by Shara Cayetano

Nearly a week since Valentine’s Day, an enamored crowd occupied the old seats of the UP Theater. Five couples stood on stage – some holding hands, some smiling at each other. Not all of them were ‘together’, but they were all couples, in a sense.

Whether they were married, best friends, newly in love, or business partners, it didn’t matter to the crowd.

To them, it was all love.

This was just one of the gimmicks at the recently held HaranaFest, UP Diliman’s new intercollegiate choral competition whose concepts stemmed from UP’s Karolfest.

The previous year’s Karolfest did not push through due to the academic calendar shift; hence,  UP’s new version of the Christmas choral competition.

This year’s competition is aligned with UP’s Buwan ng Lualhati, which pays tribute to National Artists Manuel Conde, NVM Gonzalez, Severino Montano, and  Lamberto Avellana who are all celebrating the first year after their centenary.

The last of them, Lamberto Avellana, inspired the contest piece for the first HaranaFest.  Entitled “Anakdalita,”  the theme song of an award-winning Avellana movie with the same name. The movie delved into themes of war and prostitution, and its theme song is equal parts serenade and call for help. Suffice to say, the tune and lyrics are a far cry from today’s love songs.

But that didn’t stop the contestants from wooing the audience, which included supportive collegemates, parents, and friends.

First to perform was the KarolFest 5-time placer Engineering Choir, which followed their “Anakdalita” performance with a dreamy rendition of Moulin Rouge song “Come What May.”

Law Charivari, also a 5-time placer, chose Elizabeth Ramsey’s “Waray Waray” for their second piece, lifting spirits with the energetic number.

Himig Maskom, a 4-time placer, followed with more choreography in their version of “Kapag Tumibok ang Puso,” ending the contest proper on a high note.

In the end, the Engineering Choir prevailed to take home the first HaranaFest championship title.

“[We met up] two times a week to practice,” said president Matthew Alcantara, who celebrated with his choirmates onstage after the announcement. As soon as the semester started, he said, the choir began to practice. But practice had to happen around another important thing – studies. “Syempre acads ang priority,” he added.

College of Engineering Choir president Matthew Alcantara. Photo by Paul Gumagay.

For Alcantara, the choice of Anakdalita as contest piece is a nod to cultural preservation.

“Kung hindi ginawang contest piece yung Anakdalita, I think hindi malalaman na may ganoong kanta,” he said.

Law Charivari member Jocel Dilag sees it another way.

The piece, he said, was surprising because people expected the chosen piece to be romantic.

“But [Anakdalita] captured the hearts of people with a deeper kind of love – you try to understand the plight of the people, the poor, the oppressed, so it’s a good choice to begin this inaugural HaranaFest,” he said.

All the hype about the HaranaFest brings back a classic Parokya lyric: “Uso pa ba ang harana?”

Chancellor Michael Tan hopes so.

The HaranaFest is a new tradition, he said, calling the three competing colleges “pioneers.”

The tradition of an intercollegiate chorale competition has long existed in UP.

However, this year, the tradition takes a new season and a new name, yet remains the same but for the event’s selected songs, which are embedded in traditional Filipino culture.

Despite the Karolfest not pushing through last year, the HaranaFest, its successor in the intercollegiate chorale competition, proves that the tradition of celebrating music in the university is far from dying.’

Palagi kaming sumasali para hindi mahinto yung tradition na ito sa UP,” said Himig Maskom president Raiza Javier.

“Mukhang magiging annual thing na ‘yung Haranafest, so sana sa mga susunod na taon mas marami nang sumali,” she added.

The UP Theater may have not been full that night, but the crowd was no less than enthusiastic.

In a way, that was love, too. Love for music. Love in the form of support for friends.

Nearly a week after Valentine’s Day, an enamoured crowd occupied the stage of the UP Theater, in an open expression of love.

Choir members hugged, gave each other flowers, sought out cheering friends from the audience. To the observer, there were no distinctions: it was all love.

Ito yung nag-uunite sa colleges, bagama’t isa itong competition. [Ang] pagcelebrate ng love for music,” Javier said.

The HaranaFest crowd’s enthusiasm only said one thing:

Parokya, uso pa nga.


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