I have these moments where I feel a little bit homesick for all things Filipino. During lunch today one of my colleagues brought food that just reminded me of home; someone else was asking me about the best places to visit in Cebu, where I’m from. Yesterday, my boss showed me 2 one-hundred peso bills that someone from Victoria gave her when she was trying to collect money for charity (huh???!!!). I keep getting these little reminders of home, and isn’t it funny how I still think of the Philippines as home even though I spend a majority of my time in the UK? For all intents and purposes, London is my home now and I love it. However, I am a Filipino first, and I know sometimes I forget. I think and speak in English most of the time; I write my Facebook statuses and blogs in English; I read English books, I listen to English music. Its so easy for me to forget where I come from, to shed those aspects of myself that make me Filipino.
To be honest, I think I made that conscious decision 5 years ago when I arrived in London. I decided that I would immerse myself in the culture of this country because I want to experience life here to the fullest. I don’t want to just be over here working 12-hour shifts to make enough money to send over to the Philippines. No, I decided that I would take advantage of this opportunity and become, well, British. I tried to embrace every aspect of its culture, though I’ve yet to see the point of constantly drinking tea or this love of football (basketball, baby!).
It also didn’t help that my first encounter with Filipinos working overseas was with my old landlady, who is a walking, talking model of every negative stereotype Filipinos have ever been accused of: ambitious, money-grubbing, slave to trends and designer brands, possessing a “crabs in a box” mentality, love of “tsismis” (gossip) especially about fellow Filipinos, having nothing to say about art or culture…the list goes on. I have to admit that when I first got here, I sought to be the opposite of all that, to show everyone I meet in this country that there are Filipinos who are cultured and educated and can hold their own in a conversation. There are Filipinos who are willing to try new things, to travel and to explore. There are Filipinos who don’t see every man as a potential sponsor for a fiancee visa (I was once asked out on a date where the first question the guy asked me was ‘so what visa are you on?’. Like hello, I don’t need you and your British passport. I can work my way to my own, thanks).
I didn’t realise until this moment just how separated I’ve become from everything that makes me Filipino. I feel like I’ve lost my love for my home country, and though I will be the first to rant that there is so much about the Philippines that I detest, there is also so much to love and be proud of. I guess today’s theme is a reminder for me to be a little more in touch with my roots, to never forget where I came from because its going to make an impact on where I’m going. And if there’s one aspect where I remain proudly Filipino, its my love for classic original pilipino music (opm). So I thought I’d share some of my favourite tunes in the hopes that after this post, I will be just a little bit more proud of being Filipino.
Halaga – Parokya Ni Edgar
“Sa libu-libong pagkakataon na tayoy nag-kasama, iilang ulit palang kitang makitang masaya. Naiinis akong isipin na ginaganyan ka nya, siguro ay hindi niya lang alam ang iyong tunay na halaga.”
- This guy’s basically singing to a girl he’s in love with who’s got a boyfriend that doesn’t treat her right. Loosely translated, the lyrics are saying he’s never seen her happy with the guy and he hates the thought of him taking her for granted and not seeing her true worth. Literally, Halaga in Filipino means worth or value
Narda – Kamikazee
“Narda” is the alter ego of the Philippines’ version of Wonder Woman, called Darna.
When she’s in her human disguise, she’s called “Narda”. She swallows some kind of stone and shouts “Darna” if she wants to transform. Its a little bit silly, I know. But its a huge part of the Filipino culture. I can’t think of any Filipino over the age of 25 who doesn’t know who Darna is, or who hasn’t made a Darna joke. Anyway, she fights bad guys, she’s super fast and super strong and she flies. This group, Kamikazee, decided to write a song about how hopeless it is to fall in love with someone like that who is so obviously (and literally) out of their reach.
“Awit na nananawagan (a song that’s calling out)
Baka skating napakikinggan (hoping maybe she’ll hear it)
Pag ibig na palaisipan (a love he can’t make heads or tails of)
Sa kanta na lang idaraan…(so he’ll just write a song about it instead)
Nag-aabang sa langit (Looking at the heavens)
Sa mga ulap sumisilip..(peeking through the clouds)
Sa likod ng mga tala..(or behind the stars)
Kahit sulyap lang Darna.” ( for even just one glimpse of Darna)
Ugh, the whole song is such a great metaphor for the hopelessness of unrequited love. I love it.
Harana – Parokya Ni Edgar
Harana in Filipino literally means Serenade. Its an old-fashioned practice during the “courtship” stage for a guy to gather a group of his friends so that he can serenade the girl he likes (usually at night and usually with the girls’ father giving him the death stare. Honestly, how can the poor guy be expected to carry a tune?!).
Anyway, I guess in this era of Tinder and Match.com this practice is terribly OUT of fashion, and I for one think that’s a shame. I mean, I can see where this would be incredibly embarrassing, but part of me thinks its also incredibly romantic.
Parokya Ni Edgar is one of my favourite OPM bands, and their songs will probably feature in any OPM list I make. But Harana holds a special place in my heart because my high school crush sang it once and allowed me the illusion that he was singing it just for me (spoiler alert: he wasn’t!)
Pare Ko – Eraserheads
“Pare” (pa-reh) means, like, bro or brother or something. As this, and the next song, will illustrate, The Eraserheads are amazing storytellers and they really have a gift for writing songs in a clever way. In this song, the singer is telling his romantic woes to his “pare” and asking him to have patience and understanding because he knows he knows he’s bound to say things that are sappy and corny. So the singer tells his “pare” about a college girl he’s in love with who led him on and has now broken his heart.
Part of the reason why I love this song is because girls think they have a claim on the whole pouring-their-hearts-out-to-their-friends thing but actually, guys talk about their problems too. They just do it in a different way and usually with a lot more alcohol and swearing involved. This song is just such an accurate representation of the kind of conversation a guy would have with his friend, where he’s desperate for advice but trying so hard to still appear cool and collected. Although most of the song talks about the girl, because of the way the E-heads have written it, it actually becomes a celebration of male friendships instead.
Also? The song lyrics contain actual swearing! :p
“O, diyos ko, ano ba naman ito? (Oh my God, what is this?)
Di ba, ‘tang ina, (Son of a bitch)
Nagmukha akong tanga, (I looked like a fool)
Pinaasa niya lang aso, (She only led me on)
Lecheng pag-ibig toh…” (Damn this love)
Ang Huling El Bimbo – Eraserheads
Ah, now this is an epic song. Its really such a shame that I can’t translate the lyrics because it tells a story that is so quintessentially Filipino. To sum up, this boy once had after-school dance classes with this girl during which she would teach him the El Bimbo; in the process she also taught him about the power of true love. He never had the courage to tell her how he felt though, so they moved on and years pass. The girl becomes some kind of mistress and has a baby out of wedlock. Forced by desperation to take some kind of menial job washing plates or something, she was run over by a car walking home one night. So the guy laments that he can only hold her and dance with her in his dreams now. I’m probably not doing such a good job of translating this song, and maybe you have to be Filipino to understand the impact of this song. But the Eraserheads were probably like the Coldplay of OPM. They made listening to OPM cool.
To me, this song will always be associated with the guys in my class playing guitar one day during free period and everyone just spontaneously joined in because we all knew the words. This was probably a couple of months before high school graduation, and we all knew that we would never be together in quite the same way ever again. An era was ending and we didn’t know what the future held in store for us. Would we all make it? Would we all reach our dreams? In that moment, singing El Bimbo, we forgot about our worries for the future and just got lost in our love for music, for this song.