isang bandila, madaming problema

Posted: October 7, 2006 in Music

ABS-CBN attempted to do something new with their news program Bandila. They got veteran rockers Rivermaya to do the theme of the newscast with a song appropriately titled Isang Bandila. The late evening Bandila is probably the only news cast in the world with a rock anthem for its theme.

The people in ABS-CBN went into aggressive promotions by coming out with a music video for Isang Bandila (the song) which would compliment and promote Bandila (the news program).

Or at least that’s what I think they’re doing with the release of the Isang Bandila music video two weeks ago. The video airs occasionally on both ABS-CBN Ch2 and on ANC.

Those who have seen the video and heard the song are familiar with the drill. The setting is a news room. The band members act out the roles of news reporters and anchors. The band rocks the news room.

Musically, there is no question on how tight the Bandila theme is. It is a rock anthem pure and simple. It promotes patriotism, or at least the kind that we grew up with and learned in school (isang ugat, isang dugo, isang tadhana, isang bandila etc).

Both the newscast and the soundtrack use the Philippine flag as the symbol that is supposed to remind the people of the need for national unity especially amidst these difficult times. We could assume that song-writer Rico Blanco was sincere in his effort to tackle a huge subject such as national unity. However, the lyrics just don’t go beyond what is obviously text book nationalism. Don’t’ get me wrong. I think the song rocks. Pero medyo mababaw lang kung tutuusin, though there may be some otherwise brilliant lines such as “ligtas ang pag-asang nakasakay sa ‘ting mga likod at balikat”.

The song makes references to the talangka mentality, fake heroes, fake standpoints and goes on to ask the listener, “subukan naman nating pagtulong-tulungan.”

Haay, don’t we all wish our problems were just that simple?

But they’re not. And that is where the Bandila theme suffers. It took on a serious subject only to scratch the surface and remain confined to the clichés about nation-building, almost being preachy in its attempt to call for national unity.

The limitations of the soundtrack are eventually reflected in the music video. For a news cast that claims to be critical rather than sensational, the music video appeared more of a spoof rather than a serious take on the news. It was an attempt at social commentary but one that doesn’t take itself seriously to begin with. I do not understand how this will help audiences take the Bandila newscast seriously too.

The video doesn’t enhance the credibility of the news program, nor does it arouse at least some curiosity for the news. The video tries too hard to hit some social issues but is hampered by a very loose understanding of existing social realities.

In the video, we are given an educational tour inside a news room (switchboards, studios, cameras, radio booth, OB van etc). Rivermaya does its own news cast called The Maya Report. A gruff-looking Rico Blanco is the anchor. Other band mates do stand-uppers and even the weather report. The band plays in various parts of the ABS-CBN compound.

The video did not utilize the tons of material available showing how news is gathered, analyzed and presented to the audience. It does not show the sacrifices and sometimes heroism of journalists who work in the line of fire. It ignored the pressing issues confronting Philippine society today, such as the question of legitimacy, repression and poverty. I felt that they should have at least shown the major events that shaped and rocked Philippine society over the last year and a half. What we got instead were band members trying on the job of reporters and anchors.

The news parody gives us mundane clips like “Kilabot ng 5110, nahuli na!”. WTF were they thinking?! Rico Blanco the “news anchor” gives the parting shot for the Maya Report with the char-gen that reads “Paglingkuran ang sambayanan.” That would have been a perfect ending except that his delivery looked so contrived.

Towards the end of the video, I was getting more and more frustrated.

This comment is not however intended to discourage Rivermaya from pursuing socially-relevant song-writing in their future outings. But if they want to be effective, they should start looking at the issues and conflicts from a deeper perspective. Poverty, human rights violations and foreign intervention aren’t abstract concepts. They’re everyday reality for most people.

Ultimately, as artists, the band has to make a stand, take a side. That’s what the Clash, U2, RATM, Dylan, Marley, Asin and legends like them did. As we all learned in School of Rock, rock n’ roll is all about sticking it to the Man. Or in our country’s case, that particular Woman.

  1. ~J says:

    i don’t think you get it. the video was in itself a parody. They’re rock musicians and they’re not supposed to be in the news room. But they have a stand, which is the most important thing. They’re there to build political interest in a group of people who’d otherwise not be listening. (i.e. the kids) They serve as a bridge.

    i think the lyrics are appropriate. how interesting would it be to hear details on how to solve the country’s problems one by one in the song. they’re not politicians. they have views, I’m sure. And they chose to spare the world of it, opting for a more general truth. besides, spoon feeding the kids (or anyone, for that matter) would be dangerous, don’t you think? I’m betting Lennon knew that in writing “Imagine”.

  2. tnx sa comment.

    yeah.. it was a parody and they’re commendable for at least trying to do something like that. but it’s not as effective as it could have been. remember how rage against the machine did a parody of a game show for “sleep now in the fire”? that was effective and almost eerie. or how korn did a video where they smashed a record store, hoping to explain the monopoly in the music industry.

    yes rivermaya has a stand or is at least are trying to articulate a stand. i realize this is perhaps they’re first foray into something political. i do hope that they would also mature in this aspect. no, they don’t have to be preachy about their political views, since they’re not politicians. but a firmer stand next time wouldn’t hurt either. since it was their first “socially oriented” and political song, i somehow understand why some parts of the video may appear a bit contrived and some parts kinda mixed up.

    they don’t have to be politicians but they can talk about social problems. they don’t have to spoonfeed their audience, i agree. but they can go deeper than what is usually found in the textbooks. some bands like ASIN have done that in the past. i also think it’s not entirely the band’s fault.

    again, not to disparage the band, there is still something admirable in what they did pero bitin lang. and my hope is that this would not be their last attempt.

    i have yet to listen to their whole album isang ugat, isang dugo. i find it fitting that they would pay tribute to some local bands who were there before the whole band explosion in the 90’s. not many remember ethnic faces, indentity crisis, wuds, urban bandits and binky lampano and dean’s december. it would be good to reintroduce them to a new generation of rockers. i was in grade six when i first heard some of these groups.

    yeah, lennon was practically describing a classless society, in so many words, in “imagine”. others call that communism. not bad indeed.

  3. july says:

    nice blog!


  4. eaglelover says:

    i just love it and i am australian who loves the philippines without the politics, one flag one nation united !! cory gave you lot freedom!! mabuhay ang kalayaan so live it you have so much going for you