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Reviving the golden age of harana in idyllic San Jose town

By Sonny Malate and Jason Neola

SAN JOSE, Camarines Sur --- The Harana Festival, an iconic local cultural event in this municipality that has captivated the hearts of the young and old, locals and visitors alike, is staging a comeback.

First held on February 13, 2003 during the term of Atty. Gil P. Pacamarra, former mayor of the town, Harana Festival has carved a popularity of its own alongside the Baybayon Festival of Sagñay and Samhod Festival of Lagonoy. The Department of Tourism has duly recognized this event as a major initiative leading to the preservation and promotion of culture.

For several years until its last staging in 2010, it has been a major tourist attraction of San Jose, a town endowed with scenic beaches, rich cultural heritage and peace-loving and religious townspeople as it showcased local talents in music, resources and distinct practices in this locality.

Harana or serenade is a traditional form of courtship in the Philippines in which a man, with a group of male friends, woos a woman by singing romantic Filipino love songs with guitar accompaniment, underneath her window at night. It is widely practiced in many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, a custom dating back before the Hispanic colonial era.

Today, harana is now seldom practiced in the Philippines. The spirit of serenade and romance, however, thrives in our culture, primarily due to the Filipinos’ innate passion for music and great respect for women and their families as well.

Engr. Jose Chito C. Milante, who was the Vice Mayor during the initial year when the Harana Festival was held, and is now the Municipal Planning Development Coordinator, recalled that this event was originally called HARANA FESTIVAL: Karantahan nin Pagranga.

It was launched during the incumbency of then Congressman Felix Wimpy Fuentebella, now an undersecretary of the Department of Energy. This all started when the Partido Development Administration (PDA), thru the Regional Office of the Department of Tourism conducted the 1st Basic Orientation Seminar on Tourism for Local Chief Executives and other offices of the then 3rd district of Camarines Sur.

Held at the Aguirangan View Hotel in Maangas, Presentacion in the province of Camarines Sur, the outcome was highly encouraging even as it also posed a challenge to local government units in the Partido Area to come up with their own festivals to promote eco-tourism and cultural awareness.

Milante noted that the tremendous success of Partido Baybayon Festival in Sagñay served as jump-off point for other towns in the district as they sought to develop their own festivals in a bid to boost tourism and grow local revenue. Two municipalities that later had their own festivals were Lagonoy, with its Samhod Festival, and San Jose, the Harana Festival.

The former Vice Mayor recalled that through the concerted efforts of former Mayor Pacamarra and the unwavering support of the Sangguniang Bayan, former Sangguniang Kabataan Federation President Chyrlyn Cristal E. Remorozo and Mr. Diosdado P. Valencia, then Municipal Sports and Cultural Coordinator/Overall Chairperson of the Steering Committee, the local government successfully hurdled the birth pains of its initial staging.

Former Mayor Gil P. Pacamarra, at the opening program of the first Harana Festival presentation, acknowledged the funding and inspiration given by former Congressman Wimpy Fuentebella in pursuing the noble task of encouraging local government units to come up with this kind of cultural event. “Music is after all the language of the soul. It lifts us up and out of our mundane existence and brings us closer to Nature and our Creator”, he said.

Twenty years later after its birth, the Harana Festival is back, in time for the Love Month and National Arts Month. Held from February 13 to 18, 2023 with the carrier theme, “Cancion nin Paglaom,” the event stirred feelings of nostalgia among the old and stirred enthusiasm and cultural awareness to the younger set.

With the energetic and vibrant Municipal Councilor Bobby H. Clutario (Chair, Committee on Tourism, Culture and the Arts) as Overall Director, and guidance of Mayor Jerold B. Peña and support of colleagues in the Sangguniang Bayan led by Vice Mayor Virgilio E. Panuelos, department heads, LGU staff and sponsors and stakeholders, the re-launching of the revived Harana Festival has attracted more spectators and guests due to the conduct of other events that made the town even more colorful and festive.

Clearly, the enthusiasm, excitement and joy of spectators during the week-long celebration were sustained as the various events unfolded - Binibining Harana Festival, Bicol Song Writing and Singing Competition, Music Video Competition, Battle of the Bands, Regional Choral Singing Competition, Inter-Barangay/Agency Float Competition, DepEd Cultural Night, the first regional badminton competition dubbed HaRanaPas, and the concert of the band Nobita.

The huge crowd drawer at the San Jose Central School grounds on the finale night, February 18, was the concert of the singing group Nobita. Fans of this popular band from the barangays of San Jose and the town’s neighboring municipalities screamed and shouted to the rhythm and beat of their music.

The local government unit of San Jose was ever thankful and appreciative of the support from the Partido Development Administration, Congressman Arnie B. Fuentebella, Department of Tourism- Bicol, the National Commission and the Arts (NCAA), Sponsors and Stakeholders.

Mayor Peña deemed it wise and practical to revive this festival rather than come up with a new one. He sees the Harana Festival to be complementing his vision for tourism being one of his flagship programs.

An ordinance will be enacted by the Sangguniang Bayan to institutionalize the yearly event.

Soon, a Municipal Tourism Plan will be crafted to put all tourism concerns in place. With the support of the Department of Tourism, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, stakeholders and the private sector, Mayor Peña is optimistic that the local government’s vision on tourism will be accelerated: “A Premier Food Basket and Tourism Destination with Empowered and Peace-Loving San Josenians living in a Modern Infrastructure and Ecologically-Adaptive environment sustained by a Fully Developed and Dynamic Economy, and Nurtured by God-centered and Proactive Leaders.”

Mayor Peña aptly said, “May the Harana Festival be a reminder to all of us: where we come from and the strengths we have; that if we only appreciate what is inherent within us, we can aspire for the BEST! This festival breaks the barriers of our differences, cultural diversities, religion and political ideologies.”

He concluded: “May this festival be proof that we can also find solace in music - a cradle in this ever-changing world; that no matter where we are, we will always find and consider San Jose our home, especially those who seek the symphony of life and a better future.”


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