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KOLATERAL: Hip Hop as a Voice and a Weapon

KOLATERAL echoes the grievance that not everyone knows. Every contraction of voices Sandata has put into the songs signifies the hate and dismay of people towards the system from the view of its victims’ eyes.

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Official Album Art of KOLATERAL

DISCLAIMER: This article may contain graphic depictions of violence as this tackles the drug war in the Philippines. The album contains explicit content.

Various Filipino artists, twelve tracks, one community.

KOLATERAL is a digitally-released album produced by Sandata, a hip-hop group comprised of various Filipino rappers who opt to open the eyes of every Filipino to the realities of the drug war in the country. It showcases factual narratives of the drug war from the front lines backed by real data that is a product of two-years of actual research. The album united artists such as BLKD, Calix and etc. who sang about the current administration’s drug war, also known as Oplan Tokhang, influenced by the thousand stories of its victims and from gathered media reports and interviews from affected communities. 

KOLATERAL echoes the grievance that not everyone knows. Every contraction of voices Sandata has put into the songs signifies the hate and dismay of people towards the system from the view of its victims’ eyes. The illustrative innuendos of gunshots and wailings bring a vivid image of such scenarios. The same pair of eyes piercing through the darkness, waiting for another target to pass by, and the same heart-wrenching voice heard after the gunshots.

Makinarya

Bala ang batas, bala ang pitaka

Bala ang balitang ‘di makilala

Ito’y digma at ito ang pasinaya:

Mga anak, kayo ang makinarya

Makinarya projects President Duterte as the “father” of law enforcers and personnel as part of the system of killing in the name of “peace and order” the drug war is supposed to entail. It also showed how the administration goes about its propaganda to dehumanize the victims in order to desensitize the masses from retaliating against blatant human rights violations.

It also showed how the whole system of the drug war lacks due process as described by the lyrics, “ang aking salita ang siyang magiging armas; ang aking salita ang siyang magiging batas.

Boy

Boy explicates how poverty is the main cause of crime in society, especially on marginalized communities where “big guys with black face masks” roam and exploit the youth to do their dirty work. It also illustrates the fear and question of teens who, instead of peacefully roaming around playing basketball with their friends are now filled with fear. They are mostly on the lower sector of the society and the ones who lack information regarding Oplan Tokhang.

Being in such a situation results for these individuals to question the things they cannot understand and are not taught. They just end up fearing the unknown and taking preventive measures. 

Distansya

Anak, andyan ka pa ba? ‘Wag mo please sabihin na wala ka na.” 

Distansya, evident from its title, shares the story of an OFW who suffers maltreatment but is still dedicated to working for her child’s education. It is narrated through the lens of a single mother, in the form of a call, who checks up on her child from time to time back in the Philippines, making sure that they are reaping the crop in which she sows abroad.

This track shows the irony of the government’s praising of OFWs as the “modern heroes” but cannot give preventive measures, adequate support for such cases.

Papag

Pulang mantsa na alaala ng aking itay.” 

Papag started by explicating the story of an ordinary Filipino family living in the slums. It described society as having sharp and pointy nails that scratch the poor even lower in the system. It also showed how there is no place for mistakes, there are no second chances for the poor; once you make one, you’re considered as dead.

Papag also tackled child prostitution, maltreatment of hired workers, and a narrative of a child tasked to clean the blood of his father on the floor. It leaves its listeners in disarray after listening to a child’s voice at the end of the song.

Giyera Na Bulag

Isang turo, limang libo iyong ulo ay numero sa padamihan ng mapapatay.”

The track haunts its listeners with the whispers and voices of different individuals, pleading to be treated as human beings. They share their sentiments about the killings—that they are killed not because they are caught in the act, but because their names are written on a piece of paper without having any further proof. The song also questions why lives are killed when instead, people can be jailed and rehabilitated. 

Hawak

“Sa pagputok ay ninakaw ka nila.” 

Holding your partner’s hand until the end while witnessing them laid to rest would truly be the most painful scene one could not bear to see. The song is not asking and is not angry. It tries to peacefully share the pain of both the couple from childhood until death. 

Pagsusuma

Maraming nagkawatak-watak mga anak na walang patnubay. Kaya ‘di lang mga pinapatay ang inagawan ng buhay.” 

Opening with a “news story”, Pagsusuma starts to talk about the operations around Metro Manila, Quezon City, and other places. It mostly focuses on the total number of victims revealing the inhumanity in the drug war. It also talks about how the drug war greatly affects the lives of the victims’ family members. It also emphasized that the value of life is neglected in the action.

Neo-Manila

“Pinapalitan kada bungo, ilang libong pisong madugo? Buhay na buhay mga tropang hanapbuhay magnakaw ng buhay.”

Opening with Duterte’s words, the track sets in the nighttime where certain individuals loom in the shadows, lingering to kill its prey. It also talked about the absence of safety and security in a place that allows these people to multiply the number of corpses in several occasions. 

Parasitikong Abusado

“Sino-sino pang mananagot sa inyo?”

An enraged song, Parasitikong Abusado depicts the irregularities and injustice during the drug war. It also talks about money that played a huge role as it has been the root of all the abuses that have happened.

Walang Maiiwan

“Nakatayo kami’t nanawagan, buong komunidad nanawagan.

Pagka’t kung tanikala lang ang mawawala, oras nang lumaban!”

An empowering track, it gives the point-of-view of poverty-stricken individuals especially the family of the victims who have suffered and bereaved due to their loved ones’ death. It points out that the indigent should be united in fighting against the system that is oppressing them. 

Stand By (Tambay)

Sa dinami-rami ng mga kriminal ng mga may mga nagawa ng iligal, kami pa talaga ang una ninyong sinala? Pwede na bang ebidensya ang hinala?

Set in a typical hangout at night of bystanders in the streets, Stand By depicts their sentiments of being assumed as drug-users by the people who allegedly want them dead. They are hastily accused as the root of the problem of the drug war.

Sandata

“Ito na ba [ang] pangako mo – madugong daan, madugong kanto?

‘Kala mo santo kung manghusga, puro lang mahirap ang pinupuntirya.” 

Powered by seething voices and splitting verses, the song reveals the current system—how it fails Filipinos and how it disfavors the oppressed. It speaks about the losses and the grievances that etched in their hearts, both of which became a weapon to fight back against the system. 

Calix announced that they won’t be releasing a physical copy of the album, but it can be downloaded for free through Mediafire, Google Drive, and Dropbox

KOLATERAL is also available for streaming through Soundcloud and Spotify.

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Which UST street are you?

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

Another year, another Buzzfeed-esque quiz that is based on purely subjective notions. This quiz can somehow garner questionable results as they can be entirely different from how one sees oneself, but still feel free to take a (good) three-minute break and validate which UST street completely molds your Thomasian existence. Enjoy! 

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‘Awit’ and the normalization of transphobia

With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice.

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Screenshot from the album cover of the now deleted song "Awit" on Spotify.

Erich Gabriel Bongon, also known as Young Vito posted a video of himself on Twitter singing a preview of “Awit” last Dec. 5, 2019, a song he that composed with sexist undertones and transphobic lyrics. Netizens were quick to call out the rapper when the preview is posted, prompting him to delete the video and issue an “apology.”

What happened afterwards? Was he cancelled? Was he given career opportunities after the incident? Did he change his ways and most importantly, did he educate himself on gender rights?

Young Vito is known to have signed a recording contract with Viva Records. With the record label having full knowledge of the incident, Young Vito and Viva Records have enabled themselves to go further: to release the same song with the same infamous lyrics, capitalizing off its notoriety on social media.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs propagating harmful ideas that does not only target the transgender community, but also encourages the normalization of transphobia and a culture of hate in the country.

Young Vito’s “Awitis a trans woman, with the singer implying that the woman deceives men, that there is something wrong with them. 

The song’s album art depicts a trans women using a urinal, as if implying that they should use the male’s comfort room; a controversial choice due to the ongoing debate on trans peoples’ comfort room access.

After receiving flak, the rapper posted an apology on Twitter, at the same time refusing to delete his video and liking tweets saying that people are “too sensitive.” He deleted the video afterwards.

A few days later, the rapper signed a five-year contract with Viva Records. After that, the song is released on multiple streaming platforms last Jan. 17, 2020 under Viva Records, with Emmanuel “NEXXFRIDAY” Salen producing and providing the beat for the track.

Photo grabbed from Young Vito’s Instagram account @youngvitoph

“Despite the controversy surrounding the song, Awithas been turned into a full-blown bop…,” the caption of the now-deleted lyric video in Viva Records’ Youtube channel reads. 

The song is then deleted on Spotify one day after its release.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs with transphobic lyrics. Songs like Abra’s “Gayuma” and Kamikazee’s “Chiksilog” portray trans women as someone who deceive men with their looks, while also spreading the notion that trans women are still men even if they have already identify themselves as women. 

One may think that the lyrics of these songs are harmless but for the transgender community, it makes their lives more difficult than it is.

In a country where the trans community are ostracized, where even some members of the LGBTQ+ community preach transphobia, where the likes of Hermie Monterde are still discriminated in the workplace, where personalities such as BB Gandanghari and Jake Zyrus are mocked online, where women like Gretchen Diez are shunned and arrested for entering the comfort room, where people like Jennifer Laude and Jessa Remiendo are murdered for being transgender – these songs spread dangerous ideas to the public. 

These songs normalizes harmful prejudices embedded in our culture. It hinders the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community’s fight for equal rights. It makes the idea of targeted discrimination and hate crime acceptable, painting a harmful image on people’s minds that it is normal to mock transgenders with the help of a song.

Music has been used to break the status quo, teach important lessons, and in some cases, aid in bringing down tyrants. With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice. 

If we want true progress, we must lose the chains of backwardness binding us, and we can start by taking small steps—starting with picking good songs to listen to.

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Kadenang Ginto is more complex than ever

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

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Photo from ABS-CBN News

Media and entertainment industries, especially in the Philippines, have undoubtedly created a number of teleseryes that got viewers hooked. Iconic lines from television shows made their way through social media, thus birthing an irreversible decade of video parodies, i.e. “Cassie, hindi ka muna papasok sa iskul” which came from the ABS-CBN afternoon prime show, Kadenang Ginto (directed by Jerry Lopez Sineneng and Avel Sunpongco). This particular boomerang created by the show serves as a primary example of the proliferation of teleseryes into the in-betweens of people’s mundane realities. 

Usually, Filipino TV formulas have just been restricted to cookie-cutter stories such as rich girl-poor girl rivalries, wife versus mistress conflicts, and other types of predictable stories with a recurring plotline—dramatically mirroring the struggles of which people could sympathize and in some cases, empathize with. 

Now, with the recent narratives of most materials, it is fitting to raise the question: do teleseryes, such as the case in point, subconsciously imply a patriarchal and capitalist society which can water down women’s roles as simply pawns of the men-splayed environment?

Dissecting the Initial Premise of the Show

The whole idea of the show displays a tangled story between Daniela Mondragon (played by Dimples Romana) and Romina Andrada (played by Beauty Gonzales). Romina, a glorified Secretary, marries the business tycoon and father of Daniela, Robert Mondragon (played by Albert Martinez).

Caused by jealousy, Daniela strived to emerge relevant by physically and emotionally belittling Romina to death, hoping that she could at least gain more relevance in the old Mondragon’s life. It gets more complicated when Daniela marries Romina’s past lover, Carlos (played by Adrian Alandy), who still has unresolved feelings for the latter.

While Daniela’s past actions remain important both in their family business and in the lives of the men involved, it seems questionable that all her intentions were for the sake of these men.

While it is also applauding that Daniela and Romina are their own persons who are fully responsible to stir changes necessary to keep the show going, one may question the end of not just the character’s intentions, but as well as the writers’ inclination to probe and provide a substantial arc for these characters.

It raises the question, especially during a period when a new character was introduced in the persona of Richard Yap, a rich businessman, who somehow became a catalyst on how the character of Romina can get back on track. 

Are the women in Philippine teleserye doomed to always be swept off their feet by some men to garner the easiest way out?

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes presented by the network, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

Now (with the plot lines tangled and recurring), the characters and their progressions can be attested to hopeful major changes (thankfully), as lead female characters are taking matters on their hands especially with Romina Andrada-Mondragon gaining more control over her circumstances, a (seemingly progressive) march of silent revolution, veering away from the initial premises of the show – yet still bound to its original plot line.  

Trudging the Conventional

While the network’s teleseryes’ cookie-cutter and cardboard characterizations of women are proven formulas, fresh perspectives are always a welcome venture with the exploration of complex female characters. 

Writers and show producers must become more socially-reverberant that they not only choose to showcase shows that pay the rent. In the Philippines, it is slowly building its pace with independent films being at the forefront.

Unfortunately, most mainstream media consumers are still inclined with choosing the proven formulas so mass media practitioners also stick to what generates more audiences. What the consumers can do now is to try to become more adamant to good and progressive changes – utilize the everlasting “get out of your comfort zone” notion. 

Media, as compared to what it tries to cater to before, has certainly come a long way with the sprouts of powerful women characters here and there. Unfortunately, Philippine mainstream media and its consumers sat way comfortably in the reassurance of these boxed and usual beliefs.

It may possibly take a while for these teleseryes to do the same with their high intentions to generate money, even if the essential purpose of art to heighten and challenge the empathic tendencies of the people can definitely suffer.

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