Music

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.

AWIT

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

P

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.

LARO

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

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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.

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Music

The “-Ber Months” Playlist in the Philippines

The Yuletide Season in the Philippines (unofficially but somehow) begins today! During the so-called “-ber” months, television networks, especially during morning shows (ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda and GMA Network’s Unang HIrit) and news programs (ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol and Bandila; GMA Network’s 24 Oras and Saksi; GMA News TV’s State of the Nation) start counting the remaining days to Christmas Day, December 25. Also, radio stations in the Philippines start playing recordings of Christmas carols on-air.
Before everything else, let me show you something.

Jose Mari Chan

My photo op with THE Jose Mari Chan during the 75th Anniversary of Quezon City concert at the Araneta Coliseum. (circa 2014)

According to a meme posted on Facebook, singer-songwriter Jose Mari Chan is “in control of the malls’ and radio stations’ playlists” during the -ber months. Chan’s songs, especially “Christmas In Our Hearts” and “A Perfect Christmas” have been two of the most frequently played songs on the radio during the -ber months. According to an FHM article written in 2017, the late Bella Tan, then-head of Universal Records initially thought that “A Perfect Christmas” was more fitting for radio airplay than “Christmas In Our Hearts.” However, “Christmas In Our Hearts” became a monster hit in the early 1990s and the album bearing the same title has gained the Double Diamond Record Award, one of the few best-selling albums in the Philippines of all-time.
“Let’s sing Merry Christmas and a happy holiday.
This season may we never forget the love we have for Jesus.
Let Him be the one to guide us as another New Year starts.
And may the spirit of Christmas be always in our hearts.”

 

Trio APO Hiking Society’s biggest Christmas hit was “Twelve Days of Pinoy Krismas,” which bears the same melody as “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but with a Filipino twist.
“Ika-labing dalawang araw ng Pasko, binigay sa’kin ng nobya ko,
Labindalawang parol, labing-isang tuta
Sampung inaanak, siyam na case ng beer
Walong litsong baboy, pitong berdeng unan,
Limang pulang lobo!
Apat na payong, tatlong sakong bigas, dalawang payong,
At isang basketball na bago!
May pirma pa ni Jawo. Naks!”
APO has also released “Himig Pasko.”
Vehnee Saturno’s “Sa Araw ng Pasko,” sung by some of the pioneer recording artists of Star Music (formerly Star Records; which included Carol Banawa, Jolina Magdangal, Roselle Nava, Jamie Rivera, Ladine Roxas, among others), is also one of the most frequently aired Christmas songs. It speaks of how Filipinos wished their relatives would come home during Christmas. It also speaks of how wonderful Christmas is in the Philippines.
‘Di ba’t kay ganda sa atin ng Pasko?
Naiiba ang pagdiriwang dito.
Pasko sa ati’y hahanap-hanapin mo.
Walang katulad dito ang Pasko.
Lagi mo nang maiisip na sila’y nandito sana.
At sa Noche Buena ay magkakasama.”
“Ang Pasko ay kay saya kung ngayo’y kapiling na.
Sana pagsapit ng Pasko, kayo’y naririto.
Kahit pa malayo ka, kahit nasaan ka pa,
Maligayang bati para sa inyo sa araw ng Pasko.”

Christmas-themed love songs are also recurrent in the -ber months playlist. Apart from Chan’s “Perfect Christmas,” Gary Valenciano’s “Pasko Na Sinta Ko” and Ariel Rivera’s “Sana Ngayong Pasko” have also become standards. Both songs spoke of loneliness during Christmas. However, Valenciano’s “Pasko Na Sinta Ko” focused on regret.
Foreign singers have also made it in the Filipino airwaves during the -ber months. In fact, Jackson 5’s “Give Love On Christmas Day” is one of the most frequently played songs since it talked about the true value of Christmas, which is love, not necessarily materialism.
Moving on to musiconomics (music and economics), both GMA and ABS-CBN annually release Christmas station IDs accompanied by a song. Of all ABS-CBN’s Christmas station IDs, most of the people remember 2009’s “Star ng Pasko” and 2017’s “Just Love Ngayong Christmas.” During the Kapamilya network’s “Star ng Pasko” campaign, the so-called Parol Ni Bro (Santino’s endearment for Jesus Christ, in reference to TV series May Bukas Pa) were sold while during the “Just Love” campaign, “Just Love” shirts sold fast like pancakes.
Star ng Pasko talks about how God never left our side, despite whatever storm has come. In fact, the song was released on the same year when typhoon Ondoy hit the country and left some of the areas heavily flooded.

“Ang nagsindi nitong ilaw, walang iba kundi Ikaw.
Salamat sa liwanag mo, muling magkakakulay ang Pasko.”
On the other hand, “Just Love Ngayong Christmas,” talks how the different gestures of love are shown, especially during Christmas.

Ngayong Pasko’y pag-ibig ang kailangan ng daigdig.
Kay ganda ng lahat if we will just love.”
Music plays a huge role in setting everyone’s mood for a particular season, especially days or even months before the season. ’Tis the season to not only shop for gifts, but to also give back through other ways.

 

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Travel

Music in the Transportation in the Philippines

I started commuting to and from school since 2015, due to the continuously increasing traffic volume in the Metro. It takes two jeepney rides and an LRT ride to school everyday. I rarely take the taxi for it already composed of a huge chunk of my weekly allowance. I only do so in extreme cases (i.e. LRT broke down so I needed to be in school for an hour).

Usually, when I am with my dad, we listen to either Retro 105.9 or Wish 107.5. Both my dad and I loved listening to songs of the yesteryears, from the 1960s up to around the 1980s, as well as few of the songs from the contemporary. However, most of the public transportation drivers here in the Philippines do not just prefer listening to the top hits of the present. They likewise loved listening to power ballads and so-called “jukebox” hits. I asked my dad why such drivers loved listening to these types of music. He mentioned that they needed to listen to something that keeps them awake while on transit, especially if the trip would last for at least eight hours.

Yesterday, a new song entitled, “Tumahan Ka Na” by Tawag ng Tanghalan Grand Champion Noven Belleza was launched on the airwaves. It reminded me of the songs I usually hear on the taxi’s radio, not only because of Noven’s distinctly high and rockstar-ish tenor voice. The song’s melody, as well as Noven’s vocal timbre, reminded me of the Rockstar band’s hit songs, such as “Mahal Pa Rin Kita” and “Ika’y Mahal Pa Rin“, as well as April Boy Regino’s “Esperanza“. It likewise reminded me of Firehouse’s “I Live My Life” and  “Love of A Lifetime”. I actually liked the song’s lyrical content for it reminded me that in every struggle, there is always an opportunity to move on and start anew.

Here’s Noven’s “Tumahan Ka Na”:

Okay, going back to my discussion, in my bus trips to the northern part of Luzon, such as Cagayan and Baguio City, aside from the songs of Firehouse, I usually heard songs from other power ballad bands such as White Lion (“Till Death Do Us Part” and “You’re All I Need), Steve Perry-led Journey (“Open Arms” and “Faithfully”), and Aegis (“Halik“, “Basang-Basa Sa Ulan“, and “Luha”). Sometimes, I heard a few songs from Renz Verano and Imelda Papin.

I have been reading the Mabuhay magazine, the international inflight magazine of Philippine Airlines, where the playlist was provided at the end of the page. What I saw were mostly songs from Filipino singers like Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, Erik Santos, Jed Madela, among others, as well as songs from the American Top 40 and even Kenny G’s songs. PAL’s playlists were almost the same as Cathay Pacific’s and Dragonair’s.

Depending on the mode of transportation, the playlist (sometimes, but not necessarily) defines its target audience, as well as the overall feel during transit.

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