Freddie Aguilar is by no means the only Filipino artist on my short list of Filipino musicians I admire. I’m a big fan of Aegis, a Filipino girl band (sisters Juliet and Mercy Sunot headline it) who, like Freddie, bring forth music that seems to use an international vibe to create a “tunay na pilipino” (true Filipino) emotion. They have a number of great songs — Luha, Halik, Usok …. but the one I like best is on the clip below — “Dukha”. There is a rawness to it that really comes out on the chorus — when you hear Mercy, in a Bonnie Tyler-eque rasp, sing: “isang kahig, isang dukha” it really works. How do I translate that “isang kahig isang dukha?” Literally “One scratch, one poor” — with “scratch” being what a chicken does, stratching the earth for sustainance. It’s “hand to mouth” but with much more impact that when we say “hand to mouth” in English. When she sings “isang kahig isang dukha”, the impact and the imagery of scratching out a life from an unforgiving universe are far more powerful for me than any English can convey. (Help me out, Pinoy pals, if I’m not getting this right….)
The other thing I like about the lyrics is this verse:
Sa akin ay walang ay walang tumantanggap (For me there is no acceptance)
Mababa raw ang aking pinag-aralan (They say my level of education is low)
Grade One lang ang inabot ka (Grade One is all I completed)
No read no write pa ako (I don’t read, I don’t write)
Paano na ngayon ang buhay ko (What will happen with my life now?)
There’s something about the use of a few lonely words of English to describe the lack of education that makes it doubly poignant — it’s like a face from outside, in the cold, pressed against a window looking inside to light and warmth and knowing it’s impossible to get there.
The other thing is the voice of Mercy, who sings the lead in this one — a voice that sounds like she’s breathed her share of the fumes of EDSA and probably smoked more than a few cigarettes in her life — a voice that can connect with the the hardscrabble world she’s singing about. Even her looks — she’s smokin’ hot and crush-worthy, but in that exotic way that differnt from the typical “mestisa”look that dominates the pinoy film and music world — a look that hints there might be some “mahirap” in her background, and adds credibility to the song, and the band. Good stuff — thank you, Aegis. You guys rock.