Handog

Parang kailan lang ang mga pangarap ko’y kay hirap abutin. Dahil sa inyo napunta ako sa nais marating. Nais ko kayong pasalamatan kahit man lang sa isang awitin.

Parang kailan lang halos ako ay magpalimos sa lansangan. Dahil sa inyo ang aking tiyan at ang bulsa’y nagkalaman. Kaya’t itong awiting aking inaawit nais ko’y kayo ang handugan.

Tatanda at lilipas din ako nguni’t mayroong awiting iiwanan sa inyong alaala dahil, minsan, tayo’y nagkasama.

Parang kailan lang ang mga awitin ko ay ayaw pakinggan. Dahil sa inyo, narinig ang isip ko at naintindihan. Dahil dito ibig ko kayong ituring na matalik kong kaibigan.

I first heard and learned this song when I was in grade two (mid-nineties). It was the celebration of teacher’s day in our school and we were asked to sing this song during the program. As what most of the students that age would do, whether we liked it or not, we sung in unison, swaying our heads and our bodies, because the teacher told us to do so. Never mind if some aren’t actually singing (and just a mere chuwariwap on the background). Never mind if some are out of tune. Never mind if some are horsing and laughing during the presentation. We learned the song, we performed it on stage in front of the teachers, and we went back to our usual activities.

There are some who would say that kids that age would never truly understand the meaning of the song. It is the period of early childhood where thet usually devote more time on playing above any other else. Yes, it may be touching to see them singing this heart-warming song but from their perspective, it may appear as just a mere presentation, some activity forced by the elders to do.

I may have not appreciated the whole meaning of the song when I was in grade two but I haven’t forgotten it. And growing up, I had other different encounters with this masterpiece. I came across an old movie on Pinoy Blockbusters (pre-Cinema One channel) with Subas Herrero and other famous actors and actresses of that time. I forgot the title but on the end part, they sung Handogand Subas adressed the viewers about the dedication and legacy of the artists, movie makers, and workers. (I tried searchig the internet for the title of the movie but I don’t know where to start. Please drop me a message if you know the title.) During the ‘band explosion’ of 2006, the group Join The club made their own version of the song and it was included in the The Best of Manila Sound: Hopia Mani Popcorn compilation. And in 2008, Kenyo used the chorus of the song in the mash-up of their carrier single Sana in their debut album Radiosurfing.

Handog was composed and popularized by folk rock singer Florante de Leon (who is popularly known as Florante). He was one of the pioneers and exponents of Pinoy folk rock during the musical boom of the 1970’s. His songs are part of the famous musical genre of that time called Manila Sound. Such was the beauty of the song that other artists and groups revived it and used it in movies and other productions.

There is something with the Filipino songs of that time that puts a smile in our faces aside from nostalgia. They are simple yet full of meaning; subtle yet they touch the hearts even of the simplest Filipinos; gentle without trying to be mushy; and you can easily grasp its soul and pass it to the next generation. What’s the evident proof? Those songs are being revived by solo singers and artists of today (even just for the sake of releasing their own record – of covers).

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On the evening of July 10, the Philippine cyber space exploded with a shocking news: the Comedy King, our national treasure, Dolphy Quizon, passed away. Almost all of us, even our parents and grandparents, grew up watching and laughing with Mang Dolphy. The whole nation wept and grieved on the loss of one of our (if not the) finest jester and painkiller. If laughter is indeed the best medicine, then we have lost the pill that cured millions of Filipinos.

It wasn’t until then that I found out that he also has his own version of Handog. Almost all TV stations played the song in remembrance of the man’s legacy which spanned for almost six decades. Or thirteen Philippine Presidents (fourteen if you will include Fernando Poe, Jr.)

Suddenly, the song has another meaning, impact, and spirit. The song’s poetry fits Mang Dolphy. Perhaps because of all the features on the news programs, we are now familiar with Mang Dolphy’s journey from humble beginnings to being the Comedy King that we know today.

But personally, there is more than this song. Listening to the song, I remember the old days when we are singing this song in front of our teachers. I may have not understood its real meaning then but what struck me is the age when I sung it. It was the age of innocence and carelessness. It is also the good old days when the whole family, and perhaps the whole nation, laughed and cried with the Cosme family in Home Along Da Riles. It is good to remember those days once in a while to remind us of our innocence, dreams, purity, and happiness. It serves as a reminder or a pensieve whenever we are down and weary with life’s hardships.

Some would say that comedy is just an opium, a temporary escapism from the realities of this life. But it is with the laughter that we get our strength, our positivism, and good memories.

Perhaps it is Mang Dolphy’s eternal handog to all of us: That from time to time, we must laugh, forget our problems, and face this life with an uplifted spirit. His death is not the end because he has already been immortalized by his legacy to the Filipino people. He even left us a line that pertains to his immortality and I quote: “Hinding-hindi ako mahihiwalay sa inyo. Pindutin niyo lang ang play at siguradong magkakasama-sama tayo.”

Maraming maraming salamat sa inyong handog at paalam, Mang Dolphy.

Elsewhere:

Ringo’s Octopus

It has been repeatedly told that the men behind the most successful writing partnership, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, often dismissed Ringo Starr’s songs. Though it was a popular joke among Beatles fans, there are no actual records to prove Ringo’s rejection by John and Paul. But it may actually have a grain of truth since only two songs of Ringo Starr were included in the albums of The Beatles.

Between those two songs of Ringo, one stood out as my personal favorite – Octopus’s Garden. It is the song written by Ringo Starr (published under his real name Richard Starkey) from their 1969 album Abbey Road. though I am a big fan of the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, there is something with this song, something cosmic, upbeat, and lively beat even though it deals with an underwater creature and not the usual Beatle theme about love, life, and friendship.

The Quiet Beatle, George Harrison, helped Ringo with this song. George said that is is a song by Ringo and I quote: “Octopus’s Garden is Ringo’s song. It’s only the second song Ringo has ever written, mind you, and it’s lovely.”

Ringo Starr shared how he was able to write this magnificent song:

I wrote Octopus’s Garden in Sardinia. Peter Sellers had lent us his yacht and we went out for the day… I stayed out on deck with [the captain] and we talked about octopuses. He told me that they hang out in their caves and they go around the seabed finding shiny stones and tin cans and bottles to put in front of their cave like a garden. I thought this was fabulous, because at the time I just wanted to be under the sea too. A couple of tokes later with the guitar – and we had Octopus’s Garden! (Beatles Bible)

And today, the whole world (or maybe the Beatle world) is celebrating the 72nd birthday of the man behind the Octopus, the one quarter of The Beatles, Ringo Starr. Ringgo may be considered by some as the luckiest no-talent in the history of music but that will not change the face that he is the drummer of The Beatles.

No-talent? How come? Let me share with you one of the best piece describing Ringo Starr’s incomparable talent. It is entitled Thirteen Reasons to Give Ringo Starr Some Respect by John Bryant.

Ringo Starr, the luckiest no-talent on earth. All he had to do was smile and bob his head. Oh yes, and keep a beat for three of the most talented musicians/songwriters of this century. What other impression could one have when judging the role that Ringo played in the success of the Beatles? Did Ringo really make a difference? Upon listening to the latest release by The Beatles, Anthology 1, you get a chance to listen to Pete Best and two other drummers play on over twenty songs. Was Ringo simply in the right place at the right time? The following items may help in going beyond the image:

  1. Ringo was the first true rock drummer to be seen on TV. All the Rock & Roll drummers featured with Elvis, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis were mostly R&B drummers that were making the transition from a swing drumming style of the 40’s and 50’s toward the louder and more “rocking” sound that is associated with “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. They were dressed in tuxedos and suits and held the drumsticks in the “traditional” manner of military, orchestra, and jazz drummers. Ringo showed the world that power was needed to put the emphasis on the “rock” in Rock & Roll music, so he gripped both sticks like hammers and proceeded to build a foundation for rock music.
  2. Ringo changed the way drummers hold their sticks by making popular the “matched” grip of holding drumsticks. Nearly all drummers in the Western World prior to Ringo held their sticks in what is termed the “traditional” grip, with the left hand stick held like a chopstick. This grip was originally developed by military drummers to accommodate the angle of the drum when strapped over the shoulder. Ringo’s grip changes the odd left hand to match the right hand, so that both sticks are held like a flyswatter. Rock drummers along with marching band and orchestral percussionists now mostly play with a “matched” grip, and drum companies have developed straps and accessories to accommodate them.
  3. Ringo started a trend of placing drummers on high risers so that they would be as visible as the other musicians. When Ringo appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, he immediately caught the attention of thousands of “drummers to be” by towering over the other three Beatles. Elvis’s drummer was looking at a collection of backs
  4. These same “wannabe” drummers also noticed that Ringo was playing Ludwig drums and they immediately went out and bought thousands of these drumsets, thus establishing Ludwig as the definitive name in Rock & Roll drums at that time.
  5. Ringo changed the sound of recorded drums. About the time of Rubber Soul (released Dec. 6,1965), the sound of the drumset started to become more distinct. Along with help from the engineers at Abbey Road studios, Ringo popularized a new sound for the drums by tuning them lower, deadening the tonal ring with muffling materials, and making them sound “closer” by putting a microphone on each drum.
  6. Ringo has nearly perfect tempo. This allowed the Beatles to record a song 50 or 60 times, and then be able to edit together different parts of numerous takes of the same song for the best possible version. Today an electronic metronome is used for the same purpose, but the Beatles had to depend on Ringo to keep the tempo consistent throughout the dozens of takes of the songs that you know and love so well. Had he not had this ability, the Beatles recordings would sound completely different today.
  7. Ringo’s “feel” for the beat serves as a standard for pop-rock record producers and drummers alike. It is relaxed, but never dragging. Solid, yet always breathing. And yes, there is a great amount of musical taste in his decisions of what to play and when to play it. In most recording sessions, the drummer’s performance acts as a barometer for the rest of the musicians. The stylistic direction, dynamics, and emotions are filtered through the drummer. He is the catcher to whom the pitcher/songwriter is throwing. If the drumming doesn’t feel good, the performance of any additional musicians is doomed from the start. The Beatles rarely if ever had this problem with Ringo.
  8. Ringo hated drum solos, which should win points with quite a few people. He only took one solo while with the Beatles. His eight measure solo appears during “The End” on the “B” side of Abbey Road. Some might say that it is not a great display of technical virtuosity, but they would be at least partially mistaken. You can set an electronic metronome to a perfect 126 beats per minute, then play it along with Ringo’s solo and the two will stay exactly together.
  9. Ringo’s ability to play odd time signatures helped to push popular songwriting into uncharted areas. Two examples are “All you Need is Love” in 7/4 time, and “Here Comes the Sun” with repeating 11/8, 4/4, and 7/8 passages in the chorus.
  10. Ringo’s proficiency in many different styles such as two beat swing (“When I’m Sixty-Four”), ballads (“Something”), R&B (“Leave My Kitten Alone” and “Taxman”) and country (the Rubber Soul album) helped the Beatles to explore many musical directions with ease. His pre-Beatle experience as a versatile and hard working nightclub musician served him well.
  11. The idea that Ringo was a lucky Johnny-on-the-spot-with-a-showbiz-stage-name is wrong. In fact, when Beatles producer George Martin expressed his unhappiness after the first session with original drummer Pete Best, the decision was made by Paul, George, and John to hire who they considered to be the best drummer in Liverpool – Ringo Starr. His personality was a bonus.
  12. The rumors that Ringo did not play on many of the Beatles songs because he was not good enough are also false. In fact, he played on every released Beatles recording (not including Anthology 1) that include drums except for the following: “Back In The USSR” and “Dear Prudence”, on which Paul played drums due to Ringo temporarily quitting the band, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, again featuring Paul on drums because Ringo was off making a movie, and a 1962 release of “Love Me Do” featuring session drummer Andy White.
  13. When the Beatles broke up and they were all trying to get away from each other, John Lennon chose Ringo to play drums on his first solo record. As John once said, “If I get a thing going Ringo knows where to go, just like that..” A great songwriter could ask no more of a drummer. Except maybe to smile and bob his head.

He may not be my favorite Beatle (of course, it will always be John Lennon), He may have written only two Beatle songs compared to the hundreds by Lennon and McCartney, but he will always be the best and respected drummer.

Happy 72nd birthday. Ringo. Thank you for the music. Thank you for bringing us to the octopus’s garden. I will always be a fan.

Elsewhere:

  • Octopus’s Garden (Live) – I was browsing Beatles songs on YouTube when I came across this video. this was performed in 2005 – thirty-six (36) years after it was recorded. There is not much difference between the original recording and this live version. Just, wow. I have nothing bus respect to Richard Starkey.


Photo sources: Octopus’s Garden by Loris Lora and the Seven Faces of Ringo courtesy of Shannon McDonald.