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July 28, 2011


An American SVD Father referred him as “The Music Man of Samar” in a published article in the Leyte-Samar Studies journal of the Divine Word University, Tacloban City. An admirer was quoted referring him as an “Immortal Communicator of the sweetest sounds” to Calbayognons and Samareños. A cultural worker says he was a “genius”.

Whatever accolade we may give to the most prolific composer of Samar songs, lest we forget, Jose Cinco Gomez was a Maestro, a fitting title to a great and humble man who consecrated his life to give every Calbayognon and Samareño music and pride.

Early Life

Born on February 27, 1911, in barrio Tabok (now, Brgy. Obrero) of Calbayog City, Samar, Jose Gomez was the eldest among the seven children of Mr. Licarion Gomez and Mrs. Benigna Cinco. His siblings were: Conrado, Ricardo, Angeles, Josefa, Francisca and Trinidad.

He took his elementary and one year in high school at the Colegio de San Vicente de Paul (now, the Christ the King College) in Calbayog City. Formal education stopped for Jose in high school but the process of informal education continued.

Interest in music

In his autobiography, he claimed that he was “interested in music since a child” and was very much influenced by his “father, brothers and sisters who often met together to have a family concert”.

Both of his parents had musical training. His father, while studying surveying at Ateneo Municipal who later practiced his profession with the Bureau of Lands, experienced to conduct the Ateneo band. His mother studied at La Concordia College in Manila.

It was his father’s hobby to play the piano after each working day, and the young Jose would tinker on the ivory keys. Seeing interest in music, Licarion provided him with a tutor, Sofio Camilon, and further exposure came when he played at CSVP as a Banjo-playing character.

He worked industriously at mastering the instrument that he borrowed from his cousin, Antonio Gomez. Since the instrument lacked the pads for stopping the air, he experimented with many different kinds of materials as substitute for commercial pads. One of his solutions was to use animal skin but in order to keep the skin soft it had to be repeatedly immersed in water. So the young musician played with a pail of water at his side in which he would periodically dip the entire instrument. With his brother, they learned how to prepare homemade bamboo reeds for the saxophone. Eventually, he won his place in the band.

His interest expanded to musical arrangement and pursued it with the aid of an old family Victor phonograph. To identify the arrangement of each instrument on a particular recorded selection, he had his brother Conrado, who kept holding adjustment lever of the phonograph to maintain the ‘slow’ speed while he took notes of his observations on papers.

The Cecilian Band

With the coming of Patricia Ortega (now, Ms. Consunji) from Sta. Isabel Conservatory of Music in Manila, this became the rallying point for local music enthusiasts like Pablo Rueda, Crispulo Mandolaria, Jose Gomez, etc. They decided to organize a band calling the group ‘Cecilian’ after the Patron of Music, Saint Cecilia.

At the age of sixteen, he composed ‘Mirza’ on April 11, 1927. He sent it to Malaquias Nonato, then the famous bandleader of the Philippine International Band, based in Hongkong. However, the composition was returned to him with suggestions for improvement. Dejected and depressed, this caused young Jose for weeks of refusing to take his meals. Finally, after he was able to gather his sense, he took the incident as a lifelong challenge.

When Patricia Ortega got married, the Cecilians disbanded. Jose went to Cebu to try his luck there. The primary motive was to learn orchestration. Within a week, he landed the job of pianist in place of Metring Ilaya at the Cebu Blues.

When the orchestra owner noticed his musical talents, he was given the full freedom to compose, arrange, and conduct his compositions. This time, he wrote “Phantom of the Blues”, “An Kabu” (better known as “Awit san Cecilian”), “Dreamy Moon”, and “Love at Last”. With his savings, he was able to purchase an alto saxophone.

His mother, concerned with his future, requested him to return home. Upon his arrival, after three years in Cebu, he was told to pack up for Manila for further studies. The proposal did not appeal to Jose. Instead, he revived the Cecilian. He found the membership of the band almost intact with the exception of Adriano Castillo, the drummist, who had moved to Iloilo with his sister. Jose became its bandleader.

The woman who held him helplessly

Jose went to places in Samar and Leyte with his well-known Cecilian Band. In performances, he kept the audience spellbound especially the women with his ubiquitous clarinet. But only one woman held him helplessly. It was Francisca Soriano Lazaro from Sta. Cruz, Manila, a young school teacher in San Policarpo Elementary School in 1932 brought to Calbayog by a relative.

They were married on March 28, 1936. From this union, they were blessed over the years with seven children, four boys and three girls. They were Cecilia, Antonio, Mariano, Virginia, Manuel and Remegio.

The World War II

Because of his demonstrated leadership in the community, he was appointed assistant supervisor for civilian defense of District One of Calbayog City. That same year, he became the Chief Deputy Municipal Air Raid Warden.

At the beginning of 1942, he was inducted by Capt. Mariano Lim as a secret operative of the guerilla movement. In March, he closely monitored and investigated the stream of evacuees coming into Samar from Manila via Legaspi. In June, he was formally inducted into the USAFFE and given assignment of organizing the Secret Service Operations in the Calbayog area. He organized two communication points from Calbayog to the guerilla camp in Malaga and another relay point from Migara to Catarman. Before Christmas, he was given another assignment to destroy the Labuyao bridge in order to cut the supply line of the Japanese between Calbayog and Oquendo. In this operation, his sole support was Corporal Pedro Cano with one Enfield rifle.

The Musician-Guerillas

At this point, Jose was to make a special contribution to the guerilla activity by joining with it his own particular gift for making music. Using his persuasive logic, he moved the entire Cecilian band to join the guerillas.

In early February 1945, he went to the left river of Oquendo with the members to entertain and build up the moral as well as to disseminate allied information to the civilian population. In March of the same year, he was stationed again in Calbayog under the very noses of the Japanese to gather information on enemy movements. Again Lt. Soliman called him for a meeting and in May ordered him to report to HQ 98th Regiment 93rd Division of AUSA in Barangay Kalagundian. On July 16th, he was called into active duty with rank of probationary third Lieutenant and assigned to conduct the Division.

Like in the Wink of an Eye:

The Heroism of his 3 sisters
To protect the authorship of his music after the war, he obtained a letter from the adjustment General. But the most tragic blow in his life came with the death of his kins and five members of the guerilla band who were captured by the Japanese soldiers in Brgy. Acerida, Bobon, Northern Samar. They were interrogated and tortured to reveal his whereabouts. Refusing to tell the Japanese where their brother was, Jose’s sisters Josefa, Francisca and Trinidad were made to walk the nine-kilometer road from Bobon to Catarman. Josefa died on the way on March 7, 1944. Francisca and Trinidad reached Catarman only to be bayoneted to death at dawn of March 9. They were buried in a common grave together with Corporals Basilio Comilan and Maximo del Monte, Pvt. 1st class Pablo Aniban and Irencio Jalayajay and Pvt. 2nd class Ramon Aniban, the five Cecilian members who were also killed. Jose expressed the loss of his sisters in a heart, rending composition, “In the Wink of an Eye”.

He was moved to write a song in praise of the lowly plant, “An Kamote” as it saved many families from starvation during the war years. He also composed “Bandit of the Hills” when the Japanese called his guerilla group “bandits”.

The leadership qualities which Jose Gomez had demonstrated during the war and the courage he exhibited made him the logical person to organize and act as Chief of Police for Calbayog.
After Calbayog became a city on October 14, 1948, he took an additional responsibility of being Chief of the Secret Service Division of the police department. This arrangement continued until 1953.

Musical Performances for CKC

When the American Franciscan Fathers of the Assumption Province of Pulaski, Wisconsin, USA, arrived in Calbayog City to establish a mission in Samar and take over the administration of CSVP, Jose Gomez plus the civic-spirited Calbayognons helped the Franciscans to acquire six hectares of land situated in the eastern part of the city known as ‘Hamorawon Hills’ owned by seven families. Musical performances were being staged and sponsored by the faculty of the CSVP in putting up of now the venerable Christ the King College, where he trained “some 70 high school boys and girls composing the college band”.

Shower of Musical Thoughts
He never ceased writing music, church hymns, guerilla marches, and graduation marches for schools in Calbayog. Famous among these hymns were the CKC’s “Christi Regians”, “Bongto Ko”, “Mutya san Kagab-ihon”which won first prize in the CIDAL Meet Singing Competition in Catbalogan, Samar, participated by different schools in the region. He also composed the Christmas songs, the “Panarit No. 2, 3 and 4”, the La Milagrosa March, Calbayog Pilot Central School March, Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Vocational School March.

Jose Gomez has written 5, 000 songs, 500 of which he applied for copyright, and filed in his bound collection called “Shower of Musical Thoughts”.

Desiring to preserve the cultural heritage of Samar-Leyte, he organized the Cecilian Cultural Group composed of teachers, lawyers, priests, local journalists, radiomen, and even a street sweeper.

In September 1974, he won in the ‘Paligsahan sa Musika’ Songwriting Competition. He won the ‘Hiboy-Hiboy’ song during the Municipal, Provincial, Regional Songwriting Competitions but lost to Dodong Pinedero during the Grand National Finals held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

‘Pa, did you receive a plaque?’

On November 1974, he suffered stroke, paralyzing his left arm. Probably, the anxieties caused by his fight against a recording company in Manila for the alleged violation of the patent right on his composition ‘Ahay’ contributed to it. He was brought to Manila for medical treatment.

In the hospital, his eldest son Tony happily showed him a plaque.

I received this for my outstanding service to the company I worked for”. He continued, “Pa, did you receive a plaque of recognition for your musical efforts in Calbayog?

The question struck him speechless and motionless, then turned his gaze away from his son and stared pensively at the window. Tears slid down slowly upon his aging cheeks. It was only at this moment the eldest son realized he had asked a sensitive question.

Over the advice of the doctor, Jose insisted in going home believing he would recover in Calbayog. He came home in January 1975, but in the early morning of February 2, like “In the Wink of an Eye”, death came, and snuffed out the life of Jose Cinco Gomez.

He received seven awards for his contribution in the field of music, all posthumous.

The author would like to thank the following: Cecilia, Virginia, Manuel and Remegio Gomez, daughters and sons of the late Maestro Jose Cinco Gomez, for lending me the materials and sharing to me the life story of their beloved father. Without their help, the reconstruction of this life story of the Maestro would not be impossible. I also acknowledge the use of the 1985 graduate school journal of Christ the King College where I read Fr. Raymund Quetchenbach, SVD’s article entitled Jose Cinco Gomez, THE MUSIC MAN OF SAMAR” published in theLeyte-Samar Studies, Divine Word University, Tacloban City, Volume XI No.2.

Carl Jamie Simple S. Bordeos is currently a research assistant in Christ the King College in Calbayog City, Samar. He finished BS. Nursing in UP Palo. A native of Lavezares, Northern Samar, he is the acting curator of Fr. Cantius Kobak Samar Archeological and Cultural Museum in CKC.