Lea Salonga: Bahaghari

July 30, 2018

Monarch & Butterfly

Listening Post 161. Could the singing voice of Disney royals Mulan and Jasmine be that of a real princess? Vocal power aside, Lea Salonga is both regal and down to earth, the star who illuminates Broadway, the West End and the global concert circuit but never forgets home. Wherever she flies, her countrymen can follow her through her column in The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Her philanthropic work with World Vision Philippines focuses on expanding educational opportunity—and her latest album takes her into the classroom. Bahaghari (Rainbow) is an enchanting collection of traditional Filipino songs, produced by GLP Music as part of a series designed to promote language study. Across 15 tracks, Salonga sings in her native Tagalog, plus Ilonggo (her mother’s first language), Kampampangan (her father’s), Ilocano, Visayan, Cebuano and Bicolano—a fraction of her country’s 180+ tongues. The songs tell of love, home and children, of rice planters and fishermen, of festivity and vanity, often invoking nature as a metaphor for humanity. Spare arrangements, built around piano or guitar, allow Salonga’s sterling voice and polyglot lyrics to take center stage. Songs vary in pace and mood, from Paru-Parong Bukid (Mountain Butterfly), the title creature a stand-in for a well-dressed but slightly indecorous woman (video 1); to Ili-Ili Tulog Anay (Sleep a While, Little One), a lullaby revealing an extended family—someone other than mom rocks the baby (video 2); to Pamulinawen, describing a flirtatious effort to appease a stubborn lover (video 3). Sitsiritsit, Alibangbang (Chirp, Chirp) opens with onomatopoeia and gambols through whimsical nursery rhyme verses (video 4); and Pobreng Alindahaw (Dragonfly), features a playboy worn out from his conquests (video 5). Bahaghari is lovely from beginning to end—but is this the voice of a princess? One possible clue is in the love song Sampaguita: It means “jasmine.” (GLP Music)


Paru-Parong Bukid/Mountain Butterfly (sung in Tagalog):
Mountain Butterfly that flutters about
/It waves its wings in the middle of the road
Wearing a meter-long cloth over her skirt/Sleeves, a hand span long
Her skirt with a train/
Ends dragging on the ground

She has a decorative hairpin – uy!/And even a comb – uy!
She displays her embroidered half-slip
She faces the altar, then looks into her mirror
Then she walks and sways her hips”


Ili-Ili Tulog Anay/Sleep a While, Little One (sung in Ilonggo):
“Sleep a while, little one
Your mother is not here
She went to the store to buy some bread
Sleep a while, little one”


Pamulinawen (sung in Ilocano):
“Pamulinawen, please do not be upset/It was just a joke

It won’t happen again/
Have faith, my darling

If you are still angry/Punish me completely
And you can be sure/That I won’t feel bad”


Sitsiritsit, Alibangbang (sung in Tagalog):
“Sitsiritsit, butterfly/Goldbug and June beetle

The woman on the street/Struts like a rooster

Blessed Child in Pandacan/Rice biscuits at the store
If you won’t lend me money/The ants will finish you off

Sir, sir, rowing the boat/Let this child take a ride
Once you get to Manila/Exchange her for a doll

Madam, madam, with the umbrella/Let this child take shade
Once you get to Malabon/Exchange her for fermented shrimp paste”


Pobreng Alindahaw/Poor Dragonfly (sung in Visayan):
As the album booklet explains: The true charm of this song about a fatigued playboy is the cacophony of “aruy” repeated throughout. “Aruy,” at its simplest, means “ouch,” but the lilting Visayan tongue gives it many other meanings — “I like,” 
”I want” or “How naughty!” It can register shock, titillation, provocation, or attraction.
 You have to be Visayan to get it.

“I’m a poor dragonfly/In the breeze being swept away
Searching for a place to rest, sigh/In the garden among the flowers

Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch…/Like flowers for the one who yearns
Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch…/Don’t be sorry
For this poor dragonfly”





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