CEBU, Philippines - The popular song “Usahay,” which many thought to be Cebuano, is not from Cebu after all.
The Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (FILSCAP) confirmed that the famous Visayan song “Usahay” originated from Davao and was declared as such by the Supreme Court in a decision last year.
FILSCAP is an organization which secures and distributes rewards as copyright owners for composers, lyricists and publishers even when the musical works are played or performed overseas.
It collects license fees on behalf of their members who may find it difficult to monitor and collect performance royalties.
FILSCAP chairman Nonoy Tan told The Freeman that the decision was made last year and that the rightful ownership was officially given to Col. Greg Labja of Davao City as the original composer of the song.
Tan said that the song was first credited to Cebuano composer Nitoy Gonzales from Tudela in Camotes Islands with Suarez Publishing as the publisher of the song.
An article from Pinoy Lifestyled, a blogging site by Jose Costas who is a pioneer in the graduate program of Cebuano Heritage Studies, states that Gonzales composed Usahay on September 1, 1961, when he was already 50 years old.
The website added that columnist Sam Costanilla, in one of his columns, cited that the date is reflected in a photocopied musical score sheet given to him by Gonzales’ nephew, Atty. Reynoso Belarmino.
Singer Leni Alano, a member of the Bayanihan Dance Troupe, sang the song in the original recording. Later, a more popular version by Jessie Saclo was recorded in 1979 by Susan Fuentes.
When the second version came out, Gonzales was already based in the US. He was informed by Alano of another version and a recording of his song but Gonzales never sued Saclo, according to the website .
Atty. Thursday Alciso, FILSCAP counsel, said that Jenny Labja, the daughter of the original composer, talked to Garry Granada, one of FILSCAP trustees, to inform him that it was her father who originally composed the song.
As proof, Labja showed the original manuscript of the song and even a second version of the song, narrated Tan.
With this, FILSCAP advised her to make an official letter of complaint.
“We could not make the decision so amo ning gidala sa korte and let the court make the decision on the rightful owner of the song,” said Tan.
While the case was still pending, FILSCAP did not give the profits to any of the two parties involved.
When the decision was made, Suarez Publishing and the heirs of Labja made an amicable settlement and the profits are now given to the latter.
“Both parties entered into a compromise agreement and from that decision wala nang ibang nagki-claim,” said Alciso. — /JPM (FREEMAN)