Thanks to PhilPop, an annual songwriting competition, Original Pilipino Music (OPM) is on the rise. Often Filipinos are enamored by mainstream American music to the point that they’ve idolized the singers and focused on imitating their styles. That trend seems to be changing in recent years. It has been awhile since I’ve listened to Tagalog songs that really sparked my interest. Many Filipino songs tend to be about romantic love – the ups and downs of it, the joys of being in love or the depression that hits when one is brokenhearted. It feels as though we’ve covered all aspects of love by now. Thankfully, even if some of the PhilPop songs are about love, all of the finalists, especially the PhilPop winners’ compositions, have shown the range of emotions that can be expressed through music and the creativity of Filipino artists.
Here are some of my favorites from the PhilPop repertoire:
“Bawat Hakbang” (composer: Karl Villuga) – On days when I’m down, frustrated, and impatient, this is one of the songs that lifts me up. This song takes us through the lows of life and encourages us to remember that whatever we’re going through “isa lang ‘tong pagsubok” (this is just one trial). Eventually we realize, “At kahit saan man magpunta, ‘yun pala nar’yan ka /Kaya’t ang bawat hakbang ay biglang kayang-kaya ko na” (And anywhere I go, You are there. So now I can take every step). The Lord is with us during our trials, guiding and sustaining us.
“Dati” (composers: Thyro Alfaro and Yumi Lacsamana) – This catchy song is on repeat in my head and iPod. It is such a fun song that expresses the love between childhood friends. As they reminisce, we (who lived through the 90s in the Philippines anyways) are invited to recall our own youth and taste the joys of shared memories with friends or a special someone: “O kay tamis naman mabalikan ang alaala” (Oh how sweet it is to be able to return to our memories).
“Salbabida” (composer: Jungee Marcelo) – Like “Bawat Hakbang,” “Salbabida” is a song of encouragement and perseverance. The word salbabida means a lifebuoy or lifesaver. The song appropriately uses water and storm imagery to represent obstacles and challenges that we face in life. When we are figuratively or even literally drowning, there are people, our salbabida, whose words of encouragement and love lift us up. It is a song that salutes all of the people who are the salbabida of our lives.
“Triangulo” (composer: Thyro and Yumi) – Yet another creative composition from Thyro and Yumi. It is a song about a love triangle and how the 3 characters of the song respond to their complicated relations – one man is the past love, the other man is the present love, and the woman is conflicted about whom to choose. I love the way that Thyro and Yumi presented the song and how they used the word triangulo – “kahit ilang beses kong i-try i-try i-try ang gulo gulo ang gulo gulo” (No matter how much I try it’s disorderly/troublesome). Notice also the repetition: 3x. This is one of the most creative uses of words that I’ve heard in recent OPM history. My favorite part though has to be, “Dahil ang pag-ibig ay kayamanan na ginawa lamang na pandalawahan. At kahit ilang beses mong i-try i-try i-try ang gulo gulo ang gulo gulo” (Because love is a treasure made only for two and even if you try many times [to involve more than 2 people] it is disorderly). Love triangles are and have always been messy, which is why a healthy romantic relationship is exclusive.
There are other PhilPop songs that I listen to, but the ones listed above are ones that I find myself playing over and over again. Check out all of the finalists on Youtube (just type ‘PhilPop’) and let me know which ones resonate with you. I’m looking forward to hearing more songs and new talents in the future.