Americans refer to the Day the Music Died as the day that young and promising musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Booper J.P. Richardson's died from a tragic plane crash on February 3, 1965. This is largely due to Don McLean's popular hit, American Pie. Now many ask themselves why McLean came to that conclusion, he did admit to the reference, but never explained himself, prefering to let the listening public decide for themselves why it was the Day the Music Died. Regardless, it was a much-loved song and the reference was considered Gospel.
March 6 was perhaps what many Filipinos would consider as the local version of The Day the Music Died. Of course, the 6th of March did not include a plane crash, nor did it include more than one person, and this person was certainly not young, but he always showed promise. It was tragedy nonetheless, as Francis Magalona, The Man from Manila, succumbed to the complications brought about by Leukemia at March 6, 2009.
I would argue however, that characterizing Magalona's death as a day that Filipino music passed away would be more apt, partly of course as to avoid the risk of betraying other legends such as the Apo Hiking Society, Jet Pangan and the Dawn, the Eraserheads, Hotdog, VST & Co. or even Gary V. Still, the legacy that Magalona left not just to Philippine Rap and Hip Hop, but the music scene in general, is undeniable. It wasn't just about catchy beats and socially relevant lyrics, there was an idea there, an idea that hopefully will be carried by other artists now that the Filipino Master Rapper is finally resting in peace.
Magalona was a firm advocate of patriotism that few might find questionable. His medium was very western (rap and hip hop), and most of his verses and rhymes were in the country's adopted language– English. But that's perhaps what makes his ideals and vocation great. FrancisM thought us to love what is Pinoy, a word that in itself , was a hodgepodge of many faces, races, colors, hues, voices and choices. The pretentious historical elitist or Ye Olde Internet Troll would argue that this was nothing more than an image, a facade to sell colonial mentality under the guise of patriotism. Nay, I say, as behind the words, the music, and the imagery was more than just a Marketing strategy, it was an Idea, and idea that I believe captures what patriotism really is, at least in the Philippine context and in my humble opinion.
Despite the very Americanized medium, what was evident in his songs and lyrics is the Filipino flavor. No, it did not have the Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio vibe, an antiquated idea of the Filipino identity (though important to remember) but the contemporary vernacular that majority of his listeners are familiar with. It wasn't about loving what is just natively Filipino (hard as though to differentiate that from the many assimilations that the culture has undergone) but everything we see, past and present. The message was not to be tied down by the historical nuances, the zealous hypernationalist sentiment that bordered on xenophobia, nor was it the backwards bariotic approach of Philippine high art. Rather, it spoke of what is in front of us right now. It told us that this is the modern Pilipinas, that despite the diversity and borrowed colloquialisms, the spirit is still distinctively rooted to this country and its people.
Was he a hero? Certainly not. He was a man with an idea, and a good one at that. Are we overrating him now cause he recently passed away? There's a danger of going down that path, but let the would-be afficionados talk, let them debate and argue. At the end of the day, this Man from Manila, with his music, his beliefs, his life, will always remind me that patriotism is about loving your home in totallity, for what it was, is and will be. That while the Philippines is indeed a melting pot of many cultures, subcultures and demographics, we are all represented under the banner of 3 Stars and a Sun.
Goodnight music man, may your music and ideals live on forever.