Movie Review: Harana

By William Kustiono

On July 31st 2013, the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) was proud to screen Harana, a documentary about the long-lost serenade (harana) in Philippines. The word, serenade, is derived from the Italian word sereno which means tranquil. Haranas are beautiful songs that people listen to while relaxing or when they’re with their beloved ones. Benito Bautista directed this movie. Benito is an independent filmmaker based in San Fransisco, California. He founded Wanderlustproject Films in 2001 and has since made short and feature narratives and documentaries, including the award-winning documentary film, The Gift of Barong: a Journey from Within. Producer Florante Aguilar directed and narrated this movie. Florante is a leading figure in Philippine guitar music. He portrays the Philippine music in his films, recordings, and live performances. Fiorante has been awarded grants by the San Fransisco Arts Commission and the San Fransisco Foundation for composition of theater works, Lalawigan, which premieres in 2013.

The journey to find the long-lost serenade starts in Philippines, Fiorante with his film crew as they travel to search for master haranistas. The harana is predominantly a rural custom, men who want to get married must practice the art of harana to attract the opposite gender. Fiorante travels from the mountains of Quezon Province to the fields of Maragondon, Cavite to the old Spanish areas and to the coastal regions of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Along their journey, they capture beautiful scenic views and the culture of Philippines society. Fiorante learns that the harana’s music captivates people’s heart and helps them remember about wonderful memories in the past.

When Fiorante met Mang Sammy, he learns more about the haranistas. There are many haranistas in the rural areas. Harana is still played in the rural areas today for entertainment and amusement. He also learns that harana were used in the past as a performance during the courtship. The best harana performance would have the highest chance in a successful romance. Harana was used as technique to court girls in the past, but today, harana culture seems to have dissipated. The western culture seems to be overwhelmed with traditional culture. In the big cities, harana is no longer popular, since there are other genres of music that people can listen to now. Fiorante produced this movie to make us remember about the traditional culture, how it must be preserved and should be remembered, so the tradition can be passed along to the next generation.

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