By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Jan. 10, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO – This is the story of a man who traveled to the remote provinces in the Philippines in search of the master haranistas, practitioners of the vanishing art of serenade.

Florante Aguilar grew up in Cavite Province and began playing the guitar at an early age. He said, “I listened to western music. I loved American Pop. I loved Rock and Roll. I didn’t listen to Filipino music at all.”

Florante trained as a classical musician at the University of the Philippines College of Music, and soon toured Europe, the U.S., and Asia as a soloist and ensemble player.

But it was a trip back to the Philippines in 1999, when he buried his father that prodded Florante to reconnect to his roots. He said, “I discovered the music of harana from that trip.”

His journey to rediscover harana led him to the master haranistas — Celestino Aniel, a farmer from Cavite, Romeo Bergunio, a fisherman from Cavite and Felipe Alonzo, a tricycle driver from Ilocos Sur.

These master haranistas were featured in Harana, a film project that Florante wrote and conceived about the search for harana practitioners. It made its debut at the Busan and Hawaii International Film Festivals last year. Harana is also showing at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this month.

Florante said, “Harana to me is a gift. It gave me a voice. It gave me beautiful music that I communicate to people through my guitar.”

He said his mission is not only to honor the masters of harana, but to revive the music that has lasted for many generations, music that has not only brought lovers together, but has represented music that’s truly Filipino.

If you know a kababayan like Florante Aguilar who inspires you and makes you proud, you may nominate him/her by sending an email to or calling (650) 508-6137.

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