By Lauren Acurantes / Photography by Raymond Saldaña
The long-haired, hat-wearing folk pop singer is easily dismissible as a washed-up musician. But Freddie Aguilar begs to disagree and enjoys the success he’s had and prefers staying just outside of the music industry’s periphery.
It’s easy to think of him as a has-been. It’s easy to dismiss him as someone who has already had his time to shine; to question the importance of his contributions to the local music scene. It’s certainly easy to make him the butt of jokes, what with his well-documented love affair and eventual marriage to a minor. Yet amidst all that negativity, there is no denying the fact that no artist, before or since, has replicated the kind of success that Freddie Aguilar has enjoyed in his 38-year career.
Aguilar’s very first single, Anak, came out in 1977 at the inaugural Metro Manila Popular Music Festival. While it didn’t win the grand prize, it is considered as one of the most popular Philippine pop songs ever written. To this day, it is still being translated, covered, and reworked by musicians from all corners of the globe, with the Vietnamese cover being the most recent. It remained the best-selling Philippine record of all time until 2006, almost 30 years after it was released. It is the only Filipino song to sit atop the Billboard charts for two weeks straight and is considered to be a worldwide hit of the ‘80s.
He explains of the song, “My father and I had many arguments … He wanted me to be a lawyer, gusto ko lang maging musikero. Umalis ako sa amin when I was 17, 18? Dala-dala ko lang yung knapsack ko, deretso na ako ng ‘Gapo. From there, ‘di na kami nagkita ni erpat ng matagal. Tsaka nung mga kapatid. So one lazy afternoon, while I’m listening to the radio, wala naman magandang pakinggan. I tried watching TV, lahat ng programa wala din. Napanuod ko na rin, so bored na bored ako. Yung kwarto ko, isang dipa lang ang laki eh. Pareho din yung haba. Tapos nakita ko yung laundry ko dun. Doon ko nakita yung kahalagahan ng family, dun sa dirty laundry ko. Biglang napa-isip ako, ‘Kung nasa bahay ako, walang ganito, eh. May mag-aasikaso ng laundry ko, because of that parang nag-flashback ako, ‘Paano ba ako napadpad dito sa ‘Gapo?’ Next thing I know, puro tanong na yung pumasok sa utak ko. Parang, ‘Saan ba ako nanggaling?’ I started imagining na nandun ako sa tiyan ng nanay ko, tapos pinanganak niya ako, anong sinukli ko sa kanya? Tapos sa tatay ko puro sama ng loob ang binigay ko … Yun. Doon na nagsimula yun.”
Armed with only a pen and a piece of paper and singing into a beat-up cassette player, Aguilar claims to have written the song in less than an hour and crying like a child when listening to the playback. “Iyak talaga ako ng iyak. Ako yun eh! Kwento ko yun. Yung sisi ko talaga a hundred percent from the heart. Na-realize ka na talagang nagkamali ako. Nakasubsob na yung mukha ka sa lupa sa pagpapa-kumbaba nung malaman ko yung pagkakamali ko,” he shared. He wrote the song, he said, because he wanted to use it as a way to ask forgiveness from and to reconcile with his father, not knowing that it was also going to be the same song that would bring him renown, both locally and abroad. His father, however, never even got to hear or see him perform the song, “Pero nabasa naman niya yung lyrics. Nagkasakit kasi siya, kaya pinabasa ko na lang. Inakbayan na lang niya ako. Para sa erpat ko, para akbayan niya ako ng ganun, ibig sabihin, pinatawad na niya ako. Tapos sabi niya, ‘Pero gusto ko sana nag-abogado ka pa rin,’” he laughingly recalled. Unfortunately, his father would pass on a few weeks after the encounter, never knowing how far the simple, heartfelt song would go.
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