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:::Philippine Heroes | Nicanor S. Abelardo

Nicanor S. Abelardo ( 1893 - 1934 )

" Master of Kundiman "



Works / Contributions


Nicanor Abelardo y Sta. Ana, one of the country’s great musicians and composers, was born in San Miguel de Mayumo, Bulacan, on February 7,1893, the eldest of the eight children of Valentin Abelardo and Placida Sta. Ana. The boy’s parents were both musically gifted and young Nicanor inherited this trait.

His father began teaching him the solfeggio and the banduria when he was only five. He learned to play the guitar and at six surprised and thrilled listeners with his adept rendition of the William Tell Overture. He learned later how to play the violin without difficulty.

He is a musician and composer. He wrote his first composition, a waltz entitled “Ang Unang Buko”, when he was eight years old. In 1899, he joined the local American military band on an informal basis.

His early formal education was scant, as his parents never bothered about it. Nevertheless he attended the town schools. In 1902, when his uncle Juan Abelardo, the painter, brought him to Manila. He attended the private school of Pablo Paguia on Raon Street. He subsequently transferred to Quiapo Primary School, where he eventually finished his primary course in 1905.

Nicanor learned to play the piano while occasionally accompanying his Uncle Juan to the latter’s studio. He was fascinated with piano, started tinkering with the keys and soon was learning to play it all by himself. He also learned voice culture by listening to the tutor of his Uncle Juan’s daughter, Maestro Enrico Capozzi. Indeed learning music was easy for Nicanor because he was simply born to it. Later, the voice maestro himself taught Nicanor for free and he was impressed by the young man’s quick assimilation. Jose Silos did the same, and gave Nicanor free formal banduria lessons.

Francisco Buencamino, who came to know his genius, let Nicanor to substitute for him at the Cinematografo Filipino. There, Nicanor played accompaniment to the silent of films. Buencamino also hired him to play in saloons and cabarets.

In 1907, he was taken back to his hometown. The following year, he finished the sixth grade. Right away he accepted an appointment as a teacher in a barrio school in San Ildefonso and, later, in another barrio school in Sibul. In 1909, he composed Banaag at Lakas, which he dedicated to the Confederacion Bulakena.

When he died at 41 on March 21, 1934, he left many works unfinished, leaving his wife as well with six children. He was buried in the Catholic Cemetery of La Loma Manila.



When he decided to stay permanently in Manila, he sought employment in various showhouses. At first he worked as pianist in several small theaters. He also performed with his father, who played the violin. In 1910, his mother joined him in Manila. He later became the leader of the Cine Majestic orchestra on Azcarraga.

His U.P. Beloved was awarded first prize in the open musical competition for a University song, he was then enrolled at UP Conservatory Music.

In 1921, he received his teacher’s certificate in science and composition. Thereafter, he took a post-graduate course, which he finished the following year.

In 1923, he held jazz band that played at the Manila Hotel. He played and became a popular figure in its saloon where he came to be known as “UN estuche musical”.

In May 1931, with a small grant from the U.P. and his little savings, Abelardo left the country to pursue advanced studies in science and composition at the Chicago Musical College.

On November 20,1924, he was made head of the department of the composition of the U.P. Conservatory. At the same time, he became the director of the Sta. Ana Cabaret Orchestra.

In 1931, Abelardo composed Cinderella and it won him the Violetta Scholarship in Chicago. Because of insufficiency of academic credits, he did not finished master’s degree.


Works / Contributions
Abelardo worked first as pianist in several small theaters. He also performed with his father, who played the violin. In 1910, his mother joined him in Manila. He later became the leader of the Cine Majestic orchestra on Azcarraga. He also sought employment in various showhouses.
After he won many prizes on his masterpieces, Abelardo and his family decided to ran a boarding house where students lived and took music lessons under him. These helped Abelardo and his family makes both ends meet.   He composed some 149 pieces including “Nasaan Ka Irog?” (Where Are You My Love?), “Bituing Marikit” (Beautiful Star), and “Ay Kalisud” (Oh, Hardship). The main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines is named after him.


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