What I Admire Most About Francis Magalona
Francis Magalona is one of the most significant figures in Philippine pop culture, and it is only fitting that his fans pay tribute to the Master Rapper. I am one of them, but as a professional writer and blogger, whose works have appeared here, abroad and online, it behooves me to craft an article that will forever remain timeless. This new special feature is that article of enduring value
What I Admire Most About Francis Magalona
By Jonathan Aquino
I believe in freedom of expression and individual will. But at the same time, I have always believed that influence is a responsibility. It is right to use your influence for a higher purpose, and it is wrong to do the opposite – it is as simple as that, and the essence of simplicity is truth.
Francis Magalona, the Father of Philippine Rap – first, greatest, forever unequaled – was also one of the best songwriters in the history of local music. This is no exaggeration and it is patently obvious: most of his songs are already certified classics even during his lifetime.
I admire him deeply for wielding his fame to inspire a generation to appreciate and embrace our national identity, and to take pride in that heritage.
Rose to Stardom
Francis Durango Magalona was born on Oct. 4, 1964, the youngest son of film icons Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran. The artist in him emerged early: he was doing graphic designs for a magazine before he, as it was his genetic destiny, entered the glittering world of show business.
He rose to stardom in Bagets 2, the 1984 teeny-bopper blockbuster movie that also launched the careers of Ramon Christopher and the late Jon Hernandez. He went on to tackle comedies and dramas, even working the late National Artist For Film Lino Brocka.
Made His Mark
But it was rap music that he made his mark. My favorite Francis M. song in Filipino is Ito Ang Gusto Ko (This Is What I Like). The opening lines alone serve as a testament to the greatness of his spirit:
“Mabuhay nang maayos at lubos! Magbigay sa kapwa, magmahal ng
! Gusto kong tikman ang sarap ng buhay! Hawakan ang bukas sa ’king mga kamay! (To live right and fully! To give to others, to love sincerely! I want to taste the sweetness of life! To hold tomorrow in the palm of my hands!)” taos
An equally significant songwriting masterpiece is his greatest hit, Mga Kababayan Ko (My Countrymen): “Dapat lang malaman n’yo: ako ay Pilipino; kung may itim o may puti, mayro’n naming kayumanggi; isipin mo na kaya mong abutin ang ’yong minimithi (You should know: I am Filipino; if there is black or there is white, there’s also brown skin; think that you can reach for what you’re wishing).”
I remember watching him perform this live at the
V. concert Major Impact at the supreme height of his phenomenal career. This was the start of the 1990s, and I was one of the millions of kids who found him really cool – and I always wear batik shirts back then. Gary
I learned to appreciate alternative Filipino rock music in the mid-90s, listening to the now-defunct radio station LA 105, digging the music of Joey Ayala, Lolita Carbon, Jess Santiago, Heber Bartolome – and the Master Rapper’s headbanging revival of his classic Tayo’y Mga Pinoy (We’re Filipinos).
His sense of social awareness is his trademark as a songwriter. He tells of a young girl named Pamela who went astray in Nilamon Ng Sistema (Swallowed By The System), and his BasuRAP became the unofficial anthem of the environmentalist vanguard EarthSavers Movement, to which he was a spokesman.
No To Drugs
The T-shirts he designed reflected his love of country. The name of his boutique, Three Stars And A Sun (G/F, Broadway Centrum) – taken from his monster single Man From Manila – says it all.
I salute him for his anti-drugs advocacy through his song Mga Praning (Paranoids). One by one, he reveals the systematic downfall of a half-dozen people from various social strata – a web of lives shattered by methamphetamines – then he shows the irony that all these could have been prevented just by saying No to drugs.
“To His Will”
I don’t get to watch TV that often, but I knew that Francis was part of Eat Bulaga!, the longest-running show in the history of Philippine TV, alongside the legendary trio of Tito, Vic & Joey. I also heard that he was supposed to appear at the now historic Eraserheads reunion concert at the Mall of Asia grounds last March 7; and I was one of those who – believing that his leukemia was in remission – was shocked to hear of his sudden death.
“Cancer isn’t about death. It’s about LIFE. And today I celebrate that life,” he posted on his A Free Mind blog on Sept. 25, 2008. His last entry was Jan. 14, 2009: “Your prayers, as always, have sustained me. And am sure the Lord will listen to all our prayers. To His will I submit myself.”
“God bless you, my friend.”
Francis Magalona died on March 6, 2006, after 4 chemotherapy sessions and 8 months of treatment – but before his doctor could begin the stem cell transplant operation that would finally cure him.
His ashes were interred at the
Loyola Memorial Park in ; and as a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps of the AFP, he was given military honors. Marikina
Francis Magalona has left a void in Philippine music with no heir apparent even in the distant horizon – and a musical legacy that celebrates our Filipino consciousness, our inherent potential for good, and our common humanity. “Every color, every hue,” he sings in Kaleidoscope World, “is represented by me and you…”