“Mr. Leopoldo Monocillo, Manugkomposo”

Written by Nikki Joy Espina, B.S. in Chemical Engineering III.

Nowadays, people from my generation prefer music from other countries than from our own. It seems that they enjoy foreign songs more than our very own Pinoy music from today or from the 80s or 90s. Pinoys seem to relate more with foreign songs than opm songs and the emotions they feel whenever they relate to the songs are the reason they enjoy foreign songs. But didn’t they try to listen to opm songs? Because if they just want to relate to the songs they listen, opm could give you more than that. But if people want to chill, songs from the past are better to listen to and these songs will also make you appreciate the Philippine history and culture. If you want this kind of feeling, you may listen to a komposo. But if the songs today aren’t recognized, then how would people even learn to love komposos? Keep on reading so you will know how amazing and colourful a komposo can be and how it can make someone’s life as colourful as it is.

For the people who will read this, a komposo is a musical composition which may have started from the Spanish period. It was just for spreading the news during the Spanish period. Manugkomposos sang the narrative in a repetitive melody. That was the purpose of komposo during that period. Later on, the komposos became non-narrative and were usually about Catholicism, town life, and heroism. But when the Americans colonized the Philippines, the youth adapted the Western culture. Because of this, the manugkomposos became the speakers for old culture and values. After this period, the usual topic for komposos are about the Western colonization, how it changed the culture of the Philippines, and how the youth were able to adapt the morality of the Western.

Politics, also, became the subject of komposos. Komposo was even used by candidates who ran for any position because it connects with the heart of the people, especially those who value the Philippine culture. And during Ferdinand Marcos’ presidency, Martial Law had been declared so most of the komposos during this period were about justice, death, love, bravery of those who stood up.

As we can see, every period, the subject of komposos change. The subject depends on what is happening around the manugkomposos. Today, komposos are usually about the way of living in the province, love for the country, love for someone, culture, and whatever emotions the manugkomposo feels.

So whatever the subject of the komposo is, it still shows the great culture of the Philippines. By just listening to the komposos of the different periods, you will be able to have a bird’s eye view of the Philippines’ history and you will be able to feel the emotions of the people during the different periods.

In this research, a manugkomposo, Mr. Leopoldo Monocillo, is featured to give us more information about komposos.

Mr. Leopoldo Monocillo is a citizen of Brgy. Mat-y, Miagao, Iloilo. He is now 78 years old. He’s living alone in his house since his wife is already dead and their children are now living abroad. He usually roams around the Miagao public market. You can see him every day there, people said. People also said that Mr. Monocillo always makes them laugh for his hilarious jokes and sometimes, he tells stories about his past career. Also, if he feels like singing, he sings while he visit his friends who own stores in the market. Who wouldn’t enjoy the company of Mr. Leopoldo Monocillo, a comedian and a singer?

Mr. Leopoldo Monocillo is a manugkomposo, a person who writes and sings komposos. He said he started making komposos when he was young. He became curious about music at a young age because his father was also a musician and played the guitar very well.

Because of his curiosity, he was inspired to learn how to play a guitar so he did learn how to play a guitar. Amazing right? But what’s more amazing is that Mr. Monocillo learned the guitar by himself. He started by borrowing his father’s guitar and tried and tried until he figured out how a guitar works. He said that he practised so hard by himself that he was able to play like a pro. His skill in playing the guitar was recognized by their church, he was asked to play during masses. But Mr. Monocillo didn’t stop there. He was so good that he was even recruited by a band.

Baybay Sporting Band was the name of the band that recruited Mr. Monocillo. He was asked to be the lead guitarist of the band. He had been in this band for 17 years. He said that during those good old days, they travelled to different parts of Panay to share their music and let everyone hear the goodness of the music they share. Their band also joined contests and received many awards. Mr. Monocillo said that even he, himself, was amazed by their band.

Their lead singer was Mr. Carlos Paguntalan who’s also his guitar assistant and he was Sir Leopoldo’s idol. Mr. Paguntalan was also the composer in their band. During all those 17 years, Mr. Monocillo, again, discovered another talent. He made Mr. Paguntalan, his idol, as his source of inspiration. (I think what he was thinking that time was “If he can do it. Then I can do it.”) He tried to write songs and realized he could also write nice songs. Komposos became Mr. Monocillo’s favourite that’s why most of his songs are komposos. One of his songs is “Ang Gugma sang mga Tigulang”:

Ang gugma sang mga tigulang,

daw sa iki na nagakamang

nga  bisan anhon sang tigwang

makapyot gid sa kabataan.

Inday sa pagkabati ko

pila kabulan akong balo,

ang lino gawsa sa baba mo nahimogid nga kalokalo.

Ang gugma sa pamatan-on,

daw ka bayo nga linugoom

nga bisan anhon kay malubad kay malubaron.

Ang bugos ko nga sinasysay

kay daw manok nga langka langka.

This song was composed by Mr. Monocillo. The first part of the song is the love of the old people being compared to an “iki”, a sea creature, no matter how strong the waves are, its grip on the kids will last because it is strong. Last part of the song is about teenagers’ love; it may be colorful at first, but it will still fade.

As you can see, he really composes songs well. Comparing elder people’s love for each other to a sea creature that has a strong grip was a great move to show that elders are loyal to each other, they love each other so much that they won’t ever let go, and that their relationships are strong. This shows the respect of men to women before. I also agree with the teenagers’ love that fades easily, especially from our generation. Teenagers’ relationships, nowadays, only last for months.

At first, Mr. Monocillo just tried making komposos and he only did it for entertainment but what he didn’t expect was, it became a part of him. He said he will not ever forget each and every song he wrote because he knows them by heart. That’s passion right there.

Entertainment. When Mr. Monocillo said “entertainment”, he really meant that and some of his songs are just to entertain the crowd. An example of the songs written by Mr. Monocillo that entertained people before and even now is this untitled song (Mr. Monocillo imitates a woman’s voice whenever he sings the part with italicized words):

Inday bayaan ta ikaw

Sige halin ka to

Mapuli ako sa miagao

Kadto puli to

Ugaling kung ikaw hidlawon sang miagao mo lang ako pangitaon.

Hindi. Hindi na ko mahidlaw simo.

(Translation: Inday, I will leave you. Sige leave. I will go back to Miagao. Then go home. If you miss me, just look for me in Miagao. No. No I won’t miss you.)

The song was about going back to Miagao, his one true home. Truly, there is no place like home.

Mr. Monocillo’s songs are about town life, love, and challenges in life. Manugkomposos’ usual subjects are the ones that they could relate to which means that just like everybody, he fell in love and he had been through hardships in life. Being in a band was his life back then. It was his job and his passion. But money is hard to find in this field. Fortunately, their band was famous during their time and they were in demand in different parts of Panay. They also joined contests so maybe it’s safe to say that money wasn’t really a problem. He was still able to pay for his kids’ tuition fees in school and provide enough food and shelter for his family. But of course, everyone’s life has ups and downs. At some point in his career, money became a problem. Many other bands became more famous than them. Because of this and his age, he decided to quit the band and find another more stable job. He said that even if he loved being in that band, he had to make a decision for his family so he did it for his family; and it’s okay if other bands started to became more famous than them because they had their chance, they didn’t blow it and that’s what matters.

Life has ups and downs and I just told you a part of the downs in life of Mr. Monocillo so let’s talk about the ups. When asked how writing komposos and singing them made him feel, he said “happy”. He loves to entertain people that’s why he loves writing komposos and singing them. Singing komposos that are funny or komposos that everyone can relate to really entertained people from his generation and many good comments were given to him. These good comments made him proud of himself. And when I interviewed people if they were also proud of Mr. Monocillo, everyone answered yes. Who wouldn’t be proud of a colleague who is an artist and an entertainer?

But what makes Mr. Monocillo more proud is that he was able to teach his children and his grandchildren to play instruments and sing. His children are now in London so whenever they come back to the Philippines, he always teaches them to play the guitar and piano and other musical instruments. He said that he couldn’t be more proud of himself because even his grandchildren were able to inherit his talent and skills in playing instruments.

“For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” If he’s happy about his grandchildren inheriting his talent, the opposite of this happiness he’s feeling is the sadness that he feels about our generation not appreciating it. He said that today, he doesn’t really sing komposos that much because people don’t appreciate this kind of songs. Mr. Monocillo shouldn’t actually be feeling sad for that reason because he’s really good and he plays the guitar very well. He should keep on performing and I think, eventually, people will love him and his songs.

There are many other artists out there who don’t perform anymore because of that same reason. We shouldn’t make them feel that way because they are artists and they show and tell the history and culture of the Philippines through their own art. We should support Mr. Leopoldo Monocillo. We should support artists like him. Let us be proud of them!

Artist: Mr. Leopoldo Monocillo

Address: Brgy. Mat-y, Miagao, Iloilo

Contact Information: 09073477579 (Manang Sario, Mr. Monocillo’s friend)

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