‘Layad Nen Sikhafan’: Cordillera’s Most Popular Song

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Related: Love Song of Igorots: “Layad Nen Sikhafan” Tells the Story of Two Lovers



(May/June 1993, Cordillera Tangguyob)

[Note: Dr. Saboy was a Regional Music Supervisor of what is now known as DepEd-CAR. She had four years of rigorous training in music at the UP Conservatory of Music, and had conducted the first four-part choral rendition of “Layad nen Sikhafan” in Bontoc, Mountain Province sometime in the early 1970s. See embedded YouTube videos below for the traditional and rock version of the song. — Scott Magkachi Saboy]

Contemporary researches on Cordillera musicology reveal that even before the Spanish colonizers set foot on Philippine soil, the aboriginal inhabitants of what is now known as the Cordillera Region had their own pristine culture, alive with native songs and dances. However, it was only during the early years of American Occupation of the Philippines that Cordillera songs found their way to the written documents now available to students of musicology.

Among the earliest documentary studies on Cordillera music was conducted by an American couple, Mr. and Mrs. Fay Cooper Cole who recorded Tingguian songs which were later examined, analyzed and notated by Albert Gale, an American musicologist of the University of Chicago. Subsequently, an educator, the late Alfredo Pacyaya of Sagada and an American anthropologist, Fred Eggan, made special recording of Sagada songs which we also notated for posterity.

Later, researches were undertaken by American and Filipino educators on the different Cordillera songs which found also their inclusion in the early textbooks on Philippine music. A number of these songs were notated and are found in the Progressive Music Series textbooks in Philippine grade and intermediate schools up to the Commonwealth Period of the Republic.

Not all of these Cordillera songs in the textbooks found their way to the hearts of Filipinos because with Western Culture spreading fast throughout the country, love and pride in the country’s indigenous songs were relegated into the background in favor of American or Western music. The renaissance of indigenous Filipino music came after the Philippines was granted its political independence on July 4, 1946. The nationalization of the country’s educational curriculum helped rekindle the Filipino’s pride in their culture and Filipino indigenous songs began to dominate the songs sang and taught in the schools.

Yet, it must also be admitted that the songs brought in by our western colonizers have influenced Cordillera bards and warblers. An example of this is the song, “Nan Layad Nen Sikhafan” (hereinafter, “Layad” – sms), which is facetiously known as the “Bontoc Cordillera Hymn” for having originated and having been widely sang in Bontoc.

Among the most popular Cordillera songs today, “Layad,” curiously, is a native song with a foreign melody. In 1976, while this writer was teaching in the Mt. Province Comprehensive High School, she stumbled upon a song in an American hymnal whose melody was strikingly similar to that of the melody of the popular Bontoc song “Layad.” This song in the hymnal was captioned “There is Beauty All Around” with music attributed to J.H. McNaughton (1863) notated in four voices.

With some modifications in the composition to suit the lyrics and slurs of the Bontoc version, this writer taught the four-voiced song to her school choir which she had organized. For the first time, “Layad” was sung in four voices to the delight of the Bontoc folk.

“Layad” is an accomplished love song. This is the reason why it is intimately and heartily sang by people of different ages – from the grade school children to the ageing parents fading into the twilight of their lives. The lyricist is not known but its authorship is generally credited to the late Timothy D. Chaokas,* a native Bontoc educator who rose to become one of the colorful political leaders of the old Mountain Province, serving as Provincial Secretary and later as Vice Governor of the old Mt. Province.

The song was popularized by a Bontoc singer, Pedro Chinalpan who had it recorded in phonograph discs in the 1960s while working as bus driver of the Dangwa Transportation Company.

Since then, many parodies were produced by enterprising Cordillera Singers. Some of the guerilla songs of the New People’s Army (NPA) an Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), which were composed to suit their morale-boosting songs, were sang to the tune of “Layad.”

It is to be stressed, at this juncture, that the melody of “Layad Nen Sikhafan,” is not, indigenously Cordilleran. But like other ethnic songs sang in the region, this popular Bontoc ethnic song has given additional color and historicity to the eclectic culture that the Philippines today owns as a result of years of acculturation.

Nan layad nen likhatan/sikhafan,

Tet-eway sikhab.

Layad ay nen likhatan,

Nar-os cha am-in.

Seg-ang yangkhay nan wad-ay

Sik-a et achi mampay

Yangag kay si inta angnen

Nar-os cha am-in.

San enta nen fowekhan

Ad-im ngen semken

San enta nen fachangan

Nar-os cha am-in.

Sik-a et achi mampay

Em e-gay sin-sinmek na

Sampay taynan si Ama

Nar-os cha am-in.

Tak-en mo naimwasan

Sumeg-ang ka man

Ta kasin ta lebnayen

San layad ta’y chuwa.

San layad ta’y chad-ama

Wed-wedcha’s fangonenta

Ta’t mampay men-among ta

Omafong ta’y chuwa.


(Sang only as a refrain after the third stanza)

Layad ta, chad-ama

Ento pay kasin cha-chi

Nar-os cha am-in.

* Mary Peckley Irving, a native of Bontoc and also a relative of the author, believed that the lyrics actually came from the pen of a certain Mr. Oakes, also an yFontok. – sms

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