“So many faces, so many races different voices, different choices. Some are mad, while others laugh. Some live alone with no better half. Others grieve while others curse. And others mourn behind a big black hearse. Some are pure and some half-bred. Some are sober and some are wasted. Some are rich because of fate and some are poor with no food on their plate.” These words were rapped by one of the most influential people in the Philippine music industry, Francis Magalona. He made a trailblazing entry through the introduction of rap in the Filipino language. Magalona used this ingenious advancement in the music industry to incite a patriotic and nationalistic thinking to people during a time of hardship. He always succeeded in leaving an impression on many Filipino people with every album he delivered.

            Francisco “Kiko” Magalona or as he is best know as Francis M., Master Rapper, and The Man From Manila was born on October 4, 1964, by the late Philippine movie star legends, Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran. He first started out as a breakdancer in the early 1980s and then branched out into the music industry. It was in 1990 when Magalona released the innovative album, “Yo,” which features the patriotic hit Mga Kababyan, My Countrymen, where he advocated Filipinos to be proud of their culture and to strive for a better life.  The album was the first Pinoy rap album in the Philippines, which plummeted Filipino hip-hop from being unseen to mainstream status. Rapping political and intriguing rhymes in both English and Tagalog made Magalona such a successful rapper.

            In his following albums, “Rap Is FrancisM” and “Meron Akong ano”, Magalona showed the public how talented he really was. He was able to address the various cultural and social issues that afflicted his country, such as drugs and instability, and marked the beginning of Pinoy rock through his third album, “Meron Akong ano.”  By the end of his third album, Magalona was able to prove to everyone that he was a remarkable artist in both rock and hip-hop.

          

            After his third album, Magalona decided to open up his own record company called Red Egg Record. But as time went on, he was also able to follow in his parent’s footsteps and undertake the acting world. Appearing in a variety of Filipino films and television shows, such as Eat Bulaga and MTV Asia, Magalona portrayed an overall well roundedness. Although he was able to become a songwriter, producer, and actor, Magalona will always be remembered for his contributions to the music world. His contributions have been featured in many international hip-hop publications, such as the “All Music Guide to Hip-hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap and Hip-Hop.”

            Francis Magalona, known as the King of Philippine rap music, died of complications from leukemia in March 6, 2009. Although he wasn’t able to live a long life, the legacy he left is truly a treasure to be acceded by those who support the same love he had for his nation. As an artist, Megalona was able to inspire his fellow Filipinos through his lyrics.

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                How and why did Filipinos emerge to become a dominant force in the once predominant African American world of hip-hop djs? For people who don’t know about the make up of Northern California, they have to keep in mind that around 1984 through 1988, hip-hop was beginning to grow in the Bay Area. During that time, many African Americans plummeted toward the rap and production end in the hip-hop world. Most were also pursuing the financial success of Too Short, who was at that time the Bay Area’s prime rapper.  But at the same time within the immense Bay Area Filipino community, the djaying spectacle was thriving in success. More than a few Filipino young men sprang in together, merged their money and acquired the best dj equipment that money could buy. On top of that, they spent hours sharpening their skills as mix masters. At this time the preferred type of music was the dominant freestyle and Latino up-tempo dance music, such as Cover Girls. Djaying for the Bay Area Filipinos was not pursued because of its economic success, although a lot of money could be made, but instead was chased by their eagerness to become the best and have bragging rights. They all wanted to be the best and receive acknowledgement for all the time they spent on djaying.

          

                      It would not be too extreme to say that the Bay Area Filipinos took over the dj aspect of hip-hop in these parts of California. It was among the Filipino community djaying was taken to another level because of the showcases. Many of them worked hard to get ahead and separate themselves from everyone else. They would incorporate aspects of hip-hop turntable trickery into their repertoire. Thus back in 1987 and 1988 there were an abundance of Filipino djs perfecting the art of transforming and the LA fast scratch. Many Filipino djs also say that one of the other reasons that they have been successful was because the Bay Area wasn’t exposed to a variety of east coast styles. The big names that helped the Filipino community succeed in the hip-hop djaying world are, Ceaser Aldea, who is also known as 8 Ball, DJ Kut Throat, DJ Disc, Apollo, Q-Bert, and Mixmaster Mike. Many people would agree that the Bay Area Filipinos were able to create new paths that once seemed faded away.

Philippine Rock Music

November 30, 2009

                Rock is one of the most popular forms of music that has evolved over the past couple of decades. Characterized by the use of electric guitars, a strong rhythm with an accent on the offbeat, and youth oriented lyrics. Many people would describe rock as a type of music that is it’s own form of entertainment. It is different from reading a book or working out. Rock is universal as most types of art usually are. Shaping the lives of people all over the world, even in the Philippines.
                 Rock was brought to the Philippines by the United States when it occupied the Islands in 1898 until 1935. Introduced in the late 1950s, Filipino performers adapted Tagalog lyrics for American rock n roll music, ensuing the origins of Philippine rock. The major accomplishment in Philippine rock was the hit song “Killer Joe,” which launched the group “Rocky Fellers.” It even reached number 16 on the American radio charts.
                  Popular rock music began beginning written and produced in English until the 1970s. In the 1970s, rock started to be written in local languages, such as bands like the Juan Dela Cruz Band being among the popular Filipino bands to do so. Mixing both languages, Tagalog and English lyrics, became popular in songs, such as “Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko,” by the band Hotdogs. That led to revolutionizing the Manila sound, which is the mixing of two languages known as Taglish. Taglish became all the rage in rock music after Sharon Cuneta’s hit, “Mr. DJ.”
                   Philippine rock music included a mixture of folk music, which helped to breakthrough Freddie Aguilar. His songs were not only popular in the Philippines, but in Asia and Europe as well. Aguilar’s songs have been translated into different languages by singers worldwide. Filipino rock has also included many other types of music, such as hard rock, heavy metal, and alternative rock. Bands that incorporate these styles of music are Wolfgang, Razorback, Greyhoundz, Queso, Grin department and the progressive band Paradigm.
                                    

             Today, the Philippine Islands feature western style music, producing distingushed bands such as Pupil, Hale, Sponge Cola, Callalily, Chicosci, Bamboo, Silent Sanctuary, Rocksteddy, Kjwan, Kamikazee, Cueshe, Itchyworms, Imago, The Ambassadors, Moonstar 88, Faspitch,and Urbandub, and the emergence of its first virtual band, Mistula. But as time goes on, rock music in the Philippines continues to blossom into greater heights.

When you walk down the streets of  the SOMA district at night, it’s almost always guaranteed that you’ll fear for your survival what with all the creepy sketch people walking around. Word of advice? Go with a group of friends – that way you can all run away from the crazy drug addicts trying to hit on you together. In whatever the case,  the walk down 6th St. was well worth the risk to see the amazingness that is Tabi Tabi Po.

I remember feeling all artsy and cool to be able to go to an art show gallery in San Francisco in the late hours of the night. It was always on my list of things to do and I’m glad Tabi Tabi Po was my first experience in this type of scene. I was mainly excited about the fact that all the artwork were based on the legends and myths that sit at the core of Filipino traditions.

For as long as I can remember, I was always told by my Lola to “Sleep early anak ko, or the aswang will come in your window and get you!” I always use to pull the covers over my head and nearly suffocate myself because I was so scared. Tabi Tabi Po showed me a whole different side to these myths and legendary creatures – a different person’s perspective, I guess. It was interesting seeing the artwork and how every artist had their own portrayals of the mannanggal or the aswang. My favorite interpretation of the mannanggal was this one:

melananggal

I think this was by far the cutest mannanggal I have ever seen in my life. I mean, granted, it’s not the most flattering picture but it definitely shines a whole new light on how I see these supposed deadly, vicious creatures. There’s such a strong use of red and black in the right places to accentuate the fact that you’re only looking at the top half of the mannanggal.

One of the pieces that really made me laugh was the political strike at Imelda Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (Seen below.) I never would’ve expected to find a piece that would portray Marcos and Arroyo similar to that of these mythological creatures. I couldn’t stop laughing in my head when I saw the words: Gloria Mannanggal. So witty and clever. Props to the artist who made this:

gloria

Overall, I had a really good experience with Tabi Tabi Po. The whole ambiance of the gallery was just right for the artwork, especially with the funky background music that sounded like an aswang was chasing you down or something. There were so many things that was right about the exhibit that I could probably sit and talk for days about it. I even brought one of my roommates with me because I had such high hopes and expectations for the whole thing. Expectations met. In the end, I think it’s safe to say I’m less scared about a dwende or an aswang – but let me not speak too soon. 🙂

The HERO of the year.

November 29, 2009

-Efren’s acceptance speech at CNN Heroes 2009

“Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry. Each person has a hidden hero within, you just have to look inside you and search it in your heart, and be the hero to the next one in need. So to each and every person inside this theater and for those who are watching at home, the hero in you is waiting to be unleashed. Serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve. As I always tell to my co-volunteers … you are the change that you dream, as I am the change that I dream, and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be. Mabuhay!” – Efren Peñaflorida, Jr.

Although my topic was all about immigration and OFWs and stuff i just really wanted to write something about this truly remarkable man.

I personally believe that the heroes of the Philippines are the OFWs who work as much as they can, until their bodies ache, not eat until they can help it, live without the company of their loved ones and the most important of all- sacrifice their own lives to serve other people.

This man pretty much did exactly everything i defined a hero to be and more…

As i was laying in my bed, sick and all i flipped through my tv channels in a slower pace than usual. I passed CNN and a man being featured in a setting that was awfully familiar caught my attention that eventually stopped me from pressing the next channel button. I saw street kids running towards  this yellow pushcart that contained notebooks, a blackboard, the Philippine flag pushed by this man name Efren Penaflorida. I was so confused as to first, why is the Philippines on CNN again? Then i thought maybe it’s the elections or some bad thing again. Second, who is this man? why is HE on CNN?? then as i watched this feature more i found out that this was about the stories of modern heroes of today.

Watching him accept his award as the CNN hero of the year, i cant help but feel proud that he’s from the Philippines and that someone from my country can achieve more than anyone from there can possibly dream about. This pride is different from lets say the pride i feel when Manny Pacquiao wins, or some members of the Jabbawockeez are filipinos, or a Filipino singer was featured in Oprah or something like that. This pride was actually a very inspiring one. it inspired me to change my perspectives in the world and how i live. now i always feel like that i have to think about someone aside from myself everytime i do anything. how will my actions affect the people around me? am i going to create a positive change not only in my life but in everyone else’s? am i going to make her/his day today? simple questions like that spark my mind and heart before every decision i have to make each day just because of this one man who most likely had the same questions running through his head when he was thinking of a way to get out of his own unfortunate situation before and look where he is now.

Efren Penaflorida spends his days teaching less fortunate children in the streets simple literacy skills and helping them avoid the path to gang membership to have them live and grow to be better people. it doesnt get any more inspiring than that.

Dancing, Dancing Time

November 25, 2009

There are many stereotypes involving Filipina/os that float about. My personal favorite stereotype is “All Filipina/os can dance.” I don’t necessarily believe that all Filipina/os can dance, but I’ve notice that we all love to try. At family parties, clubs, or somewhere random, there is a high percentage that you’ll see a Filipina/o busting a move or two (I love when the lolos and lolas dance. It’s so cute.) No doubt about it, there seems to be a beat that runs through every Filipina/o and we can’t help but groove to it.

Dancing is well rooted in our culture and dancers of Filipino ancestry in the media isn’t new news.  But in recent years, especially since the spawn of dance reality television shows and the ability to upload videos on the internet, our presence in the dance scene has become more and more known.

Take America’s Best Dance Crew for example. In every season, there were Filipina/os present. It’s like we took over the show and I’m pretty sure, that there were a lot more of us that auditioned, but didn’t make the cut. Jabbawockeez, Kaba Modern, So Real Cru, Super Cr3w, Supreme Soul, Team Millenia, Massive Monkees are just some of the crews that appeared on the show with members of Filipino ancestry. The amount of Filipina/o dancers is amazing and I’m very proud of it. And I guess that’s why the stereotype is probably never going to go away.

Personally, I enjoy dancing, whether it be in the shower or at a club. It’s fun and it takes me to a different place. Maybe that goes for everyone, I don’t know. But I feel that the beat rooted in Filipina/os will never stop. At this rate, it looks like we’re going to groove to it for more generations to come.

One of my favorite videos from So Real Cru, who appeared on America’s Best Dance Crew

Here at USF, we like to body roll all day, every day.

I hope this makes your day! 🙂

The “heroes” of today

November 24, 2009

-video about OFWs.

Did you know that there are about 88.57 billion Filipinos in the world recorded in 2007 and 11% of that is equivalent to Overseas Filipino Workers? According to the National Statistics Office in the Philippines, there are about 8 million Filipino workers around the world and about 2 million are here in the United States.

When I started rummaging in my head what topic I would like use for this paper, there was no doubt I wanted to do something I can easily relate to. I consider myself an OFW. If you’re asking why, the answer is plain and simple: I am 19 years of age, full time student, full time employee working hard to help out not only immediate family back home in the Philippines but also kinship ties as well. The statistics didn’t shock me. Everywhere I go, I see a Filipino working hard and the only image that I can see is a family in the Philippines missing one or more members who was probably the Filipino I just seen working.  I have very mixed emotions about the idea of a family member feeling the need to leave home in order to provide for the remainder.  In addition, is OFW just a better term for slaves nowadays?

I grew up with both OFW parents. My mom was in Singapore and my Dad was in Saudi Arabia. Although I was too young to fully understand the reasons as to why they had to leave me behind then, now, I not just understand but I appreciate them even more for their decisions. My parents were very young when they had me and having a baby didn’t stop them from following their dreams it just added one more reason to fulfill that dream.  I admire the courage both my parents had when they decided to pursue something bigger, something they cannot achieve at home and most importantly, creating a better future for their daughter even if it sacrificed the relationship between parent and child.

The reason as to why I have mixed feelings about the whole OFW thing is that is our country really that poor that we need to break families, separate loved ones  and feel all alone in a completely unfamiliar territory? Were OFWs made just to boost an economy that didn’t have enough capability to provide a stable and reliable job for every one? OFWs, or like what some people call the “heroes” of today. About 15.9 billion US dollars were remitted to the Philippines according to Philippine Overseas Employment Agency. I guess were called heroes because of that one reason alone. While everyone back home thinks that we live life so easy, life abroad as Filipino workers is not all fun and games. Some go through hell and back dealing with immigration issues, then finding a job that suits their abilities and that hopefully it doesn’t degrade anybody especially self. Others also go through unfortunate and terrible experiences like rape, murder, theft, kidnapping, physical abuse and many more just to feed the rest of the family at home and as what? Some jobs OFWs take are caregivers, maids, busboys, waiters, servers, dancers to name a few non professional jobs most Filipinos are willing to work for regardless of how far they have achieves in terms of education. While some get lucky to get good paying jobs in the hospitals, hotels, companies, government agencies we can still be thankful and even hopeful that at least a lot of us would like to aim higher and break the glass ceiling that Filipino workers would never be the boss of anything.

Like I said, I have mixed emotions. If everyone were as lucky as my parents who found jobs that were in the line of their careers then maybe all I would be feeling is positive. If some people wouldn’t only see Filipinos as the laborers or any other degrading stature but also as smart, hard working, determined, brave, loyal, honest and kind people then I would really be feeling thankful, grateful and even more proud not only for myself but also for every other Filipino out there working hard for families back in the homeland. But until then, ill just keep hoping we Filipinos and Filipino-Americans can all achieve so much higher than the rest of the world expects us to be.

The Filipino Flag In The Making

With September nearing its end, it’s time to say hello to October  — also known as “Filipino American History Month.” How fitting. This semester I will be focusing on the question “Am I Filipino? Or am I American?” I’ll be looking into the ties that keep Filipino-Americans at bay with their cultural heritage even amidst the growing pop culture of America. I’ll take an intrinsic look into the struggles of different generations of Filipino-Americans face every day in a white-male majority ruled society. From the sakadas to the pre-teen boppers at Serramonte – I’ll take a journey into their journeys of assimilation in America as they hold on to their roots as proud Filipinos.

What does it mean to be a Filipino-American? We are hybrids of two remarkable cultures – filled with history and appeal but most of all pride and loyalty. While the joys of Filipino food, dance, music and culture light the way for us here in America, we must also embrace the struggles and prejudices that have plagued us since the day we first stepped on American soil. Our history is not an easy one, but it is definitely one filled with many stories, legends, tradition and discovery. In fact, I don’t even think that a simple month out of the year is enough to suffice the greatness that is the Filipino-American cultural history.
Filipino Plantation Workers
So I guess what I’m saying is that we shouldn’t just celebrate being Filipino-Americans for a mere 30 days out of the year. We should celebrate our heritage EVERY day. Every second, every minute, every hour of those 365 days should beat the pride we have in our hearts as Filipino-Americans.

Rising from the Darkness

November 17, 2009

I knew I was at the right place standing across the street from the building, “Tabi Tabi Po” snaking across the side of the gallery. Right off the bat being hit with artistic expression. Walking past the bouncer I felt a sigh of relief, no longer having to worry about being underage! But I wasn’t there for the wine, I was there to witness Filipino art- straight from the people. At a first glance, I loved the feeling of the place. There was a sense of ownership. Like the graffiti on the outside of the building, the interior had been dominated. You were surrounded by people’s art and all available space was put to use. Instantly I noticed all of the paintings of the aswangs. I remembered the folktales from class and felt surrounded by a flock of them. It was already dark outside, was I in danger of attack? My favorite aswang was simple, just sketched on a piece of paper. But you could feel her emotion. The tears were about to start rolling, on the brink waiting to fall. Her mouth in a sad pout, like a little child. Her clawed fingers grasped a sad flower… she seemed so alone, searching for a companion. She almost floated out of the picture towards you, asking you to join her and whisk her out of her sadness. And yet she was trapped, forever paralyzed behind the glass.  

There were many other more aswang depictions. Some more violent than others. Overall, I was hit by an overwhelming feeling of darkness. The art more somber and depressing than I was expecting. It brought me back to the classroom, wondering why this was. How all of these artists had been creating all around and yet there was still this common thread. Bound together by the same history, the same past. I wondered about the oppression of the Filipino people, how this seemed to be represented in their art- hopefully acting as a release of emotion.

Another piece that I was particularly drawn to was on the same wall as my favored aswang. Within this picture were many mysteries. At first glance you might just see a forest, a few trees swaying in the breeze. But when you take a second, deeper look you can see the hidden treasures. A man appears within the trees, emerging from the darkness. An eye attached to a brain with a tree trunk spine and sprawling root feet. Pondering, staring at you. Questioning you. In the distance another eye appears, spying on you and watching. At first it seemed so simple, just black and white. But out of the grey grew another world.

Finally, I enjoyed the use of texture and material depth in much of the other art. Some of the artists would add a third dimension to their pieces by attaching material to their paintings. It was interesting to see the transformation from a 2D picture into a 3D world with the addition of

a basket

 a mirror

 straw

 whatever…

 It drew your eye’s attention and gave a much different feel to the art.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the experience. One of my other favorite parts was reading the names of the artists. I forgot to take exact note of the titles and artists names but I loved their traditional Filipino names. I wasn’t sure if these were just artist “pen name” or something to that effect but it gave the art a much more authentic and traditional feel, for me at least. Art is a very beautiful thing, a skill that I envy and admire. And during this visit, I was intrigued by the Filipino aspect- curious about how the culture and history played into the artists’ works.

BANAUE-RICE-TERRACES-715556

The Banaue Rice Terraces

The Igorot were a pagan people who believed in the Great Spirit named Lumawig as the creator of the earth. They thought that he made the world by splitting a reed into many different pairs and placing them around the world. These reeds grew into people that spoke different languages and began to populate the world as man and woman. When Lumawig saw that they people needed supplies on earth, he started by giving them salt. However, the group he first gave the salt to did not do anything with it so he gave it to the Mayinit instead. Since the Mayinit used their gift of salt they became to rightful owners of it. Lumawig tried to give clay for pots to the Bontoc but they did not understand how to use it so the Samoki got the clay instead. The Samoki were talented potters so they gained ownership of the clay while the Bontoc were stuck purchasing jars. In this way, Lumawig taught the people to use what they have and this is how they came to have what they own now.

I’m thinking that eventually the Ifugao of the Igorot eventually were given rice. This is because they are the ones known for having made “The Eighth Wonder of the World”… the Banaue Rice Terraces. This landmark is probably the most well known of the Igorot’s accomplishments. The terraces were made with minimal tools, largely by hand, and cover around 4,000 square miles of land- so extensive that if the steps were to be laid end to end, it would stretch half way around the world. The terraces are still in use today for cultivating rice and vegetables, watered by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above. However, the terraces are beginning to erode due to lack of care and use as people are drawn away from the agricultural life and into the tourism industry.

Nevertheless, due to their connection to rice, the food became a staple in their cuisine. They would even make a rice wine to be served by the host at parties and drank in large amounts at public festivities. The counterpart to the white rice wine was a broth made of camote and… rice! They would also eat kinal-oy which combined rice with sliced camote and a leafy vegetable. Thus, rice was often included in their meals and became an integral part of their diet.

                During the celebrations and rituals, the Igorot would often dance in community. They would dance for many reasons… to appease the ancestors and gods; for victory in war; to fight natural disasters; and for many other ceremonial purposes. However, dance was also a means of expression- a way to congregate, socialize, and release emotions. Igorot dance functioned as a way to pray for a more promising future and to honor significant stages in life.

As I had mentioned in the first article, the Ibaloi dance the Bendiyan Dance which is a victory dance to praise the actions of courageous warriors. In this dance the downward movement of the hands signifies the people’s affinity with the earth while there is a stamping of the feet. It is made up of a long line of dancers, starting with the musicians followed by the men and then the women.

The Bontoc danced the Pattong as a part of their head hunting and war ceremonies. It was meant to give the warriors the bravery and strength to hunt their enemies. Also, it was danced from February to April in order to appeal to Lumawig for rain. The dance was often an improvised story line of two tribes confronting one another, ending in the death of an enemy warrior.

In celebration of successful harvest and thanksgiving, the tribes would dance the Bumayah. The men and women would take part in this dance as they imitated a rooster scratching the ground, joyously thanking the gods for a plentiful season. And finally, one of the courtship dances was the Takik. This was a flirtatious dance where male instrumentalists would provide the music for a man and woman engaging in a love dance. They would dance in a line, with the gongbeater taking up the back- dancing more complex steps than the rest. During the dance, the gongbeater will dramatically pause to stick out his foot to set an expressive tone.

                Therefore, it is clear that the Igorot were a dynamic people. They had many different aspects in their society and we are still able to know discover facts about the lives they led by their traditions that have carried on and the marks they left behind on planet earth.