H is for Harana, the Filipino Serenade


During colonial times, when a Filipino man wanted to court a woman, he would get his friends together and armed with a gitara, serenade his beloved in an act called harana.  His repertoire would include love songs derived from the Spanish tango or habanera, though the tempo would be much slower.

According to Florante.org, a harana was a formal event that involved quite a few steps.

Image from Florante.org

First was be the Panawagan or the Calling or Announcement.  This announced the man’s presence outside of the house, using specific songs such as Dungawin Mo Sana (If You’d Look Out the Window) or Sa Gitna Nang Dilim (In the Midst of Darkness).

The second step was the Pagtatapat or Proposal.  In this step, if the suitor is invited into the home, he states his admiration for the woman and extolls her virtues with more songs like Ibig Kong Magtapat Sa Iyo, Paraluman (I Wish To Propose To  You, My Muse) or Lihim nang Pag-Ibig (My Secret Love).

The response in the girl’s part was the Panagutan.  She could answer with a yes, she reciprocates the man’s attentions, or a a tactful “I’m not ready…”  Her response could be in the form of a song, too.  And should the answer be the tactful no, then the man sings songs that often would reflect their disappointment or, based on the songs available, their broken hearts.

The final step was the Paalam, which served as their farewell song, regardless of the girl’s answer.  The songs chosen here would sound more like folk songs with a 4/4 tempo, such as Winawakasan Ko (I Hereby End it) or Bakit Di Kita Maiiwasan (Why Do I Find It Hard To Leave You?).

I was visiting my friend’s home town when I experienced my first, and only, harana. If I’d known then that there was some kind of rhyme and reason to the harana, I’d have paid more attention. Instead, I think I was giggling more than anything, and I had no clue what to say after it was over except thank you between sneezes (I was in the midst if a major allergy attack then). I remember the awkwardness of the following day – he was the next door neighbor – and I was really only visiting for a few days.

But it did not matter anyway.  I learned this a few  years later, but it turned out that my host paid the next-door neighbor to serenade me, the clueless city girl, to make my experience in the barrio more ‘enriching’, so to speak.  It was just a paid gig, nothing more.

But that night, as he and his friends sang three or four songs just below my window, it was my first – and only – harana.

"Harana" - Painting by Neil Campos
“Harana” – Painting by Neil Campos


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