A new day for Original Pilipino Music

Rachel Alejandro

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A new day dawns on Filipino music with PhilPOP

RACHEL WITH DAD HAJJI and Ryan Cayabyab at the rehearsals for the PhilPOP finals night on July 14. Photo courtesy of Alynna Velasquez

MANILA, Philippines – The year was 1978.

I woke up with a start in my Lolo Eddie’s arms as he started jumping up and down and the crowd around us in the jam-packed Folk Arts Theater cheered and roared. I was only 4 years old but I knew immediately why my grandparents had woken me.

Nanalo ang daddy mo!” my lola shouted excitedly. 

We were at the very first Metro Manila Popular Music Festival, more commonly known as  Metropop, and they had just announced that Ryan Cayabyab had won the Grand Prize for the song, “Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika” interpreted by my dad, Hajji Alejandro.

Still a bit dazed, I watched with pride as both my dad and Ryan took center stage to receive the trophy. That moment would be remembered well by those two young, talented artists who would later become icons in the Philippine music industry.

HAJJI ALEJANDRO AT METROPOP in 1978. Photo courtesy of Hajji Alejandro

Fast  forward to the year 2000.

Dressed in an all white gown, my teeth chattering and knees shaking uncontrollably, I waited for the announcement of winners of that night’s competition.

And then we heard it:

“The Grand Prize winner of Metropop 2000 is none other than finalist #12, “Forever and A Day.” Angelo Villegas – composer, interpreted by Rachel Alejandro!”

In his excitement, Angelo yanked me by the neck to center of the stage so hard that he nearly took my head off. 

This time, I was in a different kind of daze. I don’t think I could have smiled any bigger as we received the award. My eyes welled up with happiness as I recalled the day my manager GR Rodis made me hear the winning song for the first time. She said, “Listen to this. I think it’s perfect for you.”

She was right. Still hurting from a recently-ended relationship, Angelo’s haunting song about his lost love mirrored my shattered heart. I had never sung anything with as much authenticity and honesty. If you listen to this song even now, you will hear the pain. 

RACHEL'S FIRST ALBUM WAS released as an LP in 1989, a time when Filipino music was king of the airwaves. Photo courtesy of Rachel Alejandro

Metropop continued to inspire song writers to create. It produced more winners until its last competition in 2003.

Now, almost a decade later, PhilPOP is born — a different time, a different competition, but some of same characters remain.

This time, Maestro Ryan Cayabyab is at the helm as executive director and Manny V. Pangilinan as overall chairman. I am no longer a finalist but now one of the adjudicators tasked to screen the songs. My dad and I are performers in the finals night on July 14, with GR Rodis and Patricia Hizon as executive producers. 

It has been said that the goal of reviving this festival is to breathe new life into the Philippine music industry.

Occasionally, the thought occurs to me that — while there are many excellent solo artists, bands and songwriters today — it has been so long since I remember hearing a song that we can all describe as a “certified national hit.” Do you remember the last time you knew all the lyrics to a new, original Filipino song? And it didn’t matter if you were young or old, rich or poor; you knew that song by heart, the same way we all know “Anak” or “Sana’y Maulit Muli”?

With so many artists coming out with albums full of cover songs, the industry is dying for new blood and fresh ideas.

PHILPOP JUDGES WITH RYAN Cayabyab. Photo courtesy of GR Rodis

As I sat there along with other adjudicators in one of the freezing cold theaters in Meralco, I felt a sudden surge of hope while listening to the music created for PhilPOP 2012.

That  afternoon, we who represent a cross section of our music industry made up of recording company executives, talent managers, old and new artists and composers of different genres were delighted and seriously blown away by how cleverly-written some of these songs are.  

For the first time in a long while I actually felt that a festival like this can start a new flame and do what it aims to do: to make songwriting and listening to OPM cool again. – Rappler.com


Rachel Alejandro has been a singer, actress and songwriter in the Philippine entertainment scene for over 25 years. She is also co-owner and VP for Marketing of the health food catering company, the Sexy Chef, OBC 5Star, Inc.   

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