A Classic Filipino Christmas Carol: Kasadya Ning Takna-a

Kasadya Ning Takna-a (“How Joyful Is This Season”) is a classic Christmas Carol and my favorite Filipino Christmas Carol. I still remember the lyrics by heart because I used to sing this upbeat Christmas song as a little girl while carolling with my friends in Cebu.

Preface:

Kasadya ning taknaa
Dapit sa kahimayaan
Mao’y atong makita
Ang panagway’ng masanglagon
Bulahan ug bulahan
Ang tagbalay nga giawitan
Awit nga halangdonon ug sa tanang Pasko
Magmalipayon!

Chorus:
Repeat Preface
Bag-ong tuig
Bag-ong kinabuhi
Duyogan ‘ta sa atong gebati
Atong awiton aron sa kalipay
kita makaangkon!

Chorus
Preface
Awit nga halangdonon ug sa tanang Pasko magmalipayon

I am sure the song is more familiar to you if sang as Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, a popular Filipino Christmas Carol and the Tagalog adaptation of the 1933 Cebuano carol. Ang Pasko ay Sumapit first hit the airwaves when I was a teenager but I was horrified to hear my favorite carol sang in a different accent and beat. It’s not the same., I cried inside. I don’t hear the rondalla introduction of the song. It sounds horrible. I thought. The heavy (maragsa) accent that added vigor and festiveness was just not there in the Tagalog version. I’m sure if you heard the Tagalog version, you would appreciate Ang Pasko ay Sumapit but I first heard it sung in Visayan!

Listen to this:

For me, Ang Pasko ay Sumapit is NOTHING compared to the joyfulness of the carol if sang in Visayan. The closest Tagalog version that follows true to the original version is the one sang by the Mabuhay Singers. Even the meaning of the lyrics are different.

But what makes the song even pathetic is the composer was paid a measly price for the Tagalog version. Here is the story of the Cebuano composer, Vicente Rubi.

A gentle Cebuano composer Vicente Rubi jotted down the notes of this daygon (carol) for a Christmas festival that year. Mariano Vestil, another Cebuano, wrote the lyrics. Forgotten Today, carolers in Cebu still sing the lilting beat and lyrics that the now-barely-remembered Rubi and Vestil blended 70 years ago. Bulahan ang tagbalay nga giawitan (“Blessed the homes that carolers sing to”). ….”It’s the supremest of ironies in a country that boasts of the longest celebration of Christmas,” Jullie Yap Daza wrote in the Times Journal in 1978. “But not a trace of effort has been made to attribute the beloved carol Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit to its author, Vicente D. Rubi.” By then, Rubi was an old impoverished widower, confined in a Cebu hospital. His carol had been hijacked by a recording company for 150 pesos.

Cebuanos recall the frail old man would shuffle to teach carolers, at his gate, how to sing his carol right. “Nong Inting” died in 1980, denied “what is due him in royalties,” now Manila Standard editor Yap-Daza wrote. This is raw exploitation. Today’s jargon calls that “Intellectual Property Rights” theft.

I heard Kasadya Ning Takna-a sang a few years ago and nearly choked in tears at the thought of Vicente Rubi never being paid royalties by that greedy recording company. Whenever I listen to Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, not only do I feel strange hearing it sung in a different tone but I feel history should give more credit to Vicente Rubi.

Bagong tuig, bagong kinabuhi, the Cebuano original, and its Tagalog adaptation, proclaim. It echoes the Advent cry of Isaiah: “Break the fetters of injustice … and break every yoke/ Then, will your light break forth as the morning.”

Where is the justice due Vicente Rubi?

Though more than 70 years have lapsed and royalties are way past the 50 year mark, I will honor Vicente Rubi in this blog for all the world to know him as the composer of Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, the Tagalog version of Kasadya Ning Takna-a.

One day, I hope a music producer will come out with the Kasadya Ning Takna-a , the original daygon version. Hopefully, this forgotten Cebuano Carol will once again claim its rightful place in Philippine music.

How joyful is this season if we remember Vicente Rubi.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (1346 Posts)

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.


About Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

The comments posted on my blog are moderated. I reserve the right to remove comments, words or phrases that are defamatory, abusive, incite hatred and advertise an email address or commercial services or just plain spammy. I also reserve the right to remove posts that to my opinion are off-topic, irrelevant, ad-hominem, personal attacks and or just plain rude.
  • http://nancydrewandme.blogspot.com Cathy

    don’t you just love Christmas carols? i have a similar list in my blog. here — enjoy!

  • http://aboutmyrecovery.com Noemi

    @Cathy- I love playlists. Sometimes I am lazy to download tracks

  • http://www.secret2success.co.cc/ Yohann

    I am quite bothered that the tagalog version (since I am pure tagalog) is not as good as that of the Visayan but I guess since it originally originated in your area then I respect that. It is sad that in our society, many achievements of others are easily taken by opportunists. I guess karma will just do its thing.

  • http://aboutmyrecovery.com noemi

    @yohann- I am more bothered that the composer was not paid fairly. I guess the Tagalog version was just more popular

  • http://baboy.com jessica

    I ‘ve heard the carol before. You’re right. I like the staccato beat

  • donna

    It’s such a pity. maybe he thought it was a one time payment thing.

  • http://teacherjulie.com/ julie

    That is an interesting story, Noemi. I didn’t know about this until I read your blog. And to think he died without being given what was due to him is so sad but I’m sure the angels in heaven welcomed him with open arms.

    You have a lot of songs by the Madz, they are wonderful. Hubby’s cousin who is also a priest (mga Bol-anon) used to sing with a group until he had his own chorale.

  • Tim

    Noemi I am with you. Sometimes I am lazy too 🙂

  • http://www.wanderlustsha.com sha

    hmm made me homesick this song…

  • Vip Aleonar

    At our Yap family reunion held in Cebu December in 2002, the non-Cebuano speaking family members surprised the host Cebuanos by singing Ang Kasadya along with them at the end of the mass.

    “Secret” emails had went back and forth Manila, USA and Australia setting down the Cebuano lyrics. The names of Rubi and Vestil and the original year was included to convince the Manila people that the Cebuano version was indeed the original. I underlined the syllables that fell on the beat, so that even the Australian-accented cousins got it down pat.

    We then inveigled the programmer to include the carol in the overhead projector at the end of the Mass. The Cebuanos needed no prompting when the lyrics were put on the projector and the guitarists started the intro. They were thoroughly surprised that the Manila, USA, and Australia contingents joined in just as fluently.

    We hope in some measure we honored Rubi and Vestil that night.

  • Nick

    Hi I just bumped into your blog. Thank you for telling us more about Vicente Rubi. A few years back, I had the privilege of joining the late Levi Celerio for lunch in UP Diliman. By some chance, the topic of Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit came up. He said another Filipino composer, a non-Cebuano at that, claimed that he wrote the song. Of course you didn’t, Mang Levi retorted, and said that it was originally written in Cebuano by someone he couldn’t recall. Mang Levi did a Tagalog translation, but I’m not sure if its the standard Tagalog version we all know. Needless to say, I think up to this day, that certain composer (I will keep him anonymous, for my sake) still believes he wrote the song. The first time I came across Mr. Rubi’s name was on a choral arrangement made by Joel Navarro of Filipino Christmas carols. In this work, Prof. Navarro included both Cebuano and Tagalogs lyrics of Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit.

    Now, Mr. Vicente Rubi’s name to me is no longer just letters on a piece of music sheet. He is now a real person to me, thanks to you.

    Regarding justice, I really do hope Mr. Rubi, Mr. Vestil, and other exploited composers, will get the honor and royalties they deserve, whether or not they still walk this earth with us or not.

  • Barry John Rubi

    thank you…

    in Momory of my Great Grand Father Vicente “lolo inteng” Rubi