Residents of Ilocos Norte won’t hear a distinct tune from the barrage of political jingles that comes with the start of the campaign season for local candidates on March 30.
Once named by a local radio station as the “King of Ilocano Songs,” the late Ernesto “Erning” Olarte used to dominate the campaign airwaves with his novelty jingles that eitherlaunched the candidacy of political neophytes, beat the competition or gave prominent names a homegrown flavor.
His daughter, Frances Tanicala, recalled that Olarte, who died in 2011, carved a career in singing and composing campaign jingles after he wrote a song for Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas when the latter first ran as Laoag mayor in 1980.
Olarte also composed and sang the campaign jingle of Fariñas’ older brother, Roger, when it was his turn to run for mayor in 1995.
“He can wrap a jingle in 30 minutes. He brings out his guitar, looks up and begins humming like he’s reading something from the clouds,” Tanicala said.
She said her father did not ask for a fee for the jingles he composed. “He would just accept any amount that his clients would give. Some were TY (thank you) but he didn’t mind because it was his pride that the candidates carried his tune especially if they won,” she said.
Before Olarte died in July 2011 at age 79, he was still at it and had composed songs for politicians during the 2007 and 2010 elections. He had done it all—composing children’s, novelty and wedding songs, including songs for the dead.
Tanicala said her father did not set rates for the songs he created. The family lamented that some people had made money from his compositions while Olarte was not given what was due him.
Tanicala said her father once made several original Ilocano compositions which a businessman-friend funded. The friend compiled the songs in a CD (compact disc) and sold copies abroad where large Ilocano communities live.
“The CD compilation was a hit among our kababayan abroad because they were hungry for Ilocano songs. But my father was not given anything in return,” she said.
The family sought legal advice on whether they could sue for royalties. The family, however, decided to drop the plan when they were told that the CD was carrying the name “Ernesto Ularte,” which suggested that it wasn’t their father’s name that was used on the label.
Olarte’s granddaughter, Christian Tanicala, remembered that her grandfather sent her to deliver a handwritten letter to his friend who commissioned him to record the CD compilation.
“He was merely asking for a mobile phone in exchange for the songs that he composed. I went back to his friend’s shop several times. Each time, I went back home empty-handed,” she said.
Olarte’s talent in music was discovered in his high school days when he became a member of the West Riverside Rondalla, a school-based musical group.
He was also skilled in violin but spent more time with his guitar until he learned how to compose Ilocano songs.
He was given a plaque by local radio station, dzJC Aksyon Radio, where most of his original compositions were played, and named him the “King of Ilocano Songs” in 2000.