Being a good musician isn’t exclusive for privileged conservatory or music-related course graduates; everyone can be one, any notes can be won. This is what Porfirio Rizada embodies as he plays his self-made bamboo angklung.
Leonila Rizada Baga, recalls the journey of her father; the year was 1964 and Porfirio Dela Cruz Rizada was just your regular music-loving utility worker in PAX College, a school ran by the Jesuit Priest Fr. Rosalino Pascua, S.J. in Zamboanga del Sur. Just like a lot of Filipino people in that era, Porfirio wasn’t able to finish his high school education.
“My father was just an ordinary utility worker ng isang school doon (Zamboanga Del Sur) pero music lover na talaga siya. Actually hindi siya nagtapos ng high school, nandoon lang siya parang utility, parang clerk,” she said.
Angklung entered Porfirio’s life when a Jesuit priest brought angklung in Mindanao. Porfirio’s curiosity and love for music took him in the room where the angklung were kept and out there, he took his own effort to label and give simple notes to the instruments.
Originating from Indonesia, angklung is a musical instrument that is made up of carved bamboo tubes set on a bamboo frame. These bamboo tubes are set loosely on the frames and these tubes create a sound when shaken by the musician. When performing a melody, multiple anklungs are needed to play the melody completely since an anklung can only play one note. Angklung is under the idiophone musical family of instruments which means it creates sound mainly from the material that the instrument is made up of.
Without knowing where the instrument will take his musical voyage, Porfirio continued to play and master the art of playing angklung by himself and was eventually given a chance by the Jesuit priests to teach angklung to students.
Malacañang Palace under the governance of the former President Ferdinand Marcos and the former First Lady Imelda Marcos eventually caught wind of the prowess of Porfirio’s angklung and invited them to play for the Marcoses and their dignitaries during programs.
“Bigla na lang may mga helicopter noon, kasi sa baryo kami, Malacañang na pala ‘yon. Iniinvite na sila, everytime na may mga bisita si President Marcos noon, sila ‘yung tumutugtog. Kapag may mga dignitaries coming from other countries o kapag si Imelda kumakanta ng ‘Dahil Sa‘yo’ ‘yan iniinvite din sila,” said Leonila.
The Rizada Family eventually found themselves in Cebu after the Jesuit priest moved, however, Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU) made their move to recruit the anklung master into their ranks and the Rizadas found themselves in the Zamboanga Peninsula again.
Back in Zamboanga for more musical action, Porfirio looked around for bamboos that he’ll use to make angklungs. With his very own hands, Porfirio was able to craft two sets of angklungs; one for his family and the other one is sold to AdZU for Php 20,000 because of poverty.
During his stay in Ateneo de Zamboanga University, he headed the university’s orchestra while also teaching angklung. He also guided the Ateneans to win in various musical competitions despite not having formal education in music.
“Pati ‘yung orchestra ng Ateneo (AdZU), siya rin ang humawak. May time siya sa angklung, may time din siya sa orchestra, may time din siya sa mga competition, palaging nanalo sila papa. Just imagine, undergrad, nasa second year o third year high school lang siya pero ang galing niya magbasa talaga ng nota, self-study lang talaga siya,” Leonila added.
In the late 80s, the Rizadas found their way to Puerto Princesa, Palawan where Porfirio still taught in the former Holy Trinity College (HTC). Here in Palawan, they established their name as renowned musicians playing in past and even recent local events and celebrations like in the former Asia World Hotel and Baragatan Festivals.
Porfirio celebrated his 86th birthday last September 15, he is now retired from teaching in colleges or universities, but he is still teaching and playing with his family different musical arrangements. Porfirio is a strict teacher in his family, once you learned how to read words, you will also need to learn to read musical notes.
“Lahat kami marunong magbasa ng nota maliban sa mga hindi pa marunong magbasa kasi he is really very strict kailangan marunong ka magbasa ng nota pero siya rin ang magtuturo sa amin,” Leonila shared.
The Rizadas boast of their angklung set that was made by their father in Zamboanga in the ‘70s which were played by four generations of Rizadas from Porfirio to his great great grandchildren. Their musical family usually come together to play various arrangements using their different instruments; angklungs and the rondalla ensemble.
Aside from being a great angklung player, Porfirio is also very skillful in playing different stringed instruments; from bandurria, guitar, violin, bajo de arko and more.