Lake Sebu, South Cotabato: Music In High Frequencies With Ma Fil
Music can transcend barriers – it’s a general truth. It chooses no nationality, religion, nor culture. It evokes emotions regardless of the language we speak. Music redefines communication. It is universal language in a fluid state.
I met a lot of fascinating personalities during this journey. Among them was a man who is more fluent on a hegelung than words. He is Ma Fil Angkoy – half Ubu, half T’boli, full-blooded artist. He lives on the remote highlands of Brgy. Tasiman, a village in Lake Sebu where the towering peaks greet the distant heavens. This is also where my lens met the musician.
Many have seen Ma Fil perform, many have heard his music. But behind the curtains of fame, the overlooked artist is in constant battle with life’s daily struggles in order to survive. He often receives donations from visitors who come to see him perform, but most of the time, he depends on the abundance offered by the mountains.
One of Ma Fil’s timeless tunes was about two birds, a mother and her offspring, who went to the mountains where food is abundant. But in this rapidly changing world, the promise held by the mountain may not be just enough for the bird to survive.
Ma Fil wore a dark blue chaleco embedded with intricate line patterns, and a traditional headpiece among T’boli called ulew. He tuned the hand-carved two-stringed lute called hegelung then struck the open chord, playing a slow and monotonous single-pitched rhythm. The mood began to change. There was a stern look on his face – his wrinkled eyes gazing beyond the distant horizon, his mind seems to wander freely in a void. For some unknown reason during that abrupt prelude, it felt as blank as the melancholic tune.
But in a flash, the tempo picked up the pace. Ma Fil stood up. He inserted series of short riffs and licks into the drone. His fingers were fast on the frets it made the two-string instrument sound like it has 6. On bare feet, he tapped the cold concrete floors to melodic beats and danced around the living room like it was a stage. Opposite his stage was the lone outsider among the audience, me, stunned to an overwhelming performance. I don’t know what else to say or how to say it, but I’ll leave it to this:
Ma Fil owned the moment.
If Ma Fil didn’t told me the song was about two birds, I wouldn’t even know. But honestly, during that moment, the story behind the piece didn’t even matter. It comes with an invisible force that works on emotions rather than the mind. It might be the sound, maybe the performance, or probably the whole she-bang.
However, music can only be as fluid as water to how much we’d open our heart and soul to the beauty it creates. Let it flow within where words won’t matter. For sometimes, songs are best left unexplained. Music is a language where senses speak louder than plain words.
Wherever you are right now, I’m sure they will love your music. Rest in peace, my friend. You and your music will be forever remembered.
1. More about Lake Sebu series.
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6. Be safe and happy travels.