Heber Gonzalez Bartolome

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To read this article in Filipino, see Heber Bartolome

Heber Gonzalez Bartolome (4 November 1948-15 November 2021) was a Filipino musician, poet, and painter. His music was influenced by the stylistic tradition of Philippine folk and religious melodies and his compositions were described as a unique synthesis of rock and blues and Philippine ethnic rhythms.

He was the founder of the protest band Banyuhay, a band with his brothers Jesse and Levi. The band carried the trademark sound of the kubing, a native musical instrument.

His song “Nena” was a hit in 1977. “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy” (“We’re Filipinos”) was arguably his most beloved work. The protest song about one’s love of country and the denouncing of Western influences, has since been covered Francis Magalona, Freddie Aguilar, and Ely Buendia, among others.

He had been married to pageant queen-turned-activist Maita Gomez, with whom he had two children. They separated in 1983.


Early Life and Education

Bartolome was born on 4 November 1948 in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija to Deogracias Bartolome and Angelina Gonzalez. His father was a pastor, violin and guitar maker, and a rondalla band leader. His mother was a singer in the zarzuela.

While studying, Heber was a member of the ROTC Band and the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus. During the late 1960s, he started his professional career in music in folk houses. He obtained a Fine Arts Degree from UP in 1973, and has since exhibited his paintings locally and abroad.


Career

Bartolome was a professor of Filipino Literature at the De La Salle University from 1981 to 1984. He also held performances here and abroad. He was also an active lobbyist for the rights of Filipino composers. He was also the founder of the UP Astrological Society.

In 1993, he launched a collection of his greatest songs entitled Mga Awit ni Heber (Heber’s Songs). Among his famous songs were "Pasahero" ("Passenger") (1977), "Almusal" ("Breakfast"), "Inutil na Gising" ("An Awake Fool") (1985), and "Karaniwang Tao" ("Ordinary Person") (1985). He composed the tune for Bulwagang Gantimapala’s Ibong Adarna, a 1989 musical drama by Rene O. Villanueva.

Bartolome was a former member and trustee of the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Inc. (FILSCAP), a nonstock, nonprofit association of composers, lyricists, and music publishers. Established in 1965, it grants music users the legal permission to publicly play, broadcast, stream, or reproduce any copyrighted local or international musical compositions.


Death

He passed away on 15 November 2021 at age 73. No details on his demise were given but it was reported that Heber was rushed on Monday night to Veterans Memorial Medical Center as his pulse went faint. He died after a few minutes. He suffered from prostate illness for over a year.



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