MANILA, Philippines - More than a week since the inauguration of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino and Vice-President Jejomar Binay, singer-song writer Noel Cabangon is brimming with hope for the country under a new leadership.
Since his participation at the Quirino Grandstand on June 30, Cabangon admits he never imagined he would sing at a presidential inauguration. The singer is still at a loss for words over what he calls a rare momentous experience.
Cabangon co-wrote the inaugural song "Bagong Pilipinas" with Ogie Alcasid.
"I was in Geneva when Ogie said we would sing the song. I got excited. Wow, this is history, we're going to be part of history, but it didn't dawn on me that I'm going to be part of the inauguration until we rehearsed the night before," Cabangon recalls.
He admits it was also overwhelming to share the stage with performers like Gary Valenciano.
Striking a nationalistic chord
But it was perhaps Cabangon's performance of the song "Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino" that struck a nationalistic chord.
"It's as if the song matched the speech of President Aquino," Cabangon says. "The whole point was, when people sing it, they're going to refer to themselves, that goes the same way for politicians."
During the performance, Cabangon roused everyone at the grandstand to get up on their feet, and raise their hand to take a musical mass oath for country.
"Somehow if you're going to repeat it, it's as if it goes into the psyche, and then, of course, you can check on yourself, if you're living up to the words and worthy of being a good Filipino, whether you're an ordinary citizen or the one holding the highest office of the land," Cabangon adds. "The ultimate goal is to give dignity to us human beings, and of course Filipinos."
One only has to take not of the lyrics of Cabangon's song to appreciate its message, showing love for country by following basic rules like practicing road courtesy and stopping at the red light:
"Tumatawid ako sa tamang daan di nakikipagunahan, di pasigasiga sa lansangan. Di nakahambalang parang walang pakialam, pinagbibigyan tumatawid sa kalsada, tumitigil pag ang ilaw ay pula. Pagkat ako'y isang mabuting Pilipino, minamahal ko ang bayan ko, tinutupad ko ang aking mga tungkulin, sinisunod ko ang kaniyang mga alituntunin."
The song also speaks about discipline and protecting the environment:
"Hindi ako nagkakalat ng basura sa lansangan, `di bumubuga ng usok ang aking sasakyan, inaayos ko ang kalat sa basurahan. Inaalagaan ko ang ating kapaligiran pagkat ako'y isang mabuting Pilipino, minamahal ko ang bayan ko, tinutupad ko ang aking mga tungkulin, sinusunod ko ang kaniyang mga alituntunin."
A patriotic anthem
On Friday, July 9, Cabangon says the song will be added to his album "Biyahe," along with two songs from the inaugural and two more originals.
Cabangon says the song was inspired by the "Panatang Makabayan," the Philippines' pledge of allegiance.
"The idea for the song came in 2007, I wrote it 2 1/2 years ago, at a time the country was facing questions on leadership, with problems over the legitimacy of President Arroyo, and a culture of apathy prevailed among Filipinos. There was this campaign on good citizenship, but the challenge was how to write it without sounding preachy, thus the use of first person."
Today, the patriotic anthem serves as a reminder to Filipinos to be the change they need to see in their country and the world.
"Many of us seem to have lost hope in the country, lost hope in the government. Many want to leave to work and live abroad," Cabangon laments. "When people are not empowered, when the rights of citizens are not recognized, it's as if their dignity as people is no longer valued."
Roots of his music
Cabangon's music takes root in the social activism of the Marcos era.
"During the last few years of Marcos after the assassination of the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr, I got involved in activism, and the expression of my involvement was music," says Cabangon, who was a member of a folk group, attending rallies, symposia and picket lines.
"I embraced this whole idea of social transformation and we wanted to bring change and make this nation a brighter one, especially in the generations to come."
Today, he says, he will continue rallying the nation forward through his songs.
"I will continue writing and singing," Cabangon says.
After his performance at the inauguration, Cabangon says it occurred to him that the burden of delivering reforms did not rest with the president alone.
"After singing 'Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino' onstage, the message and the task of transforming the nation has to continue. The burden is on us Filipinos. We put him in power and we can't simply let him go it alone."