It’s time to start acknowledging the Heroes of the Storm. I have about half a dozen in mind already. I want to start with one whose contribution was not physical — it was spiritual, and it was much needed. Armand TJ’s song #SOS Philippines, performed by Visayas teens, is starting to go viral and can truly go viral with the help of everyone out there. It only had 6,000 views on YouTube when I (and others) first found it two days ago and posted links. Since then there have been 22,000 views here on this site alone, and 3,500 Facebook shares on this site. Total Youtube views are at 34,000. Many, many more can benefit from the way this song touches the soul and lifts the spirit at a time when everyone is wrung out, worn out, and exhausted both physically and spiritually.
(for you impatient types, the music starts at 0:53)
Armand’s Website, and his overarching message is: One Island One World. That’s what I felt when I saw the video ad heard the song for the first time — it crosses oceans and creates an instant moment of identification. Whereever you are, whatever your culture, whatever your circumstances — these young artists make you feel part of their world.
UPDATE– Armand reports there are talks now of OPM Artists doing a We Are the World type version of the song. I certainly hope so. (And for the non Filipinos out there — “OPM Music” is “Original Pilipino Music” which for my money is about the best music on the planet.)
Here is the song — and below, the story behind the song by its author and producer. Remember to Share it . . . .
”People from around the world have called the Philippines a Paradise on Earth. After the super typhoon, we are struggling to recover and save our Paradise. And that starts with our spirits and our smiles as we go through our daily efforts in picking up the pieces and addressing the emergencies at hand. This song celebrates the spirit of the Filipino people rising up during this crisis, with the help of all of you around the world. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. We are grateful, more help is on the way. Me and my fellow artists have poured our hearts, soul, sweat, blood, and tears, and traveled far to rush and put this song out there. Aside from physical needs, our whole nation needs uplifting emotionally and spiritually. And we Filipinos do it best through music.” – Armand “
The Story Behind the Song and Video — from Armand’s Blog
Our region in the Visayas was hit by the superstorm Yolanda (Haiyan). Several ”ground zeros” across the Visayas and Northern Palawan are in dire need of attention, aid, and prayers at the moment. Our people and the international community has responded to the crisis, but there’s still so much needed to do. We’re all in this together.
I wrote this song on the night of November 12, day four, after the super typhoon, while in Boracay (also hit by the storm). I immediately informed my mom that I needed to record this song in Iloilo city as soon as possible and put it out there. ”But the roads aren’t passable, it’s not safe!”, she told me. ”If buses are running, it’s passable.’, I replied, adamant that this was really important. She was right, while on the six hour bus ride from Caticlan to Iloilo, I saw the destruction caused by Yolanda (Haiyan) on Panay island, my first glimpse of the calamity outside Boracay (my island had minimal damage and no casualties).
Electric posts, and its hazardous wires, and fallen native houses lay along the roadsides. My bus even collided with a car while avoiding some electric wires, a minor accident. As we waited on the bus as it pulled over, I saw an ambulance pass by, and then a truck with relief goods. People’s lives here are still at risk, and that’s just the little I saw with my own eyes.
I arrived in Iloilo safe on November 13, went straight to the make-shift studio (Yamaha music school) to record the song (where we also shot the video). I didn’t have any back up singers. While on the bus, I texted a friend if he knew any singers in Iloilo who would be willing to join me in this project of uplifting our nation through song, to reach out to the victims and the world in ways only our spirits can – through music. My friend replied, ”Ok, Armand, I’ll spread the word.”. After waiting in the studio, around fifteen students showed up. They were from Ijas High School, and University of the Philippines (Iloilo and Miag-ao)
They were not professional singers, some belonged to university singing groups/choirs. They heard about this recording last minute, and were excited to share their voices for a cause. We practiced the song for a bit and then went straight for recording on that very night. They came up with their own vocal arrangement. I’m amazed with these talented kids. The song revealed itself to us. Some were moved to tears by its message. Some shared stories of their hometowns struggling to recover from the aftermath. All were still going to school, while at the same time joining relief efforts.
We recorded 90% of the song that night. Some of the uni students had schedules filled up with school and volunteering in calamity areas, so we had to record their parts the best we can right there and then. We wrapped up the song on November 14 with my younger cousins and their high school friends.
I was advised not to release the song yet, since it needed more arrangements. But I decided to share this song as bare as it is, but with a lot of soul – just like the state of my people. I can always upload other improved versions of this song later on, and I felt the Philippines and the world needed to hear this song as soon as possible. Without any arranger, producer, and director, we managed to work on the song together the best way we can in short notice, just to the message of hope out there as soon as possible. Like in any emergency, we had to act fast, knowing the power of music to unite and touch hearts and souls, in our country and around the world.
I’ll admit, I’ve broken down in tears many times because of this song. From the first time I heard it while composing that night on the piano, to hearing this version uploaded. I feel more connected to the need for my nation to rise up from this crisis, and for humanity to come together.
The Jesuit, Horatio de la Costa, once compared the Philippines to a pauper among the nations. However, ” the Philippines hides two jewels in her rags – her faith and her music.”
Through this song, we’d like to share what we have to offer the world – the Filipino spirit. This is our song after the storm. A song to unite the Philippines and the world, to weather any storm that shakes humanity.