“‘Di magtatagal, tayo ay liligaya.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Sige” by 6cyclemind | Twelve years ago, 6cyclemind performed in La Salle. To mark the occasion I came to the gig wearing a bootleg (let’s put it that way) 6cyclemind shirt – it’s really the cover art for their second album Panorama – and tried my hardest to make then vocalist Ney Dimaculangan notice me. He did, and gave me a thumbs-up. The band may have somewhat disappeared from view in recent years, particularly after Ney left the band to go solo (and Tutti Caringal, the band’s drummer – and simultaneously vocalist of Protein Shake – stepped up to the frontman role) but I can’t help but look back at their heyday with a smile. Some will call them “baduy” but to me they weren’t: they somehow straddled the line between relating to mainstream sensibilities and churning out, yes, elegant songs. They are elegant, yes: elegant in their crunch, and in their sentiments. “Biglaan” still packs a punch. “I”, same thing – a gem waiting to be rediscovered. Even I had fun listening to later single “Magsasaya”. But of course I am choosing “Sige”, a song that endeavors to go big about the smallest moments, and succeeds. It seems an apt way to wrap up Great Philippine Song Hits for this year – or for ever, we’ll see. This has been a fun trip[NB]

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“Ako’y sawang-sawa na.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Mambobola” by Zsa Zsa Padilla | My parents owned some of Zsa Zsa Padilla’s albums, but by then she was more known for her ballads and her ability to deliver those with her distinctly big voice. Do you call it big? I’m not sure if that’s the right adjective, but there was a sense of drama she lent to those songs that I don’t hear from many others here in the country. But her career stretches far back, of course, and it’s interesting to see the places she’s occupied in many distinct phases of Filipino music. She started her career with the seminal Hotdog at the tail end of the Manila Sound era, and by 1982 has ventured solo. “Mambobola”, released in 1986 – is Wikipedia right? I’ll assume yes – has sat nicely alongside her earlier ballads, and has endured long enough that you still hear her perform it these days. Says a lot about the longevity of one of our, admittedly, quieter musical legends this side of the world. [NB]

“…itong paglalakbay ay makakarating din sa paroroonan.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Paglisan” by Color It Red | While reading up on Color It Red I cam across an article that compared them to Fleetwood Mac. That’s apt, I thought. If anything, this band – they’re just as old as I am, a good 29 years – have been fluid in their sound, proving they’re adept at earnest songs like “Paglisan” as well as gripping alternative stuff that defined their earlier work. It is all buoyed, of course, by the voice of Cooky Chua, expressive, firm, evocative. For most of us this remains their only hit: although the band did see mainstream success, things just did not seem to pick up right after – although they remain active, gigging whenever they can, even releasing an album in 2014. Cooky herself remains an active performer on television, that presence carrying through even if it’s mostly for the nostalgia factor. (Even if “Paglisan” has been used for morbid purposes, more often than not.) But we shouldn’t dispense with these guys. Like Fleetwood Mac, they will be back, and maybe one day we’ll all notice the way we did before. [NB]

“Kulang ang sandali pag ika’y wala.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Dahil Tanging Ikaw” by Jaya | Since we find ourselves moving towards the cooler side of Filipino music – remarkable considering we love our belting divas – we’d be amiss to not mention Jaya. Yes, she still performs, although you’re more likely to see her these days on Tawag ng Tanghalan as a judge. It’s been a while since the daughter of the legendary Elizabeth Ramsey released new material, although to be honest, I still go back to her breakthrough songs, as we all do. Released in 1996, “Dahil Tanging Ikaw” saw the singer storm the country after years working as a back-up singer in the United States (and, by some quirk of history, making her the only Filipino singer to chart in the Billboard Hot 100). Again, it was a classy sound, a big husky voice that nonetheless managed to express what most belters end up faltering in. I guess, for me, it’s because I could sing it without straining myself. But having a point of difference is nice – and now, much missed, considering we’ve reverted to the belters, and nothing but. [NB]

“Sana’y kaya kong baguhing lahat sa nakalipas nating kasaysayan.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Sayang” by Claire dela Fuente | I’ve always known Claire dela Fuente as the owner of a bus line – one who’s always vocal about issues that affect her business, to the point that she found her franchise to operate revoked after participating in a transport strike. I knew she was a singer, but then I found her face on her buses, so that stuck. Also, again, I was born at the wrong time. That, and her career as a singer was relatively short compared to her contemporaries – although it made such an impact that people remember her as one of the country’s “jukebox queens”, an easy tag for female balladeers of the 1970s. (Or perhaps it’s the nostalgia it provided.) But she wasn’t in it for the histrionics. They called her the “Karen Carpenter of the Philippines” because of the obvious similarities with the late singer, and proceeded to provide a semblance of class and finesse to the love songs of the time. “Sayang”, her breakout hit, haa that lilt you don’t really find in the other songs of the time. It lifts you up and breezes you through… like a bus headed to one of her restaurants. Okay, that was a bit of a cheap shot, but I can listen to her for days. [NB]