Appreciating true blue Filipino music


MANILA – I was having lunch in a carinderia after covering an event when I saw this contest in a noontime show where contestants 45 years old and above were being asked to render songs from their era as well as today’s hits. After one contestant sang “Masdan mo ang kapaligiran,” the host asked who the original performer was. When the contestant said Asin, the host replied “Ah… I don’t know them.”

I was stunned and shook my head in disappointment. This popular Filipino host does not know Asin. Should I be surprised if the songs he’s familiar with are from Rihanna or a popular RnB artist in the US?

I grew up listening to Filipino folk/ethnic and rock music. Because my father listens to music every day, I became familiar with the songs of Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad, Popong Landero, Jess Santiago, Paul Galang, Heber Bartolome, Asin and even Florante music, among many others. I learned to sing their songs and my favorite are the songs of Joey Ayala.

Every morning I listened to the radio program: “Gising na RJ na!” and later in the early 90s, the tandem of Zack and Joey over the defunct NU 107 station. I also listen to Filipino underground music in LA 105.9. I got to know Yano, The Youth, Wolfgang, The Wuds and many other bands I could no longer recall.

In the 90s I got to know Color it Red, True Faith, Pu3ska and the likes. I also listened to Francis Magalona and also have two of his albums and my father got the other one autographed for me.

Songs that are socially relevant used to be played in radio stations such as Francis Magalona’s Man from Manila:

Dayuhan ay biglang pumasok at sumakop sa atin, Sabihin na sila’y kailangan natin; Tayo’y mga alipin sa sariling lupain… I’m ready to defend the three stars and the sun… Tayo’y isinilang upang di maging alila ng kahit nino mang sinomang dayuhan…

I can’t remember if Yano’s song about the privatization of state universities and colleges made it to the mainstream but they were definitely a hit to the youth:

Administration policy, Itaas ang tuition fee
Pati na din ang dorm fee, Baket walang nagrarally?

Kahit may demolition, Private corporation
Barat na allocation sa education
Commercialization, colonialization
Privatisation, kawawang oblation!

Of course, before them was the song “Tayo’y mga Pinoy” by Heber Bartolome.

“Tayo’y mga Pinoy, tayo’y hindi Kano, h’wag kang mahihiya kung ang ilong mo ay pango…
Katulad ng iba pa-ingles ingles pa, at kung pakikinggan mali-mali naman h’wag na lang.”

Asin’s songs are no different.

These are only few of the songs that I can remember. These songs convey the message that we are Filipinos, these are our issues and we should do something about it. Today, songs like these can only be heard in protest actions being played by progressive artists and cultural activists like Tambisan sa Sining and Sining Lila and Karl Ramirez to name a few.

This is not to say that popular Filipino music today is not socially relevant. Glock 9’s music for one are mostly about the hardships of Filipinos like “Walang natira,” a song about overseas Filipino workers.

It is just ironic that this host/movie star often talks about being a Filipino and helping one another in times of crisis, but does not know his fellow artists or his roots. The “legends” as they say, of Filipino music.

I am grateful that my father is fond of listening to Filipino music and I got to know these “legends.” I would be a hypocrite if I say that we only listen to Filipino songs. Yes, he is also a fan of foreign bands such as The Doors, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Incubus and Pearl Jam. Eventually I listened to them too. But of course, we never forget our own. (

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