, July 18, 2024

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“Bagong Pilipinas” is a Pop Song, but …

  •   3 min reads
“Bagong Pilipinas” is a Pop Song, but …
By Joey Salgado

I really don’t understand all the noise about the mandatory singing of “Bagong Pilipinas” during flag ceremonies in schools and government agencies. 

Critics say the executive order making it mandatory is unconstitutional. Then sue them. They’re in power. When it’s your turn, issue a decree making “The Internationale” or “Rosas” mandatory. Until then, shush. 

“Bagong Pilipinas,” they insist, is reminiscent of the mandatory singing of “Bagong Lipunan” during the martial law regime. Well, the President has taken to wearing a barong shirt jack modeled after his father’s, speaks with the same rhythm and cadence, and cozies up to the Americans. So, yeah. 

It will lead to the “indoctrination” of an entire generation. Nope. I belong to the so-called martial law generation. We were made to sing “Bagong Lipunan” (and let’s not forget its flip side “Mabuhay ang Pilipino”) every school day, fed with heaps of nutribun (we pronounced it nutriban), took part, grudgingly, in mass calisthenics, and watched civic-military parades and government propaganda reels on our black and white television. But this late boomer, and hordes of others, rose up to topple the dictatorship. 

No, comrades, a pop song like “Bagong Pilipinas” will not transform kids into victory-flashing automatons. 

Pop song? Yes. That’s what “Bagong Pilipinas” is. A pop song. 

It is not a hymn or an anthem. The song doesn’t  bring tears to one’s eyes, or make you pump your fist, or leave you with a lingering feeling of pride in being Filipino. “Lupang Hinirang” has that effect. So does “Bayan Ko.” Heck, even “Bagong Lipunan” had that effect on me when I was a kid. No surprise there. That anthem was written, according to news reports, by two national artists, Felipe de Leon Sr. and Levi Celerio, commissioned by no less than the former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It’s good, yet not even the best anthems can drown out the noise of protests or diffuse the stench of poverty.

“Bagong Pilipinas,” on the other hand, does not inspire. There is no call to action. The Village People does a better job of making people want to stay at the YMCA. 

I listened to it repeatedly just to see if I was missing something. Maybe listening to the song a few times will bring some a-ha moment. The only thing I got was a headache and a numbness in my chest, which turned out to be heartburn.

As a pop song, “Bagong Pilipinas” is not earwormy. There are no memorable lines or phrases, no thrilling turns of melody, no LSS (that’s Last Song Syndrome, in case the song’s writers are reading this). 

The song is middling at best, painfully mediocre at worst. And I say that  with all restraint. I am tempted to conclude that “Bagong Pilipinas” was either written by a committee and approved by a tone deaf bureaucrat, or a submission from the lowest bidder.

Let me offer this piece of advice. If you’re going to go pop, why not plunder the OPM catalog? I can hear you guys snickering. 

Why not make “Raining in Manila” or “Pantropiko” mandatory?  Something nationalistic? “Mga Kababayan Ko” by Francis M. Even better, go back to the 70s. Banyuhay’s “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy” although the late Heber Bartolome will surely balk at the idea of his song being appropriated by the current administration even if this song, performed during the First Metro Pop Festival, was said to be Madam’s favorite. “Ako’y Pinoy” by Florante then, since he seems to be the President’s chosen minstrel. 

Then there’s “Himig Natin” by Juan de la Cruz. Even “Mamasyal sa Pilipinas” with its clever rhyming of “Baguio” and “curfew.” May martial law throwback pa. Someone suggested, in jest of course, “Nadapa sa Harina.” The DDS would love that, but they’re not cool.

If you want an example of a song that changes behaviors, listen to the Ritemed jingle. “May Ritemed ba nito?” Now that’s social engineering via a 30-second jingle. And probably what we need right now: an affordable cure for our collective headaches and not a government-sponsored ho-hum pop song.

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