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Classic local songs that are actually about Martial Law

Classic local songs that are actually about Martial Law

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Art undoubtedly strengthens a community and it’s an avenue individuals course through to express themselves. It’s an important tool in protests among other modes of self-expression. Aside from literature and visuals, music is one of the most utilized art forms used to voice out resentments and frustrations for the government.

Yesterday, September 21, marked the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. President Rodrigo Duterte also declared the day as the National Day of Protest. Demonstrators flocked to the Malacañang Palace, Luneta Park, and Mendiola. Protests were also held in universities across the metro.

As most protests are impassioned, music contributes a lot to this. Bamboo’s hit song in 2007 Tatsulok is still relevant and was performed yesterday, as well as the Filipino version of the famous Les Misérables song Do You Hear the People Sing? Music will always be at the heart of protests. And here are some resistance songs popular during the years of the Ferdinand Marcos regime for not being, well, noticeably resistant.


1. Saranggola ni Pepe by Celeste Legaspi

You’d think that this song accompanied by ukulele, xylophone, and flute is a children’s song but it isn’t. Performed by Celeste Legaspi and written by her husband Nonoy Gallardo during the Martial Law years, this folk song has cryptic lyrics despite a cheery melody. The song plays safe with its subtlety, which is understandable during a time where the government feeds on censorship and sees critics as scums of the earth.

Matayog ang lipad ng saranggola ni Pepe
Matayog ang pangarap ng matandang bingi
Lumuha ang langit at ang mundo ay nanliit
Pinilit umawit, ang naglaro’y isang ingit
Kumakaway sa bakod ang anghel na nakatanod
Sumusuway sa utos, puso’y sinusunod

“Matayog ang lipad ng saranggola ni Pepe most probably pertains to a regular Filipino’s aspirations in life. The “matandang bingi” can be Marcos. Lines such as “pinilit umawit, ang naglaro’y isang ingit” and “hinuli ang ibon” point to the oppression during the ’70s, particularly suppression of the press. And then there’s the hair-raising challenge posed in the last line of the song: “Sumusuway sa utos, puso’y sinusunod.


2. Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran by Asin

This is one of the timeless local songs in our cultural trove (even my 11-year-old brother knows this). Although it’s mostly known as a song for Pasig River, this Asin classic popularized in the early ’80s is also about another victim of the Marcos regime: the environment. Unfortunately, illegal miners and loggers were nursed and protected during this era.

Darating ang panahon 
Mga ibong gala ay wala nang madadapuan 
Masdan mo ang mga punong dati ay kay tatag 
Ngayo’y namamatay dahil sa ‘ting kalokohan


3. Ang Pipit by Pilita Corrales

Although not literally about Martial Law, Pilita Corrales’ Ang Pipit was made popular in the ’70s and it depicts a man’s cruelty to a pipit or sparrow—a creature of power such as man, impairing a simple being. As birds symbolize freedom, we can infer from this ironically joyous folk song that someone is somehow trying to hurt, if not slay, freedom.

May pumukol sa pipit sa sanga ng isang kahoy
At nahagip ng bato ang pakpak ng munting ibon
Dahil sa sakit, di na nakaya pang lumipad
At ang nangyari ay nahulog, ngunit parang taong bumigkas,
“Mamang kay lupit, ang puso mo’y di na nahabag,
Pag pumanaw ang buhay ko, may isang pipit na iiyak.”


Header and homepage images courtesy of

Read more:
Looks like the Marcoses were Brutalists by choice
Even this Spanish children’s book can’t deny the Marcos dictatorship
Why is Nora Aunor not a National Artist?


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