It was 1957, the nation was mourning the death in a plane crash of popular President Ramon Magsaysay, and Jerry A. Dadap, a student at the University of the Philippines College of Music, had taken a jeep in Cubao, Quezon City, to visit an uncle who lived in Santa Mesa, Manila.
He opened his solfeo book and started singing silently. Unbeknowst to him, an elderly woman dressed in mourning black was watching him. Suddenly she spoke: “Are you studying music?”
“Then can you compose a song which I would like to be dedicated to the first Lady Mrs. Ramon Magsaysay—’yung malungkot (a sad song).” Before he could reply, the woman gave him P2.
“I thanked her profusely,” recalled Dadap, now 80, a composer with a large body of works behind him, mostly choral compositions and songs.
“I was richer by P2, a big amount in 1957,” he enthused. “And this was going to be my first commissioned work, my first big work!”
It took Dadap several days to create a sad melody, which he called a “danza” and then he asked his first cousin Castor Lee Amper, who lived in Pasay City, to do the lyrics. This Amper did, after Dadap had sung the melody to him a dozen times, and titled the song “Hinagpis.” But Dadap, being from Leyte, preferred the Visayan “Pagmahay.”
The song, dedicated to then First Lady Luz B. Magsaysay, spoke of a woman’s pain, her longing for a lost love and hoping he would come back: “Balik na giliw ko sa aking buhay…”
After 60 years, “Pagmahay” will finally be performed in public during a concert of Dadap’s Andres Bonifacio Concert Choir (ABCC) on Jan. 28 at the Cabanatuan City conventhouse, site of the assassination of General Antonio Luna by the members of the Kawit Companies in 1899. And the song will be sung by Dadap’s daughter, soprano Bettina Celeste Dadap.
“Thanks to the mysterious lady,” the composer intoned.–CONTRIBUTED