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Uso Pa Ba Ang Harana? What It's Like To Be A Modern-Day Haranista

In a world filled with Youtube links and Spotify playlists, how does the old-school harana fare?
by Khatrina Bonagua | Sep 8, 2017
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Nowadays, when you want to express your feelings for someone, the easiest way to do that is through music. How? Just send a Youtube link or a Spotify playlist to the object of your affection. That should communicate your emotions clearly. 

But if you want to be more romantic, you need to call on the services of Adrian De Guzman.

Adrian is a musician by profession. Armed with a soulful voice and superb guitar skills, he turned his passion for music into an actual career.

But instead of seeing him strumming his guitar inside neon-lit bars, you’ll normally see him inside corporate offices, in front of houses, or even on our city's streets. Adrian, you see, is a modern-day haranista.

If you thought that the art of harana was long gone and merely a pop song by Parokya ni Edgar, think again. As it turns out, serenading in the Philippines is alive and in tune with the times.

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As a haranista, Adrian is paid to sing love songs. The only difference is that, instead of the old-school harana that happens at night under the window of a lady’s house, Adrian usually plays in broad daylight and in various locations nationwide.

“Through online booking, pwede na kayo mag-hire ng isang haranista," he shares. "Para sa mga di marunong kumanta o tumugtog, o kung nasa ibang bansa ka at gusto mong kantahan ang iyong special someone, nandito kami na pwede mong asahan.” 

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From rocker to crooner

Growing up in a family of musicians, Adrian learned how to play the piano and guitar at a very young age. Luckily, he can also carry a tune.

“Self-taught lang ako," he explains. "Salamat sa pamilya ko kasi musicians silang lahat, kaya bata pa lang ako, I was already interested in music.” 

But before becoming a haranista, Adrian, just like the typical ‘90s kids, was a rocker at heart. Complete with emo bangs, vintage band shirts, and black eyeliner, he admired the likes of Wolfgang and the Eraserheads.

Eventually, he formed a group and started joining several Battle of the Bands contests. To make ends meet while studying, his band auditioned for gigs at bars. But money in rock and roll was hard to come by. “Daming kakompetensya noon. Ang daming magagaling. Ang daming sikat. Doon ko na-realize na, ang hirap ng pera pag rock and roll ang tugtugan.”

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But even after being rejected numerous times, he never lost the fire for his craft.

Kahit mahirap ang buhay, ayoko pakawalan ang music. ­Na-realize ko na, instead na mag-quit ako, bakit di ako mag-explore ng ibang genre? Doon ako na-discover at napamahal sa acoustic.”

After switching to acoustic, Adrian landed consistent gigs. He started performing in bars and restaurants. The demand was so high that, from a solo act, he moved on to singing with a group called the Flumia Acoustic.

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The 32-year-old musician started a sound system rental business with his friends using the money he earned from gigs. But he still wasn't satisfied. One day, his bandmate, Dave Arcangeles, discovered that an online shop called Flowers For Maria Clara was looking for a haranista. He applied and got the job.

That was two years ago—the start of his haranista life.

Uso pa ba ang harana?

As a haranista, he has only one job: to make the person being serenaded smile. His clients, he says are “mostly OFWs, mga nanliligaw, may anniversary, may birthday, o kaya may kasalanan.”

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A harana rate usually starts at around P4,000. Clients can request two songs in English or Tagalog. The package also comes with a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates, plus a same-day video edit. Of course, a special kilig message is also included, which he sometimes reads if the client who hired them is not physically with them.

“9 AM pa lang, nagsisimula na ang aming pang-haharana. Sa loob ng isang araw, we have around three or five clients. Pumupunta kami sa address na binigay nung nag-book sa amin online. Tapos doon namin sinusurprise yung kanilang minamahal.

Most of the time, men book their services. But believe it or not, women do too, hiring them to serenade their boyfriends. “Marami na rin ang nag-rent sa’min na babae para haranahin yung mga boyfriend nila. Nakakatuwa nga kasi kinikilig din yung mga lalake.”

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Of course, not all serenading gigs end up with rainbows and butterflies; there are instances when their suave moves don't work at all. But unlike the old school harana days, this time around, there’s no buhusan-ng-tubig-sa-labas-ng-bintana.

Meron talagang mga hinaharana na umaayaw. Minsan nahihiya sila, minsan naman inaaway niya yung lalake. Niloloko nga namin yung client na baka malaki ang kasalanan nila. Pero kahit na may mgapagkakataon na ganun, tuloy pa rin kaming kumakanta. ‘The show must go on’ kumbaga.”

But those unhappy harana cases are rare. Most of the time, clients can't help but wear a smile on their faces when they are being serenaded.

Yung most memorable ko na harana e yung kinantahan naming ang isang 13-year-old na bata. Laking States siya pero parehong Pinoy ang magulang. Nung umuwi sila dito sa Pilipinas, gusto nung parents niya na ipakita ang dating tradisyon natin sa panliligaw, which is ang paghaharana. Pumunta kami dun, kumanta, tapos tuwang-tuwa yung bata. Pero sa totoo lang, mas natuwa kami kasi doon namin na-realize na, kahit na ang laki na ng pinagbago ng panahon, iba pa rin ang saya ng nadudulot ng paghaharana.”

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The demand for modern-day haranistas like Adrian just proves that romanticism is timeless. For him, it’s not just work, he he has found his calling—to preserve a rich, Filipino tradition that celebrated the language of love. 

For inquiries and bookings, click this link right here: Flowers For Maria Clara

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Video by Lian Hammer Dumas Special Thanks To Aeus Reyes, Dave Arcangeles, and Flowers For Maria Clara

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