Echoes of Banaue

By Jullie Y. Daza

Short of sending Lucas Matthysse home to cry for Argentina, Manny Pacquiao was the kind of fighter who drew this response from the guy he knocked down three times to the floor in one fast and furious night: “I lost to a great fighter, to a great legend.”

It doesn’t look as if either warrior of the ring is thinking of hanging up their gloves, though, unlike the big ugly monster who won the ultimate war of the worlds against the Avengers and has now moved to our Banaue rice terraces for his ultimate retirement haven. In the real Banaue, no one is thinking of retiring – they may be tired of keeping the terraces looking like a perfectly green staircase to heaven, but the show is only just about to begin.

For the last seven days and with four more to go, a batch of 20 composers from Greece, Israel, Singapore, Italy, Slovenia, Chile, USA, Spain, UK, Poland, and Philippines have been breathing, living, listening, observing, imbibing Banaue. They are in the midst of what Mila O. How, producer of this epic music competition calls “an immersion,” the better to give their scores what music lovers might imagine as the “sound of Banaue.” What is that sound? To my ignorant mind, it would be the sound of heavenly silence. But to Maestro Chino Toledo, the compositions of the 20 semifinalists plus 64 aspirants who did not make the cut to the semis are now as good as “84 echoes of the terraces.”

He adds, “Mt. Mayon has inspired only one or two compositions, but here we have 84 inspired by the rice terraces!”, a treasure trove by any measure of art or science.

And yet, and yet, semifinalist Steffano Giannotti of Spain cautions against the “danger” of using ethnic instruments that create “too exotic” music. To allay fears of the three Filipino composers’ enjoying an edge over the non-Filipinos, Christian Joshua Ansale said, “I have never been to Banaue. We are all going to experience Ifugao culture for the first time and on equal footing.” Eteri Kourbanov of Israel wrapped it up nicely: “This is the kind of work I want to do, for humankind to come together and save this beautiful place for the world.”

The grand-finals concert will be held on July 25 at CCP, with TOFARM Festival Orchestra performing the works of the 10 finalists. Let the music echo and reverberate all the way to Banaue and back!