me for I come from Biñang,
A nephew of the parish priest of Balayan,
I am here lured by the report of your beauty,
Which is comparable to the sun and moon.”

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“I bid farewell to your two eyes,
Do not look at me when I am gone,
And if you happen to look,
It will snap the thread of my life.”

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The young lady who is surrounded responds to these songs, by other songs which express her attitude to the young man. If she wishes to let the man know that he came late, she will probably say:

“You are like the late star,
Which, intending to shine, chose midnight for its time.”

[p. 7]

If she wishes to discourage the lover entirely, she will ask him to do impossible things:

“If you can count the stars in heaven,
Then I shall be yours.”


“If you can count the roots of the bamboo tree
Then I shall be yours.”


“Dear Prince if you really love me,
Plant a coconut in a piece of rock,
Let it grow to day to bear fruit today,
And give me the fruit so that I may use it in cooking.”

Or, more clearly still:

“Honored Prince do not insist on plucking
The shoots of “do not” and fruit of “no”
Even if you build a house near my gate,
I’ll not even throw you a piece of betel nut peeling!”

- - - -

If the girl wishes to indicate that she is too young to think of love, but that the man is not indifferent to her, she may say:

“Dear Prince, I do not prevent you
From plucking the fruit, if it is ripe.”

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Sometimes, it is the man who works hard conditions of the girl if he finds that she is in love with him:

[p. 8]

“Dear Princess if you really love me,
Get a piece of paper and let us draw a contract
If you can make the aroma leaves into buyo
I shall sail in a betel nut shell.”

And the girl answers:

“Dear Prince, do not say
That I cannot make the aroma leaves into buyo,
Give me wax and paste the leaves together with it
And you will see that it will look just like a buyo of betel leaves.

- - - -

Sometimes, a third person teases two lovers, or wants to let the first be known that his friend is in love with a certain girl. He sings:

“Miss ------- is very beautiful,
She fell into the river and became a geranium,
I asked who is going to get her,
They tell me it is Mr. So and So.”

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“In our country there live in the north
All the young ladies have married
Except Miss -------
And that is because she is kept safe. Go Mr. -------”

[p. 9]

Some of the songs of these peasants are very humorous in character:

“Love me for I am a strong man
I can even lift a chupa of chaff.
A platter of rice and a basketful of fish,
Will make me sick, if I cannot eat them.
Love me for I am an agile man
When the snail jumps, I fail to catch it.”

These peasant lyrics that I tried to translate here all couched [unsure word, somewhat blurred] in [blurred word] in the native dialect; but they can be considered real poetry. However, in some of them can be found once in a while lines of real poetic beauty, delicate in sentiment and rich in imagery. This fact shows the native mental ability of these peasants, many of whom have had practically no education to speak of.

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Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Songs of the Peasants of Lipa, Batangas,” by Tarcila Malabanan, 1915, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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