More than a century ago, a bamboo band in Malabon played an important role in the 1896 revolution. At a time when the use of the bolo was banned, Malabon Musikong Bumbong helped the Katipunan by hauling and sneaking away their weapons. It also played the revolutionary songs “Alerta Katipunan” and “Veteranos dela Revolucion.”
Three generations after, Ret. Col. Gilbert Ramos — great grandson of Felix Ramos, one of the founders of Malabon Musikong Bumbong — continued the legacy not only by playing but by crafting bamboo musical instruments (BMI) as well. The band is now known as Musikawayan and continues to make music beyond Malabon.
This year, the DOST- Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) started the Bamboo Musical Instruments Innovation R&D Program to improve the quality of locally-made BMI.
“We make various types of instruments such as tipangklung, angklung, marimba, bumbong, bamban and gabbang, mostly for our clients from schools and music stores,” shared Ramos. He admits that though there is a steady demand for their products, one of the challenges is maintaining the quality of the raw materials, especially since bamboo poles are usually prone to bukbok (powderpost beetle) attack.
According to Program Leader Aralyn L. Quintos, “The DOST-FPRDI program aims to provide science-backed solutions to BMI problems on sound and structural qualities, playability, tuning and durability.”
The program seeks to develop technologies that will prolong the life of bamboo without negatively affecting the musical instruments’ sound quality; standardize the production of selected BMI; develop prototype design; analyze raw material sources and existing markets; and build a BMI processing facility.
“As an off-shoot, we hope to raise public awareness and appreciation for the cultural importance of these musical instruments,” Quintos added.
Program partners include the University of the Philippines – Center for Ethnomusicology and Philippine Normal University, while funding is provided by the DOST Grants – in- Aid.
With Filipino ingenuity and ample R&D support, craftsmen and musicians like Ramos can look forward to making more beautiful music with bamboo. (Apple Jean C. Martin- de Leon)