CEU and the Sampaguita

Last night while trying to look for old Hispano-Filipino songs in youtube I stumbled upon clips of CEU’s gradution rites. It was amazing seeing graduating students singing “El Collar de Sampaguita”. I wasn’t expecting to witness that. I thought they’ve already translated it in Tagalog and abandoned the original.

I’ve read the history of CEU (Centro Escolar de Señoritas, now Centro Escolar) some years ago because I once considered taking a course in their Makati campus. The history buff that I am, I took a liking to one of the founders, Doña Librada Avelino . She grew up during the time when filipino-hispano culture was prevalent. She’s used to the Spanish style of education that when she initially established her first private school it failed because of the new standards set by the Americans. She enrolled herself to the Summer School of Linguistics to learn English.

The Spanish song El Collar de Sampaguita was one of the most popular Spanish songs of its time (and is a personal favorite). It speaks of the unique and rare quality of the country’s national flower. The inclusion of the song in the graduation rite’s probably started during the early 1900’s when the university had Francisco Buencamino, the composer of El Collar de Sampaguita. He taught music in the university.

My favorite part of the song is the closing stanza, “Pero al fin la delicada sampaguita, devorada por el fuego se marchita, y si alguien la guardó, esa flor se convirtió, en recuerdo de la dicha que pasó”. In many ways our remembrance of the old sampaguita is about history and keeping alive the memory of those who cherished it most.

There seem to be confusion on “La Flor de Manila” and “El Collar de Sampaguita”. Both songs dedicated to the national flower. “La Flor de Manila” was composed by Dolores Paterno, the younger sister of Pedro Paterno. She died relatively young at the age of 27. This song which was written in the 1890’s is her only known surviving work. It is said that she composed the music while she was asleep. This story was told to me by GGR. In the 60’s GGR compiled and sung all these wonderful song in his radio program.

The lyrics “La Flor de Manila” are credited to Antonio Luna, Maximo Hizon and Leopoldo Brias. Of course, we’re familiar with Antonio Luna and what happened to him. The other fellow, Hizon another forgotten hero in the revolution. He mysteriously died at the age of 31 after he was captured by the Yanqui’s in Pampanga.

So when someone say that these Spanish songs are remnants of our colonial past, we better think about who created them – because they in most cases, they’re the very people we regard as heroes and founders of our nation.


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