Filipinos enjoy music and singing. Sometimes it seems that almost everyone can play an instrument or has a good singing voice. It as been said that Filipinos learn to sing before they can talk and dance before they can walk. Some men still woo their lovers by serenading them under the window. Some prisons even have their own house band and produce viral YouTube dance videos. One band at Quezon City jail, whose members change as prisoners are released and new ones come in, even has a recording contract.

Most Filipinos listen to Western pop or Western-influenced Filipino pop. There is little recorded folk music. Indigenous gong and bamboo music, similar to musics found elsewhere in Southeast Asia, has all but disappeared in Manila but can still be found in the countryside, particularly around festival time. Julio Inglesias is popular. Erasurehead is a popular Filipino techno band.

The Beatles played in Manila in 1966 after they toured Japan. In Manila they were held up at the airport by security after they were accused of snubbing President Ferdinand Marcos (See Below). Among the artists that have met with Imelda Marcos are Air Supply, Matt Monro Jr., John Ford Coley and Sir Cliff Richard. The latter did a spontaneous duet over lunch with her. In the Marcos era the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila hosted the Bolshoi Ballet, Frank Sinatra and Placido Domingo.

Light rock and American pop music rules in the Philippines, with rap and hip hop—both American style and home-grown flip flop style—popular with trendy youth. Describing a Filipino band called Smokey Mountain, John Clewey wrote in the Rough Guide to World Music, "impish but safe in trendy denims, they sing in English; the song sounds like a cross between Miss World-type theme tune and east-listening US rock/pop." [Sources: Rough Guide to World Music]

The dominating feature of Filipino culture is Filipino’s love and ability to make music of all types. Music performance begins in the home and at school. Churches are important sources of music with formal choirs and mass participation of congregations. Amateur performances featuring song and dance occur at fiestas. All around the country live bands and professional singers perform in clubs and music halls and on simple stages. Guitars are manufactured for export; folk instruments such as the nose flute also are constructed. [Source:, Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning]

Floyd Whaley wrote in New York Times, “The Philippines has a rich music scene, with bands playing hard rock, reggae, jazz, blues and nearly every other form of music each night in numerous clubs around the country. Musicians in the country, as elsewhere, often dream of writing their own works, signing a deal with a major recording label and achieving fame and fortune. But many of those who do not succeed on that path can still find regular work overseas.” [Source: Floyd Whaley, New York Times, January 31, 2013]

Filipinos like karaoke. Karaoke are found in jeepneys and even on some airlines. According to “83 percent of the Filipino women and 72 percent of the Filipino men dream about becoming a famous singer… well, i just made these statistics up, but the actual numbers are probably not so far away from those fake statistics. Filipinos just love singing, not only in the shower, but also on the streets (I’ve seen it happen countless times), in the living room, alone or with friends or of course in the extended and so frequently happening Karaoke sessions. [Source:, February 7, 2014]

Filipino Artists and Musical Talent

One of the Philippines most highly-regarded Filipino musicians is Freddy Aguilar, a Pinoy folk rocker who had a big abroad hit in 1978 with the ballad “Anak” (“My Child”), which sold four million copies in Europe and produced 54 cover versions in 14 languages. Other musicians in the Pinoy rock movement of the 1970s included Heber Bartolome and the Bayuha, the Asin group, Coritha and Inang Laya.

Some of the best folk music in the Philippines can still be heard at the Hobbit House. Freddie Aguilar still performs there on occasions. In many ways the best way to get a sense of the centrality of music and dance to Philippine culture is to attend a "Barrio Fiesta" celebration at the village level on the day of the annual celebration of the Saint day after which most villages are named. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

The Philippines is home to a number of world-class artists. Leah Salonga won the Lawrence Olivier Award, a Tony, and the Drama Desk Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards for her performance as Kim in “Miss Saigon”. Among the other Filipino musicians of note are Joey Ayala, who composes and plays indigenous Filipino music; Regine Velasquez, Asia’s "Songbird"; and Martin Nievera, the Philippines’ Concert King. Kuh Ledesma. +++

Occasionally, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, show performances by the Ballet Philippines, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and the Bayanihan Dance Troupe. World-renowned artists Lea Salonga and Cecile Licad, from time to time, give performances in big concert halls in Manila. The Center of Arts in San Antonio (CASA) in San Miguel, Zambales features violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata and his Pundaquit talents. Other groups that showcase the Filipino performing talents are Repertory Philippines, the Loboc Children’s Choir, and the Amazing Philippines Theatre. [Source: Philippines Department of Tourism]

Colleges and universities in the Philippines are home to award-wining performance groups that have been recognized internationally for their artistry and excellence in the performing arts: Dulaang UP (student theatre group), the UP Concert Chorus, UP Singing Ambassadors of the University of the Philippines; Ateneo College Glee Club and the Ateneo Chamber Singers of the Ateneo de Manila University; the UST Singers and the Salinggawi Dance Troupe of the University of Santo Tomas.

The Philippine Madrigal Singers bagged the 1997 European Choral Grand Prix, the choral Olympics for the world’s best choirs. The group, being the only Asian choir, bested five regional champions from all over Europe, earning them the title as the "world’s best choir."

Filipino Drums and Traditional Musical Instruments

There are a number of xylophone-like instruments in the Philippines. The bangibang is set of at least seven wooden bars made of hard wood. Each bar has its own pitch and is hit by the player with a short stick of hard wood. Players have one stick each and play their own rhythmic pattern, which fall together ('interlocking'). [Source: ~]

The Dadabuan is an hourglass-shaped drum made of wood with a membrane made water buffalo skin. Decorated with carvings and painted, the drum is part of the Kulintang ensemble. Dimensions: height: 59 centimeters; diameter (membrane): 19 centimeters. The gandang ia cylindrical drum made of wood with a membrane made of water buffalo skin on each side. Decorated with 'okiran' motives and painted, the drum is part of the Kulintang ensemble. ~

Tanggunggu is set of eight small gongs made of iron, usually hanging on a rest of rope. The lower right gong is played as an ostinato while the melody is played on the other gongs, around the ostinato. Tongkaling brass bells are used as an amulet or as a musical instrument. Fourteen brass bells are fixed to a metal girdle. Nine of these bells have a particular design (a tiger's face). The girdle is used during a particular dance. The Agung gong is made of iron. The gong is part of the Kulintang ensemble Dimensions: diameter: 45 centimeters depth: 21 centimeters. ~

The Afiw is a brass instrument horizontally with the metal tongue in front of the opened mouth. The left end is either hit by the thumb of the right hand or plucked. This makes the metal tongue vibrate which causes a sound. The mouth serves as a resonator and by changing the shape and size of the mouth opening, the tones can be changed, thus creating a melody. By strongly breathing in or out the volume can be changed as well. The string is made of wool. Dimensions: length: 11.5 centimeters , width: 1.3 centimeters. ~

The K-hon is big wooden box used as drum with metal strings inside. Depending on where and how you hit it can sound like a bass drum, a snare drum, bongos or congas. The strings, which can be tuned, give it a distinctive sound. It gets its name the Philippine word for box—kahon—which comes from the Spanish “cajon”. The instrument was first created by pair of drummer-carpenters after seeing a Spanish flamenco performer pounding on a box at 2001 performance. The K-hon is regarded as a poor man’s drum kit. One can be purchased for about $50, compared for $500 for drum kit. Among the foreign groups have heard them and been intrigued enough order some are Boyz II Men, the Lotus Eaters and China Crisis.

Bamboo Musical Instruments in the Philippines

Bamboo musical instruments come in all shapes and sizes in the Philippines. The Palipal is a bamboo tube with one end open, cut open in the middle and the upper part cut into two halves. The instrument is played by shaking: one half swings up and down and in the down swing hits the lower half. The Serongagandi is decorated bamboo tube, closed by a node at both ends. Two strings are lifted by bamboo sticks and connected by a wooden bridge (or 'platform'). The bridge is situated over a hole which makes the tube a resonator. [Source: ~]

The Sludoy is tube a zither made of bamboo; five strings cut from the tube; the tube is cut open with one full length crack and held together by bamboo strips at both ends. In this way the tube forms the resonating body of the instrument. Usually a piece of dried leaf is placed in the top end of the tube of which the function is not clear. The Tagutok is decorated bamboo scraper, length: 46 centimeters , diameter: 9 centimeters ~

The Gabbang is xylophone with 17 keys made of bamboo, separated by metal nails. The resonating case is decorated with floral motives. At the sides are two mirrors. The beaters are made of wood with a piece of tube rubber. Dimensions: length: 102 centimeters , width: 51 centimeters height: 37 centimeters. ~

The Balingbing is a bamboo tube, one side closed, two tongues and a crack up to the node and a hole. The instrument is played by beating one of the tongues against the arm or wrist. The sound can be changed by closing and opening the hole. Usually played by at least seven individuals, each with one buzzer. Players play their own rhythmic pattern, all patterns fit together ('interlocking'). Players can form long rows while dancing in an open space (such as a central meadow). Dimensions: vary from 30 to 50 centimeters depending on desired tonal height. ~

The Bansiq is slightly curved bamboo tube, closed on one side by a node and cut off under an angle. On the cut off surface an extra piece of bamboo is tied. Dimensions: length: 31,5 centimeters , diameter: 1,5 centimeters. The Courting flute is short bamboo tube, cut off on the node and closed with a piece of wood. The lower part of the hole is half covered, with a burnt in hole. Dimensions: length: 14,7 centimeters , dimater: 1,6 centimeters The Saunay is a tube with six fingerholes, a mouth piece of bamboo with a cut out reed, a mouth shield made of coconut shell, and a bell made of leaf (probably bamboo) and blue plastic ribbon. ~

Traditional Visaya Musical Instruments

This section focuses on the musical instruments of the Visaya’s but many are also found in other parts of the Philippines with different local names, or in some cases, the same name. There are basically eight kinds of Visayan musical instruments. Four are very quiet instruments and so are played indoors at night time: a small lute, bamboo zither, nose floot, and reed jew’s harp. The other four are very loud, and therefore suitable for war, dancing, and public gatherings: bamboo or seashell bugle, metals gongs, skin-headed drums, and bamboo resonators. [Source:, Barangay: 16th Century Philippine Culture and Society by William Henry Scott, pages 108-109.=]

The kudyapi is a kind of small lute carved out of a single piece of wood with a belly of a half a coconut shell added for resonance, with two or three wire strings plucked with a quill plectrum, and three of four frets, often of metal. The body is called sungar-sungar or burbuwaya; the neck, burubunkun; the strings, dulos; the fretboard, pidya; and the tuning pegs, birik-birik. The scroll is called apil-apil or sayong, the same as the hornlike protrusions at the ends of the ridgepole of a house. The kudyapi is only played by men, mainly to accompany their own love songs. The female equivalent is the korlong, a kind of zither made of a single node of bamboo with strings cut from the skin of the bamboo itself, each raised and tuned on two little bridges, and played with both hands like a harp. A variant form have a row of thinner canes with a string cut from each one. =

Tolali or lantuy is a nose flute with three or four finger holes, and is played in imitation of a mournful human voice with shakes and trills though appropriate to wakes and funerals. Subing is a Jew’s harp—a twanging reed plucked between the lips or teeth with the open mouth as a variable resonating chamber, and since its sound could be shaped into a kind of code words understood only by the player and his sweetheart, it is considered the courting instrument part excellence. Bodyong is a conch shell or section of bamboo played against the lips like a bugle, used as a signal in war or as part of a babaylan’s paraphernalia during a paganito. Babaylan also kept time with tambourines called kalatong, a term which included war drums (gadang or gimbal), with the huge ones that are carried on mangayaw cruisers being fashioned out of hollow tree trunks with a deerskin head. Tibongbong is a node of bamboo pounded on the floor as a rhythm instrument. =

Gongs in the Philippines

The most important instrument at the time the Spanish arrived was the agong, a bronze gong Spanish explorers encountered wherever they went ashore. Pigafetta noted an ensemble in Cebu—a pair suspended and struck alternately, another large one, and two small ones played like cymbals—and in Quipit, three different sizes hanging in the queens quarters. The natives of Sarangani buried theirs in a vain attempt to avoid looting by Villalobos; and thirty Samerenos boarded Legazpi’s flagship in Oras Bay and danced to the rhythm of one, after his blood compact with their chief. Mindanao epics provide a few details of their use. Agong were played either on the edge or on the navel (that is, the center boss or knob), slowly to announce bad news, faster (by the ruling Datu himself) to summon the people. Warships approached the enemy with all gongs sounding. [Source:, Barangay: 16th Century Philippine Culture and Society by William Henry Scott, pages 108-109 =]

Gongs were given a larger vocabulary than any other instrument. Alcina (1668a, 4:129) considered it an evidence of the elegance of the Visayan language that there were special terms “even for the cord with which they fasten and hang it, which it would be improper to apply to anything else.” Munginungan was the boss or teat. A flat gong, or one from which the boss have been worn off by long use, was panas, including the plate like Chinese ones (mangmang). The largest one in an ensemble was ganding. Hototok was to play them on the edge with a simple stick, or sarawisaw if more than one player alternated strokes. Pagdanaw or pagbasal was to strike them on the boss with a padded drumstick called basal. (A governor or chief was also called basal, presumably because of his prerogative of sounding a gong to assemble his people.) Actual bells from Spain or Asia were linganay, and little jingle bells—like those the epic hero Bantungan have on the handle of his kampilan—were golong-golong. =

Chinese gongs were little valued: ones from Sangir were worth three or four times as much, and those from Borneo three or four times that—4 or 5 pesos in 1616. Huge ones said to reach a meter and a half in diameter could fetch one or two slaves. The Bornean gong was a standard of value when bargaining for expensive goods—for example, “Pakaagongonta ining katana [Let’s price this Japanese sword] (Sanchez 1617, 9v). Indeed, assessments like pinipito or pinakapito (both referring to the number seven) were understood by themselves to mean seven gongs. =

Gongs were one of four items—along with gold, porcelain, and slaves—required for any Datu-class dowry, or bride-price, and men mortgaged themselves to borrow one for this purpose. The bargaining between the two families was done with little wooden counters placed on top of a gong turned boss-up on the floor, and the gong itself became the property of the mediating go-between upon the conclusion of a successful settlement. =

Nose Flutes and Other Instruments from Luzon

The traditional nose flute from the island of Luzon is held like a symphony flute but is played with one nostril. The pitung ilong (nose flute in Tagalog), or the kalaleng of the northern Bontok people, is played with the extreme forward edge of the right or left nostril. Because the kalaleng is long and has a narrow internal diameter, it is possible to play different harmonics through overblowing—even with the rather weak airflow from one nostril. Thus, this nose flute can play notes in a range of two and a half octaves. Finger holes in the side of the bamboo tube change the operating length, giving various scales. Players plug the other nostril to increase the force of their breath through the flute. [Source: Wikipedia]

The tongali is a four holed nose flute (one hole in the back) from northern Philippines and played by the Kalinga and other peoples of Luzon. The tongali is made of a long bamboo tubes closed at one end by the node in which the blowing hole is burnt. The flute has three finger holes. The blowing hole is placed under an angle against the nose and the player gently blows into the tube.

The tongali is one of the few nose flutes in the world that is still actively taught, thanks to the work of Jose Maceda at the University of the Philippines and the ongoing effects of the music department of UP Quezon. The tongali is one of numerous traditional instruments that students can study at UP. There are stories from this region that say that the nose flute was used to help rice grow when it was young, as the rice was attracted to the soft sounds of the flute, and would grow to put its ear above the water to hear it better. Gangsa are handmade by the Kalinga tribe of the Northern Philippines (in the Cordillera mountain range) they are used in traditional dances andd used to summon the gods for good fortune. Baliing is a nose flute. [Source:]

Tongatong is a bamboo percussion instrument used by the people of Kalinga to communicate with spirits during house blessings. It is made of bamboo cut in various lengths. When you hit it against soft earth a certain drone reverberates though the instrument's open mouth. When an entire set of Tongatong is played in interloping rhythm and prolonged with the tribal chanting, it could put the audience and the dancers in a trance. Diwdiw-as is one of he Cordillera instrument.It is 5 or more different size of slender bamboo that is tied together. Saggeypo is a Stopped pipes found in northern Philippines are the saggeypo (Kalinga) and the sagayop (Bontok). The bamboo pipe is closed on one end by a node with the open end held against the lower lip of the player as he blows directly across the top. The pipe can be played individually by one person or in ensembles of three or more. [Ibid]

Traditional Music of the Philippines

Ingo Stoevesandt wrote in in his blog on music in Southeast Asia:“Speaking about traditional Philippine music, most people think of the Kulintang, an instrument similar to the gamelans played in Indonesia. It is an interesting fact that the Spanish missionaries were the first ones who tried to describe the music of the local Filipino people in letters and travelogs. It is not more than 50 years ago that serious scientific research for the indigenous music of the 7000 islands started. As many of the ethnic tribes still remain unresearched we have to admit that the state of research on this topic still is young. [Source: Ingo Stoevesandt ]

Looking at the gong sets and ensembles of gangsa in the Cordilleres, we are reminded of Vietnam and Indonesia. Even the famous kulintang seems to reflect many traditions of Gamelan ancestors in Indonesia, China and Vietnam. The vocal traditions stand a little outside. Like in every country we find the most “indigenous” aspects in the pieces sung solo or with an instrument. Separations from north to south show two different styles: The northern style uses a special rhythmical pronunciation of vowels and expressive pauses. In the southern style we find melisma, tremoli and long melodic phrases reminding of the Islam singing style. Some vocal genres reflect a significant form of music for an ethnicity, like the Marano bayok which is a kind of creating language out of music, or the epics stand for one local group like the Marano “Darangen”.

Spanish Influence on Filipino Music

Ingo Stoevesandt wrote in in his blog on music in Southeast Asia: “It was in 1521 when the first Spanish missionaries arrived. Only few decades later, around 1600, churches and schools have been installed and the secular musical tradition of Spain was taught. We can assume that mainly only such music was taught as it was used in the Christian liturgia, for example the Gregorian solo chant and the first roots of polyphony from the canto organo and gymel. [Source: Ingo Stoevesandt ]

The instrumental praxis joined the indigenous one, so that there was no problem to establish for example an early form of the viola da gamba or the Spanish guitar. The Spanish priests have mostly been satisfied by the fastly growing skills of the Filipino people. On the other side the indigenous sources were soon mixed with Christian habits and divine rituals nowadays know both saints, holy mother Maria as indigenous demons and angels, for example in the kagong ritual in Banaan.

The life and suffering of Jesus Christ is replayed in many songs and processions called senaculo. These processions are another location for the interaction between Spanish/Catholic and indigenous habits, even in music. As Professor Corazon Canave-Dioquino points out in her article: “The welding of folk traditions and practices into Catholic rituals and celebrations continued. This gave rise to many extra-liturgical music genres, many of which were connected to the church calendar year. Some of these include the Christmas carols and the more elaborate outdoor-re-enactment of the Holy Couple's search for lodging called the pananawagan, panunuluyan, or kagharong.”

During Spanish occupation most of the music was joined in the major cities of Luzon or Manila, but it spread out over the islands until today. Nowadays we find nearly every kind of medieval European folk or dance music and its ensembles, for example the rondalla with its plucked string instruments playing dance pieces like the Polish polka, which tries to imitate the murzas. Starting after 1898, the Filipino music faced another impact by Western music, this time coming from the American neoclassicism. First attempts to compose for the Western symphonic orchestra were made in the 1930s or even earlier. This was accompanied by a reinstallation of the village band in the semiclassical music which was successful even in times of radio and television.

Filipino Bands Abroad

Filipino musicians and bands famous are around the world. It is hard to find a country that doesn't have a Filipino band doing covers of Western standards and fashionable pop songs of the moment in the hotel bar or nightclub. Throughout Asia— particularly Southeast Asia—one will find Filipino artists making music in hotels, jazz clubs, at concerts and churches, and leading singing in karaoke clubs and bars. The tradition goes back a long time. Filipino bands entertained guests on verandas at official dinners throughout colonial Asia in the 1920s and 30s.

Filipino musicians can do credible imitations of American rhythm and blues and country singers and musicians . They are such good imitators they have a phrase for it: “plakang-plaka” , or “sounds just like the recording.”

Filipino musicians are common sights at hotel bars across Asia. One musicians who worked in Japan, Guam and Saipan settled in Beijing, where he gets $1,000 a month plus food and lodging at the hotel where he works. Describing a group at the Jungle Bar in Bangkok, a reporter for the Thai newspaper the Nation wrote: “A silk viced Philippine crooner fronting a four-piece band, is doing covers such as the Eagles’ “Hotel California”, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. The renditions are invariably pitch perfect, interspersed with jokes and inducements to drink up, and are almost always well received by the audience.”

A recommendation for Strumm's sports bar in Singapore in Virtual Tourist goes: “Strumm's has a very good filipino live band that play from Tuesday till Sunday. They typically play from 7 pm till 4 am. The bartenders, and waitresses are friendly, all filipino's, and very helpful. The only bad thing is that the beers are a little warm and cost around S$38. The bar has a dj and dance floor for when the band is not playing and on the weends (which start on a thursday) the place gets really full with patrons. So wear your dancing shoes, bring your rythym, and enjoy a good night in Strumm's.

Filipino Entertainers Abroad

Floyd Whaley wrote in New York Times, “Thousands of musicians from the Philippines who are prominent in bars, lounges and clubs around Asia and the Middle East. In 2002 alone, more than 40,000 entertainers left the Philippines to work overseas, primarily in Japan. Musicians, can make as much as $2,000 a month working in five-star hotels, or $800 to $1,500 a month working on a cruise ship, according to performers and government officials. But they are also vulnerable to exploitation, said, and some earn $400 per month.[Source: Floyd Whaley, New York Times, January 31, 2013 ^*^]

“After allegations of prostitution among some entertainers, however, the Japanese government found that many of the female musicians could not actually play a musical instrument, and that many of the vocalists did not have much of a voice. After the crackdown, the number of performers who left the Philippines to work overseas dropped to 4,050 in 2006, from 43,818 in 2004. The figure now hovers around 1,500 to 2,000 a year, government statistics show, with Japan remaining the top destination, followed by Malaysia, South Korea and China. ^*^

“In the past, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration held auditions to verify the legitimacy of musicians seeking to work overseas, said Celso J. Hernandez, the head of the agency’s operations and surveillance division. After the Japanese crackdown, however, the Philippine government discontinued the practice. These days, the government relies on vetting by licensed recruitment agencies, although it still examines the musicians’ paperwork.“We only allow musicians and entertainers to work in legitimate establishments such as cruise ships and major hotels,” said Yolanda E. Paragua, a senior official with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. “Not in honky-tonk type places.” ^*^

Life of a Overseas Filipino Musician

Floyd Whaley wrote in New York Times, “For more than 30 years, Josetoni Tonnette Acaylar has been singing and playing the piano throughout Asia. He has provided relaxing background music and taken requests for pop and jazz standards in more five-star hotel lobbies and smoky lounges than he can recall, in Brunei, China, Dubai, Hong Kong and other locales. In one job in Japan, he was told to take off his tuxedo and work in the kitchen, washing dishes and scrubbing floors. “Sometimes they would pull me out of the kitchen, give me a jacket and yell, ‘Play the piano!’ and I would have to perform,” Mr. Acaylar recalled with a laugh. [Source: Floyd Whaley, New York Times, January 31, 2013 ^*^]

“Domingo Mercado Jr., who goes by the stage name Jojo, wrote and performed original music when he left high school, as part of a nine-piece band called Music and Imagination. Some of his friends have had a taste of fame, but he went in another direction. “I resigned from the band and took a job in Korea,” said Mr. Mercado, 45. “I gave up on my dream.” Mr. Mercado has performed across Asia as a singer and guitarist since 1994. He recently returned from a six-month job on a cruise ship.^*^

“Although singers and musicians from the Philippines can be found performing in many hotel lounges around Asia, the field is actually quite specialized and highly competitive. “A hotel might need many waiters, cooks and housekeepers,” Mr. Hernandez of the overseas employment agency said. “But they only need one or two musicians.” However musicians from the Philippines are in demand, said Maria Victoria Kinpanar, a booking agent. ^*^

“But she noted that the improved economy in the Philippines had created some lucrative options for musicians who wanted to stay or return home. “Overseas work is short-term contract work. It’s not stable,” Ms. Kinpanar said. “Some high-quality musicians are now able to find long-term work here in the Philippines.” Indeed, after spending 30 years working across Asia, Mr. Acaylar now has a regular job playing the piano in the lounge of the Hyatt Hotel & Casino in Manila. But he is still uncomfortable with the suggestion that he is a traveling lounge musician. “I don’t categorize myself as a lounge singer or lobby pianist,” he said. “That requires formal training. I just play the piano and sing songs.” ^*^

Filipino Pop Making Waves in Singapore

Eddino Abdul Hadi and Cara Van Miriah wrote in the Straits Times: Most Singaporeans may not understand Tagalog, but they enjoy good music and have been snapping up Filipino CD albums Sunday evenings are hardly a popular time slot for clubbing. But pop down to The Arena Live at Clarke Quay and you will find the nightspot is often packed to the brim. Up to 1,000 partygoers are there weekly to catch Filipino bands such as Bamboo and Kamikazee. [Source: Eddino Abdul Hadi, Cara Van Miriah, Straits Times, October 23, 2008 |::|]

“And forget those old-fashioned house bands specialising in covers of Top 40 hits. These musicians are a new generation of popular artists, playing mostly original tunes, who fly here especially to hold concerts. These popular Filipino artists are gigging in Singapore with increasing frequency. This Sunday, jazz-lite singer Aiza Seguerra and alternative band Parokya ni Edgar are playing in two separate shows. And it is not just the expatriate crowds grooving to the music. At Da Endorphine's concert, half the audience were Singaporeans, says Club Nana's operator Mr John Lee. |::|

“Arena entertainment director Freddy Dodwell says the demand at The Arena Live is fuelled by the 'larger professional Filipino community here in Singapore - the engineers, computer programmers, nurses and doctors'. Mr Dean Augustin, sales and marketing manager for S2S, the label that distributes Filipino artists Seguerra and Lani Misalucha, agrees that Filipino music is getting bigger here, thanks to the increase in the number of white-collar Filipino workers. 'Due to their awareness and income, they are more pro-active with their support of the Filipino music,' he says. |::|

“The increased demand for contemporary Filipino music can be seen in the healthy album sales figures. Seguerra's CD, Open Arms, went gold in Singapore after selling 9,000 copies in a few months. Fellow countryman Lani Mislucha has sold 3,000 copies of her new album, Reminisce. In comparison, an international star such as Kylie Minogue sold 10,000 copies of her latest album. A popular home-grown artist such as Taufik Batisah can sell up to 36,000 copies. |::|

“Mr Colin Yam, merchandising manager of Sembawang Music Centre, says interest in Filipino music is certainly growing. 'We see a decent number of Filipino artists and compilations doing well in our charts, for example, Aiza Seguerra and Eric Guansing, who is also Filipino. He says their chain of music stores is stocking an estimated 15 to 20 per cent more Filipino CDs in the last five years and more Singaporeans are picking them up. Filipino bands are also making their presence on television. A spokesman for Channel (V), which is shown here on cable, says the channel is featuring about 200 per cent more Filipino bands compared to 10 years ago. These acts appear on their televised programmes and an online platform, AMP, for regional talents to upload and share their music. The station has flown in Filipino bands like Rivermaya to perform at their events here and used their music for television trailers. |::|

“One Filipino singer, Joyce Suraya Alberto, has even decided to base her singing career here. A permanent resident, she has been singing in Singapore for over a decade and recently released her debut album comprising original jazz pop tunes in Tagalog, English and Malay. It is currently only available here and has sold almost 1,000 copies. 'My music career, my future is here in Singapore,' the 40-year-old tells Life!. She estimates that 60 per cent of the shows that she plays here are for locals, while the rest are for the Filipino expat community. |::|

“Filipinos here are also keen on introducing their local friends to their music. Ms Barbara Gonzales, a 33-year-old account manager and a permanent resident, says these newer acts from the Philippines are of international standards. 'Their music is universal. Any person of any culture in any country can relate and appreciate these original Filipino songs.' The artists themselves are understandably chuffed that they getting more support here.

“Seguerra, 23, says of her local sales success: 'This is my first time doing an international album and I wasn't expecting that it would turn gold in such a short time. I hope more Filipino artists can penetrate the international market.' These artists have become a gateway for Singapore music fans to discover other acts in the Filipino scene. Take, for example, 19-year-old student Sharifah Nursakinah Syed Isha, a fan of Alberto's music. She says: 'Joyce's music exposes her fans to an entirely new musical experience. I have never heard Filipino music before and from what I've heard from her, it's really good.' |::|

Beatles Fiasco in Manila

The Beatles played in Manila in 1966 after they toured Japan. In Manila they were held up at the airport by security after they were accused of snubbing President Ferdinand Marcos. Danee Samonte wrote on “On July 4, 1966, The Beatles performed two concerts at the Rizal Memorial stadium to at least 100,000 lucky Pinoys. I was there but outside the stadium grounds because I couldn’t afford the P20 entrance to the concert. I contented myself with the faint inaudible sound of The Beatles drowned by hysterical screams of the fans. During that concert, The Beatles only performed 10 songs. Their set was less than 30 minutes. The opening acts that included the Reycards, Lemons 3, Aldeguer Dancers, Pilita Corrales and the Downbeats with Pepe Smith performed four times longer than The Beatles. [Source: Danee Samonte, October 9, 2011 \=]

“Unbeknownst to The Beatles, the concert promoter Ramon Ramos committed to the Marcos family that they would eat lunch at Malacañang Palace (the official residence of the current Philippine President) as special guests of the first family. Because the arrangement wasn’t made with Brian Epstein, The Beatles weren’t able to attend to the disappointment of not only the First Family but also the cabinet secretaries, senators, congressmen and VIPs who were there to welcome them. Apparently, The Beatles spent the afternoon leisurely boating in Manila Bay (back then, Manila Bay was pleasantly pollution-free and clear of human waste). Brian found out about it and attempted damage control but alas, the hurt has been done. \=\

“The two concerts the next day at the Rizal Memorial Stadium were staged successfully and without incident, but the following day when they were on the way to the airport all hell broke loose. Their security escort was gone, The Beatles had to carry their own gear and take a taxicab. All courtesies and VIP privileges were removed. Upon reaching the airport, no porters helped, the escalators were turned off so they had to lug their baggage up two flights of stairs where an angry crowd mobbed the entourage causing injury. To make matters worse, their flight got delayed due to customs officials and airport personnel hassling them. When The Beatles were finally allowed to leave, they swore never to return to the Philippines, which is a vow they have kept.” \=\

Imelda Marcos and Beatles Fiasco in Manila

Danee Samonte wrote on ““Being a big Beatle fan I have always wondered what the real score was. Was Mrs. Marcos really behind the unwelcome treatment the Beatles were given upon departure as alleged by most books and Beatle historians? Although Mrs. Marcos is a personal friend I never had the guts to ask her about the real score with The Beatles. Over special sushi, I mustered all my guts and asked Mrs. Marcos the big question that has put me in quandary for decades: Did she have anything to do with The Beatles manhandling issue? [Source: Danee Samonte, October 9, 2011 \=]

Imelda said, “Being a big fan of The Beatles, I made representation with the Philippine promoter to invite them to lunch at Malacañang Palace so that I can personally welcome them to our country together with my family and friends who are also big fans. Honestly, I was disappointed with their non-appearance but later understood that there was a miscommunication and bore no grudges. When I heard they were being manhandled at the airport on their departure, I immediately ran to the airport to have it stopped. I remember reprimanding the airport manager Mr. Willy Jurado. I would never dream of hurting the world’s No. 1 band. Whatever motivated the people to treat them that way was not my doing. They could have done it out of sympathy and I think it was wrong. I abhor violence.” \=\

Young Christians in Philippines Protest against Lady Gaga

In May 2012, young Christians in the Philippines protested against concerts by Lady Gaga despite organizers' assurances that her performances would not threaten morality. Associated Press reported: “About 200 Christian youths marched in Manila for a second straight day, holding placards urging the pop singer to "respect our faith, stop the blasphemy." The Biblemode Youth Philippines members plan to hold a vigil starting Sunday near the concert venue. They said they are offended by Lady Gaga's music, particularly her song "Judas," which they said mocks Jesus Christ. [Source: Associated Press, May 19, 2012 ^\^]

“Authorities in the conservative, majority Roman Catholic country approved the concerts, but said they won't allow nudity or lewd acts. Sold-out crowds and angry protests have followed Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" Asian tour. Riot police stopped marchers about a kilometer away from the concert venue. Phalanxes of security guards stood on alert in front of the arena. "She declared a distorted view toward Jesus Christ and for us Biblical Christians it is offensive," said Ruben Abante, a protest leader. "Her music and everything about her is different from what our values are." ^\^

“Organizers from Ovation Productions said they respect the beliefs of critics but promised that the performances "will not pose a threat to their sense of morality and conduct." Under Philippine law, people who offend race or religion can be sentenced to up to six years in prison, although no one has been convicted recently. Fans younger than 18 were banned from concerts in South Korea over complaints her lyrics and costumes were too provocative, and she was denied a concert permit in Indonesia by police under pressure from Islamic hard-liners.” ^\^

Filipina Caregiver Wins Israel’s ‘X-factor’

In January 2014, the Times of Israel reported: “Rose Fostanes, a diminutive 47-year-old Filipina caregiver, has emerged as the newest star of Israeli reality television, winning the singing competition “X-Factor Israel” on Tuesday and establishing herself as something of a national phenomenon. In an upset victory, Fostanes beat out three other finalists by performing crowd-pleasing renditions of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” and “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. [Source: Times of Israel and AP, January 14, 2014 ]

“Fostanes arrived in Israel six years ago to work as a caregiver so, like millions of other Filipino workers around the world, she could send money back home to her family and her girlfriend. “It’s a big change in my life because before nobody recognized me, nobody knew me. But now everybody, I think everybody in Israel knows my name. And it is very funny,” she said in an interview with AP last week. Fostanes spends her days caring and cleaning for an ailing woman in her 50s. To save money, she lives in a crowded apartment in south Tel Aviv, a downtrodden area inhabited by foreign laborers, with seven others.

“Several months ago, a friend encouraged her to enter the “X-Factor” competition, a popular show hosted by Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli. Standing just 1.50 meters-tall (4-foot-11), Fostanes has captured her audiences’ hearts with a surprisingly strong and soulful voice, belting out such hits as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Lady Gaga’s “You and I.” Israeli singer Shiri Maimon, a judge on the show and former reality TV contestant herself, has served as Fontanes’ “mentor” throughout the season.”

Dancing Inmates In Philippines Get Their Own Movie

In 2007, a video of 1,500 criminals—dressed in orange prison uniforms— doing the dance sequence from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller in a prison courtyard went viral. As of 2013 the video had received over 52million hits; the prison where the video was shot attracted thousands of tourists every week; and prisoners were the subject of a Hollywood film.

Teresa Cerojano of Associated Press wrote: “Six years and 52 million YouTube hits later, Filipino inmates who danced to "Thriller" inside a prison courtyard are getting their stories told in a movie drama about redemption and corruption behind bars. "Dance of the Steel Bars" was shot in the Cebu provincial prison, the same place where up to 1,500 inmates dressed in orange uniforms danced to global fame in 2007. Their choreographed act still attracts thousands of tourists who troop to the prison to watch the performance, which recently included "Gangnam Style." Some of the dancing inmates appear in the movie too. [Source: Teresa Cerojano, Associated Press, April 3, 2013]

It stars Irish actor Patrick Bergin, who played Julia Roberts' husband in "Sleeping With the Enemy," and Filipino heartthrob Dingdong Dantes. The Dubai-based producer, Portfolio Films International, said the story follows Bergin's character, Frank Parish, a retired U.S. firefighter and philanthropist wrongly jailed for murder in the Philippines. He befriends Mando, played by 32-year-old Dantes, a convicted murderer who denies his passion for dancing to prove his masculinity. Another character, Allona, played by Joey Paras, is a transsexual who teaches dance to his fellow inmates to contribute to prison reforms. They are caught up in a struggle between the positive changes being implemented by the new jail warden and a corrupt prison system.

Marnie Manicad, who co-directed the movie with television reporter Cesar Apolinario, said that the story is fictional but inspired by real stories of the inmates. "We made this film to tell the story of redemption, and of the human spirit's ability to change for the better," she said. Shooting inside the actual prison, with dance sequences of the inmates included, presented a unique challenge, Manicad said. But she praised the inmates for their discipline and self-respect. The prison scenes were shot over a week in 2010, and the entire production took about three years.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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