Music, Sociology, Television

PINOY BODABIL, A NEW CONCEPT OR SIMPLY A SERIES OF HUMOROUS OBSCENITIES?

Last February, during the Radyo Bodabil Symposium held in UP Diliman, Dr. Maria Rhodora Ancheta  presented her paper on the Pinoy Bodabil, which focused on the repertoire of Katy de la Cruz. She mentioned the difference between the American vaudeville and the Filipino Bodabil. It was stated in her paper that while the American vaudevilles consisted of slapstick comedy antics, animal shows, and acrobatics, the Pinoy Bodabil, as a variety show, focused on joke narratives, which were mostly sexually suggestive. One of the most popular Bodabil artists was Katy de la Cruz. In this article, several questions, in line with previous explanations will be presented.

Since the Philippines was a consistently conservative culture, how did the listeners react to de la Cruz’s lyrical content? They may not be explicitly sung but most of her songs contained sexual innuendos. For instance, her song “Saging ni Pacing” may not just refer to simply a bunch of fruit. It may mean something else like infidelity or something more obscene. Hence, “Saging ni Pacing” may be translated to Pacing’s Banana. It was later retitled to “Pacing” for censorship. As for “Balut”, which is another de la Cruz hit song, it may not just refer to simply the duck egg itself. It may likewise mean that the balut is a good aphrodisiac, something that can increase sex drive.

Since it was mentioned that the Bodabil was the Filipinized version of the American vaudeville, how come it became a fusion of previous forms of entertainment from the United States? As mentioned by Dr. Ancheta in her paper, the Pinoy Bodabil often dealt with sexual naughtiness, which was rooted from the American Burlesque. Like the Pinoy Bodabil, the American Burlesque likewise showed sexually suggestive jokes.

Lyrically speaking, why was the Bodabil considered Filipinized, the fact that a huge chunk of de La Cruz’s songs were mashed up with previously released English songs? Some of these were “I Don’t Know Why” and “A Tear Fell”. If it was indeed Filipinized, why weren’t these songs fully translated in Tagalog? Could this be caused by the American censorship? It is possible. Because basing from written history, the Americans banned the Filipinos to use the Filipino language so to further pacify them, they sent a team of “Thomasites” or English teachers from the United States to teach the Filipinos in English.

These were just the few questions presented.  Probably, these questions may be answered in future research dissertations. These questions dealt more on how “Filipino” the Bodabil was, in the middle of American Imperialism influences.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I previously wrote this for my Special Topics in Musicology class during the Second Semester, A.Y. 2016-2017.

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