|14 May 1876 – 23 April 1944|
|Place of birth:||Santa Cruz, Manila|
|Place of death:||Manila|
Bonifacio Abdon (14 May 1876 – 23 April 1944) was a violinist, music teacher, conductor and composer known as the father of modern kundiman.
Early life and education
Abdon was born in Santa Cruz, Manila to Gregorio and Juliana Abdon. His father was a carpenter and a goldsmith. When he was seven years old, his mother died and his father remarried, this time a certain Dolores.
Even at a young age, Abdon showed interest in music that he was often reprimanded for following parading bands during town fiestas. In order to buy a fife, an instrument resembling a flute, he kept some of the money sent with him during errands. He lived with his grandfather, Juan de Dios Abdon, in Pandacan, Manila where some of the known artists and musicians were residing. Thus, he was able to study solfeggio for a discounted rate under the guidance of a blind music teacher known in the area as Mandong Bulag (Mando the Blind). Then, he studied at the Ateneo Municipal and became part of its choir. He sang during Easter Sunday masses held in Pandacan and Santa Cruz. He, however, did not stay long in Ateneo.
At about 13 years old, Abdon learned how to play the violin through Ladislaw Bonus. Later on, he learned the basics of composition from the same tutor. To be able to learn from the maestros who came with the Italian opera companies, he offered his services as a valet. The experience proved to be useful as he discovered how to read opera scores and was exposed to the elements of conducting an orchestra. He was around 18 years old at that time.
Most of Abdon’s musical compositions are in Tagalog zarzuela. Initially, he composed works for his brother-in-law, Patricio Mariano, who wrote plays staged in Manila theaters in the early 1900s. He composed scores for the following plays written by Mariano:
- Ang Sampaguita
- Ang Tulisan
- Luha’t Dugo
- Ang Anak ng Dagat
For Aurelio Tolentino, Abdon composed the music of these plays:
- La Rosa (1908)
- La Boda Maldita (1908)
- Manila Cinematografica (1908)
- Crimen sobre Crimen (1909)
Abdon directed the orchestra that played in presentations staged by Praxedes Julia Fernandez in 1902. After this stint, he joined Carmelo’s Rizal Orchestra. In 1910, he founded the Orchestra Oriental. He also lent his expertise in musical directorship to the Ateneo Seminary’s musical group and the Asociacion Musical de Filipinas when it was organized in 1912.
Simultaneous with his musical directing jobs, Abdon taught violin lessons in his residence in Quiapo, Manila. Later on, the place became known as Escuela de Violin. The lessons in his home continued until he was appointed as a violin instructor violin in the Conservatory of Music of the University of the Philippines in 1920. He also taught violin at the Insituto de Mujeres and the Philippine Lyric Academy. Among his students were Ernesto Vallejo, Ramon Tapales, Ramon Mendoza, Veneranda Acayan Carreon, Filomena Legarda, Teresa Valdez Thompson, Jose Iñigo, and Antonio Lozano.
In 1921, Abdon, together with violinist Francisco Avellana, cellist Felipe Marin, and singer Jose Carrion formed String Quartette. The group performed in the activities spearheaded by Manila Chamber Music Society which was founded in the same year. On 21 November 1923, the quartet performed in the presentation of Giusseppe Verdi’s Requiem Mass at the Manila Grand Opera House together with the pupils of Victorino Carrion’s music school.
Abdon closely worked with Carrion in major musical events. One such event was Verdi’s Aida which was produced through the Manila Chamber Music Society and the Escuelas Confederadas de Musica, a union of Abdon's school and the schools of Carrion and Vicente Marifosqui de Eloriaga. Aida was staged in the evening of 31 March 1933 at the Manila Grand Opera House and the orchestra was conducted by Abdon himself. When Carrion died, Abdon conducted the performance of the deceased singer's students of Donizetti’s Lucia de Lammermoor at the Manila Grand Opera House on 6 July 1935.
- Misang Tagalog sa Balintawak (1910) – composed for the Aglipayan Church
- Kundiman (1920) – unpublished; composed for the Russian concert cellist Bogumil Sykora
- Instituto de Mujeres’ school hymn
- In Memoriam
- Awit ng Pulubi
- O! Dios sa Kalangitan!
- Ang Bibingka – a part of one of Patricio Mariano’s works
- Ang Anak ng Dagat
- Ibong Adarna
Family and personal life
Abdon was married to Felisa Mariano by whom he had five children, namely, Alfredo, Purita, Ciro, Bienvenida, and Horacio. He died of chronic nephritis on 23 April 1944. His remains were buried in the Manila North Cemetery.
- Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Volume 1. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1955.
- “Bonifacio Abdon.” Onine Registry of Filipino Musical Artists and Their Works. (Accessed 23 July 2010).
- “Bonifacio Abdon.” Himig The Filipino Music Collection of FHL. (Accessed 23 July 2010).