By Rinoa Kate dela Cruz

Songs represent a particular emotion or message brought up by the writer, composer, and singer. Some people may write about unconditional love, while others write about their sadness. This scenario is no different in Filipino Christmas as it holds several stories, from singing about getting “aguinaldos,” having a feast with the family, or even yearning for a loved one during the season. 

Photo Courtesy of Sagisag PH/ABS-CBN News

As the Ber Months peek from the Filipino calendars, we hear these songs as carolers patrol around the area. With this, let us listen to the tunes of Christmas while learning its story. 

Pasko sa Pinas 

What makes a Filipino Christmas unique? Yeng Constantino answers this question by bringing up the country's uniqueness through her song “Pasko sa Pinas.” 

The song dates back to 2006 when the singer joined “Pinoy Dream Academy” and was tasked to write a Christmas song as part of the competition. Constantino would like to share what the season would be like in the Philippines with its godparents, carolers, and “Misa de Gallo,” as she recalls her childhood in Rodriguez, Rizal. 

“Katulad ng ibang bata, excited ako 'pag Pasko kasi may dahilan para lumabas ng bahay ng mas late, makasama mga kalaro at mag-caroling pero ang pinaka-ayaw ko, ‘yung mag-biyahe ng malayo para mamasko sa mga ninong at ninang. Kasi busog na busog ka na, pero kailangan mo kumain sa bawat bahay na pupuntahan dahil respect ‘yun sa may bahay,” she said in an article with ABS-CBN. 


The song started to shine in 1983 when Ryan Cayabyab wrote its composition for the musical “Bituin” by Jose Javier Reyes. Later, Cayabyab was hired in a choir competition as a composer and used Kumukutikutitap as one of the entries for the mini-musical. The event was said to take place in December, but the event had to be canceled after Ninoy Aquino got shot on August 21, 1983.

Since Cayabyab did not submit it to the contest, he gave it to the Singers’ Foundation to sing as their Christmas carol as part of their fundraising project. After it was performed in 1984, several choir groups asked for a copy of the composition, and it became a staple Christmas song during the season. 

Kumukutikutitap’s popularity grew as Joey Albert, a famous singer in the 80s, recorded the song. After this version, the composer created its acapella version, which was released in 1991 and became a part of Cayabyab’s “One Christmas” album. 

But 30 years later, Cayabyab changed his original composition after knowing that “eskusesa’t guhitan” means “scotch and stripped” rather than a verb that means to draw a line after Joey Reyes explained it.

“I thought it was guhìtan, a verb, to draw a line. The writer, Joey Reyes, explained that eskusesa’t guhitan meant scotch and striped – adjectives that the ribbon was of scotch and striped design. So now, every time ‘Kumukutikutitap’ is sung, you will know who got the update and who didn’t get it,” he said.

Sana Ngayong Pasko

Sana Ngayong Pasko dates back to when Narciso Chan, Vic Valenciano, and Rudy Tee, the exclusives of BMG Records, offered Ariel Rivera to create a Christmas album entitled “Paskong Walang Katulad” in 1993. 

“When I was asked then if I wanted to do a Christmas album, I jumped at the chance knowing that of all my albums I had done and what I had yet to do, a Christmas album would be the album that would most likely have an enduring mark,” he said. 

During those days, Rivera hadn’t completely known the song’s composer, Jimmy Borja, by that time. Still, he felt thankful due to the flare that the composer had brought up to “Sana Ngayong Pasko,” In an interview, the singer shared that he, Chan, and Valenciano believed that the song would stand out compared to the other pieces in the album even at its ‘raw condition.’

As years passed, Rivera’s prediction ceased to be accurate as several famous local artists, such as Lea Salonga and Regine Velasquez, recorded their song versions. Furthermore, the song also had its drama series in 2009, which bears the same title. Because of this, Rivera feels delighted and proud of the album that holds one of the most popular Christmas songs in the country. 

Pasko na, Sinta ko

Aside from the get-togethers with the family, Christmas is also the best time of the year to bond with our beloved partners, which inspired numerous seasonal songs. Still, Gary Valenciano takes Christmas songs to another level as he brings up “Pasko na, Sinta ko.” 

Valenciano shared that adding the song to his Christmas album was a suggestion by his wife and manager, Angeli-Pangilinan Valenciano, who was an alumnus of the University of the Philippines (UP) said that her sorority sisters usually sing the song Sigma Delta Phi during caroling nights. 

“Pasko na, Sinta ko” was initially written by Professor Aurelio Estanislao of the UP College of Music and was composed by Francisco Dandan. 

In an interview with ABS-CBN, Valenciano mentioned that despite being Yuletide-themed music, the song holds a tragic love story of Fred Gutierrez, the first person to sing “Pasko na, Sinta ko,” and a member of the UP Concert Chorus. 

“The story’s background is supposedly about a young member of the UP Concert Chorus, Fred Gutierrez, whose love of his life, Melba, was leaving for the USA before Christmas in the late ‘70s, but she passed away,” he said. On the other hand, its composer took his life for unknown reasons. 

Ang Pasko ay Sumapit 

“Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” starts its origin with Kasadya Ning Taknaa, popularized in Cebu. Based on a letter sent by Ivar Tulfo Gica, the founder-trustee of the Kultura Bisaya Foundation Inc., to Funfare in May 2002, it was initially composed by Vicente Rubi with the lyrics of Mariano Vestil, both of which are from Mambano, Cebu, and was copyrighted in 1933. 

Back in the 1950s, Villar Records bought the rights, recorded the song, and sent credits to the two makers. However, after making its first appearance as background music in a film that stars Darmo von Frazier Acosta, its Tagalog version was wrongly credited to Josefino Cenizal as the song’s composer. Cenizal explained that he was inspired by the wandering carolers in the Bantayan shorelines in Cebu when he evacuated during the Philippine campaign in 1942. 

On the other hand, some articles mentioned that Cenizel came up with the composition in 1937 as a marching song for the movie Pugad ng Agila. In 2014, Cenizel shared in an interview with GMA that he asked the National Artist Levi Celerio to write the lyrics for the song. Additionally, Philippine Inquirer shared in a 2014 article that The National Artist said, “Rubi is the composer of that song! Cenizal is wrong!” During their research, they found that Vicente Rubi is indeed the composer of the Cebuano song, with Mariano Vestil as its lyricist. It was said on the report that Celerio got amazed with the song’s melody and asked Rubi to transform it into a Christmas song too, which Rubi accepted happily.

Meanwhile, Gica’s letter compared the difference between the translations. It said that “Its lyrics suffer in comparison to the spirit and ardor of the jagged musical lines characteristic of Bisayan compositions,”

Filipino Christmas is indeed a merry season for everyone because of the jingles, the unique gift-givings, and the small feast with the family but all of these have been made brighter by the accompaniment of music. Some songs may be mellow while others may be cheerful and light, but one thing is for sure, these songs will always have a special place in the hearts of Filipinos