Barely a month ago, super band Coldplay released their 12-song studio album “Music of the Spheres” containing a tune featuring Selena Gomez called “Let Somebody Go.” It won’t be surprising if the bulk of the more than 30 million streams that the song has already enjoyed are by Filipino listeners, with many of them informed of the fact the track melodically referenced the 1979 hit “Himig Ng Pag-ibig” by ace folk-rock band Asin.
Oh yes, it’s the same Pinoy group behind the “Balita” chorus heard in Black Eyed Peas’ “Apl Song” — a cut from a 2003-album called “Elephunk” and which formally introduced Apl de Ap or Allan Pineda to mainstream music fans.
Having mentioned these two international gems with sprinkles of Asin, it’s difficult to ignore the universal power of the group’s music even if current generation Filipinos won’t even bother to mention the names of its members in the same reverence as when they’re ask of who comprised the classic lineups of the Juan Dela Cruz Band or Eraserheads.
It’s a pretty stroke of serendipity that around the same time Chris Martin and Selena Gomez let their voices be heard caressing the melody lines many Filipinos are familiar with, a documentary about one of Asin’s members is released in time for the 16th Israeli Film Festival. For those who are wondering why that festival, let’s first mention the name of the person in question.
It’s Mike Pillora, Jr., more known to fans by his sobriquet Nonoy or Noy. He is certainly not the household name Lolita Carbon, or the other guy, Cesar “Saro” Banares, who was fatally shot in a karaoke bar. Perhaps the documentary called “Kuya Noy,” directed by Daniel Binstead, will change Noy’s status from being an unsung hero of the local music scene to someone deserving of more mention in music circles.
“There are three things you can’t hide — the sun, the moon, and the truth,” Noy pointed in a show spiel, “And the truth is, all of us are just a dot.”
That’s the depth of Noy’s line of thinking which is a clear reflection of Asin’s good taste for meaningful messaging in their lyrics and musical atmosphere. So much so that when they were singing about the conflicts in southern Philippines, people in the NCR were taking their songs as protest hymns against urban perils and tyranny. Well, young, outspoken history revisionists may have to be reminded that while they think the Martial Law years were a golden age of some sort, many people who were actually around then had to hold on to the music of a trio of folk singers for wisdom and emotional strength. Later the band took in a fourth member: Fred “Pendong” Aban, Jr.
While it must be a sad note to point that Noy had become one of OPM’s forgotten men in part because of his non-visibility in the local music scene, it’s a more poignant realization that the documentary revealed what truly became of him after his group’s salad days. Debatably, the image that would have to be presented, which is not the filmmaker’s fault, is one of poignancy: “It follows Pillora’s life in the slums of Tel-Aviv where he has a daughter who is about to begin her military service.”
Should this be among the rare instances when we hear of a Filipino celebrity moving out of the Philippines and ending up in slums, being shown giving massage to a Caucasian client? That he is a founding member of the legendary Asin, the other being Saro, makes his story all the more piercing to the heart.
But take it from Noy himself who noted that “everything that happens is meant to be.” Somehow a good turnaround always awaits a man who did so much for Filipino folk artists to earn respect.
“Noy was very interesting,” said Binstead in their initial meeting, “The first thing that caught my eye was his persona.”
A couple of journalism students found Noy in a bar and they informed Binstead of his existence.
The Israeli embassy in the Philippines knew of the significance of the “Kuya Noy” documentary that it set up a virtual press conference for Filipino journalists and the OPM pioneer.
While Noy lamented over Asin’s routine of breaking up and getting back, and working like a business entity which in his words is “very much against what we are saying in our songs,” he did express his great feeling for the experience. He said, “I’m proud to be part of Asin. If Saro wasn’t murdered, the group would have been together. Someone has to take the initiative to reunite us surviving members.”
Somebody just might. Pillora’s compelling saga as brought about by the recent screening of “Kuya Noy” should also lead to renewed interest not only in Asin’s music but also to the prospect of that long-awaited reunion.