Exclusive: The real love story behind Parokya’s ‘Harana’, and who really sang it first 2
"Harana," popularized by Parokya ni Edgar and Tony Lambino, was composed by Ateneo alumnus Eric “Yappy” Yaptangco (left). Photos courtesy of Yappy Yaptangco, @chitomirandajr on Instagram and ANC

Exclusive: The real love story behind Parokya’s ‘Harana’, and who really sang it first

“If it sounds very true to life, it’s because it did happen in real life,” the song’s composer, Ateneo alumnus Eric "Yappy" Yaptangco tells ANCX.   
RHIA GRANA | May 16 2021

One dreamy, heart-tugging love song that endeared many of us to the Pinoy rock band Parokya ni Edgar is “Harana.” The message of this now classic ’90s ballad, about a guy who wouldn’t mind looking funny, or old-fashioned, while professing his romantic feelings, remains fresh and youthful despite the decades. The melody is still catchy, too—anyone can sing along with Chito Miranda after just a few playbacks. 

The reason we’re talking about the song is because there’s this newfound interest in its history, after some YouTube fans very recently discovered the version by former Smokey Mountain member Tony Lambino (now assistant secretary of Finance). Tony was apparently the first to record the ballad. It was released in 1992 as part of his first solo album First Note.

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We dug up some more and here’s what we found: before Tony and Parokya, a group of Ateneo students used to sing it as a ligaw song, meaning a song for courtship, back in the late ’80s to the early ’90s. “If it sounds very true to life, it’s because it did happen in real life,” the song’s composer Eric “Yappy” Yaptangco tells ANCX.

Yappy was 19 years old then, a third year management engineering student in Ateneo, when he composed the love song. He says it was inspired by the experiences of their barkadahan in the university. Yappy and his friends would actually perform a harana to woo their crushes or express their love towards a girl one of them likes.

The members of the harana boys were part of a student political party on campus called Hudyat. And it so happened that one of their friends—Jay Famador, now a doctor at Makati Medical Center—wanted to confess his feelings towards his crush. “Someone suggested na mangharana kami,” recalls Yappy. But the group wanted to be taken seriously so they agreed to not only plan and rehearse what they’re going to sing, they must look good while they're singing.

Exclusive: The real love story behind Parokya’s ‘Harana’, and who really sang it first 3
Yappy Yaptangco (top left, with eyeglasses) and the members of Hudyat political party in Ateneo back in the early '90s.

“Argee Guevarra (now a lawyer-activist) suggested, ‘Mag-barong tayo, para hindi tayo mukhang nanggugulo lang.’” Everyone approved the idea. Besides, they still had barongs from their high school graduation. They can simply pair it with their maongs since the trousers won’t be seen in the dark anyway. 

“At nariyan pa ang barkada 
Nakaporma naka barong sa awiting daig pa minus one at sing along”

They didn’t want to look like teenage carolers either so they upped the ante further. They did the harana in Beverly Hills Subdivision in Antipolo, Rizal—on an empty lot, a starry evening sky above them, with a view of Metro Manila on the horizon. “We set up a small table, chairs, a gas lamp, and a bottle of apple wine—kasi mahal ang hard wine,” Yappy offers. The headlights of their van provided additional lighting. 

“Puno ang langit ng bituin 
At kay lamig pa ng hangin…”

As was planned, Famador ushered his date towards the designated spot. After a few minutes, a signal was made for the harana boys to walk in while singing APO Hiking Society’s “Ewan.” “It was agreed na yung manghaharana should sing a solo—it didn’t matter whether or not he could sing. We thought it was a nice gesture that we wanted it to come from the heart.” Yappy remembers his friend singing a kundiman that evening.

“Sino ba 'tong mukhang gago?
Nagkandarapa sa pagkanta
At nasisintunado sa kaba”

Naging running joke na yun every time we tell the story about the song—yung mukhang gagong nagkandarapa sa pagkanta at nasisintunado sa kaba—si [Jay] yun,” Yappy shares, laughing.

Exclusive: The real love story behind Parokya’s ‘Harana’, and who really sang it first 4
Yappy was 19 years old then, a third year management engineering student in Ateneo, when he composed "Harana."

Writing ‘Harana’

The harana boys was very much into OPM. They sang a lot of Ryan Cayabyab and songs by the APO, also famously a group of Atenistas. They liked the band Neocolours’ “Tuloy Pa Rin Ako” and tunes from the Manila Sound era. 

After performing a harana for a couple more times, Yappy got inspired to write about their experiences while doing it. Yappy knew how to play the piano. He had lessons from age 5 to 14 and liked writing music since. He also grew up in a very musical family. “Our model for an ideal party was ‘Ryan, Ryan Musikahan’ with me playing the maestro,” he recalls fondly.

If memory serves, Yappy wrote “Harana” one Sunday in January 1989. “There was no specific trigger. I did not write it for a girl,” the composer clarifies. “I was really drawing from the experiences of the barkada.”

He finished the song in two hours. The melody and lyrics just flowed out of him naturally. “I wrote the refrain nang tuluy-tuloy. There were compositions that I struggled with but this one just came out effortlessly, and I was very, very happy [with the result]. I wrote it for the piano,” he says.

By the third or fourth time the boys were set to do another serenade session, Yappy had already taught the words and melody to the rest of his group, and “Harana” ended up the one song that closed every performance.

They did about eight haranas throughout their stay in Ateneo. 

So yes, the real love story behind “Harana” is that of a group of boys who always had each other’s backs, especially when it came to courtship. But it wasn’t only the boys who did it, says Yappy. There was a time when one of their female friends serenaded her boyfriend. “Equal opportunities,” he quips.

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Out of Ateneo

So how did Tony Lambino end up recording “Harana,” which was years after followed by a cover by Parokya ni Edgar? 

People in Ateneo eventually found out about the gimik of the harana boys such that their group would get invited to sing in university programs. “We would sing it in almost all the variety shows in Ateneo—that was how it spread,” says Yappy.

He remembers telling his friend Cholo Mallilin that he could use the song to launch his singing career. Mallilin ended up becoming a teacher in Ateneo, and like Yappy suggested, sang “Harana” whenever he got invited to perform in school.

Tony Lambino, meanwhile, heard about the song from his sister, Celine, who happened to be Yappy's batchmate. Celine and Cholo were also active members of Bukas Palad Music Ministry at that time. It was Cholo who taught the young Tony how to sing and play “Harana.”

It was also thru Cholo that Parokya got Yappy's contact. “I don’t know [frontman] Chito Miranda personally. But we spoke on the phone a long time back,” Yappy recalls. By the time Parokya’s “Harana” was launched in 1997–it was included in the “Buruguduystunstugudunstuy” album—Yappy was already working in technology firms overseas. But he fondly remembers getting goosebumps the first time he heard his song on the radio.

Exclusive: The real love story behind Parokya’s ‘Harana’, and who really sang it first 5
The members Hudyat in one of their pre-pandemic gatherings.

San na ba’ng barkada?

The original harana group never had the chance to meet the Parokya boys in person. But Yappy recalls a nice gesture from the band before the album’s release. “They asked me if I had any request. I just told them to please spell my name correctly.” He says the Tony Lambino album misspelled it. 

“Then later, I requested for a token thru a friend. And Parokya gave me their second platinum award,” recalls Yappy, beaming with pride. “So I have it in my house. It’s actually hanging on the wall. It’s a nice conversation piece.”

Asked about the success rate of their haranas back then, Yappy says they had a batting average of 7 yeses. “Most ended up becoming girlfriend-boyfriend. But only two ended up marrying each other,” he says.

Exclusive: The real love story behind Parokya’s ‘Harana’, and who really sang it first 6
Yappy (third from left) with the founders of Hudyat—Edwin “Kuni” Martinez, then Ambassador Neal Imperial, and Gary Tengco.

Yappy and his “Kahudyat” (the members of their political party) are still constantly in touch with each other up to now. Before the pandemic, they would meet up at Yappy's house at least every six months. “We genuinely like each other, and we enjoy singing together, such that decades later, we still do the same,” he says. 

Has he considered coming up with new songs? He admits that when he was working overseas, he never had the compulsion to write. “Maybe because I didn’t have the [Filipino] connection,” he says. But when he came back to the Philippines in 2018, he suddenly felt the urge to do some writing. Yappy is, in fact, happy to share that he’s already working with a friend to get a song out for publication. After the recent revival of interest in “Harana,” the world is no doubt all ears.