“Labis ko nang ligaya dahil sa ikaw ay mahal ko.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Kahit Konting Pagtingin” by Ric Segreto | Ric Segreto was a name I was too young to appreciate. His biggest hits were in the 1970s and 1980s, and I remember none of the reaction when he died in 1998 of a tragic motorcycle accident. (Somehow I did know about the fact that it was a motorcycle accident that killed him.) I don’t remember hearing his songs much on the radio, which is why listening to his stuff in the past few weeks made me, finally, connect the dots. Oh, he sang this. Born to an Italian mother and a Filipino father in New York, Ric’s love of music had brought him to perform in the United States, Guam and Japan – but it was in the Philippines, then firmly in the grip of the Manila Sound, where his star would shine the brightest. “Kahit Konting Pagtingin” introduced the country to a soulful voice, both gritty and smooth, world-weary yet hopeful. And he crossed demographics: “Don’t Know What To Do” and “Loving You” remain firm favorites among the, er, classy crowd. Looking back it’s a regret he passed early. Would’ve been fun hearing him on the Sunday music shows, his music being paid tribute to, awkwardly, by today’s crop. He’d show them. [NB]

“Ewan ko ba kung bakit type kita.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“T.L. Ako Sa’yo” by Cinderella | There were, seemingly, two sides to the Manila Sound phenomenon that swept the country in the mid-1970s. On one hand, we had the disco stylings – in some places, more aggressive than you’d expect – from the likes of VST & Co. and Hotdog. On the other hand, we had the more mellow sounds of… well, VST & Co. and Hotdog. I always wished I could live in the time period, not for the political upheaval but for the rush you get when you turn on the radio (FM was a new thing back then) and hear all these songs, warm and fuzzy as they are. Cinderella – whose music leaned more towards the jazzy and laid back – gets a bit buried. But their love songs – buoyed by the Tracyanne Campbell-esque vocals of Cecille Colayco and the late Yolly Samson – delivered imagery that is both romantic and, as is standard at the time, a bit more street-smart and in tune with everybody else’s pulse: the street slang, the humor, that you can’t quite get away with these days, at least without eyebrows going up. A few years ago I discovered the band on a random radio trip, and realized we don’t hear them a lot anymore. We still don’t. So let this be another bid at rediscovery for all of us. It’s cheesy? No, it’s just right. [NB]

“…maginoo, pero medyo bastos.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Ang Tipo Kong Lalaki” by DJ Alvaro | I’ll be honest: I have a slightly different memory of this song. When I listened to this again this went a different direction and I thought, “was this always how the song went?” But then, I think I remember this song from a TV ad. Was it for beer? I can’t recall. They put the pangasinan-born DJ Alvaro in the novelty category, but then, despite the innuendo (again, not that much) her songs were really sincere with her tongue in her cheek. I mean, listen to “Papa Ka Ba?” – you don’t exactly cringe like you do with, say, “Otso-Otso”, but you have to admire the wordplay. You have to admire the street, er, swag that are in her songs. She flew under the radar, in hindsight, and the novelty tag diminished what actually are smartly written, and catchy songs. The hook of “Ang Tipo Kong Lalaki”, the wordplay of “Papa Ka Ba?”, and the sheer catchiness of this song. Bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-booooobs. [NB]

“Maalala mo sanang may nagmamahal sa’yo.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Ulan” by Cueshé | Looking back, Cueshé was the band many loved to hate, for some reason. Was it because they’re cheesy? Their hits during the mid-2000s – “Ulan”, “Stay”, “Sorry” – were cheesy, but in hindsight, this country did produce a lot of these pop-rock ballads, and they’re not always the kind you don’t ever want to be associated with. Was it because former vocalist Jay Justiniani looked too pretty for the part? That hairstyle was cool then, though – this was when we were all fresh off Meteor Garden. But then people pointed out that “Stay” essentially ripped off Silverchair and boom, a reason for the cool kids to really drill down their dislike: plagiarists! I’ve always wondered what happened to Cueshé, one of the many from Cebu who made it big nationally during the alternative wave in the middle of the last decade. Their rock may have had an expiration date, but listening back today, at least to their bigger hits, I can’t deny how anthemic they were. I see their name in bars across the metro, sporadically, but they haven’t had the profile they had back then. Were we too mean? [NB]

“You gotta know that I love you from the start.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Itsumo” by Dice & K9 | I’ll admit, once again, that hip-hop is my weak spot. I’ve never really been into it. I know there’s a really strong hip-hop scene in the country, but I can’t make myself dip my feet. Must be years of perceptions, or tastes calcifying. How different things would have been if this blog leaned towards hip-hop, no? I wouldn’t have been confused that Mobbstarr is a new name for the group I knew as Dice & K9, who most of us likely knew from “Itsumo” back in 2003 – that one song with English verses and a Japanese chorus (supposedly from Hikki) whose low-key production drew a lot of us in. (Also, it’s not really a new name.) Somehow, that tied in with the them when kids played Ragnarok and had this playing on the radios that filled the computer shops. (I never played that game.) Feels carefree. But, yeah, the Cebu-based group are still around, and while the hip-hop scene is much harder to get into than the indie one, if you judge from the number of entry points, these guys still tower above many others. The “royalty” tag isn’t a flimsy one. [NB]