Caroline Cabading

Artist & Title Vocal Pronouncer

by Carol Cabading

The name itself means “story” in one of the Philippine ethno-linguistic groups of my family: the Cebuano language.

For over 20 years now I’ve been studying the ancestral music, dance and epic poetry of various Philippine tribal groups and one art form in particular that resonated with me was the Epic Poem of the Kalinga tribe. To the Kalinga people, their Epic Poem, “di Ullalim”, is not a theatrical art form but rather considered to be a remembrance of actual history of the tribe that relates its origins, its victories and defeats, its heroes, and most importantly, the remembrance of how to be the best Kalinga person you can be in terms of ethics, morality, and family/village cohesion.

In the Kalinga community music and poetry is felt in “7” as opposed to the western “8”. The bard who performs the di Ullalim is called the “Manuullalim” and is always a female who has the “calling” to take on this role for the community. There are usually only 1-2 per generation who are called. As a woman, I found the fact that a female is the holder and presenter of the community’s history to be quite fascinating and empowering.

For this musical commission I was inspired by the Kalinga culture to write an Epic Poem about my own family who first came to America in 1904. Our story is very specific but also very encompassing of my own Filipino-American tribe because the other families that my family have known and married into have had similar historical experiences. So I do feel that even as “Sugilanon” is a story about one family it also tells the story of a larger Filipino-American experience in San Francisco since the early 1900s. When I have presented these songs and verses to other Filipino-Americans whose family immigrated early in the century, they have agreed, and many feel that “Sugilanon” is not just my story but also their story.

The verses of “Sugilanon” follow Kalinga poetry protocol:

  • 7 syllables per line
  • 7 lines per stanza
  • The rhymes are on lines 2 & 4 and 6 & 7

Each individual spoken word section sets up a musical composition that either represents an actual family member or a segment of my Filipino-American community. Most of the compositions are informed by the music, language and traditional instrumentation of tribal Philippines either in their rhythmic or melodic motifs.

Caroline Cabading: Filipina Culture Bearer

Heartfelt love for the Filipino community has kept Caroline Cabading on the advocacy path as a culture bearer since 2004. As a fourth-generation Filipina and San Franciscan, she represents her heritage through non-profit leadership, musicianship, and film-making. Cabading is board president and executive director of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation where her influence ensures that history of the once-thriving Filipino enclave will never be forgotten.

Her initial landmark success was developing the International Hotel Manilatown Center, a venue on the first floor of the International Hotel Senior Residences dedicated to Filipino cultural events. Nicknamed the I-Hotel, the infamous low-income apartment complex historically served as the epicenter of Manilatown where more than 150 elderly Filipino and Chinese men called home. And one of her biggest life achievements has been bringing back three original Filipino residents to the I-Hotel in 2019, nearly 42 years after their original eviction in 1977.

“It was an honor to be a part of completing the full circle stories of these original defenders,” she says. She has produced and directed a documentary “Coming Back to the I-Hotel” chronicling this historic event. And in her role as musician, she is creating a Filipino-American poem and musical suite that integrates jazz and pre-colonial Philippine music to tell the story of the Filipino San Francisco experience from 1904-2005.

Click here to listen to “Sugilanon” in its proper order of verses and songs.

Caroline Cabading "Sugilianon"

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March 22, 2024

FILE: Vocal Jazz and Pre-Colonial Philippine music Filipina Haiku based Kalinga Tribe Epic Poem

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