“…upang tayo’y magsama-sama sa langit ng pag-asa.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Himig Natin” by Juan Dela Cruz Band | And so we end another year of the Song Hits with another icon from the 1970s. Juan Dela Cruz Band’s had a stormy history back from its founding in 1968: the line-up we all know today – Wally Gonzalez, Mike Hanopol, Pepe Smith, now each legends in their own right – would not come together until around 1972. The release of their album Himig Natin the following year would catapult the band to the forefront of the burgeoning Pinoy rock scene; the obvious musical theme of this song in particular made it a rallying anthem for the entire movement. This album would bring a lot of tracks that would influence acts in the decades to come: “Kahit Anong Mangyari”, for instance, would inspire Sandwich to write “Sugod”. And it all goes full circle. The hits of the past connecting with the hits of the not-so-past – and we all fail to make the connection because… why again? [NB]

“It’s the coco fruit of the coco tree from the coco palm family.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Da Coconut Nut” by Smokey Mountain | This one’s another last-minute inclusion, as I actually planned to write about “Paraiso”. But then I rediscovered both this song, and the revolving door that was teen group Smokey Mountain. Formed by musical great Ryan Cayabyab and producer Judd Berlin, it initially had Geneva Cruz, Jeffrey Hidalgo and Tony Lambino (who, yes, performed the original “Harana”). The three left the group to pursue either a solo career or studies, and the group reformed with James Coronel, the last remaining original, and another bunch of kids: members have since included Shar Santos, Chedi Vergara and, for a blip, Anna Fegi. Across the three line-ups there have been a bunch of hits: “Kailan” from the early days, “Kahit Habang Buhay” from the second line-up… and yes, the group’s been mostly forgotten, but its members have gone on to fame (Geneva Cruz being, of course, the most popular example). Arguably Smokey Mountain’s a relic of a bygone era – you weren’t there to be famous; you were there to sing. And producers weren’t just anonymous generic hit-churners. [NB]

“Sa aking pagpanaw, sana ay tag-ulan.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran” by Asin | Now, another song that’s very much about the environment. The Filipino folk movement’s had easy pickings with this subject, although I wouldn’t entirely say it’s some hippie utopia they’re chasing after, but because the Philippines is genuinely beautiful – although I don’t see that anymore. Asin emerged at a time when the Manila Sound was giving way to what we now call, loosely, OPM. Like their contemporaries, they channeled their comments on the time’s political and social issues into song, always with a view towards the poor and the young. Sometimes it can be straightforward; sometimes it can be obtuse, like with “Balita” (which you cannot listen to now without going “listen up, y’all”). Personally, though, what I like about Asin’s stuff is Lolita Carbon’s voice: it, for some reason, captures the 70s like not most musicians of her time could. Asin’s songs aren’t heard as much anymore, unfortunately. It’s not the lo-fi sound, but, well, we don’t like it as straight anymore, it seems. Listen up, y’all. [NB]

“Maibabalik ba ang kahapon?”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Kanlungan” by Buklod | Yes, another song from another McDonald’s ad. If not for that, this song would fall into obscurity – even if Noel Cabangon, who was part of Buklod before going solo, didn’t. I remember hearing this song a little before the ad premiered, though: one of my high school teachers – he had an activist streak in him – had a copy of the folk group’s 1992 album Sa Kandungan ng Kalikasan, where this song came from. As that name suggests, “Kanlungan” is really a song about the environment, particularly its destruction. (So it applies today, in a world where green space is only for those who can afford to pay for it.) Of course, it took a television ad for a fastfood giant to turn it into a melancholic song about time passing by… well, it is, really, isn’t it? Different context, but it never really changed. Still, Noel Cabangon – a very thoughtful guy, judging from the one time I heard him speak about music royalties at an industry event in Cebu years ago – has Ronald to thank. More or less. [NB]

“Sana ay magkasingkulay ang drama at tunay na buhay ko.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Love Team” by Itchyworms | This is a hard one. It was either this or “Beer”, which is witty and all, but I ended up choosing the song that captures the Filipino’s needy relationship with showbiz – with being entertained, with escaping it all. (The video for this one is a definite time capsule: Kimerald, back when Kim looked like Kim.) The Itchyworms’ Noontime Show, a self-declared riff on our love affair with the entertainment industry, turned ten years old last year, and its comments still remain potent to this day – or perhaps because not much has changed. (Not even Jugs Jugueta joining the cast of It’s Showtime – also itself a riff on the noontime show his band parodied – has dulled anything.) I also think it’s one of the best Filipino albums ever, not because of its subject, but because of how it approached it: with a biting yet ultimately kind-hearted attitude, sharp in its humor but accessible in its sensibilities. The opening to “Love Team” still powers many a cheesy internal moment. I know I do this with Shalla, and she’s been my girlfriend for almost four years. That’s powerful. [NB]