Magdalo Band is the oldest and original marching band in Kawit, Cavite. Their music is well-known by Kawitenos and the group has a great cultural contribution throughout the town.
During a visit in Kawit, The Cavite Rising met with the group and had an interview with Eric Dimailig, the band’s former maestro and flutist.
According to him, the Magdalo Band does not have an exact founding date. The original members of the group were already around in 1896 during the start of the Kawit revolution, although some have claimed that the band had already existed even before that time.
Prior to being renamed as the Magdalo Band, the group’s original name was Banda ng Kawit. Most of its members were soldiers of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and the well-known musical families in Kawit such as the Ronquillos, Samaniegos, Corpuzes and Villanuevas.
Having been present that long, it’s no wonder the group also witnessed the proclamation of the Philippine independence. Back then, Dimailig said Banda ng Kawit was with the San Francisco de Malabon Band when the Philippine national anthem was being played.
In 1965, the group had a disagreement that led the band to split into two. One formed a new group while the other retained its original formation but they changed their name into the Magdalo Band, after Kawit’s patroness St. Mary Magdalene.
In the years that followed, the other members who left also formed new marching bands giving birth to Banda’74, St. Mary Magdalene Band, and the Dela Cruz Band.
Compared to other bands, Dimailig said the Magdalo has no manager of their own. They basically rely on their music to raise a budget for their instruments, uniforms, and other necessities. For Dimailig, this is likely the group’s greatest offkey.
“Minsan lumalapit din kami sa mga politicians, tapos minsan nanghihingi rin ng mga donation para idagdag doon sa budget namin,” he said.
While they do not have a manager, they have someone in the group called the encargado. He is the one who organizes their schedule, seeks possible customers and the band’s budget holder. The encargado divides their earnings, which range from P15,000 to P20,000 per service, on the basis of the degree of a member.
The Magdalo Band is divided into four degrees. Those who have been in the band for a long time are in the first grade. They are the ones that perform well and can be soloists when there are concerts or competitions. The second degree are the associate members. The third degree, meantime, is composed of members who can play as accompanists. Last but not the least, the fourth degree is made up of the new and young members of the band.
The maestrodetermines the degree of the members according to their playing skills and duration of service. Just like the musical notes, all members are properly arranged to produce magnificent music.
Into the ledger lines
Like other marching bands, the Magdalo also joins competitions and performs in concerts or in town fiestas. They have won several times not only in Cavite but also outside of the province.
When it comes to compositions, the Magdalo Band has no original works just yet. They, however, have done unique arrangements such as the famous Esteban Basa’s hymn, which is being played at the Panunuluyan during the Maytinis Festival.
The band’s takeoff into the ledger lines does not end here.
As most of its elder members have migrated to other countries, their name has also been known abroad. These elders carry with them the traditional and iconic Filipino music wherever they go.
Dimalig said this only proves how the group’s bond remains strong and intact through the years.
Following the tempo
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the service of the bands, particularly the Magdalo, were severely affected. Many town festivals were canceled since mass gatherings are still forbidden up to the present time. They needed to adjust and find other ways to adapt to the tempo of time.
Band members who used to rely solely on music were forced to find other sources of income in the midst of the crisis. Some of them opted to do online selling, while others tried their luck as delivery riders. There were also those who decided to be an online music teacher.
Today, as Kawit is under modified general community quarantine, the Magdalo Band is gradually returning to service. They are also accepting aspiring musicians who want to join their band. Since they were unable to perform for almost the whole year last year, there is nothing that excites the Magdalo Band more than to let their music be heard again.