BUWAN ng Wikang Pambansa was celebrated in August 2021 with the theme “Filipino at mga Wikang Katutubo sa Dekolonisasyon ng Pag-iisip ng mga Pilipino.” Most of the activities held in the Philippines were virtual led by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) and the Department of Education (DepEd). KWF named this year’s Dangal ng Panitikan: Ferdinand P. Aguilar, Eugene Y. Evasco and Domingo G. Landicho. PhilPop and OPM organized the Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino Night that featured among others Ferdinand Aragon and reon.

We put together a virtual gig, “Saulog Wika” on August 29 where we had three artists from different countries performing their original materials in their native tongues. These were: Rene Tinapay, Sydney, Australia, Manny Lapingcao, Lapulapu City, Philippines and Rolly Wagas, California, USA. In New Zealand, I acted as the host in the B Orig FB Live show.

Tinapay together with Ching de la Serna were the main performers of the first folk house in Cebu – Sarva. Lapingcao is a pioneering indie artist behind the folk-rock classic, “Estudyante o Estambay” and many hymns for the Sto Niño. Wagas was a regular performer in protest rallies in the 80s and 90s and continues to produce original Bisaya folk-rock songs.

The three agreed that folk music (as defined in the songs of Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, James Taylor, etc) as a genre remains relevant today. While it has simple melodies, it is heartfelt and carries messages relevant to individuals and the society. Lapingcao said that while the Philippines has its indigenous folk music, it is dying as radio stations do not provide airtime.

I did the first set with “Baleleng,” “Bugsay Tatay Bugsay” and “Awit sa Gugma”. I chose “Bugsay” as a tribute to my grandfather, Santiago Batulan, a fisherman, while “Awit sa Gugma” was aired at Johnny Kawa’s Y101 during the New Cebu Music era. Tinapay had his take of Florante’s “Ako’y Pinoy” and rendered his original compositions, “Nasa Puso Na Kita” and “Ala-ala ng Kahapon.” He said that it was in his later years that he wrote songs as he was contracted to sing covers to please customers in places he performed. He commended Lapingcao, who was his contemporary, for sticking to his guns and insisting on singing some of his original materials.

Wagas continues to pursue music as a livelihood in the US where he is in demand in parties and events organized by Filipinos in California. He performed “Bayani Ka” and “Bato” from his new album and “Sugbo,” a song about longing of going back to one’s roots. Lapingcao closed the gig with two of his classic folk-rock compositions, “Gingharian sa Buta” and “Tapak-tapak nga Pangandoy,” and his most popular hymn, “Santo Niño, Gugma Ko.”

The artists requested the public to support their music through the different platforms available. This way they can continue to make music in the language closest to their hearts.