Hermogenes Ylagan earned the accolade “Father of Tagalog Zarzuela” and “Father of Philippine Zarzuela.”
He was born in Bigaa (now Balagtas), Bulacan on 19 April 1873 and passed away on 27 February 1943 because of coronary thrombosis. Singing became one of Ylagan’s early preoccupation in his childhood. Endowed with a fine tenor voice, he became tiple and leading singer of the church choir in his hometown.
A parish priest of Sta. Cruz, Manila who said mass in Bigaa, discovered his talent. After proper arrangements were made, the Ylagan family moved to Manila. Ylagan’s voice filled the reverent atmosphere of Sta. Cruz Church and his compensation came in the form of schooling at the Ateneo Municipal. But he was not to finish any degree. He was discovered by a Spanish zarzuela troupe. And from that time on, the Sta. Cruz Church gradually lost him to Philippine drama and theater.
The Spanish-American War erupted and the company returned to Spain. Ylagan thereafter began to germinate on Philippine soil the seeds of zarzuela which his pioneering spirit and inherent creative gifts nurtured. He pioneered in the production of zarzuelas. He had forty years involvement in this drama form. Philippine theater prospered, and in the hands of dramatists, most especially Ylagan, attained its blossoming into what is now referred to as the “Golden Age of Philippine Theater.”
In 1902, Ylagan organized a zarzuela company called Compania Lirico- Dramatica Tagala de Gatchalian y Ylagan, the very first of its kind, which later on was transformed simply into Compania Ylagan. Ylagan wrote and produced: Ang Buhay nga Naman, Ang Buwan ng Oktubre, Bill de Divorcio, Dahil kay Ina, Dalagang Bukid, Dalawang Hangal, Despues de Dios, el Dinero, Ilaw ng Katotohanan, Kagalingan ng Bayan, Venus (Ang Operang Putol), Wagas na Pag-ibig, Sangla ni Rita, isang Uno’t Cero, Centro Pericultura, Panarak ni Rosa (also known asPunyal ni Rosa), Lucha Electoral and many others.
From the output of plays and their effectiveness when produced on stage in many parts of the country, it was evident that Ylagan was both creative and productive. It was also a fact that he had a trenchant mastery of the human character with all its foibles and shortcomings. And these human vibrations, these pulses of the human fiber found ample manifestations in Ylagan’s zarzuelas which were melodramatic, comic, romantic, and sometimes, political.
From the first chapter of Hermogenes Ylagan: Father of Tagalog Zarzuela by Rustica C. Carpio (UST Publishing House, 2000).