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Forever 81

Song hit kit from 1935 to 1943

Some favorites and one that made me cry



The first recorded song I ever heard when I was 4 or 5 years old was “Ang Bibingka” by Vicente Ocampo and Atang dela Rama.  My yaya played the big breakable disc over and over on our 1930s crank-up phonograph. The iconic Atang dela Rama and the comedian, Vicente Ocampo, were vod-a-vil performers, and the song was terribly raunchy.  It went like this:

Ang bibingka kung lutuin

Ay kaiba sa lahat

May apoy pa sa ilalim

May apoy pa sa itaas.

Si nanay at si tatay

Minsan ay nagkagalit

Dahil sa bibingkang

Ayaw daw ni tatay

Na malagkit

Ang bibingka etc.


My mama was crazy about Shirley Temple. Like many moms of the era, she made scrapbooks of clippings of the precocious curly-mopped child star.  My mother made me wear copies of her dresses which I hated because they were extremely short.  The words of her most popular song go:

On the good ship, lollipop

It’s a sweet trip, to a candy shop

Where bonbons play

On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay

Lemonade stands, everywhere

Crackerjack bands fill the air

Happy landing on a chocolate bar

I loved the song and saw many movies of Shirley with my mama and papa.  I even own an autographed photo of her that my mother must have ordered from America.

‘Ibong Sawi’

Because I was hyperactive, even as I was growing up, my yaya from Cuenca, Batangas, would sing me a lullaby.  She must have been homesick because she often spoke about her brother Igme and her sister Trining who told her Juan Tamad stories that she in turn related to me.  The song she often sang was “Ako’y Isang Ibong Sawi.”  It was so piteous and sad, it always made me cry.  Eventually I would cover her mouth so she would not continue singing the song.  Here are the lyrics:

Ako’y isang ibong sawi

Na hindi na makalipad

At sa puso’y may sugat

Wala pang lumingap

Inabot ng hatinggabi

Sa madilim na paglipad

Saan kaya ngayon

Ang aking pugad…

Other songs which had very sad melodies were for me “Dandansoy” and “Ili-ili Tulog Anay.”

‘Lubi Lubi’

Although my playmates were panggalatok, they liked singing  “Lubi Lubi,” which is a Bicolano ditty that I learned from them.  Most children then could sing “Lubi Lubi”:

Enero, Pebrero,

Marso, Abril, Mayo,

Hunyo, Hulyo, Agosto

Septyembre, Octubre,

Nobyembre, Disyembre

Lubi Lubi

Kon waray sin abaniko

Patay na ining lawas ko

Lawas ko, ay, ay!


Sa balbas na dimasyado

For a long time I didn’t know what lubi lubi was until a plant grew in our garden called lubi lubi.  Lubi means coconut and lubi lubi is a slim, 6-ft imitation coconut plant with serrated leaves and small inedible fruits that somewhat resemble coconuts.

‘Doon Po Sa Amin’

Although I learned a lot of English songs from school, it was always the Tagalog songs that stuck: “Bahay Kubo,” “Chichiritchit,” “Leron-Leron Sinta,” “Paru-parong Bukid,” “Awit ng Pulubi.”  The latter is still one of my favorites.  It goes:


Doon po sa amin

Bayan ng San Roque

May nagkatuwaang

Apat na pulubi

Nagsayaw ang pilay

Umawit ang pipi

Nanood ang bulag

Nakinig ang bingi


Doon po sa amin

Maralitang bayan

Nagkatay ng hayop

Niknik ang pangalan

Ang taba po nito

Nang maipatunaw

Ang nakuhang langis

Apat na tapayan


Doon po sa amin

Bayan ng Malabon

May isang matandang

Nagsaing ng apoy

Palayok ay papel

Papel pati tungtong

Tubig na malamig

Ang iginagatong.

Another favorite was “Leron-Leron Sinta,” specially its refrain that goes:

Ako’y ibigin mo

Lalaking matapang

Ang baril ko’y pito

Ang sundang ko’y siyam

Ang lalakarin ko’y

Parte ng dinulang

Isang pinggang pansit

Ang aking kalaban

‘Dungawin Mo Hirang’

There was a renaissance of Tagalog songs during the Japanese Occupation because singing English songs was banned.  I was growing up and boys were beginning to notice me.  In the rural areas, like where we evacuated, young swains made their intentions known by singing a harana (accompanied by a guitar) below the girl’s window.

If the suitor was welcome, he was asked to come upstairs.  If unacceptable, the father of the girl threw water (or worse, urine from the chamberpot) at the singer.  Here is the most common harana:

Irog ko’y pakinggan

Awit na mapanglaw

Na nagbuhat sa isang

Pusong nagmamahal

Hwag mong ipagkait

Puso ay ilawit

Sa abang puso kong

Naghihirap sa pagibig

Dungawin mo hirang

Ang nanambitan

Kahit sulyap mo

Man lamang

Iyong idampulay

Sa pagka’t ikaw lamang

Ang tanging dalanginan

Ng puso kong dahil

Sa iyo’y nabubuhay.

My father never opened window or door and we all pretended to be fast asleep.  I just found everything so unbearably corny.  Then I learned that my own father used to serenade girls in his youth!  Since he didn’t sing or play the guitar, he would attach a radio (then a relatively new contraption) to the end of a long stick and raise it to the level of the girl’s window.  Since his father was the town doctor and people knew that my papa was going to follow in those footsteps, no one, I’m sure, dared throw the contents of the chamberpot at him!

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Tags: Atang dela Rama , Bodabil , phonograph , songs , Vaudeville , Vicente Ocampo , “Ang Bibingka”

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