“…ngunit mayroon awiting iiwanan sa iyong alaala.”

“Handog” by Florante | To close this month’s Great Philippine Song Hits, a song that we’ve actually written about twice before – the first time was a cover by Noel Cabangon, which he did on the occasion of Dolphy’s death; the second was Dolphy’s actual recorded cover of this song for an album of retrospectives he did in his later years. If that does not scream “iconic”, I don’t know what does. Perhaps it’s also because of the universal theme, expressed with that morbid certainty of growing old and death: “tatanda at lilipas rin ako.” There’s an evitability there, the Filipino fatalism captured in one line. Florante was also one of the leaders of the Manila sound of the 1970s, positioning himself at that convenient overlap with the Pinoy rock movement of the same decade. His songs were also of a subtly nationalistic vein (see “Ako’y Pinoy”) but somehow he wrapped them in a pop sheen: polished, accessible, singable. And, again, that universal message that enables a popular comedian in his final years to sing this, giving us a tinge of regret for the inevitable – and a celebration of all that came before. [NB]


“Lahat ng tao, mahilig sa baboy.”

“Gusto Ko Ng Baboy” by Radioactive Sago Project | Should I be writing about this song? Just as I opened the “new post” button, I had that thought. Yes, Radioactive Sago Project was always political, but deftly so, and were acerbic to boot. But should I be writing about this song? What will people accuse me of by writing about this song? Lourd de Veyra is a relatively progressive person, after all, and you know how supposedly evil progressives are with their yellow leanings (like how did those two became a tandem?) But before he became a constant presence on a television network that could never achieve its ambition, he spent more time fronting this weird jazz fusion band with lots of spoken word interludes and no fear of talking about things. “Gusto Ko Ng Baboy” is definitely about politics, sure – it was wrapped around the absurd premise of wanting a pet pig, sure, but still. It’s not just the last verse. “Lahat ng tao, mahilig sa baboy” sounds like an indictment enough of all of us. But no, we have to be better than the rest of them. It applies still, now, in 2017. Perhaps more than ever. But maybe that’s why I should not be writing about this song. But, well, fuck it. On the surface, it’s a funny song – an one opening salvo in a particular breed of alternative comedy. And now, well, this. [NB]

“Mawalay man ang panget, hindi ka iiyak.”

“Humanap Ka Ng Panget” by Andrew E. | The early 90s saw two rappers with a parallel rise in fame, although they took two different paths. One is the late Francis Magalona, who took himself seriously (for good reason). The other is Andrew E., who didn’t. But that carefree attitude – that ability to speak to the common man about common experiences – gave him some degree of street cred, and a string of popular hits. “Humanap Ka Ng Panget”, released in 1990, was his first single, and set the template, somewhat: a no-frills track that focused on the story. His later hits played with the class divide (so many references to Alabang, particularly on this one) and the typical male’s, um, romantic adventures – not much machismo, just a bit of bravado, and a healthy dose of cheekiness. (YouTube comments on “Banyo Queen” suggest impressionable kids sang to the song not knowing what it really is about.) That’s what he did well. He was so self-assured, and yet he wasn’t throwaway. Interestingly his stuff feels very much stuck to its time period – perhaps it’s in how Andrew has mostly shied away from making music in recent years? He still releases the occasional album but he’s spent more time producing (he discovered Salbakuta, for one). Perhaps you notice his billboards selling socks now. I will always remember him buying a hotdog at an NBA exhibition game here. [NB]

“Ispagheting pababa at pataas!”

“Spaghetti Song” by Sex Bomb Girls | Well, yeah, we had to go there. We had to go there. This was popular, admit it – that weird phase in Philippine pop music where the front lines were the noontime variety shows. We featured, two years ago, Bayani Agbayani’s “Otso Otso” and that certainly went head to head with the Sex Bomb Girls’ “Spaghetti Song” – Magandang Tanghali Bayan versus Eat Bulaga on yet another front. (We know who ultimately won that battle.) It was a weird era, wasn’t it? Childish-sounding songs with weird innuendo, although most of the time it’s really the visuals that pile on the supposed smut. Remove that prejudice, so to speak, and you have a song with a dance routine that kids can do. Remove the visuals altogether, and you have a… well, a dinky song that makes you cringe because it is dinky. Yeah. It was a weird time. But these were popular songs nonetheless. Tells you about the power of television, again. [NB]

“Butse kik, ek ek ek.”

“Butse Kik” by Yoyoy Villame | However, the first person to call his music “novelty” is Yoyoy Villame. The Bohol-based singer did that just to set his music apart – when he began performing crooners were popular, while he took inspiration from a handful of pop movements but, more importantly, rondalla music from his childhood. The template for “Butse Kik”, was a Dee Dee Sharp hit from 1962; the lyrics supposedly came from Chinatown stores he encountered while waiting for his car to be fixed, although none of the words are actually in Chinese. Initially released with his rondalla band of bus drivers (of which he was one) in 1971, “Butse Kik” became his most popular hit – but of course there are many others that have also wriggled their way to the Filipino collective. “Magellan”“Mag-Exercise Tayo”, “Philippine Geography”, “Piyesta (Ng Mga Isda)”… perhaps interestingly, Yoyoy’s songs manage to capture a moment in our psyche, and if you look hard enough, you play “Philippine Geography” and find a comment to today’s issues. But perhaps it’s a stretch. [NB]