THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics Election Lexicon Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane All these from i’s special election issue Order your copy now!
THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics
Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane
All these from i’s special election issue
Order your copy now!
T H E C A M P A I G N — S O N G S I N T H E K E Y O F P O L I T I C S
ONE LEGACY of "Mambo Magsaysay"'s success was that the "Savior of the Nation" theme would be a recurring motif for successive election jingles. Magsaysay's "Mambo" would also survive long after his death in March 1957. But nothing that followed would capture the spirit of the times as "Mambo Magsaysay" did. Presidents Carlos Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal had no jingle so strongly associated with them as Magsaysay's was, perhaps because they had sedate and rather bland personalities that did not lend well to snappy tunes.
Imelda Romualdez honed her warbling skills trilling to U.S. soldiers in her Leyte hometown at war's end. After marrying Marcos, her singing helped seduce votes for her husband. Besides, a statuesque beauty serenading on the campaign trail was a new thing for the barrio folk. Once she did a duet with Marcos, the crowd was won over. Imelda was the perfect foil to Marcos's brooding intensity. The marriage seemed perfect. In reality, it was not, but the Marcoses were politically in sync enough for their partnership to become the infamous "conjugal dictatorship" by the next decade.
The 1965 presidential campaigns of Macapagal versus Marcos underscored the growing symbiosis of politics and media. Music was no longer enough in a campaign billed as the "battle of books and film." Marcos struck first with the hagiographical For Every Tear a Victory: The Story of Ferdinand E. Marcos. Macapagal countered with Macapagal the Incorruptible. The next arena was the silver screen: "Iginuhit ng Tadhana (Destined)" portrayed Marcos as an intellectual and hero. "Daigdig ng Mga Api (World of the Oppressed)" illustrated Macapagal's grandiose blueprint to deliver the masses from poverty.
Marcos emerged the winner. In his inaugural speech, he first publicly mentioned his "mandate for greatness." What he didn't say was that he was determined to be the first reelected president four years hence.
It was only after his costly reelection in 1969 that a few opposition senators began to deduce Marcos's true intentions. The deteriorating economic situation would ferment social turmoil. Student protests, agrarian unrest, unchecked criminality, and an overblown "communist threat" were exploited with Machiavellian precision to create a climate of fear and paranoia. Everything was set for Marcos's most audacious political undertaking.
THE CAMPAIGN jingle was one of the casualties when martial law was enforced on September 21, 1972. It died along with the other freedoms of expression. There were no "real" elections for the next 14 years as the dictator replaced democratic institutions with authoritarian rule.
Marcos as "Architect of the New Society" was indoctrinated to the public with the mantra-like "May Bagong Silang (A Rebirth)." For a time even schoolchildren — who heard it played after the national anthem — intoned its lyrics, set to a march:
But many saw through the manufactured reality. Those who refused to pick up a gun instead picked up the guitar-the protest song was being resurrected. Words and music were no longer to celebrate and rejoice but to resist, to educate, and to indict. Songs became cultural weapons to fight the Marcos propaganda wars. This was the era of the poet-singers Jess Santiago, Heber Bartolome, Coritha, Lolita Carbon, and Paul Galang, as well as the folk bands Asin and Inang Laya. Their songs echoed the plaintive cries of victims of exploitation, torture, corruption, and poverty.
Bartolome's first composition, "Oy Utol, Buto't Balat Ka Na'y Natutulog Ka Pa (Hey Brother, You're Already Skin and Bones and Yet You Still Sleep)," is a searing indictment of his countrymen's antipathy as their basic freedoms were blatantly being stripped away. "Oy, Utol…" specifically addresses the conditions of martial law's introduction:
Toward the song's end, the shame turns into anger and anger into an unmistakable call to rise up:
Meanwhile, in "Halina (Come)" Jess Santiago offers an ode to the sexual abuse victim, dispossessed landowner, and lowly squatter-the invisible Filipinos who have no voice in their own country. The lyrics are raw and personal, the music intimate and unadorned. So are those of Paul Galang's "Pira-pirasong Balita (Pieces of News)," but the tone is angrier. Offering alternative snapshots of Filipino life ignored in the Marcos-controlled press, the song ends with a stinging rebuke:
These underground songs of rage and dissent would pervade to the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, when an exiled opposition leader decided to come home.
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