“Giiingan ko sa imong friend nga you find kuno baduy ang bisayang pinulungan.“
~Englisera by Missing Filemon
I grew up in a culture that regards local as inferior. Where people prefer anything imported over the home-grown or home-bred; where lighter shades are always more preferable than our sun-kissed skins. It is devastatingly sad, this post-colonial mentality of white supremacy, a belief reinforced by social nonchalance and thus, passed on through generations without much scrutiny or reevaluation. Like a cold-blooded parasite, it has interjected itself into the norm. It has become a lifestyle. And that’s how you get teenage girls scrambling for whitening lotions in the supermarket, young boys idolizing bands with foreign twangs, people bred with the impression that ‘abroad’ is a fairy tale land of greener pastures. With time, it has become almost automatic to view local as secondary. And given the archipelagic diversity of a nation whose power and authority emanates from a centrality, it exists in tiers within. Many harbor this notion that anything Manila-bred is somehow more forward and advanced; whereas anything outside the city is promdi.
So when you ask random bisdaks around the streets of Cebu to tell you their favorite songs, you would most probably harvest a list of whatever are trending at the moment – which would also most likely mean mainstream songs in English, a little percentage could be Tagalog/Filipino, but sadly very rare confessions in Cebuano.
Bisdak, as Insoy Ninal (the frontman of Missing Filemon) noted in his proudly Cebuano melodies, is too often labelled as baduy (out of the trend), karaan (old in a non-elegant sense), and ngilo (cringe-worthy). What does this say about us Cebuanos? A glaring state of an alarming reality stares back. Hypocrites! How can we truly love another when we have not cultivated love for our own? Does our appreciation start from a distance and end in ourselves or should it be the other way around? What are we trying so hard for anyway?
I dare you to go to malls and look for non-whitening soaps. Or find hard prints from Cebuano literary authors in National Bookstore. Or specific, exclusive Cebuano websites. Beyond all the shining excess that has blanketed my city, there exists a real struggle to find traces of our roots.
That’s why it rather came out as a bit of a surprise when I started hearing Cebuano songs airing in our local frequencies. I felt a tinge of excitement, and perhaps hope. Alas! This is something new. Although there have been local productions for years – and most, I must mention, were really really good – majority of their sounds remain exclusive to elite local circles and don’t really get extended to the general masses, aside from a select few.
Vispop is one – if not the first – among those who took a bold step towards reforming Cebuanos’ concept of their own music. Now running on its third year, the collective effort of Cebuano producers, talents and music artists are beginning to pay off. Not only have they introduced a new wave of cool to the Cebuano populace, they have also proven that binisdak could be creative, relatable and something to be proud of.
Spearheading this musical revolution is the Cebuano visionary Jude Gitamondoc, and a band of talents impassioned with much flair and skill in their own artistic endeavors. The result is a surprising menagerie of original tunes that possess the uniqueness of both domestic creativity and millennial genius. Some of the songs that simply appealed to me the first time I heard them include Earnest Hope Tinambaran’s Tug ta Tug, Jerika Teodorico’s Labyu Langga and Kenneth Corvera’s Dili Pa Panahon. And of course, who could forget the Disney-esque melody of the bubbly Therese Villarante, the ukulele serenade of Marianne Dungog and Kyle Wong’s Balay ni Mayang, and the pop charm of Kurt Fick and Paola Sandiego’s Hahahahasula.
It has been a problem of label as it has been of exposure. But with the gradual transition that comes with combined efforts, we are crossing our fingers for a good shift. After all, music as a medium of influence certainly holds a chance for a good fight, doesn’t it? Tapping into the creative universe of the living soul is an act of courage and we’ll be doing it with more promise as a collective.
Let us help spread the advocacy, this musical and cultural reform, and this fight for identity.