Music Heritage

Inocentes “inuz” Vergara, one of the more recent sons of Dalaguete to find distinction for self and hometown, is widely known to have played a special role in the development of Cebuano popular music – a role which we in Cebu have had the pride and pleasure of recognizing and appreciating during our own time.

He was one of the luminaries of Cebuano music at a time that did not want for luminaries. However, the abundance was not restricted to Inuz Vergara’s home province alone. Cebu had always kept Manila and other major Asian cities well-supplied with talented and reliable musicians, in such a way that the smart-alecks in the capital began to make jokes, putting the blame on “all that corn which Cebuano are fond of eating in lieu of rice.” Well, making music requires enormous amounts of energy, as well all know

According to his close friends and associates, it was by falling under the influence of a teacher like the renowned orchestra leader in pre-WWII Cebu, Candido Celerio, that Inuz became more than ready to fulfill his role when the time finally came. And that role was to create musical arrangements for the orchestra’s own use, which were extremely rare and quite costly in those days, and to wield the baton for Cebu’s most distinguished multi-purpose band, the Mutya Band (although “orchestra” was considered the correct term to use then). Not unlike its conductor, the band had gone through quite an interesting set of circumstances itself.

Among the many artists with a rightful claim to being Cebu’s musical pride and joy was a group called the Swing Masters. It was the foremost dance band in the area, and deservingly remained so until tragedy struck.

The band had just finished a dazzling series of performances in Manila and its distinguished leader, the bachelor Bernardo “Narding” Cabase, was triumphantly coming home to finalize matters of the heart. But the MV Corregidor struck a mine a few miles off Manila Bay and Narding perished along with one of the band’s sax players, Ignacio Abella. Soon after, the Swing Masters disbanded, apprehensive about retaining the band’s name. But from its membership another group would later be formed under the name of Mutya-the Cebuano word for pearl.

Part of the pain resulted form recalling Narding Cabase’s short but fruitful career. Well able to pick his way around both idioms of the harana and the “new” sound, he was a fascinating figure. A prolific composer, he had penned such songs as Pasayloa ug hikalimti, Sayri Ako, Why must I leave you? And Lilongon Ko Lang ang Akong Pagbati.

For its part, the birth of Mutya came about because of the need for a group to supply original and incidental music for the products of Mutya Pictures Production, Inc., a film company managed by Natalio “Talyux” Bacalso and financed by Don Rafael Ramos and Don Jose Hernaez, assisted by Augusto Santos, a name still quite prominent in the business world of Cebu today. But for its actual formation and the impetus to function, the signal honor of founding-fatherhood can only be claimed by “Maestro” Candido Celerio, who paved the way for Inuz to assume the baton, and to Cesar Laspiñas, Sr. who looked to the innumerable finer details that often determine the ultimate fate of any group, however small. And Mutya was (and is) a sizeable group, more so after incorporating a string section, several keyboards, and a large number of vocalists.

Inspite of the extra tonnage, the fate of Mutya appeared doubly enhanced down the years. The band has always been musically literate, the Laspiñas management insisting on maintaining musical standards. It also picked the best band leader the group could have-“Maestro Inuz” Vergara, who continued to hone his group’s abilities before and after a gap of several years, until his death in early 1996.

It is inevitable to think of Inuz Vergara, the lyrical workaholic, as very special indeed. The seemingly natural and effortless way he mastered a difficult art encourages the view of his role in Cebuano music as a catchment point for new advances in musical technique. With all his knowledge of music theory, orchestration and arrangement, he resisted the urge to become a composer. Instead, he wholeheartedly addressed the need to teach and encourage Cebu’s instrumentalists in their training and actual practice.

The Maestro grew up in the small town of Dalaguete, where most homes had an instrument or two, and were lips were bruised from practicing. The young Inuz Vergara became a boy-wonder who could, if he felt like it, pick up any instrument and play it on the spot. Mastering the drum set got him a job at a night club. Next, he mastered the piano-jazz piano, to be precise. He did it by simply and closely observing the club virtuoso. He learned the styles of George Shearing and Bill Evans, Errol Garner and Chic Corea through the cifra method: learning each laborious note by repeatedly listening to a recording. Manila’s night clubs lured him, as it did the best musical talents from the provinces. He took on jobs all over Southeast Asia, staying the longest in Hongkong, whose loss became Cebu’s gain when he suddenly retired from that ratrace-to join Cebu’s cockroach competition “circuit.” It was a deadly game after all, only closer to home.

Mutya performed at the 14th Cebu Popular Music Festival in 1996 under the Maestro’s direction. It was to be their last project together. The night after, Inuz led the group again at the concert version of the “14th Pop” at the Royal Concourse, a huge watering hole along Gorordo Avenue, where he had played cocktail music innumerable times before. And it was there, a couple of afternoons later, that he suffered a stroke.

Witness accounts have it as he lay completely comatose in the intensive-care ward, the Maestro slowly raised his arms as though conducting an orchestra. His moving fingers depressed invisible keys when, next, he went solo on keyboard. Occasionally, one hand rested while the other beat time without ceasing. With the music constantly playing in his mind, the Maestro kept up this “performance” until the very end.

It was his way of saying how difficult it all was-how there is almost no way one can say goodbye to one’s music.

Dalaguete is home to some of the finest band masters and composers.

DMF Marching Band

Membership in the DMF Marching Band almost always lead to a college scholarship.

DMF Rondalla

The DMF Rondalla Program is a brainchild of the Dalaguetnon but Chicago-based renowned musician Ester B. Hana, with the hope that through this group, the students who show promise and determination  to excel in music be offered scholarships in college.
At the competitive level, the group is one of the consistent winners of the Annual Halad sa Kabataan competition sponsored by the Province of Cebu, garnering the championship trophies in the years 2007 and 2009.



"Didto ko sa atong lagkaw, ako misusi, ako miduaw... Wa pa ju'y dyutayng kadaut, bisan sa dugay ng mga adlaw..."  ...Thus goes the first verse of the immortal song "Lagkaw" of the now almost forgotten Eriberto "Berting Buta" Montenegro.

Then there is Inocentes Vergara, one-time musical director of international singer Matt Monro in a concert held at the Cebu Coliseum, who arranged the renowned Pilita Corrales' song Kapantay ay Langit,  

In a three-page memoir that came out in the Dalaguete Yearbook 2000 and written to the man he most respectfully addressed as the Maestro, the well-renowned priest and composer of liturgical music Msgr. Rudy Villanueva had this to say on Maestro Inuz:

"...The Maestro grew up in the small town of Dalaguete, where most homes had an instrument or two, and where lips were bruised from practicing. The young Inuz Vergara became a boy-wonder who could, if he felt like it, pick up any instrument and play it on the spot."

"A Tribute and Legacy"

Of the Original Solfegio instructors of Dalaguete were the noted “Popo” Genio Belciña and Mano Fidel Buenconsejo, Mente Bajarias, Tonying, Felipe Vergara, Tarco Salvador, Nestor Bajarias, Mingo Salvador, Drummer, Clarinet, we consider them as the Trail Blazers, the Builders, the Movers, the Torch Bearers, the Keeper of the Flame, the Restorers or the new venturers. One other who is based in Chicago, Illinois, married Ester Buenconsejo Hana, husband, a Thailander. Dr. Judith Dueñas Tumabiene, an accomplished pianist/graduate from the UP Conseratory of Music, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Just like any other parents, we are very proud of our sons who are musicians. Invicto “Jun” Alcantara who performed and performs in Manila, Italy, Las Vegas in U.S.A. “Dindo” Maphilindo Dueñas Alcantara, Saxophonist at Manila Hilton, Japan and Italy. Jesse “Boy” Alcantara, was Cebu City Hall Band Drummer for sixteen (16) years and a two (2) year stint in Macau, China. In Cebu City Jesse performed at Cebu White Gold House, Continental Hotel, Baseline, Shakeys joint, Lawis-wis Cawayan, El Refresco Tambuli, Lapulapu, Mactan. My wife Precing, by the way, plays the piano and can also sing. The Dalaguete Music Foundation (DMF) which was founded by Ester Buenconsejo Hana, where I happened to be the Organizer of the Committee. Still others are Joe Salvador, trumpeter and pianist and guitar, Elmer “Muya” Ambagay, trumpeter, Italy. Other place, Cebu City, Jose Navarrete, Jesus Navarrete, Trumpeter, Conseco Morante, Trombonista Tonying Buraroy Trumpeter, Ruperto “Pintong” Legaspi. Ester Hana was here last November bringing stringed instruments for her Banjo children’s group/rondalla. In February, she will reveal her other plans for DMF. Her rondalla is based in Chicago, Ill.

Today, Elementary and High School students study the Solfegio to enable them to go through college for free by membership in School Bands.



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