A Hidden Bigotry
Thoughts on Appreciating Music
Gerry Alanguilan
I heard a song on the radio not too long ago as I was riding on a bus on the way home from Manila.  At the time I was feeling a little down and depressed.  I couldn't explain exactly why, except that the feeling was there and I felt it.  The song was a ballad and it came through soft and clear through the bus speakers.  The gentle piano tones and the achingly poignant melody grabbed and touched my heart and refused to let go.  By the time the song ended, I had tears in my eyes.  The song was called "Pag-Ibig Kong Litong-Lito".  It was a song by the April Boys. 

That same week, I asked our house helper to buy a copy of the song on  cassette tape for me.  I liked the song, but I was embarrassed to admit it. I thought I'd rather be caught dead than be caught buying it myself.  The person I asked to buy it was extremely glad to do so, especially when I told her that she could borrow it as often as she would like. 

Why did I feel that way?  What made me embarrassed to say that I liked the song?  Is it because the April Boys and the songs that they sing are widely considered as "BADUY", and if I say I liked them I would be widely considered as "BADUY" myself?  What is this kind of attitude called?  Is there a word to describe it?  Whatever it is, I realize that this attitude is very common in practically everyone, even me.  It's everywhere I look, it's everywhere I go, it's everywhere I listen to.  Philmusic.com is currently running a poll that asks the question: "Does Martin Nievera deserve his current chart success?".  Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" is met with universal disgust and revulsion.  A popular Filipino band has written a song thinly veiled as an attack on the masses because the masses can't seem to appreciate their experimental music.  Discussions in music forums center on how "uneducated" these people are and they are looked upon with contempt, and at times, I can swear I can even detect hatred. 

In the meantime, a 16-year-old teenager in Cebu looks at a photograph of a handsome young boy to whom she is in love with.  He doesn't know she exists and she knows it.  She clutches the photograph more closely as she turns up the volume to the radio playing a song by Michael Learns To Rock.  She weeps silently to herself because the song has captured perfectly the turmoil that she feels.  Hundreds of miles away in Davao, a 32-year-old man finally meets the woman of his dreams and he marries her.  He hears the song "Ikaw Pa Rin Ang Mamahalin" by the April Boys and his heart bursts with happiness.  He sings it to her as best he can, on their wedding day.  His voice doesn't quite make the high tones and falters, but his bride understands what he means and she kisses him on the lips.  Hundreds of miles away in Baguio, a 68-year-old woman mourns the passing of her husband of 45 years.  "Titanic" was the last movie they saw together.  It was one of the last moments in their lives when they were truly happy.  She plays Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" on her CD player because in that song at least, she and her husband are together once again. 

It's too bad that there are thousands of people, people like you and me, who think they are uneducated and stupid.  There is word for that kind of attitude and that word is BIGOTRY. 

What is bigotry but the obstinate and unreasonable intolerance for those that do not share our own views?  This would be difficult for anyone to accept, that they are in fact bigots, especially when this attitude has become a way of life.  This has been here all this time and yet no one has acknowledged it.  It is in plain sight but no one seems to see it.  It's hidden, but then again it's not.  No one is conscious of doing it and no one even realizes that it's a bad thing.  It seems so unthinkable that this kind of thing can manifest itself through something so universal as music. 

Music is supposed to be a personal thing because everyone responds to it differently.  Different kinds of music elicit different kinds of emotions and reactions.  Music is very powerful.  Music has the power to inspire.  It has the power to make one's soul soar and it has the power to make anyone cry.  What makes one particular music "better" than any other music?  How come one's "education" is measured by the kind of music he or she listens to?  Music is not supposed to be that way.  What is our standard or our "yardstick" that measures which song is better than any other?  Or is it really important and necessary to compare one song with another?  It's like judging beauty.  It is something that can never be measured absolutely and can only be appreciated by our own individual preferences.  What is beautiful to me may be absolutely horrid and disgusting to the next guy.  What may be hideously ugly to me, may be considered by a masterpiece by someone else. 

What is the point then, of attacking the likes or dislikes of other people?  What is the point of throwing doubts at people's intelligence just because we don't like the music that they play?  That has got to be one of the most insidious things any person can do to another human being.  Music is not a matter of intelligence.  It's a matter of the heart.  People will like what makes their heart sing, no matter what that music is, be it Wolfgang , or Grace Nono, or Victor Wood, or RiverMaya or Jessa Zaragosa.  No matter what I think of Martin Nievera's personal life, I will not wish to deprive him of whatever success he finds.  He deserves all the success that he deserves.  If someone likes the songs of April Boy Regino, I say fine.  I don't like his music, not one bit, but I will not ridicule anyone who feels otherwise.  It is their right as human beings to choose what makes them feel good and what makes them feel happy.  To belittle and ridicule their choice would be heartless and cruel. 

So next time you turn on your radio and hear a song that you hate, have a heart.  Stop and think.  Do you really hate this song or deep down inside you really like it but don't like to admit it?  Be yourself.  Listen to the song again and you might find that you like it after all. 

This article first appeared in Localvibe in July 1999

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