Skip to page content

Harana Kings

About this Artist

HARANA KINGS is the result of Florante Aguilar's search for master haranistas as chronicled in the documentary film Harana. They represent the truest practitioners of the vanished custom of serenading. Between 40 and 50 years ago, they were witnesses and active participants of this once-popular Filipino courtship tradition. Their services were so highly sought-after that fifteen serenades in a single night was a common affair in their respective provinces.

Men with lesser singing abilities often sought the assistance of master haranistas, who were well versed with many songs that were sung in various stages of the endeavor. The Panawagan (sometimes called Pamanhikan) were a subset of songs that were sung outside the window respectfully announcing their presence. The Pagtatapat (proposal) are songs sung once they were let in the house. These songs are often declaration of love and/or admiration for the subject. This stage also encourages the woman to respond through a song. Men sometimes hung by the thread awaiting for the song a woman chooses to respond with - whether it is reciprocal, unrequited or simply playful. The visit always ends with a subset of songs called Pamaalam (goodbye).

Born in 1934, Felipe Alonzo hails from Bantay, Ilocos Sur. He is well known in his community and is often seen performing around the city of Vigan during Christmas and town fiestas. He learned many of the songs when he was growing up performing in sarswelas, which he refers to as "entablados" - live comic operettas performed in the town plaza. In 1974, Mr. Alonzo, who is a self-taught guitarist, recorded Ilocano haranas for Villar Records.

Born 1946 in Maragondon, Cavite, Romeo Bergunio recently won first place in a harana singing contest for seniors in his hometown. He learned from his father and grandfather many olden and unknown songs not often heard on the radio, thus preserving the songs completely through oral tradition. He specializes in kundiman songs  - both in its rudimentary form as well as the more formalized structure championed by Philippine composers such as Nicanor Abelardo.

Celestino Aniel was born in 1946 in the town of Naic, Cavite. Mr. Aniel learned many popular songs through the radio and recordings from the 1950s to the 1970s such as those of Ruben Tagalog, Larry Miranda, Ric Manrique, Jr. and Cenon Lagman. Aniel's singing style is also a nod to popular crooners such as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Perry Como, a style that was adopted and incorporated into harana during American occupation in the 1940s. Mr. Aniel is often seen singing around his hometown for friends and small gatherings.

To find out more about the Harana documentary film, please visit


Critically acclaimed classical guitarist Florante Aguilar is considered one of the leading proponents of Philippine harana music in America today. He is comfortable playing traditional western classical music as a virtuoso and also ventures into contemporary music and other genres with ease. But his true love and affinity belongs to the music he grew up with in the Philippines - the music of a bygone era called the harana.

Florante has been awarded by the San Francisco Arts Commission to create and compose brand new works - “Lalawigan - A Tagalog Song Cycle which premiered in Spring of 2009, and “Aswang – Tales of Philippine Lore” which is to premiere in 2012.

Born in Manila, Florante grew up in Cavite province where he learned to play the octavina in a rondalla group. At an early age, he picked up the guitar by way of rock and roll and by sixteen was enrolled at the University of the Philippines College of Music where he was trained as a classical musician. In 1985, Florante toured Europe, United States and Asia for 6 1/2 months performing in major cities both as a soloist and ensemble player.

Later, he moved to New York under a scholarship to study at the Manhattan School of Music with Sharon Isbin, Grammy Award winner and current guitar department chair of the Juilliard School. Florante also studied with internationally recognized Filipino guitarist and conductor Michael Dadap and has performed in master classes of guitar luminaries such as David Russell, Manuel Barrueco, David Starobin, Frederic Hand and Benjamin Verdery.

Florante later accepted a position with the pioneering Buffalo Guitar Quartet where he toured and recorded the critically acclaimed CD New Music for Four Guitars (New World 384-2). Florante received his Bachelor of Music Degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1996 under the tutelage of David Tanenbaum.

One of Florante's fondest memories of his boyhood was playing octavina and guitar in a rondalla ensemble led by his neighbor's gardener. Francisco or Ti Ikong, a septuagenarian at the time, was a virtuoso of the banduria and octavina and have kept his band of equally virtuosic (and equally vintage) rondalla players. At the age of 9, Florante found himself "jamming" with the most authentic and experienced practitioners of rondalla music as well as the art of harana.

The harana, though the name of this particular musical style, also refers to the traditional practice itself of courtship whereby a maiden is serenaded beneath her window at night. Although the practice has since died out, the music survives, preserved and even elevated to an art form worthy of a concert piece. Florante champions Philippine music not only through solo guitar but with singers and ensembles performing throughout the United States.