March-April 2008
Himig Pinoy

Make (beautiful) noise

SO we’re just a couple of weeks away from Holy Week, and music might not exactly be the regular topic of choice during Lent. Then again, we do have the tradition of the pasyon during cuaresma — which just goes to show that even a week without some kind of music would be hard for Pinoys, and even if not all of us are gifted with enough talent to carry a tune or play an instrument. Of course, many of us are contented just to listen, but the urge to belt out along with the professionals is simply too much for some to resist (alas).

Music is among those things that take us from cradle to grave, from the uyayi (lullaby) that helps send us to sleep as babies to the punebre (funeral march) that accompanies us to our final resting place. We remember significant moments in our lives with the help of a particular song, which is why there are curious scenes like people bursting out in tears upon hearing “Bikining Itim (Black Bikini)” (“I flunked the bar even though I had on my lucky underpants”) or suddenly looking gleeful when “Saan Ako Nagkamali” is played (“I have an announcement to make: I’m having a sex change!”). We listen to a song, and we identify with it. Sometimes we even start thinking it was written just for us, even though the songwriter is a total stranger living thousands of miles away.

This is not a completely Pinoy phenomenon. But there is something about the combination of words and melody that captivates Filipinos so, stirring emotions as rich and as thick as tsokolate eh. And we express ourselves through music as well; it is part of this nation’s being, and has become so identified with its people that it is almost illegal — almost unnatural — for a Pinoy not to be able to sing.

Thus as the strains of “Bayan Ko” are again heard on the streets, i Report turns an ear toward Himig Pinoy, which will run throughout March. We begin with the musings of singer/songwriter Noel Cabangon on contemporary Philippine music, and his views on Pinoy pop songs through the years.

Cabangon, who used to be with Buklod before going solo, says the essence of music is to “make people see things differently, to create images, see the world from a new perspective.” And while he says there are some types of music today that fail in this aspect, he believes the present political turmoil may yet result in a body of musical efforts that will encourage reflection and some soul-searching even long after the songs have been sung.