Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Nicanor S. Abelardo was born in San Miguel, Bulacan in February 7, 1893 to Valentin Abelardo and Placida Santa Ana; both were musically gifted.

When his uncle, a painter, brought the young Abelardo to Manila to study at Quiapo Primary School, the piano at his uncle's studio fascinated him so much that he started tinkering with its keys. Soon enough, he learned to play it by himself.

Eventually, the piano player at Cinematografo Filipino, Francisco Buencamino, heard about Abelardo's talents and asked him to substitute for him. There the young boy played piano accompaniments to silent films. Buencamino also hired him to play at other venues so at the tender age of 13, the young boy was already a regular attraction at some of Manila's saloons and cabarets.

Abelardo went back home to his hometown of San Miguel and finished sixth grade. Immediately afterwards, he accepted an appointment as a music teacher in barrio schools. In 1916, he finally took up courses under Guy F. Harrison and Robert Schofield at the UP Conservatory of Music.

But nonetheless, it was Abelardo's father who first introduced him to the rudiments of music at age five by teaching him the solfeggio and the banduria. He later on picked up the violin and learned to play it without much difficulty. And at only eight years of age, he wrote his first composition, Ang Unang Buko, a waltz, which he dedicated to his grandmother.

Abelardo went on to receive his teacher’s certificate in science and composition in 1921 from the University of the Philippines. Subsequently, three years hence, he was appointed head of the composition department at the university's Conservatory of Music.

His creative genius elevated the kundiman to a veritable art form, bringing it to art-song status. Among his works were Nasaan Ka Irog, Magbalik Ka Hirang, and Himutok. He also composed the melody for the university's official anthem, U.P. Naming Mahal.

With a small grant from UP, Abelardo went to America to pursue graduate studies at the Chicago Musical College. It was there he composed Cinderella which won for him the Las Violetta Scholarship in Chicago.

Years later, back in the Philippines, he and his family ran a boarding house where students lived and took music lessons from him. Among his students were National Artist Antonino Buenaventura, Alfredo Lozano and Lucino Sacramento.

He died on March 21, 1934 at the age of 41, leaving a prolific collection of more than 140 works. The building housing the College of Music in UP Diliman, Abelardo Hall, is named in his honor.

* * *

To listen to Abelardo's classic Bituing Marikit, please click here.

As for his discography, click here.

* * *

Inspiring Lives of 101 Great Filipinos
by Fernando A. Bernardo
Anvil Publishing


posted by Señor Enrique at 5:42 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on a great Pinoy musician.

I love the Bituin Marikit video :)

December 05, 2007 8:47 AM  

Blogger pusa said...

such an inspiring story, i just heard about the name abelardo but didnt know he was a music genius!

thanks =D

December 05, 2007 10:07 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got to check this musician out then! Interesting!


December 05, 2007 3:46 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

When I was a student, I would hang around the Abelardo Hall more than I would at my own college nearby. This was because of the different musical sounds I would hear from students practicing. I really cannot understand why there would be no sound-proof classrooms there! Imagine practicing your piano pieces and hearing someone signing a different tune nearby...

Sorry for the bit of remembering my student days. Yet, i didn't know a thing about Abelardo himself! Thank you, Eric for a very informative post! Nice photo too---you do have a knack for producing earthy tones in your photos!

December 05, 2007 5:35 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Those students must've been so impassioned with their etudes and scales that they had become oblivious to the sounds going on concurrently with theirs.

Thank you, Bernandette. I didn't know what to do with this picture until I was inspired to attach it to an entry about a Filipino music artist. Abelardo immediately came to mind :)

December 05, 2007 6:00 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I've a feeling your grandparents might have heard some of Abelardo's music when they were young, Kyels :) But I suppose young folks these days ought to check out his music, too!

December 05, 2007 6:01 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I as the other way around, Pusa. First read about Abelardo and then learned about a hall in UP Diliman named in his honor :)

December 05, 2007 6:02 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Interesting kundiman, right, BW?

Yes, we ought to touch base with some of our great fellow Pinoys. Featuring such entries is a good start :)

December 05, 2007 6:03 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

41... to young to die!
Interesting post as usual.

December 05, 2007 8:14 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

Informative post, Eric. I knew that Abelardo was a musician. I didn't know that Abelardo was one of the Filipino musicians who transformed the humble kundiman and elevated it to the status of an art song. Thank you.

December 05, 2007 8:58 PM  

Blogger Ebb Tide said...

What a great post! Thanks for the info about Nicarnor Abelardo. Small world! Our family has a great musical heritage too. My father-in-law, Benjamin Resella came from the Abelardo family. I am not sure what generation he is, but he turned 90 yrs. old,last May. I remember him talking a lot and proudly about the musical talent of the Abelardo family. However, my father-in-law became an excellent artist. He is the former art director of Sampaguita Pictures. When he immigrated to the U.S., he worked for Century Fox and MGM Studios as scenic artist, painting gigantic background for Hollywood movies. He's the only Filipino artist to have worked in the motion picture. My eldest sister is an alumni of the U.P. Conservatory of Music. Most of my sisters have musical talent except me. Art is a great part of our family heritage and so is music.

December 06, 2007 1:35 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

What an impressive family of artists and musicians you got, Eb Tide :) Wonderful!

Incidentally, why don't you email Patricia Laurel, chief editor of Art-in-Site Magazine, with an article submission, or URL of your artworks' online site. She's on the lookout for Pinoys and Fil-Am artists and writers to feature in the magazine.

Thanks for sharing!

December 06, 2007 4:00 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

You're quite welcome, Luna. I do enjoy learning about our great contributors and share my findings. Knowing about them should also inspire our young people to fully tap their potentialities.

December 06, 2007 4:02 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, Sidney, that's quite a young age to die. I wonder from what cause, though? There was no mention of it. But what a contribution Abelardo made in such a short period of time. Impressive!

December 06, 2007 4:04 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi from from Australia! I enjoyed the article and the you tube of Bituing
Marikit it had transformed me to my
parents era "kapanahunan". I remember
learning Abelardo in literature in high school,like Jose Rizal he had
achieved so much in such a short life span imagine if those two lived till
90!More inspiration senor good on you

December 06, 2007 5:31 AM  

Blogger carlotta1924 said...

we studied abelardo's music in school before but i didn't know that he died young. i noticed most of the great composers (and writers) die at a young age..

i also remember that i had my first piano recital in abelardo hall =)

December 06, 2007 5:45 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Many thanks for dropping by and leaving us a note, Anonymous! Glad that you enjoyed this post :)

December 06, 2007 5:45 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Wow! I had no idea that you play the piano, Carla. I think that's wonderful :)

You must be, out of all of us, the most knowledgeable when it comes to Abelardo's catalog of compositions.

Sad, isn't it, that these folks who soothe our soul with their music often die young?

December 06, 2007 6:05 AM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

Beautiful post Senor!!

I learned to appreciate kundiman songs because of my Lola. She was with the Bayanihan and she would always take me to watch their shows. Of course I didn't know who composed what but now that you've linked us to Bituing Marikit, I think ito yung kinakanta dun sa isang portion nila. I'm pretty sure that it's in the Tagalog Suite.

I used to hang around Abelardo too. My high school BFF was singing with the UP Jazz ensemble. She eventually went on to start the Ugoy-ugoy band :)

December 06, 2007 10:13 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's right, Scrooch! -- With your Grandma with the Bayanihan organization, I bet she must have taken you along to many of its performances; hence you've gained much exposure to these beautiful kundimans of ours. These music definitely make wonderful dance sequences -- so charmingly romantic, indeed :)

Many thanks!

December 06, 2007 1:50 PM  

Blogger Ebb Tide said...

Thanks for your nice reply. Pls. send me Pat's e-mail address. will try to contact her in the future. Is this Art-In-Site, a local magazine?

December 07, 2007 1:23 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It will be distributed in both the US and Philippines, Ebb Tide.

Her email:

December 07, 2007 6:23 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember those kundiman songs during my younger years. During a brief vacation in the province of Laguna, I've seen groups of young men serenading young ladies at night. What a sweet memory. I can still hear kundiman songs on DWIZ online here in the east coast between 1-2 pm.

December 08, 2007 2:47 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Back during childhood, Clett, the kundiman songs I heard were often performed by the smitten young men in Subic, while in Manila, the American pop ballads were more prevalent amongst these lovelorn lads :)

December 08, 2007 11:25 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicanor Abelardo was my uncle (my mother's brother). Unfortunately I never got to meet him because he died when my mother was still in college.

November 11, 2008 10:06 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Wow! I'm sure you're proud to have been related to such a very talented man.

Thank you for visiting!

November 13, 2008 7:51 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Senor Enrique! By any chance, do you have any contact to the family of Nicanor Abelardo? Be waiting to your reply. Thanks!

April 22, 2010 5:12 PM  

Blogger Bopeep said...

Anonymous (April 22, 2010). I am related to Nicanor Abelardo.

September 02, 2010 6:26 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are related to the Abelardos. I wish to know more about our grandfather Valentin...

August 17, 2011 2:56 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I am also from Australia and as far as I can remember, we are also distantly related to Nicanor Abelardo via the Hensons and the Dizons from Guagua/Arayat and Sta Ana Pamapanga. My maternal grandfather is Ignacio Henson from Arayat but originally from Guagua.

November 15, 2012 9:24 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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