The rondalla is an ensemble of stringed instruments played with the plectrum or pick and generally known as plectrum instruments. It originated in Medieval Spain and the tradition was later taken to other countries. During the Spanish period in the East Indies, the rondalla was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards. In the early Philippines, certain styles were adopted by the natives, especially guitar and banduria used in the Pandanggo, the Jota, and the Polka. The use of the term comparza was common, however, during the American period in the Philippines, the term rondalla became more used.
At present, rondalla, in the Philippines, refers to any group of stringed instruments that are played using the plectrum or pick.The Filipino instruments are made from indigenous Philippine wood and the plectrum, or picks, are made from tortoise-shell. Other stringed instruments composing the standard Filipino rondalla are the bandurria, the laúd, the octavina, the Twelve-string guitar, the Ukulele, the bajo de uñas or double bass, the Guitarrón mexicano, and other Filipino-made instruments modeled and developed after the guitar.
The musical scomponents of Samahan were formed in 1980 with the assistance of Bayani Mendoza De Leon, well known Filipino ethnomusicologist and composer. Under his expert tutelage, Samahan's Rondalla, Gangsa, and Kulintang Musical Ensembles were formed. A grant from Parker Founddation enabled the Company to obtain musical instruments from the Philippines. His students who have continued to play with the Rondalla, Dr. Juanita Caccam, Sheryl Aguilar Rodriguez, and Dr. Carmen Galang, have become the foundation of the current group. Today, it benefits from the leadership of Frederick Embalsado, as music director and Dr. Juanita Caccam as the coordinator.
Danongan Sibay Kalanduyan, master artist/ teacher of Kulingtang Music became a guest teacher and artist with the Company from 1988 to 1991 and 1994 to 1997. He introduced Samahan to the authentic music of the Maguindanao people as well as the music of the Maranao people. Kalanduyan was honored in 1995, as a recipient of the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award bt the National Endowment of the Arts. His patient guidence resulted in the development of Bernard Ellorin, one of his students, as a Kulintang player of great promise.
Bernard Ellorin's talent and dedication to Kulintang music and his knowledge of authentic Maguindanao and Maranao Kulintang music as learned from the Master Kalanduyan has been vital to the growth of Samahan's Kulintang Music Ensemble. Since 1996, he has been the Kulintang player and Director of the Samahan Kulintang Ensemble which provides live Kulintang music for the Mindanao dance performances. Original members of the Kulintang Ensemble besides Bernard, are SDSU alumni, Eric Abutin, Chris Feraro and Severino Reyes, who all went through the basic Kulintang training with Master Kalanduyan. The group eventually adapted the name Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble, merging with the group formed by Bernard and his UCLA music student colleagues.
Bernard received his Bachelor's degree in Ethomusicology, cum laude, from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles in 2003 and his Masters of Arts in Music, majoring in Ethnomusicology in 2008 from the Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa. He is presently a Ph. D. candidate in Ethnomusicology at the Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa, working on his dissertation research about the Bajau kulintang in Malaysia under the Fulbright Fellowship and Asian Cultural Center grant.