Philpop 2012: Reminding OPM songwriters to keep it coming

Cate de Leon
Homegrown Filipino melodies return to their former glory

PHILPOP VETERANS (including RAPPLER writer Rachel Alejandro and dad Hajji) singing past Metropop hits. Photo courtesy of DDB

MANILA, Philippines – OPM has been asleep, they say.

These days, talk about the local music scene is usually about which international act they’ll be flying in next.

Now I’d be a hypocrite to complain about the constant influx of foreign artists when I’m certainly not complaining about Adam Levine. But no matter how diverse and global our taste in music can be, Pinoy listeners, song writers, musicians and music enthusiasts alike have been missing that home grown sound — songs that hit us in a very familiar, tumpak sort of way.

2nd RUNNER-UP SOC VILLANUEVA (3rd from left) with Ryan Cayabyab (Philpop exec. dir.), Sam Concepcion (interpreter), Manny V. Pangilinan (Philpop chairman) and Ricky P. Vargas (Philpop president). Photo courtesy of DDB

It’s a common perception that today’s Philippine music industry has gotten lazy about producing new music.

Much of what we hear today from our top local artists are foreign covers that aren’t even as good as the originals. But taking in 3,000 original compositions — which the judges painstakingly narrowed down to 14 finalists — the Philippine Popular Music Festival proved that Filipinos are still aching to come up with their own creations.

All they needed was a little push.

1st RUNNER-UP TOTO SORIOSO (3rd from left) with Ryan Cayabyab, Ebe Dancel (interpreter), Manny V. Pangilinan and Ricky P. Vargas. Photo courtesy of DDB

Meron pa pala. Meron pa pala akong ibubuga,” mused veteran hit maker Soc Villanueva, whose entry Kontrabida placed 3rd.

Soc has written for the likes of Angeline Quinto and Bituin Escalante before, and is now based in Australia. “It’s a competition of concepts. Kailangan lang yung concept mo is relatable pa rin.” 

“It’s everybody’s dream that OPM flourishes and progresses,” commented Toto Sorioso, 2nd place for his song, Tayo Tayo Lang. “I want everybody to earn a living doing it, para tuloy-tuloy lang ang music.”

GRAND PRIZE WINNER KARL Villuga (4th from left) with the Akafellas (interpreter), Ryan Cyabyab, Mark Bautista (interpreter), Manny V. Pangilinan and Ricky P. Vargas. Photo courtesy of DDB

Grand prize winner, Karl Villuga, wrote his winning entry, Bawat Hakbang, in a small notebook. “I was coming home from work, tired, bothered by so many deadlines at the office, and inspired by a prayer.”

Karl’s dream for OPM is that people take chances.

“Not only the artists creatively, but also the decision makers behind music production. Because if people don’t take chances, we’ll forever be in this limbo of non-advancing music. You take chances by giving way to new artists, fresher melodies, melodies that don’t succumb to a particular marketing strategy na pang-masa lang or whatever,” he says.

“It shouldn’t be like that. These people know how to appreciate music, and they should be allowed to appreciate music. So people should take chances in making good pieces come to life, and be interpreted by many new artists.”

CHRISTIAN BAUTISTA, REGINE VELASQUEZ, Basil Valdez, Sharon Cuneta and Eric Santos in a special performance of OPM hits. Photo courtesy of DDB

Whether or not the 14 songs showcased in the Philpop festival become hits in the ears of the everyday Filipino listeners remains to be seen. Even the distinguished panel of judges, composed of the likes of Ely Buendia, Louie Ocampo and Jim Paredes admit that they can’t accurately predict what will gain a cult following and what won’t.

For all we know, a song that didn’t make the judging cut could be our next anthem. No one knows.

KARL VILLUGA (with trophy) WITH ROWELL Santiago, Manny V. Pangilinan, host Ogie Alcasid and judge Jim Paredes with Philpop supporters. Photo courtesy of DDB

The point of Philpop was to remind Filipinos to write their own songs and, more importantly, to write well (crappy artistry has no right to encourage anybody to “patronize what is ours”).

The exposure and the cash prize that come with winning a national songwriting competition no doubt help.

In reality, there is no right or wrong time or occasion to write good OPM music. Competition or no competition, millions of Filipino listeners tune in to the radio and log on to YouTube daily, waiting for the next soundtrack of their lives. –


(The Philippine Popular Music Festival 2012 Album is now available at all major music stores nationwide. Visit the Philpop website for a sampling of the tracks. Read about Rachel Alejandro’s account as a Philpop 2012 judge here.)

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