Music is a language that everyone understands, speaks, and knows no hurdles. However, it is sometimes overlooked that the lyrics of a song want to tell a certain story and thus draw attention to something, such as the political grievances of a country. Much like Jose Rizal in his works, Noli Me Tangere and El Felibusterismo
Kundiman, as it was referred to, now Original Pilipino Music (OPM) songs are good examples. The songwriters usually express social criticism of the prevailing political situation. Political activism is usually lived out in a hidden, creative way. This is to be shown using various examples – older songs from the time of martial law under Marcos as well as current works by the OPM or Musika ng Pilipinas.
Songs that do not let the Filipinos forget their country’s history
This will first be illustrated with the three different OPM songs Saranggola Ni Pepe, Handog Ng Pilipino Sa Mundo or Bayan Ko . They all have one thing in common: they were written at a time in Philippine history when repression, political oppression, and a lack of resistance were commonplace – namely during the nationwide martial law from 1972 to 1981. These songs and especially the lyrics acted as a weapon against social unrest and political oppression with their hidden political messages.
Political content in today’s OPM songs
Political content can still be found in Filipino songs to this day. It is not always possible to say with certainty whether this is always a political expression of will or whether it is only interpreted into it. In the end, only the songwriter or the singer knows that.
Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran by the rock band Asin
One of the classic older pop songs is Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran by the rock band Asin. With the song, the group wants to draw attention to what is happening to the environment and especially to the Pasig River. As early as 1978, when the song was released, Asin warned of the ecological dangers that we as a society are increasingly exposed to today. Even then, a kind of political activism was demanded of society: people should pay attention to their environment because future generations should also benefit from it.
Spoliarium, written by band singer Ely Buendia
Another example is Spoliarium, written by band singer Ely Buendia. in 1998 by his rock group Eraserheadsreleased, the group draws attention to the rape of Pepsi Paloma in the said song. Paloma, a Filipino actress in the 1980s, was allegedly raped by actors Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon, and Richie D’Horsie. Another suspect, in this case, was also Vic Sotto’s older brother, actor, and current Senator Tito Sotto. It is said he tried to force Paloma to drop the charges by threatening her with a gun. Pepsi Paloma could not cope with the media and social pressure and committed suicide. Buendia tries to portray the rape case, which has not yet been clarified, in an abstract way. In the lyrics to the song, Spoliariumhe describes how three unnamed perpetrators raped a person and urged him to commit suicide. However, the songwriter has neither confirmed nor denied this interpretation.
Bandido ‘s song Nanlaban
Bandido ‘s song Nanlaban, released in 2018, appears to be a love song on the outside. If you read the lyrics more closely, it becomes clear that this is actually a protest song that critically examines the downside of current President Duterte’s drug war. The song is a secret anthem for all innocent victims of the drug war. It tries to be a voice for the people who seek justice but cannot express it. Bandido was inspired by the death of innocent drug victim Kian Loyd Delos Santos. The 17-year-old was shot dead by police without his guilt being proven. Like many victims of the drug war, Kian Loyd Delos Santos’ family was part of the poorer population.
Sana Naman Taumbayan
A song dedicated to the May 2019 Senate and House of Representatives elections is Sana Naman Taumbayan. Singers and musicians with different attitudes and positions, such as Agot Isidro or Ryan Cayabyab, have come together here. The song appeals to politicians that elections should not be about their ambitions for power or prestige, but primarily about the taumbayan (people). The people should always be the ultimate winner of an election, regardless of the outcome of the election.