Adventures of the Lion
There was a time when I kinda hated what was happening with OPM. It started becoming a really bad knock off of foreign songs. A song sounded like this, while another sounded like that. It was just really bad. Cringe-worthy is an understatement even. That kept the industry sinking and sinking because of its own doing. And just to reiterate, lemme just borrow these words from Cherry Gil's character - "second rate, trying hard copy cat" of what was happening in the global scene.
But those days are gone. Because the industry learned - that it's not about copying, but adapting to the ever-changing taste of the listeners without losing its authenticity and identity. The industry also started welcoming fresh new blood with more than just your conventional thoughts of doing things. It didn't hurt too that we have OPM greats who are there to give guidance by sharing their best practices through songwriting camps. Thank you Elements Music Camp and Filscap!
It is a good time for OPM once again! And if you still think that it is dead, I dare ask you where you have been lately. There's a revolution going on! It's either you take part in it or miss out big time.
Napakaraming magagandang kanta. Well-crafted. Pinag-isipan. Punum-puno ng puso. Pinagbuhusan ng panahon, talino at talento. Marami pa rin namang mga "blah." Pero sabi nga ng Ex Batallion, "Hayaan Mo Sila." And on this blog, I wanna talk about the 3 latest releases that I keep on listening to over and over again for different reasons.
Hot Off The Oven
Here they are in no particular order:
"Duyan" by Sarah G.
Sarah G.'s reinvention from your typical "biritera" to a more contemporary pop artist is just phenomenal. Instead of losing her fans, it multiplied exponentially. More people embraced her. Reason why she is the country's undisputed "Pop Princess" or queen even. This just goes to show that it is not always about the high notes but "artistry."
Just in time for her 15th year in the musicbiz, she releases "Duyan."
This new collaboration with award-winning songwriter/producer tandem, Thyro and Yumi is just exceptional. Well, what can you expect? Their record speaks for themselves.
Thyro and Yumi never fail to deliver lyrically. Each word from every line of the entire song is just well-thought of. Nothing was placed there just for the sake of rhyming or just because wala na maisip. Alam mong hindi trabahong tamad. Everything is strategically placed.
"Yumakap ka't tayo'y sumayaw kasabay
Ng ritmo, kumpas at pintig
Ng tugtog dito sa'king dibdib
Genius right? It is also refreshing to see unusually used Filipino words like "imbay" and "nakadantay" in the lyrics.
Another thing I love about them is how their work is notoriously oxymoron-ish. Just check how "Dati's" words are nostalgically sad but its melody and instrumentation are uplifting and good vibes. This time around, sweet lyrics with soulful singing against sexy beat and instrumentation. Gahd! Don't even get me started with the rhythmic pattern on the 4th verse. Eargasmic! Sent shivers down the spine and every nerve of my body.
"Ako Muna" by Yeng Constantino
Just in case you haven't realized, it's been three years since Yeng released an album. And just when you thought, she is going one direction, she pleasantly surprises with something unexpected.
Yeng's journey in the musicbiz is not all uphill. After 3 consecutive number 1 hits, hindi naman din lahat nang nilabas nya naging ganon kalakas. And there was a time where it felt na parang naliligaw sya. As someone who knew her as the country's "Pop Rock Princess" and knowing her conviction in music, it was confusing to see her side by side (not that she couldn't coz she did) belting songs with Sarah G., and Rachel Ann Go.
I was the happiest after hearing her album, Metamorphosis. I thought that is her. Every single song had Yeng Constantino stamp on it whether she wrote the song or not. It's awesome how they married eclectic with pop sound and produced such a beautiful exotic record. And just when I thought, she'd continue heading this way, she dropped a ballad, the record-breaking, "Ikaw" from her album, All About Love.
After receiving the invitation to the private listening session of her latest album Synesthesia, I was both nervous and excited. I guess I'll always be that "Kuya" who'd always look after her. I forget that she is no longer 17. Gosh! She's even married already. Haha.
During the session, Yeng shared how the entire album was written in "empathy" as she is an empath. Simply, she has this ability of feeling what other people feel.
While it wasn't revealed then yet what the follow-up single would be after "Pinipigil," we know now that it's "Ako Muna." "Ako Muna" is inspired by her sister, Ate Cookie's story. After getting broken from a relationship, it was her bitter-sweet realization that relationships are not always the answer. While "love" brings us into a different level of high, we can't get there without self-love. The song reminds us that we need to be whole on our own.
"Aanhin, ko ang paghahanap ng magmamahal
Kung sa sarili ko ay 'di pa masaya"
What is brilliant with Yeng's songwriting is that she needs no flowery words to bring her visions into life. In fact, I think that her strength is putting the simplest, most common words together but smacks on you like a bullseye. She hits you at maximum impact like no other.
Another thing that I love with what they did to this song is its arrangement. Behind Yeng's heartfelt rendition is an untraditional arrangement rich with current-sounding instrumentations without being jarring. That takes a certain level of maturity, professionalism and creativity to deliver that. Great collaboration with producer and arranger, Jonathan Manalo and Ria Osorio.
"Hanggang Dito Na Lang" by Jaya
When it comes to soulful singing, no one in the country can beat Jaya. Kaya nga she's the Philippine's Queen of Soul. No one even comes close. For a while though, I thought she went missing. Or maybe got lost. Maybe that's just me or maybe that's really what happened. Nothing wrong if I am right. We've all gone through hell.
As a lover of soulful music, I couldn't be anymore thrilled the first time I heard her through "Sometimes You Just Know." Her rendition of the song helped composers, Danny Tan and Edith Gallardo bag the 1996 PhilPop Grand Prize win. That was her first national TV appearance. And that was a statement that she had arrived.
Her first album smashed the charts achieving 8x platinum status releasing hit after hit after hit. There wasn't any sign of stopping. But as fate would have it, ang buhay minsan ay parang gulong. Minsan nasa taas ka. Minsan nasa baba. But it's all water under the bridge right now. Jaya is back with a vengeance with an original from award-winning songwriter/producer, Rox Santos, "Hanggang Dito Na Lang."
I had no expectations listening to it the first time. But the moment the intro music played, I was drawn in. The melancholic arrangement of Iean Inigo instantly brings you back to that familiar place of emotional conflict. And as soon as Jaya started singing, there was just no turning back.
Napakasakit nang pagkakasulat. Ramdam na ramdam mo yung bawat letra. Walang pinakawalan na sandali. It just kept on escalating. Pati yung emotional build up, ang intense. Ang hirap bumitaw.
There is just so much pain in these lines:
"Di maintindihan sakit na nararamdaman
Pipilitin kong kalimutan ka
Hangang dito na lang"
It is reminiscent of making that all-important decision of letting go and hoping to find liberation in it.
With "Hanggang Dito Na Lang" the Jaya we all loved is back. And she is here to stay. That is for sure!
Mabuhay ang OPM!
Depression vs Me
A lot do not know that I just recently won another battle with depression. It was at its height 3rd/4th quarter of 2017. Behind a smile where nothing seemed to be going wrong and everything seemed to be going right, were a lot of pain, regrets, and “shoulda, coulda, wouldas.”
It was very ironic because this was the most successful chapter (to date) of my musical career – this newbie won 3 Awit Awards; won a gospel songwriting competition; and wrote a song for an international brand interpreted by two of my fave OPM artists, KZ and Inigo.
I even said to myself, it’s true what Alicia Keys wrote, “Everything means nothing if I ain’t got you.” I even said to my Manager, I would trade all these for a simpler life with the person I love. So yes, my stupidity was because of “love.” Taas kamay ng mga nakaka-relate at #TeamTanga. Well, naging tanga. Pero kung nandon ka pa rin Bes, panalangin ko, makaalis ka na sa pagtambay mo jan.
My journey to recovery took time. Pero nakarating rin ako. And it really is bravery and conscious decision to help myself that became the first steps to this. And I say conscious decicion because admit or not, the stubborn part of you will always say, “pero mahal ko talaga sya.” That’s why I got professional help. And to break it down to you, that means meetings with a Psychologist and a #MentalHealthPH friend. And this is the reason why I also advocate about mental health. Depression is real.
Ang Tanga Tanga Ko
Those were the first words that came to my head one morning. As in! And that pretty much sealed the deal for me. Sabi ko, “Wait lang. What the f*ck am I doing to myself? I gotta get my sh*t together. “
But getting my sh*t together wasn’t an easy process too. And because I am not perfect (just gorgeous. Kape!), I made a lot of mistakes along the way. And that includes finding someone to fill that empty space… and ermmm… with “love.” Mali! Along the way, ilang beses akong nadapa, naumpog, nabalian. Pero kailangan ko lang talaga siguro maexperience para maniwala ako sa alam ko naman na matagal na na “it’s not the way.”
And to sum all this together in a song, ito yon:
"Minsan, parang di pag-ibig ang sagot
Kahit na sa pag-iisa ay nagbabagot
Aanhin ko ang paghahanap ng magmamahal
Kung sa sarili ko ay 'di pa masaya…
Mabuti nang mag-isa
Nang makilala ko muna ang sarili
Pag-ibig muna, para sa akin"
Sapul ba? Sakit di ba? O iyak na. Hinga. Tapos sabihin mo, “Ako muna.”
It’s not about not taking risks in love again. It is about finding happiness on your own. It is knowing your worth as a person so that you do not lose yourself ever again. Love is selfless. But ironically, you can never love selflessly without self-love.
Finding New Love
Noong nagmumuni-muni ako, I thought, “Maybe I should go away… to a place I’ve never been to – new environment, meet people I’ve never met before, do things I’ve never done yet. And maybe walwal on my own.”
I’ve never travelled alone. Wondered a few times. But I always shrugged it off. After watching the movie, “Siargao,” I got encouraged to finally do it – find myself plus learn one thing I’ve always wanted to try, surfing.
I found the opportunity to do it when I got asked what I wanted as a Christmas gift. Syempre masyado naman “ambisyoso” to ask for a Siargao trip. After consulting Google and a few friends, Crystal Beach in San Narciso, Zambales it is!
Fast forward to “Independence Day,” it just took 3 and a half hours to get to Crystal Beach (with breakfast stop). Para ka lang natraffic sa EDSA. Or 3 beses umikot yung favorite #HugotPlaylist mo.
Pag dating, checked in. Walked a few steps and got welcomed by the #SingleZone Wall. Mej nag-isip ako, “Do I belong here? Or uuwi na ko kasi kakadating ko pa lang, nang-aano na tong resort.” Pero nandon na din naman. So, wala nang atrasan.
You see, I’ve always loved beaches but never the sun. I love listening to the sound of the waves. But never really swimming in the waters. I would normally just stay in the hotel or find a shade under a coconut tree to write (or observe).
But this Crystal Beach trip was different. My mind’s made up that I’d brave the sun and the waters. Afterall, it’s beautifully inviting.
After a short on-shore briefing – knowing the parts of the board, learning the proper posture, we were off to ride those waves. Fell on the first and second tries. Third try, and I stood up. Very good start. My coach, Tylyn said I am a natural. I got good rhythm and good sense of timing with the waves. I told Coach, it’s maybe because I felt a connection. Nung una kong niyakap yung surf board, para kong naramdaman na kami ay iisa. Then it just dawned on me that I was born under the water sign. And water should be home. Okay, umimbento lang ako ng rason. Added #Mema. But this I am certain, at that moment, I fell in love again.
While I was learning, what my coach didn’t know was that I was having these little conversations in my head. At sa bawat alon ay realizations that reminded me things about life – during the strongest waves, bow your head or get hit straight in the face much like how we should bow our heads and pray sa pinakamatinding unos sa buhay natin. It also reminded me these words from Jericho’s character, Diego about crashing, “Ride and ride. You crash again. You never stop. You take on that wave, you pop up and you keep on riding.” Keep going.
In between surfing sesh, I went around and I realized how Crystal Beach is much more than just your regular beach. I’ve never seen a beach with tall Agojo Trees, #Kapamilya ng Pine Trees which I am crazy about. Parang Baguio na mainit at may dagat. While they have the usual concrete rooms, they also have a jungle hostel, glamping site and hammock village. At natulog ako sa hammock nung first night. No walls. No aircon. Just nature. Feeling Tarzan ako!
The rates are very reasonable:
The sunset is one of the most gorgeous I’ve seen. #NoFilter needed.
There's another memorable moment tong trip na to. After playing beach volleyball with new found friends, humiga lang sa buhangin. Started gazing on the star-filled skies while significant chapters of my life flashed before me. There, I made a decision to make sure to never let anything or anyone take my joy ever again.
I’ve had such a relaxing time. But the most important part, I left the place whole. Healed. Reassured na walang kulang sa kin. Just like what the bible says,
"You are beautifully and wonderfully made." - Psalm 139:14
And it doesn't get any better than that.