Freddie Aguilar’s Rigid Nationalism

by Kiko Matsing

Freddie Aguilar Nationalistic singer Freddie Aguilar in a double-breasted suit, fedora hat, and oxford shoes. You cannot get more colonial than that.

“E, pinatototohanan lang ang sinabi ni Mariah Carey na tayong mga Filipino ay mga unggoy. Kasi, wala tayong sarili, gaya-gaya lang tayo. Nasa Amerika ka na, binigyan ka na ng pagkakataon na kumanta sa Oprah, bakit kumanta ka pa ng kanta ni Celine Dion? Sinabi ni Mariah na mga unggoy ang Filipino, gaya-gaya lang kayo, e, di napatunayan nga, totoo nga.

“Kasi, di ba, what monkeys see, monkeys do. Dapat ang kinanta niya, bakit hindi ‘Dahil Sa Iyo’ o kaya ay kahit ano, basta kantang Filipino? O kaya Visayan, Ilocano… lalo siyang sisikat sa buong mundo nun,” pahayag ni Freddie.

Pero hindi naman talaga napatunayan na sinabi ni Mariah na “monkey” ang Pinoy.

(from Freddie Aguilar says Charice and Arnel Pineda prove that Filipinos are “monkeys”, PEP, 6 Jul 2009)

Alam mo tayong mga Pilipino, pag dating sa gayahan, tayo na ang pinakamagaling. Hindi ba tayo pwedeng kumanta ng sariling atin? Eto na daw yung pinangarap nila na makarating sa Las Vegas. E, nakarating na nga Las Vegas, ang kinanta, kanta pa rin ng mga Kano. Sa palagay mo, kung Kano ka, bibilib ka sa mga kumakanta sa entablado?… At sa tingin mo kaya pag kumanta si Charice ng kanta ni Lucio San Pedro kay Oprah ay mababawasan yung pagiging magaling niyang singer? Hindi kaya lalo siyang hahangaan sa buong mundo, at malalaman na ayan pala ang language ng Pilipino, ang srap sa tenga. Saan ba yang Pilipinas, pupunta ako diyan… (time stamp 0:51)

Kung Sa Ugoy ng Duyan ang kinanta ni Charice kay Oprah, eh di napatulog niya ang audience, sa halip na tumayo at nagsipalakpakan. Charice is admired especially for her rendition of The Bodyguard medley that rivals Whitney Houston’s. She sang Italian in Italy, and recorded a Japanese track for her album release in Japan. Why must she sing in Tagalog to get respect as an artist? (She does, of course, when she guests in Philippine TV shows.) There is nothing special about Tagalog (except to Filipinos who speak it); it is neither inferior nor superior to English.

Charice, magaling kang singer, pero mas bibilib ako sa iyo kung kakanta ka ng sariling atin… Kaya tayo binabasagang mga Pilipinong unggoy, dahil manggagaya tayo. Akong magtatanong sa lahat ng mga singer na Pilipino: bakit puro banyaga ang kinakanta ninyo? Yan ang tanong ko, hindi yung tinatanong ninyo sa aking bakit ko kayo tinatawag na unggoy. Kayo ang nagpatawag ng unggoy dahil gaya-gaya kayo. (time stamp 2:35)

Ganoon nga ba? Bakit hindi na rin kaya magsuot ng patadyong is Charice nang tuloy lalo siyang magmukhang neneng taga-baryo? Walang kahiyahiya doon, but she is trying to break into the American youth market (those who watch shows like Glee), not the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. (BTW, look at 3:40 how Kris Aquino shoots down Ruffa Gutierrez’s stupid remarks with obvious derision and sarcasm. Love it!)

Patadyong
Igorot at the St. Louis Word's Fair

While Ka Freddie poses as the consummate Filipino artist, the core of his art is actually, by his own standards, as (if not more) derivative as those he criticizes. Take for example, the one-hit-wonder, Anak. It may be in Tagalog, but its musical form, the gestural idiom he uses when he performs the song, even his overall look and style is a shameless rip off of American folk rock of the 1960s and 70s.

Anak Cowboy hat and boots? Really? Now, Ka Freddie, that’s really Pinoy!

Bob Dylan

John Denver
Not exactly Bob Dylan, but perhaps, the John Denver of the Philippines?

Freddie Aguilar’s form of nationalism is misplaced and unfortunate. It is parochial and insular. This narrow view is an ossified form of 1970s anti-Marcos, anti-imperialist activism. Get over it! As the proliferation of migrant Filipino workers attest, Filipinos are comfortable in their own skin in any cultural setting. Just walk along Rue Sainte-Catherine in the French-Canadian city of Montreal and you will hear a plethora of accents from the remotest parts of the Philippines. Charice, like Filipino overseas workers, has become very cosmopolitan, a global citizen. She is able to deftly navigate both east and west, and this is not just in small part due to our unique colonial history.

Charice and Arnel Pineda bring a clarity of emotional feeling, an earnestness and authenticity, a soulfulness that contrasts with the self-conscious, pre-fabricated, artificial posturing that is the norm in contemporary American pop music. I find these traits very Pinoy, and perhaps what Americans find refreshing in their performances. And who is to say that American pop music is not part of Philippine culture, as much as the Spanish zarzuela? You cannot legislate culture.


Charice’s very Japanese album cover


Charice’s avid American fan singing in Tagalog

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