Pinoy woke artists sing of tyranny, rage and hope

Members of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines join a protest action at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani during the National Heroes Day, Aug. 30. (Photo from CAP Facebook page)

Artists have up their collaboration to turn out music videos that have become a powerful tool for awakening and raising the people’s consciousness. The visuals sure do aid the music and the lyrics come for easy retention. The internet affords the listeners to revisit the videos anytime and share it to others, much more so in this pandemic where online connectivity has become the norm.


These are times of living dangerously.

The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the right to freedom of movement. The Anti-Terror Law has threatened the right to freedom of expression. Any which way one’s life or security is put at risk.

Not even artists can remain unaffected. After all, they are not just artists but citizens whose basic freedoms the artists before them have fought so hard to protect whether in periods of colonization or dictatorship.

And so, recently, 35 Pinoy rock artists came together for a music video released this August titled “Rage”. (See Rage PH on Facebook). “Rage” is a revival of The Jerks’ same iconic song that debuted over two decades ago. (The original song is on Youtube.)

Frontlining the performance is Chikoy Pura of The Jerks and included Raymund Marasigan formerly of the Eraserheads, Bobby Balingit of The Wuds, Buddy Zabala, Cookie Chua, among others.

Though seen confined in their own homes or limited spaces, the artists riffed their guitars, hit their drums, and struck their keyboards with a force that equaled their passion as they sang about the country’s unchanging conditions. These lines in “Rage” are as true today as they were before: “…the names and faces of the tyrants change/ But poverty, pain and murder remains/ And the voices of truth are locked up in chains/ Darkness remains, freedom in flames.”

The artists’ collaboration was timed to protest the then newly signed Anti-Terror Law and the denial of the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN. It was basically a fight for freedom of expression.

How the video was put together was a feat in itself with individual artists carrying out their singular parts, all sewn together into one music. While the pandemic has isolated and separated people from each other, the artists have used a common music platform to show their solidarity and unity despite adversity.

Diverse as they are, and coming from cross generations and genders, whether mainstream or alternative, the artists in “Rage” shared and combined their talents to give life and emotion especially to the most powerful verse of the song: “Go not gently into the night/Rage against the dying of the light/ Sing a song about this terrible sight/ Rage until the lightning strikes/ Go not gently, go not gently, go not gently/ And rage with me.”

“Rage” rightly resonates with the people’s sentiments under this “dark era, the era of lies”. Visuals depicting cases of oppression and resistance, from terrorism and corruption to people’s defiance, are interspersed with the artists’ performance, hence making “Rage” as contemporary as ever.

Luckily, “Rage” is not alone in this. Artists have up their collaboration to turn out music videos that have become a powerful tool for awakening and raising the people’s consciousness. The visuals sure do aid the music and the lyrics come for easy retention. The internet affords the listeners to revisit the videos anytime and share it to others, much more so in this pandemic where online connectivity has become the norm.

Street protest

Earlier, the song “Di N’yo Ba Naririnig” – which is a Filipino translation of “Do You Hear the People Sing,” the signature song of the Broadway musical Les Miserables– has also made the rounds of social media.

It was musical director Vincent de Jesus and theatre actors Rody de Vera and Joel Saracho who did the adaptation in 2017. The song was used in protest rallies that were critical of the Duterte regime’s “drug killings” and repressive acts reminiscent of the Marcos dictatorship.

Two performance videos emerged from the song. The first features the collaboration of over 40 theater artists from PETA (Philippine Theatre Educational Association), UP Repertory Company, and Tanghalang Ateneo, among others. The video displays the hashtags #DefendPressFreedom, #FreeMassTesting, and #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar.

The second video was uploaded in July this year featuring over 60 artists from various fields (cinema, theater, music, etc.). Notable names include Angel Locsin, Celeste Legaspi, Jim Paredes, Mitch Valdez, Iza Calzado, Agot Isidro, Enchong Dee, and Kean Cipriano.

The song speaks eloquently of the people’s disgust coming to a boiling point (“Di niyo ba naririnig/ tinig ng bayan na galit”) and poses a challenge to people to overcome passivity: “Ikaw ba ay dadaing na lang/ kimi’t magmumukmok/ Habang nagpapasasa/ ang mga trapong bulok/ Gisingin ang puso/ hanggang sa pumutok.”

Those in power were repeatedly warned: “Dudurugin ang dilim/ ang araw ay mag-aalab/ At ang mga pusong nagtimpi/ Ay magliliyab”.

The release of the second video also happened at a time when the public was appalled by the distressing plight of frontliners. Forty medical associations appealed to government for much-needed relief and protection. Irked, President Duterte practically scolded the frontliners for their complaints while alluding to the song as “fomenting revolution” .

Pop and parody

Not all videos, however, were blunt or hard-nosed. The Plagpul band opted to deliver their message by using parody through popular songs. After all, comic relief is second nature to Filipinos. Adapting its own lyrics to the songs, Plagpul released two videos as part of its COVID series, one, to the tune of the catchy song “Senorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello and, two,” Bella Ciao”, which is an Italian protest folk song that is familiar to activists.

For “Senorita”, and in time for the June 12 “Mananita” Independence Day protest action, Plagpul came out with their video titled “I Hate it When You Call Me TERORISTA”. The song is a call to scrap the Anti-Terror Law which is deemed as unconstitutional and having a broad and vague definition of terrorism. The band scoffs at how the terror bill was rushed for signing, is directed against critics, and would trigger abuses (“Wala pa nga yung bill/ Umabuso na/ Kinawawa ang masa”). Though it’s rebelliousness sounded cute, the meaning isn’t lost to its viewers and listeners: “Ohh we will be shouting/ Ohh we will be coming for you.”

For “Bella Ciao”, Plagpul uses the title “Walang Machow” and takes barbs at the government’s lack of plan during the pandemic (“Mr. Pangulo/ Ano na’ng plano”) while the people are suffering from hunger. It also throws snides at corruption (“Pangakong billions/ Nasan na po yun/ Sana’y hindi pa nila pinagnanakaw / Sana’y umabot na po sa tao/ At hindi sa kandidato”).

Stirring images

Meanwhile, two music videos directed by JL Burgos, brother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, is stirring a lot of emotions. The latest of the two – “Ano ang Aming Kasalanan?” –uploaded in May is a collaboration of the filmmaker and The Axel Pinpin Propaganda Machine.

The band wrote, arranged and performed the music which, and quoting from its Facebook post, was played amidst “triggering images of the government’s highly militarized handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. These images are juxtaposed with footage highlighting the brutality and violence that has swept the country under the current administration”. As the music streams, the lyrics of sarcasm and disgust are rendered in poetic fashion.

A much earlier video by Burgos, “Magliliyab”, was produced by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) in September 2018 and is a depiction of the true state of the nation under Duterte.

The song is written by Cabring Cabrera with music by Mark Estandarte. “Magliliyab” showcases another artists’ collaboration from various genres that included as performers Chikoy Pura, Bobby Balingit, rapper BLKD and bands such as Tubaw, Plagpul, The General Strike, Pasada.

Very strongly, “Magliliyab” calls for the regime to stop its attacks, urges the people to keep the fire of resistance burning, and foretells of a people’s anger engulfing the regime in flames (“Sa gitna ng dilim/ Sa gitna ng lagim/ Magliliyab [5x]”). It minces no words in admonishing people to keep on fighting (“Lumaban/ Huwag magkampante/ Pigilan ang atake”).

Both videos by Burgos capture and highlight how Duterte’s policies seared the heart of the nation and throw various sectors of society at the mercy of his bloody campaign against illegal drugs, human rights violations, martial law, terrorism, corruption, negligence, treachery, plus misogyny.

Fight Continues

The spate of extrajudicial killings that had at its latest victims NDF Consultant Randall Echanis, human rights defender Zara Alvarez, and popular activist Jory Porquia had moved the Concerned Artists of the Philippines to release a tribute video in honor of the heroism of activists killed. It also called for justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings and peace for all frontliners who died in the line of duty. This tribute was also in observation of National Heroes Day 2020 and the 37th anniversary of CAP.

CAP’s zine featuring five activists killed under the Duterte administration.

Lengthy as it is, “Pasidungog ug Panaghiusa: Tribute to People’s Heroes” features original compositions from CAP musicians and network, poems by Joi Barrios and Ima Ariate, artworks and photos from CAP chapters (Cavite and Polytechnic University of the Philippines), the national secretariat and the Stop the Killings campaign. Prof. Jose Ma. Sison and Juliet de Lima graced the video with their special message to artists and cultural workers.

Not one to focus on grief, the video inspires more resolve to continue the struggle in pursuit of justice and love of country. The message is that for every hero that falls more will rise up to carry the fight. The song “Kabayanihan at Buhay” composed by Zol Patanao and performed by four artists speak of this: “Taas kamaong pagpupugay/ Kabayanihan at kadakilaan/ Pakikibaka’y magpapatuloy/ Sa kanayunan man o kalunsuran/ Iniwan na larawan/ Huwaran ng pag-ibig sa bayan.”

Or listen to some lines of “Pasidungog” produced by CAP Davao City: “Hindi maglalaon ay mapapawi/ Hinagpis na nadarama/ Pagkatapos ng tag-ulan/Ay uusbong bagong mga binhi/ Mag-uugat at lalago/ Mamumukadkad muli ang kagubatan”.

The video presents protest art in various forms and genres, awakening as well as endearing, and displays not just commitment but talent coming out of today’s progressive artists. Thirty-seven years after the founding of CAP, succeeding generations have indeed found the truth in Lino Brocka’s words:
“The artist is a committed person, that he will always take the side of any human being who is victimized, abused, oppressed, dehumanized whatever his instrument.”

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