Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mr. Moonlight and the serenade

You know how practically everyone at some point ends up saying things like "During my time, we didn't have computer games and remote control cars -- we played outside, climbed trees and invented our own games!" or "Now people take lots of pictures but back then we didn't have digital cameras. We used film so we chose our shots and we had to get the film developed..."? Or what about "Back then, you could tell who were girls and who were boys. Nowadays it can be confusing..." and "During my time, you could understand what songs were about, but nowadays songs are just so angry all the time -- or it's about a guy singing his less-than-noble intentions concerning some girl (or girls)!"

I've always liked it when my parents reminisce the "good old days" because it was like being transported into another era. Stories of "the Japanese occupation," or things like euthenics class and cadena de amor, or how they spent over a month aboard a ship traveling from the States to the Philippines (this mode of cross-continental travel was pretty much the norm in the 1950s) were always fascinating. Talk about being worlds apart!

But over dinner tonight I was flabbergasted to learn that my mom was once serenaded with a complete orchestra as accompaniment! Don't those things only happen in the movies?? Apparently not.

We started talking about it when I asked her if she had experienced studying in a Catholic school. "Yes, at Blessed ... " It was *Blessed something Academy, the complete name of which I shall ask my mom first thing tomorrow as the name escapes me now. Anyway, it was in the province where she grew up, and she said she and one of her sisters were sent there by their parents to be far from the Japanese soldiers, who came in droves when the Philippines got involved in the war. This was in the early 1940s.

So, she related how she attended about a year of high school at the Blessed (Something) Academy and lived there for the duration of the school year. Then she casually mentioned the time she was serenaded and chuckled at the thought of the nuns and her schoolmates enjoying the treat immensely. Visions of 1950s LVN Pictures-looking gentlemen in white suits, strumming acoustic guitars, popped in my head -- which turned out to be closer to a dream sequence in a movie than reality.

"Serenade? Harana? Yung kinakantahan ka tapos nakadungaw ka sa bintana sa 2nd floor?"

"Oo, pero full orchestra."

"Full orchestra?! Pati piano??"

"Ah hindi, walang piano. But all the other instruments..."

"Drums?" "Yes, may drums." "Violins? Cello, yung malaking nakatayo? Trumpet...?"

"Oo, pati saxophone," my mom said, amused by my disbelief.

Well, I was floored. How nice -- being serenaded by someone during that era, someone who probably looked like the dashing movie stars of those days. At this point I was shocked when she casually mentioned that "Pacita" (or some similar name) was the "crooner."

"Huh? Babae? Why?"

"Eh accordion ang tinutugtog ni ______." I couldn't remember his name; obviously it wasn't my dad. So it turns out it wasn't that unusual to have a woman or someone else for that matter who was part of your posse, sing to the lady of your dreams. And you could request an entire playlist!

"Ay, I can't remember anymore...but meron yatang 'Moonlight Serenade'... 'Blue Moon' din," my mom said when I asked her what songs were sung to her.

What joy. And how positively unfamiliar. I tried to imagine the whole setup -- where the singers were, what the lucky ladies were wearing, what they were doing... and I discovered that none of the sleeping quarters in schools (at least at that time) were on the first floor of the building. So it would really have to be a Romeo-Juliet, Rapunzel-Prince Charming kind of arrangement.

"Basta tatapat sa bintana yung naghaharana," my mother said.

"What if you were in the bathroom taking a bath when the serenaders arrived?" I asked, wondering about propriety when it came to making people wait or if the lucky ladies actually stepped out on the ledge (if there was one), or peered mysteriously through sheer curtains or casually stuck their heads out the window to enjoy the music.

"Okey lang yon, matagal pa naman bago matapos ang kumakanta kasi maraming songs, (That's okay, it's going to take them long to finish since they sing plenty of songs)," she laughed.

And guys who wanted to serenade their ladies waited for the moon. No, there was no werewolf thing or some "lucky charm" superstition going on -- the moonlight helped illuminate the streets even more. Apparently, the street lamps in the province at that time weren't adequate.

I was really in awe of the customs concerning social dealings at the time so I asked my mom plenty of questions: after the singing does the girl have to invite the serenaders into the house? Was there some kind of "code" which signified that she was interested in knowing him more and another "code" to let him know he had better set his sights on some other girl?

"No, you just say thank you and then they leave," my mom said. She was obviously having fun reminiscing and remembering how the other girls in the school were thoroughly delighted by the experience. Well, I'm sure I would have been, too, had I been around to witness it!

Had video cams been discovered before that time, capturing such a thing would have been wonderful. Oh, and I learned the men who did the serenading were usually garbed in shirts, not white suits. "T-shirt?" I asked.

"Walang nag-T-T-shirt noon!" she scoffed, amused at the idea.

Okay, the white suits are only in the movies. I didn't really need a video or even snapshots to enjoy what my mom just related to me. Just thinking about it can almost make me hear the strains of Glenn Miller's Orchestra wafting in the air :-)

On second thought, let this set the mood (check out the lyrics, too):


* Blessed Imelda's Academy (Dagupan, Pangasinan)

* It sure paid to have friends in music -- the orchestra that was borrowed for the serenade was apparently a seasoned one which was hired regularly for town fiestas, big parties and the like!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Must ha brought her so many fine memories

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