My Fellow Filipinos!

FrancisM as a National Artist

As I see it, in one word, Francism is FrancisM’s everlasting legacy to his fellow Filipinos. A Francism is a word, a thought, description, an exhortation, a song, rap music, video movie, clothing design, phone call, move to reconcile, that speak not simply of love of country – already, there are many patriots, such as we have – but more so, love of fellowmen – sadly, the patriots we have hate each other.

FrancisM and Francisms burst into the Philippine musical scene with a landmark rap musical piece, ‘Mga Kababayan Ko,’ in his smash debut 1990 album Yo! (gmanews.tv) that also spawned the ballad hit ‘Cold Summer Nights’ (Gerry Plaza, 06 March, newsinfo.inquirer.net). Under OctoArts, Yo! ‘marked the birth of nationalistic rap’ in the Philippines (filipinomusica.com). ‘Mga Kababayan Ko’ is Francism in all senses that FrancisM wanted to convey to his countrymen. To appreciate it in full, I have reproduced the Tagalog original along with my own English translation that is appearing for the first time (below).

Francisms are in fact simple truths, or simple instructions, nothing fancy:

* Be proud of your color, you are a Filipino!
* Think that you have the power / To reach what you desire.

* We should get up and go / so we don’t stay poor and low.
* Do your work well.
* You can if you want.
* If you can, he can.
* All together, we can!

* What we have is fine / Think of that all the time.
* A good life will come if you stand firm / In pain and fatigue amid problems.
* Don’t drown.
* Go up, don’t go down.
* Envy you should avoid.
* Don’t covet what others have. / Instead, be glad about / What your brother has achieved.
* We should all work hand-in-hand.

* Let us respect our mother / She is the light of the home.
* Let us honor our father / And follow his wisdom.
* To the siblings: Love one another.
* It’s only right to talk together / About a misunderstanding.

* Don’t run away from a weakness.
* Marriage is a must.
* Don’t pretend to be clean.
* Reconcile enemies. / Stand between, don’t patronize.

* We are all brothers and sisters.
* Let us rectify every error we make.
* Let us pray to God, our Creator.
* Let us be saints and not satans.

Note on my translation: Since Pinoy rap can’t be transformed without much loss in the translation, I have translated freely, even as I tried to rhyme. As the original has no measure, my translation doesn’t have either. ‘My Countrymen’ is a literal translation of ‘Mga Kababayan Ko’ while my own ‘My Fellow Filipinos’ emphasizes both the fellowship and being Filipinos.

Mga Kababayan Ko
FrancisM
, 1990

My Fellow Filipinos
2009, Frank A Hilario

Chorus
Mga kababayan ko
Dapat lang malaman n’yo
Bilib ako sa kulay ko
Ako ay Pilipino!
Kung may itim or may puti
Mayron naman kayumanggi.
Isipin mo na kaya mong
Abutin ang ‘yung minimithi.

Chorus
My fellow Filipinos
You all should know
I’m proud of my color
I am a Filipino!
If there is Black or White
There is the Brown race.
Think that you have the power
To reach what you desire.

Dapat magsumikap
Para tayo’y di maghirap.
Ang trabaho mo pagbutihin mo.
Dahil pag gusto mo ay kaya mo
Kung kaya mo ay kaya n’ya
At kaya nating dalawa!

We should get up and go
So we don’t stay poor and low.
Do your work well.
You can if you want
If you can, he can
All together we can!

Magaling ang atin
Yan ang laging iisipin.
Pag-asenso mararating
Kung handa kang tiisin
Ang hirap at pagod sa problema.
‘Wag kang malunod
Umaahon ka, wag lumubog
Pagka’t ginhawa naman ang susunod.
Iwasan mo ang inggit
Ang sa iba’y ibig mong makamit
Dapat nga ikaw matuwa
Sa napala ng iyong kapatid.
Ibig kung ipabatid
Na lahat tayo’y kabig-bisig.

What we have is fine
Think of that all the time.
A good life will come
If you stand firm
In pain & fatigue amid problems.
Don’t drown
Go up, don’t go down
A life of comfort will come.
Envy you should avoid
Don’t covet what others have
Instead, be glad about
What your brother has achieved.
I want you to understand
We should all work hand-in-hand.

Repeat Chorus

Repeat Chorus

Respetuhin natin ang ating ina
Ilaw siya ng tahanan
Bigyang galang ang ama
At ang payo ang susundan.
At sa magkakapatid
Kailangan ay magmahalan
Dapat lang ay pag-usapan
Ang hindi nauunawaan.

Let us respect our mother
She is the light of the home
Let us honor our father
And follow his wisdom.
And to the siblings
Love one another
It’s only right to talk together
About a misunderstanding.

Wag takasan ang pagkukulang
Kasalan ay panagutan.
Magmalinis ay iwasan
Nakakainis, marumi naman.
Ang magkaaway ipagbati
Gumitna ka at ‘wag kumampi

Don’t run away from weakness
Marriage is a must.
Don’t pretend to be clean
You irritate, you’re unclean.
Reconcile any enemies
Stand between, don’t patronize.

Lahat tayo’y magkakapatid
Anong mang mali ay ituwid.
Magdasal sa Diyos Maykapal
Maging banal at ‘wag hangal.
Itong tula ay alay ko
Sa inyo at sa buong mundo.

All brothers & sisters we are
Let us rectify our error.
Let us pray to God our Creator
Let us be saints and not satans.
I dedicate this verse
To you and the whole universe.

Repeat Chorus

Repeat Chorus

So you see, Francisms are simple truths spoken in verses and rhymes delivered in style, in a singsong manner, with a lively beat backed by regular, rhythmic sounds from a disc jockey. Francisms are hip-hop, aka rap music, which since 1990 have been coming from the mouth and mind of FrancisM. Until last Friday, as he is no more. Kiko, The Man from Manila, Master Rapper, the Mouth, King of Pinoy Rap, Urban Patriot, a Free Mind, names he liked to call himself, is gone.

07 March. ‘The Eraserheads salute Francis M at reunion concert’ (Bong Godinez, pep.ph). It was at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds. The holding of that concert itself was a tribute, as the Eraserheads had broken up 7 years ago and FrancisM had persisted that they get back together again. The group dedicated the whole concert in his memory. FrancisM was supposed to be their guest and do ‘SuperProxy,’ one of their songs. The concert was produced by MTV Philippines. FrancisM was MTV Asia’s first Filipino VJ, video jockey, along with Regine Tolentino and Donita Rose (Wikipedia).

10 March. It’s not easy not to cry reading more and more about the young, popular Filipino artist felled by acute myelogenous leukemia Friday, 06 March at The Medical City, a private hospital along Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City near Manila. He was 44, born 04 October 1964. I’ve been trying to, since I heard the news a few minutes after Vic Sotto announced it on noontime TV show Eat Bulaga! at GMA 7, where FrancisM had been co-host for 10 years, freelance. No, I was neither friend nor acquaintance, but the more I read the more I see that the death of Francis Michael Durango Magalona at 44 was not only unexpected but was also a loss with a national impact many times over.

He started as a break dancer, going on to become an actor (early 80s, Viva Films’ ‘Bagets 2’), radio disc jockey (late 80s), VJ for MTV Asia, video producer, video music director, rapper, singer, composer, photographer, designer, TV co-host (Plaza as cited). He was ‘the first Filipino rapper to successfully cross over to the mainstream music scene’ (Tess Bedico & Jester Manalastas, journal.com.ph), meaning that he not only succeeded with his rap music but also with his pop music – he inspired them with his patriotism, he entertained them with his songs. He was also a painter (Boy Villasanta, quoting Joey De Leon, ‘Friends remember Francis M,’ abs-cbnnews.com). He could play the harmonica; he could also produce melodies with the megaphone or microphone (filipinomusica.com). He was also a blogger; visit his ‘a Free Mind’ (francismagalona.multiply.com).

Yo! was his 1st album, released in 1990. Rap is FrancisM was his 2nd, released in 1992 – this is considered ‘one of the greatest Pinoy Rap albums’ around; with ‘Mga Praning’ (Paranoids), ‘Halalan’ (Elections), and ‘Tayo’y Mga Pinoy’ (We Are Pinoys), the album became the standard by which other raps were compared (filipinomusica.com). 1993, his 3rd album, Meron Akong Ano! (Something I Have!) 1995, his 4th, Freeman. 1996, Happy Battle. 1998, The Oddventures Of Mr Cool. 1999, Interscholastic. 2001, Freeman 2. 2002, The Best Of FrancisM. 2007, F Word. He collaborated with other music makers like Joey Ayala, Heber Bartolome, Ryan Cayabyab, Mike Hanopol, Andrew E, Michael V, Denmark and Eraserheads. He played with Pikaso, Gloc 9, Stick Figgas and Parokya ni Edgar.

Songs by FrancisM (filipinomusica.com): ‘A Pen And Ink,’ ‘Bahala Na’ (Let God), ‘Funky Monkey,’ ‘Girl Be Mine,’ Kabataan Para Sa Kinabukasan’ (Youth For Tomorrow), ‘Kaleidoscope World,’ ‘Pektus,’ (Effects), ‘Pikon’ (Onion-Skinned), ‘Puso Ng Siga’ (Heart Of A Toughie), ‘3 Stars And A Sun.’

His contributions were recognized abroad and featured in international publications such as All Music Guide To Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide To Rap And Hip-Hop by Backbeat Books in 2003 and the magazine The Source in 2004. He was chosen by Fremantle Media, owner of American Idol, to be one of the judges of Philippine Idol, along with Ryan Cayabyab and Pilita Corales (filipinomusica.com).

FrancisM, as he liked to call himself (not Francis M as almost everyone refers to him, missing his subtlety), had his own video production company, Filipino Pictures Inc, and record company, Red Egg Records, and the clothing line FMCC, FrancisM Clothing Co, which carries the ‘3 Stars and a Sun’ line of stores (Patricia, ‘Francis Magalona:  Filipino Rap Star,’ celebrity.rightpundits.com). He was the designer for FMCC. He made music videos for several bands and solo artists. His Sponge Cola’s ‘KLSP’ won Best Rock Video at the 2006 MYX Video Awards (Wikipedia).

He received many awards, among them: ‘Pioneer Hall of Fame Award’ at the 1st Annual Philippine Hip-Hop Music Awards (2005), ‘Generations Award’ at the MTV Pilipinas Video Music Awards ‘in recognition of his career that has spanned decades and broken boundaries, and for his music which continues to inspire generations of artists and music fans both here and abroad’ (quoted by Ma Rosanna Mina, abs-cbnnews.com). He was the honoree of the 1st Fil-Am Visionary Awards (Legend in Music) by the NuVision Worldwide Media.

He was one of 9 children of movie stars Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran (Durango), both idolized by the moviegoers; I did too, along with Rogelio dela Rosa and Carmen Rosales. They were popular, but not legends, or not in the stature of FrancisM, who made himself a legend in his own time.

PEP describes ‘Mga Kababayan Ko’ as ‘anthemic’ and states that it ‘clearly illustrated Kiko’s unique style of incorporating various music genres to make it sound Filipino’ (Philippine Entertainment Portal, cited in ‘Eat Bulaga! to pay tribute to Francis M Saturday,’ gmanews.tv):

The band explosion of the '90s failed to deter Kiko's growth as an artist. Recognizing fully well the need to reinvent himself and his art, Francis embraced rock music and incorporated it into his own style, producing songs such as ‘Bahay Yugyugan’  (House of Rock), ‘Meron Akong Ano,’ ‘Girl Be Mine,’ and the psychedelic ear candy, ‘Kaleidoscope World.’

He became a band man and directed bands and artists, including Sponge Cola, Join Da Club, Gloc 9, Shamrock, Picaso and Death Threat (PEP as cited).

Senator Bong Revilla Jr hailed FrancisM as ‘Pinoy Pride’ (quoted by Mark D Merueñas, 06 March, gmanews.tv). ‘The country has lost a modern-day artist, a nationalist in his own creative way. FrancisM used music and fashion to promote love of country among Filipino youth,’ the Senator said.

Bayan Secretary-General Renato M Reyes Jr said of FrancisM (‘Bayan leader pays tribute to Francis M,’ abs-cbnnews.com):

Kiko was a pioneer, a trailblazer for all the Pinoy rappers today. He started out when folks in the Philippines had not even heard of hip-hop. He was a giant in his field, yet never forgot to look after the ‘little people,’ the aspiring artists he took under his wing, or the young rappers he inspired. The Master Rapper lived up to the words of the late Lino Brocka, that the artist is also a citizen.

‘The young rappers he inspired’ – I did see and hear Michael V say on TV the day FrancisM died, ‘A big part of Michael V is FrancisM.’ And FrancisM said of him, ‘Michael V, he’s my best friend’ (quoted by Alula Love M Dela Cruz, 2007, igma.tv).

FrancisM left behind his wife Pia Maria Arroyo and his 8 children: Unna, Nicolo (adopted by FrancisM, from Pia's previous marriage), Maxene, Francis Jr, Saab, Elmo, Arkin and Clara.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said 09 March, that FrancisM was set to receive a posthumous Presidential Medal of Merit, saying ‘the medal recognizes the nationalism and love of country that is there in all his performances’ (quoted by abs-cbnnews.com). Some of the hit songs mentioned were ‘Mga Kababayan Ko,’ ‘Man from Manila,’ ‘Ito Ang Gusto Ko’ (This Is What I Want), ‘Three Stars and a Sun,’ and ‘Kaleidoscope World.’

When I’m writing, I don’t want to read the blogs of others, because I don’t want to be influenced by their opinions, but I’ll make an exception with Prime and his post ‘Thank you for the music’ (dleftclick.wordpress.com). His is a rich source of material, not to mention inspirational (never mind the grammar), and I quote (with my editing):

FrancisM once wrote on his blog that, ‘I guess if we just loved our country so much we would be willing to die for it. I would. But a dead me is a useless me. I am more useful alive …’ I beg to disagree though. I believe that any dead person who lived a life relevant to society serves as an inspiration for everyone to be just like him. And the Master Rapper is one of those.

And he is one of those who never succumbed to the artificial war of hiphop and metal. I know a lot of the teenagers of that time know what I’m talking about. (From within), the Man from Manila dared to unite the music of the two factions. He set up the Psychedelic Posse for the hip-hop kids and the Kannabiz Band ... for the children of metal. His wife Pia’s Evil Step-Sisters, then, added the soul flavor to his music.

It was with his daring and no non-sense attitude that FrancisM gained the respect of Filipino musicians from Masta Plann to The Dawn, from APO ... to Joey de Leon. No wonder that, time and again, he was being invited by a lot of artists to be a guest on their albums and shows. The Eraserheads’ song Super Proxy was one of the most famous of these.

Prime tells us that when the Eraserheads broke up in 2002, FrancisM refused to take sides and continued to collaborate with each of the members individually. After Ely Buendia had a heart attack in 2007, Francis M called for the Eraserheads to come together once more. He believed that the Eraserheads was ‘the most significant OPM band of Pinoy Rock.’

19 years ago, he rapped: ‘All brothers & sisters we are / Let us rectify our error.’ FrancisM. I say he was the most significant one-man band of Pinoy Rap.

He cared. With Ely Buendia, he started the Heartist Foundation, to help Filipino artists with health issues and commercial concerns (Ma Rosanna Mina, abs-cbnnews.com). For the purpose, he had been recording with Buendia and other artists for ‘The Sickos Project.’

FrancisM was ‘the artist that everyone loved,’ says Scared of Revolving Doors (atejada.wordpress.com). If for nothing else, you can’t help but love someone who had struggled with substance abuse; after attending Narcotics Anonymous, he had quit smoking and drinking. He had been sober since 2001 (ANN, manilatimes.net).

He was ‘a passionate father’ (‘Father knows best,’ Alula Love M Dela Cruz, 2008, igma.tv). ‘I maintain a friendship and mutual respect for my children,’ he said, including his adopted Unna and Nicolo. They had maintained close ties with each other, always in touch either through the cell phone or the computer (chat). ‘The closest thing God would be to man would be a parent to his children. Because that is what God has for us – unconditional love.’

Unconditional love? Our usual and immediate response to that is, ‘On one condition ...’ Variations of a theme:

‘I can forgive, but I cannot forget.’
‘I will forgive, but I also will demand justice.’
‘There are 3 dimensions of reconciliation: truth, justice, forgiveness.’
‘How can you love the unlovable?!’

Unconditional love is impossible for many of us, especially those who cry for truth and justice. We equate the life and lyrics of Francis Michael Durango Magalona with a cry for change in high places, but not unconditional love. FrancisM would have been extremely disappointed.

I believe FrancisM deserves a Philippine National Artist Award more than anyone today. Unlike many a nationalist noisy in mouth or in media, FrancisM lived his lines; he acted his art; he worked out what he wrote about. He loved his country; he loved his countrymen; he loved his family – none more than any other. He paid his dues. While the righteous would advocate a running battle, he would counsel reconciliation. While many Filipino politicians are worth their worth in fool’s gold, FrancisM was worth his weight in solid gold.

FrancisM’s body was cremated at dawn today, Wednesday, 11 March in Manila. ‘Papa, I love you,’ said Maxene, his celebrity daughter. ‘I thank you for everything. I thank you for taking care of me and my brothers and sisters, taking care of my mom’ (abs-cbnnews.com).

Senator Loren Legarda says ‘Francis M will live on thru his music’ (07 March, senate.gov.ph). I say FrancisM will live on through his example.

 Photo from FrancisM's blog, francismagalona.multiply.com

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