In 2008, in consultation with Tirso Serdena, locally known as the Kalutang Playing Master and with Mayor Vicky Lao Lim of Gasan, I drafted a proposal entitled "Preservation of the Art of Kalutang Playing". This involved the participation of Serdena and some members of his group in the training of elementary and high school students in the rudiments of this unique art.
Traditionally, kalutang has been aassociated with Semana Santa and the moriones of this town as the moriones themselves bang these pairs of wood to produce the familiar sound signifing their presence. Until Serdena, in 1970, developed as entertainment, a series of such identical pairs capable of producing melodies.
(Tirso Serdena, the Kalutang master training the kids)
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts approved the project, recognizing the need to preserve, protect and promote this musical tradition and to ensure that the art is handed down to the next generation, approved a grant of Php 100,000 with the Municipal Government of Gasan as proponent.
The project has been implemented since March 2009 up to the present in fifteen elementary schools and five secondary schools in Gasan town.
Dr. Mauricia D. Borromeo, Vice-Chair of NCCA Committee on Music during a recent monitoring visit commented thus:
"Conceptual. Two levels of preservation were given due concern. The first concern being the kalutang’s traditional role and function in the Moriones Parade/March around the town as the principal “auditory signal” of the approach and presence of Moriones in the streets. Should other “signal equipment” be used or introduced, the kalutang should remain as the principal medium.
The second level refers to the “Art of Kalutang playing”. The instrument as presently crafted by the proponent is decidedly innovative and creative but it has set limits on the repertoire. Artistry in kalutang playing can be achieved through a systematic program of development in which pedagogy is crucial.
Pedagogical. A systematic graded program of teaching and learning needs to be designed to enable kalutang teachers to be effective and to facilitate the learning of students. The unique and necessary techniques of kalutang playing must be identified.
In preparation for artistry, a thorough training in musicianship (elements of music, music reading and performance) is needed. Pedagogically and musically sound teaching materials should be developed to build a rich repertoire not limited to simple folk songs."
According to Roselo Salvacion (Teatro Balangaw) of Gasan who was tasked as project coordinator, the same batch of elementary and high school students who were trained initially for 12 days in March 2009, continued training with the goal of performing in August 2009 for the 400th Anniversary of Gasan.
Music teacher, Norma Soldevilla of Marinduque Midwest College was also encouraged to get involved especially in terms of musicianship and repertoire.
Borromeo recommended to avoid competition at present. Recitals or festivals featuring achievements of students would be more positive and non-threatening, she said. Incentives in the form of performing at special community occasions or selected “free” instruments, or cash incentives to buy instruments may be given.
Borromeo also pointed out that potential kalutang players/trainers should receive musicianship training as well, i.e. music reading, harmony, and arranging songs for kalutang. Mr. Serdeña should be sent to seminar related to music, learning notes, pitches, and teaching methods.
Aware of the possibilities of a pair of kalutang that is capable of more than four pitches in order to have a complete set of major and minor scales (and chords), thus expanding and enriching kalutang repertoire, Boromeo also recommended that Serdeña increase the present range of four pitches to six and to include halfsteps.
Continued support to these efforts is seen, in more ways than one, as a true recognition of efforts, particularly those exerted by ordinary people, such as the original Serdena Kalutang group, in contributing to the community’s sense of culture, pride, and identity.
The positive impact of the project to the municipality’s tourism promotional efforts is also quite evident.