When filmmaker Benito Bautista asked a fellow Fil-Am if the latter knew what harana was, the answer stumped him.
“The kid thought it was a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco,” Bautista recalled. This “disconnect” between the present generation and traditional Filipino art forms becomes wider with each passing day, he added.
Bautista, who won the Netpac prize in last year’s Cinemalaya indie festival for the feature film “Boundary,” was determined to introduce the art of harana (wooing maidens with love songs) to today’s youth.
“We should record and express our vanishing culture,” said Bautista. “I am pretty sure there are a lot of unpublished and unrecorded harana songs out there.”
He met fellow Fil-Am Florante Aguilar, a master classical guitarist, who had taken up as a personal crusade the “preservation and recording of old harana songs.”
The result of their collaboration is the documentary “Harana,” which will be shown tomorrow, 3:30 p.m., at the Little Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines as part of Cinemalaya 2012.
Bautista said his goal was to record for posterity “the visuals of our stunning landscape, the warmth of our people’s smiles, the cultural nuances of our rural regions, the beauty of our skin tone and the enduring handsomeness and grace of our Filipino elders.”
The docu features the Harana Kings, senior citizens from Cavite and Ilocos Sur who are probably the last practitioners of this dying custom.
At first, Bautista admitted, he couldn’t tell the difference between “a master haranista and a common practitioner.”
Through the docu he met haranistas, “invisible commoners in our society … naturally shy, but who are transformed discussing and performing the harana.”
“They are such a lively bunch, with distinct eccentricities and temperaments,” Bautista said. “My favorite is mild-mannered Mang Felipe, but of course I adore them all.”
Hopefully, the world will fall in love with the Harana Kings as well.
Apl.de.ap of The Black-Eyed Peas learned about the haranistas when he saw excerpts from the docu.
Bautista said the Fil-Am rapper-musician was so moved by the haranistas’ story that he invited them to perform in the Global Filipino Music concert at the Hollywood Bowl last July 8.
Right before the show, the filmmaker recounted, some of the artists slated to perform watched in tears as the Harana Kings rehearsed. “Apl.de.ap is now considering a collaboration with Harana Kings,” Bautista said.
As a documentarian, he only tells the stories, Bautista clarified.
“It is up to the world to decide what to do with the haranistas,” he explained. “The world might respond and care for them, herald them, assist them … or dismiss them as irrelevant. My job is, simply, to present the truth … not to solve [their problems] or get too involved so as to lose my objectivity.”