Did you know that the early ‘90s song “Hataw Na” was originally an English dance composition by a man named George Black? It was called “Turn It Up” and belonged to a project Gary Valenciano was to release in the US way back. We don’t know exactly where “Turn It Up” eventually, well, turned up—but we all know what happened to “Hataw Na.” It became one of Valenciano’s greatest hits, and even inspired a dance musical directed by Jose Javier Reyes and released by Star Cinema in 1995.
The adaptation to Filipino was written by Jungee Marcelo who has worked previously with Valenciano for the lyrics of “Sa Yahweh ang Sayaw,” a danceable Christian tune, and the Tagalog version of the singer’s “Could We” duet with Zsa Zsa Padilla, which became “Muli” and recorded with Regine Velasquez. Mr. Pure Energy had listened to “Turn It Up” and knew it was a good song but he wondered how it will sound with Tagalog lyrics. And since he admitted himself writing in Tagalog was not his core competence, the performer decided Marcelo would be the best person to show him how the song might sound in the vernacular.
“Hataw Na” was the last track Valenciano wanted for his then upcoming album—which Marcelo really wanted to be part of. The songwriter, whose background is really gospel music, had to say a lot of prayers to help him adapt “Turn it Up.” But he must find the absolute equivalent of that phrase that would sound good in a song—which proved a struggle. “Napudpud na tuhod ko (kakadasal),” he recalls. “Lakasan na,” the literal translation, sounded terrible. He needed the perfect Tagalog words that will capture the essence of “Turn It Up.” The Gary V. fan wanted to impress his idol.
Thank heavens Marcelo happened to attend a rehearsal of the Knapsax, a dance group from the 80s and 90s, and caught its leader Junboy Marquez in a moment of dissatisfaction, telling his dancers: “Ihataw niyo!” Marcelo, a Bulakenyo, was only previously familiar with the word hataw’s violent meaning— until Marquez told him what he’s been needing to hear: “It means give it your hundred percent. No reservations.” Hataw na.
There’s still more to the kuwento behind the song—but we say it’s best you just eavesdrop on the conversation among Valenciano, Marcelo, and director Joey Reyes in the latest episode of “Muni Muni Stories” podcast which opens its second season with the origins story of “Hataw Na.” Produced by the Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL) and the Ayala Museum, and presented by Podcast Network Asia, the podcast series will thrill every OPM fan with its generous serving of trivia and little-known stories behind some of the most iconic Pinoy compositions.
If in the first season, we got to know behind-the-music accounts about Heber Bartolome’s “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy,” Celeste Legaspi’s “Saranggola ni Pepe,” FrancisM’s “Mga Kababayan,” even Up Dharma Down’s “Tadhana,” the second season explores the movie soundtrack—particularly the theme song and it’s connection to the film that used it. Hence, the current episode will be followed by talks on “Alone/Together,” “I’m Drunk I Love You,” “Ang Nawawala,” “Respeto,” “Liway,” “Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa,” and “Tulad Ng Dati.”
“Muni-Muni Stories” came as a response to the pandemic, says 29-year old host Sofia Santiago. “Since Ayala Museum and FHL were pivoting to an omnichannel approach to programming and exhibitions, we looked deep into our collections and saw that we haven't really had a solid program focused or anchored on our Himig collection.” The museum team was also at that time working with OPM Archive, a group composed of Celeste Legaspi, Girlie Rodis, The Company’s Moy Ortiz, and Tats Manahan among others, which seeks to preserve images and recordings on Filipino music.
The vision for the podcast has evolved since. “I think that is a good thing,” says Santiago, who is also associate manager and curator for FHL's partnerships, programs and exhibitions. “It mirrors the fluid nature of music, art, and culture. I think it perfectly captures the words ‘Muni Muni’ as well. To reflect on and look back. It also is suited with the platform (podcasts) where you can hit pause, play, and rewind.”
An avowed music fan, Santiago’s excited and engaged voice gives a youthful anchor to all the traipsing down memory lane that happens in the conversations. “I grew up with Eraserheads, Sandwich, UDD, and Joey Ayala as staples in my playlists so the episodes with Raymund Marasigan, UDD and Sir Joey has a special place,” she says when asked what has been her favorite episodes. When guests drop references that are way older than Santiago’s years, like when Marcelo brought up Easy Call in the “Hataw Na!” episode, or brought up the very 80s name Hillbilly Willie (tag someone who remembers the WKC DJ!) they make sure the host is supplied the necessary context.
It’s clear creativity is valued highly by the podcast. One often hears Santiago—who is joined by John Labella (also a poet) and Monica Araneta-Tiosejo when brainstorming the episodes—asking her guests how they’re staying productive in these extraordinary times. Engaging in creative exercises is obviously something the podcast encourages—even in itself. “Since it is a pandemic and there is still limited mobility, continuing the podcast was extremely important to continue our work,” the host says.
What we enjoy most about Muni Muni Stories is getting a glimpse of the recording industry back in the day. Like when Marcelo reveals how he’s been sending his compositions to Valenciano for years before finding out, at that time, that unsolicited submissions were not entertained unless an album called for them. The podcast provides a record of Philippine music history in a contemporary and very accessible platform (they’re on Spotify). And since information is coming straight from the creators’ mouths, future generations who will study popular Filipino music can be sure they’re not being fed fake news.
Meanwhile, for the not-so-young OPM fans, who lived through those songs at the height of their popularity, who remember Easy Call and Hillbilly Willy, it’s a priceless thrill to discover the stories, and listen to our old favorites as if we were hearing them for the first time.