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Songs for farmers

First, a nationwide search for outstanding farmers. Followed by a festival of indie movies about farming and the Filipino farmer. Last Sunday, from a harvest of 10 finalists in a songwriting competition – the songs sung in praise of farmers – the best three songs were chosen.

What’s the connection between farming and songs about farmers?

“The competition is not just a showcase of Filipino talent but also a resounding tribute to the valuable contribution of our farmers in nation-building,” explained farming advocate Dr. Mila How at the awarding ceremonies held at Samsung Hall in SM Aura, Taguig. “We invited songwriters to produce the best and most inspiring songs that encapsulate the hardship, inspirations, and resiliency of our farmers, our unspoken heroes.”

Naturally, farmers from all over Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were Dr. How’s special guests. They were among those who cheered and clapped the loudest for their favorite songs, all of whose titles, in Filipino, focused on the land, the pains and gains of tilling the soil, the joys and the future of farming. Two hours later, the judges chose Gino Torres’ entry, “Binhi ng Pagbabago,” for first prize of P300,000; Edwin Marollano’s “Magtatanim Ako” for second prize, P200,000; and LJ Manzano’s “Magtanim ng Bago” for third prize, P100,000.

Mr. Torres and Mr. Manzano won additional cash prizes from the sponsors, Land Bank and Universal Harvester, as the bank’s choice and the people’s choice (conducted through social media), respectively. The other finalists: Elmar Bolaño, Henry Alburo, JC Jose, Robert David, Agila Malaya, En Gallardo, and Daryl Cielo.

All 10 songs were performed by professional singers chosen by the songwriters. There was no mention of the lyricists or whether the composers wrote their own lyrics. Among the judges were Jun de Leon, Joey Ayala, Bituin Escalante, and Noel Cabangon. Classical musicians and conductors Chino Toledo and Olivier Ochanine headed the selection committee.

The event, the first to marry farming and music, would not have been complete without a tribute to two National Artists, Lucio San Pedro and Levi Celerio, whose melodies and lyrics we continue to sing and hum today to our babies as well as our lovers. From a batch of 171 entries, how would they have rated the 10 finalists? (Jullie Y. Daza)