Awit at Laro: A Dose of Child’s Play and Folklore

During the last week of October, Mr. Pure Energy himself, Gary Valenciano, together with Bambi Mañosa Tanjutco, launched Awit at Laro, a project that celebrates the spirit of play (Awit at Laro, 2018). It presents modernized versions of traditional Filipino folk songs, as well as new compositions inspired by the well-loved Filipino games, such as Piko, Jack ‘En Poy, etc. Accompanied by Awit at Laro’s music is a coffee table book which contains the songs’ lyrics and artworks created by artists of Ang INK (Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan), which may be purchased either online or in one of Awit at Laro’s mall tours. Proceeds from the coffee table book sales will be for the benefit of Unicef and Tukod Foundation while the door art sales will be for the benefit of Museo Pambata. This project was also made in partnership with Shining Light Foundation.

The Awit at Laro album is produced by Star Music, Manila Genesis Entertainment & Management Inc., and GV Productions. It contains two parts, namely Awit and Laro. The Awit album contains nine recordings of traditional Filipino folk songs with modern twists, as well as “Bawat Isa Sa Atin,” an original song written and sung by Gary Valenciano. On the other hand, the Laro album contains ten recordings of originally written songs inspired by the most-loved Filipino games.

This article will feature the songs included in the album, as well as detailed descriptions of each song.


Bahay Kubo” is one of the most popular Tagalog folksongs we have learned in our childhood years. Apart from the vegetables planted in the backyard, immaterial things, such as love, happiness, peace, and other intangible yet positive things make the “bahay kubo” not only a house filled with vegetation, but also a home that instills positive values. With the song’s recurring instrumentation (flute, djembe, humming, and kulintang), Jona’s vocals were light yet sincere, which complete the song’s positive feel.

“Sitsiritsit Alibangbang” may have had the innocent melody but its song’s last two stanzas talked about human trafficking.

Mama, mama, namamangka

Pasakayin yaring bata

Pagdating sa Maynila,

Ipagpalit ng manika.

Ale, aleng namamayong

Pasukubin yaring sanggol

Pagdating sa Malabon,

Ipagpalit ng bagoong.

These verses were even raised by comedian Vice Ganda during one of the episodes of It’s Showtime while the hosts were discussing the issue on the possible change of our National Anthem’s lyrics. Going back to the track itself, the bridge part served as a commentary to the aforementioned verses:

Pasensya na kung di maintindihan

Huwag ipagpapalit ang tao sa kabagayan

Pagsabihan lang pag sila’y nangungulit

Pagtiyagaan na lang, di na nauulit muli


Musically speaking, the TNT Boys’ version of this folksong has a dance-like feel, which had a fusion of 1990s Eurodance feels and milennial whoop. While the boys have a consistently seamless harmony, Mackie’s rap is clearly done and Keifer’s whistle register is consistently on-point. Francis’s belting lines are also powerful.

Katrina Velarde’s version of “Leron Leron Sinta” had a reggae and R&B feel. While the song’s lyrics were written as they are, Velarde’s voice was powerful yet soulful. Not to mention, her melismas were on point.

Paru-Parong Bukid” is another Filipino folksong with a fusion of rock and rondalla, interpreted by Yeng Constantino. The interesting part about the song’s arrangement was that the rondalla trills blended well with the pop-rock arrangement.

Magtanim ay Di Biro,” a Filipino folksong that talks about a farmer’s life, was interpreted by Bamboo and the Band (composed of Junjun Regalado, Simon Tan, Ardie de Guzman, Kakoy Legaspi, Abe Billano, and Ria Villena-Osorio).  The sound has the usual rock feel, reminiscent of 1990s Rivermaya (led by Bamboo). The song’s melody departed from the original during the first time it was sung.

Lea Salonga’s “Pakitong-Kitong”  is rather a commentary on bashing in general.

Bakit ba may ibang nambabangga at nananadya?

While the song’s original version talks about the struggle of catching crabs in the sea, Jungee Marcelo, the song’s composer has a different take on the “crabs” in the society. The so-called “crabs” are the ones who would do everything out of envy to pull successful people down, in favor of themselves. Musically, the song’s character is dark, which matched Salonga’s theatrical vocals.

Sam Concepcion’s version of the Bikol folksong, “Sarung Banggi” was a mix of Bikol and Tagalog lyrics. However, the Tagalog lyrics were not direct translations of the original Bikol text. Musically speaking, the song’s melody has a slight departure from the original and it has an EDM feel.

“Ati Cu Pung Singsing” is also in EDM, sung by Janella Salvador. The song commences with the Kapampangan folksong’s Tagalog translation, followed by some English lyrical content. It is sung in its original Kapampangan text during the middle part.

“Nanay, Tatay,” is a children’s game song which is reflective in the claps in the song’s beginning. Interpreted by Darren Espanto, Anne Curtis, and Gloc 9, it talks about patience, giving, and perseverance.

Tulungan mo ang sarili mo. Subukan mo at ang mararating mo ay malayo

Ending the Awit segment is Gary Valenciano’s and Mandaluyong Children’s Choir’s “Bawat Isa Sa Atin.” It is a ballad which talks about giving hope to the children, despite them being born out of struggles.

Bawat isa sa atin ay tulad nila.

Naghahanap ng pagmamahal at pag-aaruga

Kung ituloy ang laban,

Karapatan ng bawat batang nilalang

Balang araw nating masasaksihan

Buhay ng bawat batang

Matupad ang pangarap nila.


Patintero,” performed by Lara Maigue and Mel Villena’s AMP Band, clearly shows how the game patintero is played. It also encourages children to play patintero to promote physical and mental alertness. Musically, it is set in big band jazz.

Similar to “Patintero,” KZ Tandingan’s “Tagu-Taguan” is a clear demonstration of the game. It is set in EDM.

Piko,” performed by Morissette Amon, has the distinct sound of the Indonesian saron, especially in the beginning, which later transitions into EDM. Lyrically, it shows how popular the piko is, being a budget-friendly and environment-friendly game.

Joey Ayala’s “Luksong Tinik” is musically interesting. It does not only show how the game luksong tinik is played. It is a fusion of EDM and folk elements (guitar, kulintang, and kudyapi), reminiscent of what the UP TUGMA (an organization in the UP College of Music that focuses on Asian Music performance) is currently doing. The “Takbo, takbo, takbo, lukso” part is also playfully done.

Gary Valenciano and Ogie Alcasid’s “Sipa,” is a dance pop song which shows how the game sipa is played. It also describes how the ball used in such game looks like.

Tumbang Preso,” performed by Kiana Valenciano and Billy Crawford, is basically a creative presentation of the tumbang preso scene. Musically, tinges of the pateteg and the takik are fused with EDM.

Bullet Dumas’s “Jak en Poy” does not only describe how the game is played.  Dumas’s lyricism is creative, especially in the part, “Bato, talo sa papel, talo sa gunting.”This part reminds me of the choral arrangements of Filipino folksongs used in high school choral competitions, in terms of rhythmic structure.

“Pitik-Bulag,” performed by Julie Anne San Jose is an R&B love song. It likens the pitik bulag game to romance in general which is full of surprises.

“Touch and Move” talks about the touch and move game by itself. This song molds AC Bonifacio, not only as the dancer who won in ABS-CBN’s Dance Kids, but also as a total performer who can actually sing!

The Laro portion ends with Gary Valenciano’s “Saranggola.” Written by Ebe Dancel, the song talks about letting our dreams (represented by the kite) fly higher and holding onto them with our supporters’ guidance (represented by the kite’s string). The song itself is anthemic and powerful.

The album itself is kid-friendly because those listening to the tracks will not only enjoy the songs’ modern feel. The songs also impart important lessons through the lyrics added. The coffee table book is also a great gift this Christmas season.

To have a sneak peak of the album, here is the Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.

Awit at Laro in a nutshell

Entertainment, Music

(Not Only) Birit To Win It: The Various Types of Today’s Singing Contest Participants

Tawag ng Tanghalan, Birit Baby, Birit Queen, Star Quest, Star for A Night, Star in A Million, Search for A Star, Pinoy Pop Superstar, Pinoy Dream Academy, The Voice, The Clash, name them! Singing competitions have always been part of the Filipino culture, not only on television, but also in various communities (especially in the provinces’ festivities), school programs, and even in corporate Christmas parties.

Back then, a contestant can only win if she can belt the highest possible notes a la Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and other contemporaries. For the case of male participants, they can only win if they can croon either a la Basil Valdez or Martin Nievera. However, the singing contest culture in the Philippines is quite different nowadays. More and more genres are becoming more acceptable in the mainstream and singers of non-birit genres are now having wider fan bases.

Wait a second, what are the different types of singing contest participants?

The Bigtime Biriteras. Their vocal power and range are sky-is-the-limit, which usually impress the panel of judges, as well as the audiences. Bonus points for being able to sing in their whistle registers a la Mariah Carey.

THE SETLIST (commonly performed songs):
Mariah Carey’s songs: Hero, Vision of Love, Love Takes Time, Emotions (heavy on whistle registers), Through the Rain

Celine Dion’s songs: To Love You More (popularized by Star For A Night Grand Champion Sarah Geronimo during her stint in the said competition), All By Myself (originally by Eric Carmen; Everybody slays on the long “anymore” change key.), It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (originally by Pandora’s Box), My Heart Will Go On

Whitney Houston’s songs: Saving All My Love for You, One Moment In Time, I Will Always Love You (especially the long “I” in the last refrain), I Have Nothing, Run To You, Queen of the Night

Regine Velasquez’s songs: Narito Ako, On the Wings of Love (originally by Jeffrey Osbourne; became a big hit in Velasquez’s best-selling album R2K), You’ll Never Walk Alone (originally from the musical “Carousel”), What Kind of Fool Am I (originally from the musical “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off), I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing (originally by Aerosmith; also became a big hit in Velasquez’s best-selling album R2K), Pangako (composed by now-husband Ogie Alcasid for 2001 film “Pangako, Ikaw Lang”), Dadalhin, Pangarap Ko Ang Ibigin Ka (from 2003 film of the same title; also composed by Alcasid), Shine (originally sung by Ima Castro)

Aegis’s songs: Halik, Luha, Basang-Basa Sa Ulan

Songs from the musical “Dreamgirls”: One Night Only, And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going), Listen, I Am Changing

Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire”
Little Mix’s “Secret Love Song”
Loren Allred’s “Never Enough”
Wendy Moten’s “Come In Out of the Rain” (popularized by Star In A Million First Runner-Up Sheryn Regis during her stint in the said competition)

Lani Misalucha’s “Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin”
Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”
Dianne Reeves’s “Better Days”

The Balladeers. Being the male counterpart of belters, their winning formula is their crooning style and vocal power.

THE SETLIST (commonly performed songs):
Josh Groban’s songs: You Raise Me Up, To Where You Are

Basil Valdez’s songs: Ngayon at Kailanman, Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo, Hanggang Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan, Kastilyong Buhangin, Say That You Love Me (popularized by Martin Nievera)

Martin Nievera’s songs: Kahit Isang Saglit (originally by Vernie Varga), Ikaw Ang Pangarap (from 2007 teleserye “Lobo”), Be My Lady, You Are My Song (The last part of the bridge, “With you in my heart in my soul, you’re my love you’re my song” is peppered with triplets, which makes the song more challenging to perform.)

Gary Valenciano’s songs: Wag Ka Nang Umiyak (originally by Sugarfree; used for primetime series “Ang Probinsyano”), Tayong Dalawa (originally by Rey Valera), Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos, Narito, Gaya Ng Dati, Take Me Out of the Dark, Ikaw Lamang (from 2005 film “Dubai”)

Leo Valdez’s “Magsimula Ka”
“This Is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde (popularized by Star In A Million Grand Champion Erik Santos during his stint in the said competition)

The Rock Balladeers. Mostly male singers, their weapons are their vocal range and angst. For the case of female singers, huskiness is more of their singing style, rather than a flaw.

THE SETLIST (commonly performed songs):

Journey’s songs: Open Arms, Faithfully, Don’t Stop Believing

Queen’s songs: We Are the Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody (“I see a little silhouette-o of a man, scaramouche, scaramouche…”), Too Much Love Will Kill You (popularized by Pilipinas Got Talent Season 1 Grand Champion Jovit Baldivino during his stint in the said competition)

Air Supply’s songs: Goodbye, All Out of Love, Here I Am, Even the Nights Are Better, Just As I Am; A medley of their songs, which included The One That You Love, Now and Forever, and Without You, made Noven Belleza win the first season of Tawag ng Tanghalan.

Bad English’s “When I See You Smile”

The Improvisers. They are the new “dark horses” in televised singing competitions. They slay the stage by “owning” (more of experimenting with) the songs they perform. Experimentations may include runs, falsettos, scats, and dynamic variations. For them, every song may be reconstructed into a contest piece, as long as they are able to perform it excellently in their own genre. More freedom is given to the resident music arranger/s as well. X-Factor Philippines Grand Champion KZ Tandingan (Check out her version of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.”), Tawag ng Tanghalan Season 1’s Songsmith Froilan Canlas (Check out his heavily jazzed up version of Pilita Corrales’s “Dahil Sa’yo”.), and Tawag ng Tanghalan Season 3 10-time Defending Champion now Grand Finalist Elaine Duran (Check out her R&B blues aria version of Up Dharma Down’s “Oo”.) fall into this category.

These are just some of the commonly encountered types of singing contest participants. However, delivering a heartfelt performance is the most important, regardless of the singing style being performed.

Food, Travel

I Eat to Live, I Live to Eat

I have been living a life full of food for several reasons: travels, school, work and other reasons. It even reached the point that I got to secure a Looloo (a nationwide restaurant database created in the Philippines) account and make reviews on the restaurants I have been to. Several restaurants made my cut. However, I have a handful of food preferences, the most loved ones and the not-so-loved ones.

“Ang estudyanteng nagigipit, sa siomai rice kumakapit.” I came across this statement when I read about the favorite food spots of UST students. This applied to me, even if I am a UP student (who usually reached for Lucky Me Pancit Canton when finances are quite low). Sometimes, I reach for siomai when I do not feel like spending too much on lunch. Some of my favorite siomai spots are Hen Lin (since I was a kid), Siomai House and Luk Yuen (a bit more expensive but more fulfilling).

Chicken Inasal is likewise my comfort food. I would always crave for this, especially when the chicken is authentically prepared. During my early teens, my mom introduced me to Ilonggo cuisine, via Marina, a restaurant that used to have a branch near the CCP Complex. Since then, I loved the ginger-y flavor of the chicken which reduced the fishy tone of the chicken. During a choral tour in Bacolod, I became more ecstatic when our hosts brought us to Bacolod Chicken House where I tasted the authentic Chicken Inasal. I am now looking forward to try Chicken Deli, another inasal joint from Bacolod (endorsed by Ilonggo comedian Allan K) that recently opened a branch in Landmark Makati. Speaking of Ilonggo food, I also loved the authentic Kadios, Baboy, Langka (an Ilonggo soup dish that used kadios beans as souring ingredient) from Bascon Cafe. Wish I could go back to Bacolod soon to try their other delectable dishes, as well as Calea’s famous cakes. I might try to tour around Iloilo next time, when finances and schedule allow me to do so.

When it comes to vegetables, I would always ask my mom, a pure Ilocana (from Cagayan Valley but my late maternal grandfather hailed from Ilocos Sur), to cook Braised Saluyot with Bamboo Shoots for me. I liked how the sweetness of the bamboo shoots blend with the slight bitterness of saluyot and the saltiness of fish bagoong.

I also love seafood pasta (preferably without the cream; The best one I have tasted so far was in Roxas City, during a wedding reception performance.), Sans Rival cake and Adobo. I initially hated the Sans Rival cake since I found it too sweet. I only got to appreciate it when our host in Dumaguete served us Sans Rival cake from Sans Rival, the cake shop in Dumaguete that popularized the dish. I eventually yearned for that cake every time a cake is offered in a particular restaurant/cake shop. Aside from Sans Rival cake shop, my other favorites are served in The Chocolate Kiss Cafe and Conti’s. Since I was a kid, I liked my parents’ garlicky adobo, just enough balance of Coconut Brand Soy Sauce’s saltiness, Apple Cider Vinegar’s (or could be Sukang Tuba’s) sourness and garlic flavor.


Sans Rival Dumaguete’s Silvanas in Chocolate and Original flavors.

Going to my not-so-loved dishes, not that much since I am not that picky with food. However, I don’t like to eat pork liver because of its taste and texture. I am likewise not a fan of fast food style burger because they use extenders in their beef patties. I prefer food which are either cooked at home or prepared in specialty restaurants.

Aside from wanting to go back to Bacolod soon, I would want to visit Cebu soon and try their delectable dishes. I guess I have this hidden Anthony Bourdain in me since I do not just eat to sustain myself, but also to go places. 🙂


*- This essay was slightly edited from the original work I submitted for my Anthro 1 class in UP Diliman.

Travel, Uncategorized

The Filipino Malling Culture

Shopping malls here in the Philippines are not just limited for buying all the things you want and need. Most of them already provide entertainment (either via cinemas, video game centers or even live shows) and even government services for almost all the legal documents you need.

I have already been to almost all of the shopping malls found in Metro Manila due to ease of parking space and commuters’ convenience. They have also been my “waiting areas” before every event I need to attend.

Without further ado, here are some of the most-visited malls in Metro Manila.

  1. SM North EDSA and TriNoma– These malls never get empty, even during weekdays, due to the influx of people from almost all walks of life: CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) residents, Northern Quezon City residents, Bulacan residents and students from nearby schools (mostly from Quezon City Science, Philippine Science and even UP Diliman which is a jeepney ride away). They have got almost everything you need, all in one go.
  2.  SM Megamall – Another SM mall that almost had everything under the sun. Like SM North, this is also one of the most-visited malls due influx of people from nearby areas like Mandaluyong, Pasig, San Juan and even Rizal (Taytay, Angono, Binangonan), as well as employees from nearby Ortigas Center. This mall attracts more people during Three-Day Sales and weeks before Christmas.
  3. SM Mall of Asia – Colloquiallly known as SM MOA (read as “MO-wah”), this is the only mall by the bayside.  Most people who visit this mall do not just enjoy the vast selections of merchandise sold inside the mall, but also the view of Manila Bay. Not to mention, most restaurants here are facing the bayside. Don’t forget to catch the fireworks display every Friday and Saturday nights!
  4. Glorietta – My dad told me that this used to be known as the “Quad”, since it had four cinemas placed in “quadrants”, and it used to have a branch of Makati Supermart (which has a lone branch in Alabang). The present activity center used to be a park with aviary. Now, this mall is quite similar to SM Megamall, in terms of boutique repertoire. Most of the shoppers here are Makati and Eastern Manila (Sta. Ana) residents, as well as employess from the nearby business district. This mall is likewise visited by Makati expats nearby.The first branch of TGI Fridays is located here. International record chain Tower Records used to have a branch here.
  5. Robinsons Galleria – Another hub for EDSA commuters, as well as students from nearby schools (Poveda, La Salle Greenhills).
  6. Robinsons Place Manila – This area used to be the Ateneo De Manila campus before it transferred to its present site in Loyola Heights. This mall serves mostly Manila residents and students from nearby schools (mostly from UP Manila, St. Paul University, Philippine Christian University and Philippine Women’s University; some from farther Taft schools like De La Salle University, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and St. Scholastica’s College). It is also visited by local and foreign tourists staying in the nearby hotels.
  7. The Araneta Trio: Gateway, Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza – These are also some of the most-visited malls due to the influx of LRT, MRT, bus and jeepney commuters. While Gateway contains mostly international brands (i.e. H&M, Mango, Promod, Marks & Spencer), Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza offer merchandise which are easy on the budget. These malls also provide dining options for audiences waiting for the events held at the nearby Araneta Coliseum and Kia Theater. Don’t forget to see the giant Christmas tree installed annually!
  8. The Divisoria Complex: 168, 999, Tutuban, New Divisoria Mall– The ultimate stop for cheapskates. They sell almost everything here, at ROCK BOTTOM prices. The 168 mall now has more dining options. The nearby Lucky Chinatown Mall used to be upscale but it already has a mini-tiangge for shoppers on a budget.
  9. Greenhills Shopping Center – If Manila has Divisoria, San Juan has Greenhills. Almost similar to Divisoria, it offers tiangge merchandise, only sold in a little higher price. It also houses Unimart, a supermarket that offers grocery items at equally lower prices.
  10. SM City Manila – Similar to Robinsons Place Manila, only a tad smaller and more influx of customers. This mall transforms into a secondary student canteen during lunchtime (including Sundays since it is the NSTP day for most of the schools nearby), due to the large number of schools nearby (Adamson University, Santa Isabel College, Philippine Normal University, Technological University of the Philippines, Technological Institute of the Philippines, San Sebastian College; also Intramuros schools like Lyceum, PLM and Letran). It also provides needs for people transacting business at the nearby government offices (This mall has a DFA Passport Center, as well as an LTO License Renewal Center.).