It’s good to hear the songs that were an important element of the anti-Marcos struggle of the ‘80s. Sung by some of the Philippine’s finest singers during Cory Aqunio’s funeral yesterday, the songs conjured reminisces of the Filipino people’s heroism of old while being re-introduced to the present MTV and iPod generations.
Of these songs, “Bayan Ko” is the most recognizable, and rightly so considering its history. It has accompanied every patriotic struggle, from the American period down to the 1986 Edsa people power uprising. The song’s lyrics were written by the poet Jose Corazon de Jesus a.k.a. Huseng Batute and music was by Constancio de Guzman.
Lea Salonga’s rendition of the song yesterday was classy, befitting a global-level artist like her, but it tended to wean the song away from the masses. “Bayan Ko” is best sung in unison by a crowd, preferably with raised fist. By the way, I prefer the version where the line “Kulungin mo at umiiyak” is changed to “Kulungin mo at pumipiglas.”
“Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” and “Magkaisa” were composed after the fact, or after the February 1986 uprising. The intent of Jim Paredes of the APO Hiking Society in composing “Handog” was obvious, which was to “offer” to the world our “people power” as a method of fighting tyranny. It was recoded by 15 Filipino artists in April 1986.
“Magkaisa” is the more haunting among the three songs. The lyrics are a mish-mash of preachy lines but the music is its drawing power. Composed by former senator Tito Sotto, Ernie de la Peña and Homer Flores, the song prods one to raise a hand and sway to the chorus, “Magkaisa/ At magsama/ Kapit-kamay/ Sa bagong pag-asa…”
When my wife, who was in his early teens during Edsa, heard the version of “Magkaisa” by Sarah Geronimo, she asked me about the original singer. I can still conjure in my mind the image of the girl at the Edsa stage in 1986 but could not recall the name. I checked the Net and rediscovered Virna Lisa (true name: Virna Lisa Loberiza).
The website Positive News Media (www.positivenewsmedia.net) has an interesting article about the then 20-year-old Filipino-American who could have made it big as a recording artist in the Philippines had she not preferred to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker (she’s now US-based). With all due respect to Sarah, I would say Virna Lisa, with her superb voice, still owns “Magkaisa.”
(I wrote this for my August 6, 2009 “Candid Thoughts” column in Sun.Star Cebu)