By By Ramonfelipe A. Sarmiento
Pantomina Catanduanes (Part 6)
posted 29-May-2010  ·  
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2.3 Pantomina Catanduanes, the History

Pantomina refers to the dance and the song. This is one dance that requires a particular melody. Nolasco (1994) underscores the fact that this dance is performed only with the traditional particular song that has become popular through time. If there is a live band, a soloista, (soloist), usually a male, is identified from the crowd to sing the lyrics. A female may join him in the refrain.

No one claims authorship of the composition of the songs even when Nolasco (1994) studied them in 1994. She approached Ms. Cathy A. Vargas, music teacher of the CSC Elementary Laboratory School, for the notation of the popular versions sang by the soloistas. Before that, the songs were never written nor formally taught. Like the dance, they were passed on and learned spontaneously.

Engr. Raymundo Escueta Jr., then a high school student of Catanduanes College, used to accompany his father Dr. Raymundo Escueta who was always invited as special guest in fiestas. He recalled that during the popular ball, Publico’s Band played Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman music. During the Pantomina, only one guitar played to accompany the singers with the Paso part sung by mouth "LALALA-LA-LA-LA-LA…"

The first Pantomina recording was made in the late 1950s (about 1957 as recalled by Engr. Raymundo P. Escueta, the youngest in the group) by the group who called themselves ABESAR – Abundo, Escueta, Arcilla.

Abundo was Felicisimo Abundo who played the clarinet, a musician of Teodolo Publico’s Band. Escueta was Salvador Planes Escueta, a civil engineer by profession and a musician by choice. He played the guitar. Another Escueta was Raymundo P. Escueta Jr., who was then a high school student and became an electronics engineer later. He became the bass player by accident, forced by his older brother Salvador as there was no one to do it. The Arcilla brothers Macario, played the violin and Antonio, sang either the primera (first voice) or the segunda (2nd voice). He also served as the musical manager of the group.

They invited DZRH Amateur Singing champion Simeon I. Borja to sing the solo parts. The young man just came home from Manila after joining the DZRH Singing Contest to earn travel money back to Virac. He won the contest but never went back to defend his title. He just wanted to be home.

They also asked Mrs. Juliana Abundo Panti, a cantora from Gogon, to sing the either the primera (1st voice) or the segunda (2nd voice) of the refrain. They say that her voice range was unbelievably high that when she started to sing the gozos (sung part of the novena) during the chapel novenas in Gogon, the others would complain since they all strained their voices trying to keep up with her pitch.

The idea all started with a combo festival which they recorded at the Salazar’s. They then decided to record the Pantomina.

And so the group met to rehearse a few times then made the recording at the Escueta residence in San Roque, using a Telefunken or a Grundig open reel tape recorder (Mr. Raymund Escueta was not sure ), with the reel about 7 inches in diameter and a square microphone that was placed on the center table. The equipment was owned by Mrs. Yolanda Salazar, wife of then Fiscal Juan Salazar who were family friends. Adjustments had to be made since they were not in a recording studio. The clarinet had to move away. The singers had to get closer to the microphone. They controlled themselves not to make unnecessary noise. Several times they had to stop because of that. Finally, when they were contented with the production, someone clapped hands at the end. Too tired to repeat, they decided that that the last one was it, clapping hands and all. They could not recall now who really clapped- whether it was Dr. Raymundo Escueta, the father, or Mrs. Dionisia Escueta, wife of Engr. Salvador who forgot about keeping the silence, too delighted to stop from clapping.

Mr. Antonio Arcilla brought the tape to Manila for recording. The first was in 78 rpm. When the recording was done, it was played over the radio at the mainland starting its popularity.

Later, a 45rpm version was produced by Tang Tolin (Mr. Antonio Arcilla). Daughter Nelly A Luchavez, retired elementary grades teacher, says that they still have the mold of the record and the remaining unused paper labels.

In 1998, a version was recorded by Isla led by Nonong Icaranom, under the supervision of Tang Tolin.

Today, the Pantomina Minor and Pantomina Mayor versions of Ibalong Records owned by Mr. Domingo V. Zafe have popularized the song throughout the country, particularly in the Bicol Region. He has also recorded other Pantomina versions of other regions, particularly Kuratsa of Samar and Leyte and Sinalampati of Sorsogon. He has also produced a documentary of these dances.

2.3 Other Versions

This dance is said to have been one of the first folk dances with steps recorded in the "Philippine Folk Dances and Games, " the first folk dance book by Francisca Reyes Aquino published in 1926 (WikiPilipinas, 2009). It was called Salampati or Sinalampati. (dance of the doves) during the Spanish times. (Aquino in WikiPilipinas, 2009). Tia Esteling Tioxon (Mrs. Estelita Tioxon), teacher from Gogon and director of comedias, Philippine drama form in the Spanish period, and veladas (show) during her time, was asked by Ms. Aquino to perform the dance for the researcher’s benefit. Today, this is the Pantomina version popularized by Sorsogon City and featured in their Pantomina sa Tinampo, one of the highlights of Kasanggayahan Festival. This merrymaking is held every third week of October. It focuses on the graceful movements of mating doves.

Here lies the difference. Pantomina Catanduanes is more aggressive, more playful. Movements stick to the engaño for men and the flirty waltz steps for the women accented with a slight raising of shoulders and hands lightly resting on the upper buttocks. The paso sticks to the proud strut-walk of the rooster. The dance is performed by two pairs in an entrecuatro with partners exchanging and cross changing places like a quadrille or the square dance.

Pantomina Catanduanes is closer to Kuratsa or Pantomina de Samar. WikiPilipinas (2009) reports it to be a wedding dance that originated from Bicol. Both are described as dances performed by newly wedded couples or as "battle-of-sexes cpouple dance (WikiPilipinas, 2009) termed kigal, an imitation of mating birds. The paso (Catanduanes) or paseo (Samar) is supposed to be danced like a leisure walk. To the Catandunganon, this walk is a combination of step-close steps which later progress to march-walk, later enriched by improvisations like taking one oblique step back after making three forward steps. They also have the palanat steps where the male chases the female. This is similar to the bukod of Catanduanes version. The dagit (a swoop) aand the sagparak (a heated cockfight) are peculiarities of the Visayan interpretation. They remind us of the Catanduangan sarisid (courtship) and sigay (flirting) which are ardent but never shown as a fight. Both versions translate binanog as "hawk." In Catanduanes, this is a dance form showing inverted T position, with both arms stretched like a V imitating the hawk in flight. The Visayan version is a simple inverted T position.

The same source mentions that the musicians stop at a certain point to allow for the participants to wipe their perspiration. This does not happen in the Catanduanes version. The dance begins with the paso and ends in the saludo. It is danced by a single couple in weddings and joined later in the bacayao by the parents of the bride and groom and by their godparents. During social gatherings, it is danced in an entrecuatro. The last portion has the male dancer chasing the girl partner. This step is like the bukod in Pantomina Catanduanes but this is not the end of the dance. There is a part where the male partner spreads a panuelo on the ground and entices the girl to step into it or touch it with one foot as a sign of capture.

The Pantomina is said to be popular in Allen and Capul, Samar. These places both face the Bicol region. Was the Pantomina brought to the Bicol region? Or did the Bicolano bring the Pantomina to the Visayas? Wikipilipinas (2009) favors the latter making the Pantomina an original dance of the Bicol region with each province coming up with its own version.

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