This week we continue our conversation with the Pinoy Playlist curators. Hear their thoughts on why you should not miss this year’s M-FLIX 2021: Da Pinoy Pandamic Palabas, what this unique, original musical means to them, and why, now more than ever, we should support and celebrate Filipino music.
We are still in the middle of the pandemic and we still cannot do PPMF in person but this year we have the PPMF Project, M-FLIX 2021: Da Pinoy Pandemic Palabas. What stood out for you in making M-FLIX?
NOEL: Just as when we thought we've exhausted all means of presentations during the pandemic, M-FLIX leveled up the platform kasi may narrative na sinusundan. Masakit kasi babalikan mo ‘yung nararamdaman mo and for artists to do that, mahirap! Pero it’s also liberating. It's our way of healing ourselves or each other when you listen to the songs. Babalikan mo lahat ‘yung mga karanasan mo pero you end up stronger.
It's the finale song that resonates with me because it’s hopeful. After everything— ‘yung pagkalito, pagkabagabag, at pagdadalamhati para sa mga nawala nating kaibigan, it ends up with a hopeful and empowering note: Na kaya natin. Kaya talaga natin basta magsusuportahan tayo.
After M-FLIX, sana ma-popularize natin ‘yung kanta and it becomes a mantra, at sana lumakas ‘yung loob nating tignan ‘yung pag-asa sa dulo. Sa dami ng pinagdaanan natin, that hope should be there, and it was very well captured by the music. Maraming salamat talaga sa musika.
RYAN: It was a big surprise. Kasi para sa’kin, ang dali-dali ko lang sabihin na, ‘let’s make it original music’ pero hindi naman naiisip ng lahat agad ‘yon. I came to that conclusion because I know how expensive it is to use music by other people. At the same time, it’s difficult to choose the songs kasi wala namang existing songs about the pandemic or kung mayroon man, maghahanap kami ng semblance of the themes we want to present.
I thought it was ordinary for me to say ‘let’s do an original musical’. So for me, the highlight was actually seeing ‘yung mga mata nila (Moy, Noel, and Maribel) and saying, “Oo nga ano! Original music pala puwede!” And we have the dibs to actually say that this came from an original musical na ginawa ng PPMF.
MOY: Una, ‘yung sinabi ni Maribel kanina: serendipitous. Ryan was saying we have financial constraints so he found a convenient way to circumvent that by doing originals but then again, serendipitous because it's the role and the responsibility of the artist to reflect on what's going on in the world and in the times. I think it's really a stroke of genius for Ryan to think of originals because maybe after 20 years, we look back at these songs and it serves as a chapter wherein we all remember the pandemic years.
What’s amazing is there are songs that talk about resilience, hope, grief, and kindness without having to blatantly talk about them. We have such brilliant songwriters and interpreters that it doesn't need to be spelled out. You know what they're talking about and you know, as a Pinoy, napagdaanan natin iyon.
Baka isipin ng mga tao na M-FLIX 2021: Da Pinoy Pandemic Palabas is dark and heavy, although there are chapters like that, Maribel wrote the narrative wherein there is this beautiful emotional arc and it really feels cathartic. It's like life, you go through tough times and light moments and you try to glean what's the lesson that you can get from those times.
This brand new musical with brand new music reflects the Filipino experience of this pandemic. It's this beautiful emotional arc where you come out not desperate and dark and heavy. So I enjoin everyone reading this to come on board with us and to join our pandemic musical. Music really heals and edifies.
MARIBEL: I was really struck by the irony—probably because I'm a writer—that it's called the Pinoy Pandemic Palabas but the songs are very deep, so it's not a palabas. It’s not panglabas. I think it affirms that music is really the currency of the Filipino soul.
With PPMF, it was so hard to get away from the predominant notion of music as entertainment because it's so apparent. But I think M-FLIX casts it in stone: nothing is more permanent, as incisive as music when it cuts through your heart. Musical artists are so much more than entertainers. We carve and put context on your memories as individuals and as a collective. Ito yata ‘yung definitive proof that music is not just for entertainment. It will help you ride this pandemic nightmare and get over it.
The first time na narinig namin ‘yung unang kantang na-compose, which was the finale by Mr. C (Ryan), we were so struck— ‘Tayong mga Pilipino tumitindig kahit kapos.’ Na-stuck ‘yon sa brain ko paulit-ulit, hindi ko talaga makalimutan ‘yon. And then the animation by Aidon [Panlaqui], when he turned a balloon, which is a symbol for happiness and celebration, into a question mark, tapos nakakapit tayo habang tumataas ‘yung question mark. Sinong nakakaisip ng gano’n! Ang galing, galing mag-isip. For the music to go through the words, and then for the words to be animated, what a creative process that runs through us all, and no one individual can lay claim to the whole process. Tama si Moy, it was so edifying and elevating, and luluhod ka sa gratitude na buhay ka at this time in your life to be part of this!
Tulad nga ng sabi ni Maribel, the purpose of music goes beyond entertainment. Ika nga, food for the soul and the tool, lalo na in this pandemic, to survive. To sum up the interview, we'd like to ask you, what message do you want to share to our fellow Filipinos in terms of the importance of supporting and celebrating our own music?
RYAN: For so many years I've been advocating for the promotion of Filipino music because I grew up practically through Kundiman and all those old Filipino music and classical music because of my mom and because of the influences around me.
Ever since I can remember, when I started in the industry, it was always, ‘how do we make it internationally? Bakit kami hirap na hirap makapasok sa international scene?’ Eh ang dami nating magagaling na musicians.
Then eventually as the years go by, I get to understand na ang layo namin as Filipino Asian musicians compared to, say, Thai Asian musicians. Kapag narinig ko ‘yung Thai music, alam ko agad na Thai ‘yon. Kapag narinig ko si Taiwanese music alam ko agad na Taiwanese ‘yon, kapag narinig ko si Indian music alam ko agad na Indian ‘yon. So for so long, we've been searching for that Filipino identity that other people will say, “Ah, that’s Filipino music.”
And then when [actor and director] Leo Rialp arrived after living in Brazil for three years, he told me that one time at a dinner, pinapatugtog niya raw ‘yung One ko na recording, ‘yung mga Brazilian guests niya tinanong siya, ‘Is that your music from your country?’ Sabi niya, ‘Yes. Doesn’t it sound very American?’ Ang sagot sa kaniya, ‘No. It sounds so different.’ They've never heard anything like that. Sabi sa’kin ni Leo, ‘You know, mayroon tayong Filipino identity, we just do not acknowledge it. We keep on saying there is none.’
From that time on, I told myself that that was what I was going to do. So whenever I was given the chance to do advocacy work to push for Filipino music, lagi kong sinasabi, “You tell your stories. Don’t think that it’s so laced with Western music.” Wala na tayong magagawa, nandiyan na sa dugo natin ‘yan. Ang gagawin na lang natin, we will work with what we have and continue telling our stories. And for more than half a decade now, we've been pushing for everyone to write in their language, wherever they are. We have unique stories to tell and if you tell it in your language, that language bears very significant inflections that are not found in any other languages, which is why those melodies sound like those melodies. We keep on comparing ourselves with our neighbors, we should not compare because our history is different. We have to carve it ourselves and push for Filipino music.
MOY: That quote from Maribel, ‘Music is the currency of the Filipino soul.’ I think we should patent that and make it our PPMF T-shirt and tote bag. That is the raison d'être (reason for being) of PPMF. That is the thesis statement of PPMF. At saka ‘yung sinabi ni Ryan: stop denying that we were under Spain that’s why our folk music sounds like that. Stop denying that we were also under the States. We are who we are. It would be very disingenuous to say that only tribal music or indigenous music is Pinoy music. A person who is busking in BGC singing an original song is Pinoy music.
‘Yun nga ‘yung sinasabi namin when we were doing PPMF the first year. We are trying to weave a banig of OPM to tell them it's not just Top 40 pop. OPM is electronic music; OPM is tribal music; there’s such a thing as Vispop; there is jazz; there is hip hop. Ipakita natin ‘yung pagka-flamboyant nating Pinoy. Maingay, palatawa, makulay tayo. That’s our banig. Stop trying to be beige, we are not beige. ‘Yung kulay ng jeepney, ‘yun tayo. We're not minimalist. We'll never be Chopin. We'll never be Erik Satie of France. No, hindi tayo ‘yun. We are so much more than that.
Attend a PPMF whether it’s online, whether it’s a talk, or whether it’s the live music festival. Hopefully we're turning a corner now and hopefully by next year we can do it in person. All we just want to say to the audience is to please open your mind, your ears, your eyes, and your heart and embrace the technicolor of the OPM banig.
MARIBEL: When I lived in the States, I had a chance to sing a song of my own choosing. Mahilig akong kumanta, so without really thinking of Mr. C or Bien Lumbera, I decided to sing ‘Magbalik ka na Mahal’. Walang nakakaintindi ng Pilipino, puro mga blondies ‘yung kasama ko. Siyempre naka-focus ako na ma-reach ko ‘yung notes tsaka dapat maganda ‘yung kanta ko. Pagkatapos ko kumanta, pagtingin ko sa audience, hindi sila kumikibo tapos umiiyak sila. Hindi naman siguro sa pagkaganda ng kanta ko kasi nilapitan nila ko tapos sabi nila, ‘What language is that? Who composed that? The lyrics are so expressive even if we did not understand the language!”
That is proof that we have an identity and I think if we are aware of it, we can really swim in the universe of things. As long as we know who we are, we can join the universe with our identity intact. So I think that's why we should support Filipino music. It's only by knowing who we are do we know our place in the larger scheme of things. Otherwise, rekado lang tayo sa ibang tao, sa ibang kultura and that’s why we should support Filipino music.
NOEL: I’ll zero in on that line that caught Maribel and every one of us, ‘Tumitindig kahit kapos’. Iyan ‘yung kuwento ng PPMF, iyan ‘yung kuwento ng M-FLIX ngayon, at iyan din ‘yung kuwento natin bilang mga Pilipino. Sa dinamirami ng pinagdaanan natin ngayong pandemya, nilagay natin ito sa kuwento at sa musika dito sa ihahandog natin. Ito ‘yung regalo natin sa lahat ng Pilipino who deserve better. Ito ‘yung tribute natin sa mga frontliners at ‘yung mga nag-isip at nagserbisyo hindi lang sa sarili nila pero lalong-lalo na ‘yung kulang na kulang na pero they found it in themselves to help other people.
Iniimbitahan natin ang lahat sa M-FLIX: Da Pinoy Pandemic Palabas because somewhere in this musical, nandiyan ‘yung kwento nating lahat. Mahahanap natin ‘yung sarili natin. Simulan din natin ‘yung healing process. Ibalik natin ‘yung lines ni Mr. C, sabay-sabay tayong magsabi na,
‘Tayong mga Pilipino, tumitindig kahit kapos, sumusugod, lumulusob, hindi tayo patataob, nagmamahalan tayo, nagmamalasakit tayo sa kapwa Pilipino.’
Kung hindi ka pa maiyak, kung hindi ka pa madala para kumilos pagkatapos nung kantang ‘yon— ‘yun ‘yung epekto ng Pinoy Playlist sa amin at mararamdaman niyo ‘yan kapag napanood niyo sa November 6 and 13 online.
Watch the FREE online premiere of M-FLIX Act 2 on Saturday, November 13 and stream M-FLIX Act 1 now at the Mind S-Cool YouTube channel! M-FLIX 2021: Da Pinoy Pandemic Palabas features 12 original songs written and performed by renowned Filipino artists that tell the story of our pandemic experience. This one-of-a-kind musical is for our frontliners, our community, and our artists who continue to help us get through this shared ordeal.