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Asi? The Concert and the Coming of Age of a Language

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I didn't take note of the names and faces of those who came to the Asi? The Concert last Saturday at the Arellano University Gym, but from the number of people who stayed up to the last number, I can say with unabashed pride that it was a success. Lyndon Fadri, the prime mover of the event, can now recover his lost sleep.

Language—the Asi language—was the cause celebre of the concert. Its aim was not to make tons of money, but to tell the world the Asi also sing and that they sing in their own tongue.

It was kind of daring for the Banton High School Alumni Association, of which Lyndon is also president, and Biniray 2009 to "invade" a city where performance acts of singing artists of all hues and shades and ideologies are dime a dozen and to subject the Asi language to a commercial test. To bring Asi singers unknown outside of Romblon to a city known for either catapulting singers to instant fame or burying them to oblivion is bravery. BHSAA was brave.

Did the concert pass that test? Only time and the BHSAA can tell, but from where I sit—and the place where I am is the salt mine of Asi language and culture promotion—I can say that BHSAA's daring paid off. Congratulations.

Asi? The Concert was unique in that all the songs performed by the artists were all in Asi the language. In my lifetime, this has not been done before. If it has, I have not watched or heard any.

And I have not watched a concert divided into pitong hugna, that's seven sets for you lovers of things English.

In between Hinigugmang Banwa (Town Beloved); Hanrumanan (Remembrances); Ugar sa Tagipusoon (Heart Wounds); Panaghoy sa Kagabhion (Night Lamentations); Pangpukaw sa Tagipusoon (Heart Stirrings); Pangkibot (One to Jolt); and Kayupugan (To Rock) were songs that captured the essences of the Asi's existence, way of life, faith, passion, love, aspirations, courage and bravery, beauty, tradition, politics, emotional contradictions and turmoil, and sense of place and identity.

The situ of the concert was foreign to Asi— Manila is a melting pot of numerous regional and international cultures—but the atmosphere was distinctly Asi. That night, one could feel and smell Banton, Simara, Sibale, Calatrava and Odiongan coming together in a big dinner table to partake of the only fare in the menu that unites their soul—the Asi language. The spirit rejoiced to hear for one night the songs that make us as a people. If it was a real dinner, I have had more than my fill. I staggered home drunk from the fountain of Asi songs.

Leah Fietas-Beltran, Sarah Jane Fatallo-Drio and Candy Fegalan sang songs that rocked our cradles when we were children. It was a delight to hear again the songs that lulled me to dreamland. Songs of Nathaniel Musico, Julian Faderon and the lyric translations of Claro Formadero, Cleto Fojas and Filmer Fegalan tugged at the heart and transported us back to lost memories of yesteryears.

Today's generation of Asi, which has already been the product of various cultural influences, showed us why our culture is flexible. This flexibility is reflected by the abilities of Ivan and Al Jandy Fadriquela, Yiene Famaran, and the 1622: Unang Usbor to traverse from the reflective, melodious Asi tunes to the upbeat and modern-day trends of popular music, from Gaha, Kabuyong, Mag-amigo, and Pamusiag to Kuto't Baylehan, Tiog 1970, Biniray Ray, Malatumbo, and Pailig.

The Asi is not incapable of producing world music. Orimos, Turna, Oho, Tubong, and Unang Paghigugma are tunes that soar and whose lyrics are rich in metaphor that one needs to visit the Asi places where these songs developed roots to be able to appreciate their magic. Kabataan, Subatey is pure in its message of social relevance and Ludgie Faigao's serious rendition of the Lyndon Fadri composition reflects the responsibility of today's youth that many Asi refuse to bear.

My new singing group from Sibale, the InGsaBat Band, certainly inspired by 1622: Unang Usbor, performed four songs at the concert. The band story deserves another piece.

The sound system glitch that briefly halted the performances was not enough to temper audience enthusiasm over the classic Tamboy Tamby Agong, which I was told was performed by Joey Ayala and his colleagues, Onie Badiang and Chong Tengasantos in Banton when the group conducted a music clinic there a few weeks ago for 1622: Unang Usbor.

Ayala, Badiang and Tengasantos were at the concert, together with Ms. Nota Magno, who has been mightily helping the Asi Studies Center for Culture and the Arts, 1622: Unang Usbor's manager.

Unlike commercial sponsors of mainstream and big musical events, the patrons of the Asi? The Concert may not profit financially from their investment in the BHSAA-organized concert.

But it might be comforting for RDL-CLEAR, Greenhorns, Kusog Sibalenhons, Arellano University, Manuel Martinez Scholarship Foundation, Matias-Serena Fadrilan Family, Romblon Vice Governor Alice Fetalvero, La Verne Academy, BHS Classes 84, 87, 88, 2001 and 2009, Nasunogan Youth Organization, Mr. & Mrs. Joemel Ferrancol, Dr. Lolong Firmalo & Family, Mr. & Mrs. Jospeh Fadri & Family, Mr. & Mrs. Darimar Fabellon, Ms. Malie Fonte, and Engr. Adel Ferrer to know that they had planted the seeds of the Asi language outside Romblon in a way that future generation of Filipinos may look back at it as a big effort in showcasing the power of Asi music.