Lost But Not Forgotten: The Art of ‘Harana’ Then And Now

by Zia Kalong

Philippine Culture Harana” | Photo By Markytour777 via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0,

Filipinos are known for being some of the happiest, warmest people you will ever meet. We seem to be particularly good at taking care of others and making them feel better, which is probably why we naturally excel in fields like hospitality, healthcare, and nursing. To show love and affection, some attribute this gift to nurturing and tending to those around us. Pinoys are nothing if not romantic. If anything, we know it would be expressing our love and devotion to someone in the most special of ways. As Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s turn back the clock and revisit one of the most beautiful testaments to the Filipinos’ love affair with romance: the art of harana.

‘Harana’ is not your typical serenade. Widely practiced in the old Philippines, folks performed traditional ‘harana’ with a set of protocols and a specific music style, with the guitar taking center stage. Haranas use a 2/4 habanera rhythm and begins with a solo guitar introduction, followed by verses one and two, a solo guitar in the middle, then back to verse two until the end. As for the lyrics, haranas poetically used archaic Tagalog words no longer heard in conversations today. Many are not aware that harana also followed a specific process, which begins with Panawagan (announcement), followed by Pagtatapat (proposal). The Panagutan or the response of the serenaded ends with the Pamaalam (farewell), sung before leaving the house as an expression of gratitude for being entertained, apologizing for causing inconvenience, and bidding goodbye.

“‘Harana’ is not your typical serenade. Widely practiced in the old Philippines, folks performed traditional ‘harana’ with a set of protocols and a specific music style, with the guitar taking center stage.”

With all its particularities, the art of harana is still merely about a man. He bears his heart and soul to a woman underneath her window; and declares genuine love in the presence of her family, friends, and community. It was a social practice exclusively done at night when the tropical heat has subsided, and everyone in the barrio steps outside to enjoy the cool breeze under the pale moonlight after a long day’s work. Harana, therefore, was quite the social event, a time when love can truly be felt in the air, bringing the entire community to life.

Today, traditional harana is not as pronounced as before, but the spirit of serenade and romance lives on in our culture primarily through OPM (Original Pinoy Music). Through the decades, original Filipino music has spawned classic love songs such as Harana by the popular band Parokya Ni Edgar. It encapsulates the “awkwardness, vulnerability even transparency felt by previous generations of Filipinos who wooed significant others through serenades.” Also, Ligaya by the iconic Eraserheads tells the story of a guy trying to convince a girl to let him court her. In a way, such songs are themselves modern-day forms of serenade which depict Filipinos’ lasting fascination with old school romance.

“Despite the matter being profoundly intimate and personal, this unique sense of community shows that even in our most vulnerable moments, we still find comfort and joy in the presence of others. This idea of togetherness is indeed no new thing for Filipinos whose collective identity is primarily rooted in the concept of bayanihan.”

The art of harana has left an indelible mark in the way we Filipinos see and approach romance. Even today, we employ our barkada or friends’ help and advice when we plan on pursuing someone we like. Despite the matter being profoundly intimate and personal, this unique sense of community shows that even in our most vulnerable moments, we still find comfort and joy in the presence of others. This idea of togetherness is indeed no new thing for Filipinos whose collective identity is primarily rooted in the concept of bayanihan.

Courtship, both traditional and non-traditional, is essentially embedded in Philippine society. Pinoys could never run out of creative ways to court and woo someone they’re interested in. Back in the days, schoolkids would leave handwritten love letters on their crush’s desks or lockers, not just on Valentine’s but on any regular day. And when Valentine’s Day comes around, these efforts are taken on a whole new level. Love letters now come with rose bouquets, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and even stuffed toys.

In most cases, the young man drops by the house of the girl he’s pursuing to seek permission from the girl’s parents to court her and someday, hopefully, win her heart. But as time went by, handwritten notes became text messages or PM on Facebook, and the tradition of paalam or seeking the parents’ blessing before the courtship could even commence, slowly became obsolete. Although most of these long-held traditions in their original forms have disappeared from our society today, their essence persisted. Nowadays, a young man expresses them in other, more modern forms. And though some believe they are now lost, they most certainly are not forgotten.

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References:
Aguilar, F. & Enriquez, F. (2007). “What is Harana?”. Retrieved February 3, 2021 from https://www.haranathemovie.com/whatisharana.html.
Iskomunidad. (2009, July 22). MUSDIKS: Pamaalam. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://iskwiki.upd.edu.ph/index.php/MUSDIKS:_pamaalam
Varona, Rae Ann. “Remembering Harana: A Lost Filipino Tradition of Courtship through Song -.” Asian Journal News, 6 Feb. 2020, www.asianjournal.com/magazines/mdwk-magazine/remembering-harana-a-lost-filipino-tradition-of-courtship-through-song/.

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(The Philippine Daily Mirror welcomes Zia Kalong as a regular columnist. Zia is a Filipina writer nurturing a deep love for cultures, stories, and the written word. Her mission in life is to find beauty in both the curious and the mundane, to share the story of the Filipino people, and to stay caught up in the wonder of the world.)

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