Monday, April 23, 2007


I have another confession to make. You're mistaken, it's not about skeletons in the closet, mind you. It won't make you exclaim, "Aha, I knew it!", while pumping your fist in the air. It won't make you cringe...well maybe, a bit, just a tiny-weeny bit.

Ok, here it goes: "I played the bandurria in high school".

See? Big deal. The earth didn't shake, the ground didn't open up to swallow you.

But please remove that smirk off your face.

Yes, bandurria, you know, the 12-string instrument which is really just a smaller version of the mandolin or the lute popular in rural Spain- the tiny strings you have to pluck with the tip of a ball pen cap or a shard of plastic cut from a Magnolia ice cream plastic container.

Bandurria is essential for rondalla music, and if you hand me a bandurria right now, I think I can still play a transcribed Air in G by Bach, along with Sitsiritsit and Bahay Kubo.

Some kids think bandurria is for girls only, like ballet, maybe because little girls were the only ones diligent enough to pluck the strings while the boys were chasing each other towards the monkey bars.

Having had a musical training at home in piano, learning another instrument was like a walk in the park for me. I mastered the scales and learned to endure the callouses (correct spelling?) and snapping strings.

In a short time, I found myself playing the national anthem most mornings in school. Along with the "elite" bandurria club (elite because only a tiny fraction of the student population was interested) we naturally accompanied folk dances like Pandanggo sa Ilaw and Tinikling as well as play the ubiquitous Mabuhay to welcome VIPs in school.

One time, in Cagayan de Oro, we even have to dress the part, like wearing camisa de chino and a red scarf loosely-tied around the neck while accompanying the dancers waving their arcs decked with faux flowers, in the streets.

Along with Memen (bandurria), Ambrose and Sarah (both guitar), we headed the Rondalla club-- yes, it's like a high school mariachi band, except that we don't have tacos and tortillas afterwards-- and conducted training sessions for those interested to learn the instrument. They got to play during the morning ceremonies.

I wonder if the club is still active, though.


Anonymous said...

American Heritage Dictionary

Callus (kāl'əs) plural: cal·lus·es

A localized thickening and enlargement of the horny layer of the skin. Also called callosity.

Cal·lous (kāl'əs)

Having calluses; toughened: callous skin on the elbow.
Emotionally hardened; unfeeling: a callous indifference to the suffering of others.

calloused, callousing, callousness