HARANA KINGS is the result of Florante Aguilar's search for master haranistas as chronicled in the documentary film Harana. They represent the truest practitioners of the vanished custom of serenading. Between forty and fifty years ago, they were witnesses and active participants of this once-popular Filipino courtship tradition. Their services were so highly sought-after that fifteen serenades in a single night was a common affair in their respective provinces.
Men with lesser singing abilities often sought the assistance of master haranistas, who were well versed with many songs that were sung in various stages of the endeavor. The Panawagan (sometimes called Pamanhikan) were a subset of songs that were sung outside the window respectfully announcing their presence. The Pagtatapat (proposal) are songs sung once they were let in the house. These songs are often declaration of love and/or admiration for the subject. This stage also encourages the woman to respond through a song. Men sometimes hung by the thread awaiting for the song a woman chooses to respond with - whether it is reciprocal, unrequited or simply playful. The visit always ends with a subset of songs called Pamaalam (goodbye).
Born in 1934, Felipe Alonzo hails from Bantay, Ilocos Sur. He is well known in his community and is often seen performing around the city of Vigan during Christmas and town fiestas. He learned many of the songs when he was growing up performing in sarswelas, which he refers to as "entablados" - live comic operettas performed in the town plaza. In 1974, Mr. Alonzo, who is a self-taught guitarist, recorded Ilocano haranas for Villar Records.
Born 1946 in Maragondon, Cavite, Romeo Bergunio recently won first place in a harana singing contest for seniors in his hometown. He learned from his father and grandfather many olden and unknown songs not often heard on the radio, thus preserving the songs completely through oral tradition. He specializes in kundiman songs - both in its rudimentary form as well as the more formalized structure championed by Philippine composers such as Nicanor Abelardo.
Celestino Aniel was born in 1946 in the town of Naic, Cavite. Mr. Aniel learned many popular songs through the radio and recordings from the 1950s to the 1970s such as those of Ruben Tagalog, Larry Miranda, Ric Manrique, Jr. and Cenon Lagman. Aniel's singing style is also a nod to popular crooners such as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Perry Como, a style that was adopted and incorporated into harana during American occupation in the 1940s. Mr. Aniel is often seen singing around his hometown for friends and small gatherings.