Juan Silos Jr.

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Juan Silos Jr.
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Background information
BornFebruary 8, 1898
  • Musical composer
  • Educator
  • Conductor
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Juan Lorenzo Silos Jr. (February 8, 1898 – May 9, 1988) was a Filipino musical composer, educator and conductor. He is known in the Philippines as the "Father of the Rondalla".[1]

Family and Early Life

Juan Silos Jr. was born on February 8, 1898 in Jolo, Sulu in the southern Philippines,[2] the son of Juan Silos Sr. and Maria Catalla Lorenzo. Juan Jr. grew up in Manila, part of a well-known artistic family whose creative lives revolved around music and beyond. His father and paternal grandfather Leonardo were bandmasters and composers during the Spanish era in the Philippines; his father held the title of músico mayor.[3] His uncle Rosalio was also a bandmaster and composer, and another uncle Jose Silos became the conductor of the Philippine Constabulary Band. Later, there were even two film directors in the family – Manuel Silos and Octavio Silos were cousins of Juan Silos Jr.With the resources available around him, it is perhaps not surprising that the young Silos did not study music formally in a school or university. Instead, he received his early musical education at home.[4] His father taught him how to play the bandurria as well as harmony and composition. His grandfather Leonardo also taught Silos how to play the guitar.



Silos first wrote music for the rondalla (see following section) and then began composing musical scores for the Philippine cinema in 1935. He achieved his first notable success with the 1939 film Giliw Ko, directed by Carlos Vander Tolosa for LVN Pictures. Altogether, his credits included music for 68 Philippine films released during his lifetime.[5] Twice he was nominated for a FAMAS Award in the Best Musical Score category – in 1959 for the film Verganza and 1960 for Biyaya ng lupa. He did not win on either occasion.[6] Silos composed more than 300 songs, rhapsodies and chamber music pieces. He wrote the music for the Philippine hit song "Waray Waray", from the 1954 film of the same name, which has been performed by many artists since including Lea Salonga and Eartha Kitt. He also composed the music for “Tanan” (Elopement), a modern ballet in one act which was first performed in 1969.[7]

Teacher and Conductor

As early as age 16, Juan Silos Jr. began teaching the rondalla to members of the Children's Symphony Orchestra at the St. Anthony's Girls Institution in Manila.[8] A rondalla is an ensemble of stringed instruments played with a plectrum or pick, such as a guitar or bandurria. It originated in medieval Spain and was later taken by Spanish colonizers to the Philippines and Latin America. In the Philippines, the rondalla became (and continues to be) associated with folk and other traditional music. Subsequently, Silos organized rondalla groups at other schools in Manila, including Centro Escolar University, Assumption College, Stella Maris College, College of the Holy Spirit, University of Santo Thomas and the Far Eastern University.[9] On one notable occasion, his "All-Star Filipino Rondalla" performed the classical pieces "Piano Concert No. 1 in B-flat" (Tchaikovsky) and "Saber Dance" (Khatchaturian) during Benny Goodman's 1949 concert in Manila.[10] Before World War Two, Silos acted as the musical director of the “Philippine Aires” program which was broadcast over radio station KZRM in Manila (later known as DZRB). After the war, he became the musical director at Sampaguita and LVN Pictures, and the Far Eastern University Dance Troupe.[11] He also conducted the Mabuhay Brass Band as late as the mid-1970s.


“Juan Silos Jr. and his Rondalla”, another group that he formed and led, recorded a number of singles and LPs of Philippine folk music, mostly on the Villar label. This relationship with Villar was likely facilitated by the fact that one of his sons, Leopoldo Silos, was musical director there.[12] Particularly notable was a series of at least fifteen albums of Philippine folk dances that Juan Silos Jr. and his Rondalla released starting in 1959. Villar proudly boasted in the liner notes of one of these records that this “Philippine Folk Dance Series… is already hailed as one of the great collections of recorded Filipiniana.”[13] Juan Silos Jr. and his Rondalla also recorded with the Mabuhay Singers, the Mabuhay Brass Band and the Silos Sisters (see below). He also released several albums of Philippine folk music performing as a solo guitarist.

Personal Life

Juan Silos Jr. married Marcela Acasio Rigo on May 19, 1918 in Santa Cruz, Manila. Following the birth of seven children, she died on May 8, 1954, aged 52. He died on May 9, 1988. Among their children, Leopoldo was popularly known as the “Philippine Rhumba King” on account of his numerous Latin American-style compositions, and worked for Villar Records as previously mentioned. Three daughters – twins Dolores and Remedios plus a younger daughter Lourdes – formed a vocal group known variously as the Silos Sisters and the SSS Trio. (They were not the sisters of Juan Silos Jr., as is sometimes claimed.[14]) The Silos Sisters were popular on radio in the Philippines before World War Two[15] and later recorded an album with their father.


  1. University of the Philippines Alumni & Friends Rondalla website, “Famous Rondalistas” section: https://www.upafrondalla.org/rondalistas.html. Accessed November 28, 2020.
  2. Filipinas Heritage Library website, notes for “Bayuhan” record album: https://www.filipinaslibrary.org.ph/biblio/36735/. Accessed November 28, 2020.
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Silos Family website (genealogy): https://silosfamily.com/juanSilosJr.html. Accessed November 28, 2020.
  5. IMDb / Juan Silos Jr. / Filmography / Composer section: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1963389/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr4. Accessed November 28, 2020.
  6. IMDb / Juan Silos Jr. / Awards section: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1963389/awards?ref_=nm_awd. Accessed November 28, 2020.
  7. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Philippine Dance. Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994, p. 173.
  8. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Philippine Music. Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994, p. 365.
  9. University of the Philippines Alumni & Friends Rondalla website, op. cit.
  10. Ibid.
  11. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Philippine Music, p. 365.
  12. Billboard, 8 December 1962, p. 15.
  13. For a description and listing of this series, see the Discogs webpage: https://www.discogs.com/label/1927415-Philippine-Folk-Dances. Accessed November 28, 2020.
  14. For example, in the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Philippine Music, p. 365.
  15. For a brief profile of the Silos Sisters, see Elizabeth L. Enriquez. Appropriation of Colonial Broadcasting: A History of Early Radio in the Philippines, 1922-1946. University of the Philippines Press, 2008, p. 116.

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