The sunset is beautiful in and of itself. Whether we attempt to capture it or not, it captivates us, stirs us and inspires us. But, if we attempt to capture the sunset, what are we attempting to capture? A photographer could take a perfect picture, but would that capture what is stirred within us? A photographer can’t take a picture of the stirring in our heart, and that stirring, so flagrant in youth and, all too often, so withered in the old, is what poetry is all about. A poem or a song attempts to express in words that which already exists — what a photograph fails to convey.There is something mystical in the few minutes one observes the sunset. The colourful sky reflects in the surface of the sea water and display the beauty of a sunset; although the sea water is different from the sun there is some type of merging, a mingling together of two entities. The soul that is inspired by the majesty of a sunset is comparable to a man whose heart is inspired by the beauty of his lover. There is something in the one that corresponds to something in the other. It cannot be accurately or totally explained in words — but it is certainly enjoyed by experience. It is a dance of souls – a dance of the sunset with the heart. It is a glorious harmony, a communing with nature, and is a sort of a union or a marriage, beyond intellect. It is intangible, a union between the singer and the song, between the potter and the pot, between the artist and the artwork, between an infinite Creator and a finite creation.
Which brings me into remembrance a song about sunset that I heard my mother often sing not just when I was growing up but even through adulthood. My mother was very musical; she loved to sing, dance and play instruments. Everyone in my hometown knows her, and because people say that I look just like my mother they expect me to be as talented as she was. So every time I visit my hometown people would always ask me the same question, that is, if I could sing and dance like my mother. My response is always, “I wish I could sing like her but hey, I am good at ballroom dancing!” I’m never good at singing, you see. And I need a little something to crow about, even if it’s something as silly as dancing chacha.
My mother and her friends have a regular ‘ladies-gathering’, and I have vivid memories sitting on a set of staircase at our house watching them sing, dance and laugh together. One of the songs they loved to sing was ‘Laoang Sunset’ and it was written by the late Honourable Bernardino Muncada, the Municipal Trial Court Judge in my hometown back in the 60s – 70s. Not only did my mother and her friends often sang Judge Muncada’s musical compositions but we all did listen and dance to his music as well. His music was indeed a huge part of my growing up years. Sadly, he died young, only in his mid or late 50s if I’m not mistaken so I don’t have any recollection of him but the memories of his wife, Mrs. Patria Muncada as my second grade teacher, are still fresh in my mind. She was so beautiful with deep seated eyes and one stern look from her did put fear on her students. She really was strict in the classroom but her spirit and character endeared her to young children like myself.
One day while she was busy teaching, a naughty boy came to me from behind and stole a kiss on my right cheek. It took me by surprise; I grabbed my pen and poke him on his face. He cried and Mrs. Muncada hurriedly ran towards the boy whispering, “ata mandaw, nagdudugo an kahimo!” (oh no, his cheek’s bleeding!), and she picked him up and carried him to the school clinic. Today I can’t even recall the name of that little boy but I do remember how Mrs. Muncada responded, and how scared I was for what I did. Thankfully, I didn’t get in trouble for that. In fact, I do remember her rebuking all the boys in the class. At the same time, she encouraged us girls to learn how to stand up for ourselves, and not to allow anyone to bully us.
When I went to high school, one of Mrs. Muncada’s daughters, Miss Sol Muncada (I fondly call her Ma’am Sol to this very day), became my Health and Physical Education teacher. She was very young, so beautiful, gentle and tender-hearted, and all the single male teachers as well as some students at the school had a huge crush on her. I’ve learned from her some valuable lessons that are applicable to me then as a young girl and more so today as an adult such as stretching the muscles for flexibility, warming up the body before and after a work out. She always had us do some exercises before each class and those are the same old exercises I do today to warm up or cool myself down during a work out.
Then when I went to college I got to know Mrs. Annie Muncada-Millan (I call her ‘Ate Annie’), the second oldest among the Muncada siblings. We lived in Alabang and providentially, the church I visited one Sunday morning was where Ate Annie and her family were members, and I ended up attending their church until I left the Philippines to study abroad. As a young Christian back then, I looked up to Ate Annie and have learned so much from her. She’d pray and expound the scripture with me, and she shared all types of lessons the Lord had taught her. I still have bookmarks on my old bible of the scripture passages we studied together. I was greatly blessed by her life and testimony. If her mother and sister’s impact on my life was a physical one — academic and intellectual influence — Ate Annie’s was on a much deeper level — it was spiritual. Today I look back with fond memories of the bygone days, and simply amazed at the incredible string of coincidences — the connection I had with three of the Muncada ladies from grade school to college; my mother’s friendship with Mrs. Muncada (they both were teachers at the elementary school in our town); Judge Muncada’s musical composition being a big part of our family, and many other connections. On hindsight, the Lord has perfectly orchestrated it all.
The late Judge Muncada was not only a distinguished judge but also a prolific composer and singer. He wrote a lot of songs, both in Waray (the language spoken in Eastern Visayas, Philippines) and English, that became a part of the musical heritage and culture of Samar and Leyte islands. To this very day, his music is played everywhere from family gatherings like birthday, christening and wedding, to public events like fiesta, graduation, class reunion, and many other momentous events. For this particular song, I can only imagine that the late judge would have written the lyric poem first, and later on added the musical notes. Clearly, he penned the words with a bountiful dose of nostalgia about his childhood. He was passionately overwhelmed with emotions that he wrote, “I could not help but be lonely, I could not help but be dreamy . . .” as if he was melancholic and pensive; but at the same time captivated by the beauty of nature — the cliff, the beach, the sunset — and the glorious place of his birth, his boyhood home. The beautiful song really resonates deep within me. Every time I listen to it, it evokes images, memories, emotions — a myriad of delightful experience that remained with me all these years. Tonight I am sitting in a couch at home in London, thousands of miles away from my beloved hometown, listening to Laoang Sunset while writing this blog post and reminiscing the good old days.
Ah, the happy memories of childhood! 🙂
The composer’s daughter, Grace Muncada-Sekhon, is the one singing, and probably also playing the guitar in this video. Judge Muncada’s legacy is not only his beautiful music — her children are all great musicians — but most, if not all of his children, have become Christians and now actively involved in the ministry. Recently, I got together with one of his grandkids Janina (Ate Annie’s daughter), a top executive of GSK Philippines, who was in London on a business trip. She and her brother were very young when I was attending their parent’s church. She got to meet my husband for the first time, and it was a wonderful blessing to see her again. We sure had a great fellowship together. Her visit prompted me to write this little story. 🙂