Sarung Banggi, the beloved song of Bikol, was composed about 1910 by Potenciano V. Gregorio of Libog, now Sto. Domingo , Albay. The composer , who died on February 12, 1939 had 3 major compositions, in collaboration with his elder brother Bernardo. The original of the compositions were destroyed when the ancestral house of the Gregorios, built in 1814 burned down on January 19, 1961, during the worst fire to hit Libog.

Ironically, Sarung Banggi was played first in public not in the composer’s hometown but in Guinobatan, Albay, also on its town fiesta, the first Sunday of October, 1917.

An interview with his nephew in 1962, Justo B. Gregorio, then 73, revealed that his uncle Potin wrote Sarung Banggi one night when the chirping of a bird and the rustling of the leaves woke him up. Forthwith, he wrote down the first bars and lyrics of the song. It became the favorite of local serenaders, and it spread rapidly throughout the region.

Meanwhile, the late Judge Albert Somerselle of Daraga, Albay, Potenciano’s close friend suggested that he join the Philippine Constabulary Band, which was then world famous under the baton of Col. Walter H. Loving. In a subsequent engagement in Manila, Potenciano was asked to demonstrate what he could do. He played the Sarung Banggi on the Banduriya (string instrument), then on the piano. The song, in 1910, was not yet popular outside Bikol (Bicol). When it was known that he wrote it himself, from the fact that he could play almost any instrument in the band, he was readily taken in. He then prepared the score of the band, which played it several times the following year, and by popular request several times before World War II at the Sunday Afternoon public concerts at the Luneta.

In 1938 he was among those chosen to compete with other musicians at the Golden Gate International Exposition in the United States, but while aboard the SSS President Pierce on the way to Honolulu,, he got sick of pneumonia. Rushed to Fort Shafter Hospital in Honolulu, he died shortly upon arrival( February 12, 1939). To mourn his death, the ship delayed its voyage three hours. His remains were brought back to the Philippines and interred at the La Loma Cemetery.

Surviving him then were his wife, Dominga Martinez Duran and seven children – Salvador, Victoria, Narciso, Eriberto, Encarnacion, Monico and Potenciano Jr. In 1962, only four of them remained – Victoria, who lives in Cebu City; Narciso in Makati;Eriberto in Sta. Ana, Manila; and Monico in Pasay.

Potenciano, who held the rank of Corporal in the Philippine Constabulary Band, was the younger of two children by Narciso Gregorio and Canuta Valladolid. A violin prodigy at age three, his first music teacher, Fr, Jorge I. Barlin, the curate of Libog from 1883 to 1885 - Msgr. Jorge I. Barlin Imperial (1850-1910) became the first Filipino Catholic bishop, 1905 to 1910, Diocese of Caceres. - As he grew older he wrote music for the town church alone or in collaboration with his elder brother, Bernardo, and eventually rose to lead the town band, the Banda de Libog, a position he held until until he joined the Philippine Constabulary Band in 1919. The parish records of Libog reveal that Potenciano was born May 19, 1880, and baptized May 22 the same year.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     
 
 
Based on Merito B. Espinas research which was originally published in the Philippine Free Press (April 7, 1962); reprinted in Unitas (Vol. 41, No. 2;1968) of the University of Santo Tomas. Included as a selection in Literature
 

A HERITAGE IN TUNE

HARANANG BIKOLNON

REVERBERATING CUTS

A LULLABY OF THE HEART

 
Potenciano V. Gregorio, Sr. and Family
Santo Domingo, Albay
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