"Please tell me what this word means Lolo,” asked our granddaughter, Kristin, 9. She pointed to a headline in the papers and spelt out the word “p-l-a-g-i-a-r-i-z-e.”
Senator Tito Sotto’s filching of Senator Robert Kennedy’s speech wouldn’t ring any bell for her and granddaughter Katarina, 6. Would the 1933 Cebuano carol, “Kasadya Ning Takna-a,” do?
“Someone took Kasadya Ning Takna-a, titled it Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit, but in Tagalog. They didn’t tell anybody. “What is that?”, we asked the two kids. “Stealing?”, Kristin asked. “There. To plagiarize is to steal.”
A week from now is the first Sunday of Advent. Manila Bulletin columnist Columnist Jullie Yap Daza will hammer what she stressed since 1978: This country boasts of the longest celebration of Christmas. (Yet) it remains supreme irony that not the slightest effort has been made to attribute the beloved carol, “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit,” to its author, Vicente D. Rubi, of Cebu.
Panorama Magazine recalls that, in 1933, Cebu Christmas festival officials asked Composer Rubi to sign up for a carol or dayegon competition. Rubi did and asked the equally-young then Mariano Vestil to scribble the lyrics for his music. Their carol – Kasadya Ning Takna-a (How Joyous Is this Season) — won hands down.
“Today, wherever Cebuano is spoken – Bohol, Negros Oriental, Southern Leyte, Northern Mindanao, Cebu and elsewhere — carolers still belt out the same infectious beat that Rubi and Vestil blended so brilliantly (79) years ago,” Philippine Daily Inquirer noted.
A Manila record company hijacked Rubi and Vestil’s carol for P150. Nong Inting, who died in 1980, “was denied what was due him in royalties,” Daza wrote. The platter firm conned Rubi and Vestil with legal dodges until their deaths.
It’s par for the course in a country where an “elite of thieves” govern and those who crassly exploited Rubi and Vestil have kindred spirits here in the onerous levy of coconut farmers, loggers who trigger today’s flash floods — to plagiarists.
Nong Inting became an impoverished widower. Until his death in 1980, he’d shuffle to his gates and teach startled carolers how to sing his dayegon. And in 2004, lyricist Vestil went to his grave, bereft of benefits other than an inside-page-below-the-fold newspaper obituary.
In Charles Dickens 1843 classic “A Christmas Carol”, the miser Ebneezer Scrooge dismissed what Vestil and Rubi celebrated as “humbug”. But Christmas is not about tinsel, red-nosed reindeers, even shattered diets.
“We must be quiet and not fear the night, (or) else we will hear nothing”, the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner wrote. “For the ultimate message is uttered only in the night’s stillness ever since, through the gracious arrival of the Word into the night of our life, Christmas’ silent night, holy night came down among us… The meaning of Christmas is that the emptiness of death is filled with the ‘nameless incomprehensibility of God’.
Advent 2012 finds star lanterns, Nativity belens and Christmas trees now lit up. The “tambourine brigade” is out in full force. Scrawny school dropouts bang flattened bottle caps, tacked to sticks, to accompany off-key carols. A few are Badjaos from Mindanao, who scrape for a living from city streets.
They sing – well, sort of – at doorways. Some do on rickety jeepneys they scamper into. Their repertoire is limited. Some belt a few bars from “Silent Night”, or “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit.” Their unvarying finale is: “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. They then stretch open palms for handouts. If you drop an extra coin, they’ll chime: “Thank you / Thank You / Ang babait ninyo.