Latest Stories

No last song syndrome for Panagbenga hymn maker


SLU BANDLEADER Macario Fronda (photo below) will always be remembered every time the “Panagbenga Hymn” is played during the Baguio Flower Festival. PHOTOS BY EV ESPIRITU

The “Panagbenga Hymn” is Baguio’s LSS (last song syndrome). It has become an indelible part of Baguio similar to the tiger grass brooms, bottles of peanut brittle and strawberries.

It has been jazzified, countrified and is already one of the most downloaded ring tones among Baguio residents. But its most heartfelt rendition will be heard on Thursday when the Saint Louis University (SLU) Band plays the “Panagbenga Hymn” during the burial of its composer, Macario “Mac” Fronda. He died on March 14 due to complications from prostate cancer.

Fronda, 91, may have been linked forever to the hymn (which incidentally was first known as the “Tribute to the Cordilleras” when he composed it in 1989), but his life and music was itself a hymn of the pioneer spirit of Baguio.

Born in La Union on Dec. 8, 1921, Fronda was a son of a local bandleader. He would join his father in the band’s trips, playing xylophone using coconut shells. He would later be an expert in wind instruments.

Fronda decided to try his luck in Baguio, armed only with his music and an elementary school diploma. He was taken in by the then Saint Louis College in 1953 to be its first bandleader, with only nine band members under his wing.

Five decades later, Fronda remained the bandleader of the SLU Band with more than 150 members. Along the way, he composed dozens of band tunes (many unrecorded), including the SLU Hymn.


Fronda traveled to La Union and Pangasinan, looking for potential band members, promising them free education. Hundreds of recruits eventually became scholars and professionals because of Fronda’s guidance.

Fr. Evarist Verlinden, director of the SLU Clinical Pastoral Center, who first met Fronda in 1965, says the bandleader was a jolly man. “He was also very dedicated and very respectful. SLU had taken care of him but it was more of Mac taking care of SLU,” says Verlinden.

“Music education in the city would not have been this way had it not been for Mac,” says Mercedes Coloma, a former music teacher at SLU Boys’ High School (now SLU Laboratory High School).

“He helped us all music teachers and the Saint Louis Youth Choir always won under his tutelage,” she says.

Fronda was so dedicated to his music that his wife, Ildefonsa, says it was Fronda’s mother who practically wooed her. “He always said that music is the language of the heart. But always added that I am his greatest love,” Ildefonsa says.

They have 10 children (two of them adopted). The boys, incidentally, became members of the SLU Band.

His daughter, Fely, says her father was well-loved but was very strict and a perfectionist. This would explain why one would hear repetitious music from the family house in Barangay New Lucban even at midnight.

From January onwards, Fronda’s neighbors would hear the “Panagbenga Hymn” played over and over again in the morning so their dreams had the same flowery soundtrack.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Baguio , Macario Fronda , obituary , Panagbenga Hymn , Regions

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Gigi Reyes back to face charges
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. In the know: Gigi Reyes
  4. SC suspends proctor in 2011 bar exams
  5. Senator Pimentel backs German think tank’s stand vs dynasties
  6. Bar proctor suspended for photographing test papers
  7. Collector Danny Garcia says Inquirer worth more than news
  8. Meteor shower to light up PH skies
  9. What Went Before: Enrile denies Gigi Reyes was ‘other woman’
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  8. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  9. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • Healing priest invites political leaders to join ‘prayer for nation’
  • Tagle: Christ’s resurrection a message of hope to faithful
  • Aquino vows to intensify anti-corruption drive further
  • Unease in Vatican over cardinal’s luxury flat—report
  • Nepal calls off search for missing guides on Everest—official
  • Sports

  • Rain or Shine grabs No.4, sends Ginebra to 8th
  • Red-hot Alaska rips injury-depleted San Mig Coffee
  • Pacquiao courtesy call to Aquino set for Monday
  • Nick Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk
  • Teague scores 28 as Hawks soar past Pacers in Game 1
  • Lifestyle

  • Angono petroglyphs in danger of disappearing
  • Britain’s baby Prince George visits Australian zoo
  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Supper power
  • Condo unit sales boosted Shang Properties earnings
  • ERC mulls over WESM price cap for May, June
  • Whatever happened to the ubiquitous pagers?
  • Huge 2013 net profits seen difficult to surpass in 2014
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Marketplace