Remembering Francis Magalona: Nationalist Rapper


“My rhyme sticking to your head like epoxy, this is how it should be done, ‘coz this rhyme is identical to none.”  – Francis M., “Super Proxy” (w/ The Eraserheads)

Many have followed, only few are able to come close to his achievements and none can say they reached the same level as the man widely recognized as the “Father of Philippine Hip-Hop”, the late Francis Magalona. Just like the song “Super Proxy”, Francis M. was “identical to none”.

While his artistic talents are indeed unparalleled, what was most striking about Magalona was his nationalistic sentiments. He is credited to have started Makabayan (nationalist) Rap, where his songs would talk about Filipino identity and address societal problems such as our defeatist mentality. It is indeed the negative outlook of Filipinos for their own country and people that Magalona wanted to change, dropping lines in his hit songs that talked about his pride in being a Filipino.

In “Mga Kababayan Ko” (My Fellow Countrymen), Magalona addresses the colonial mentality of many Filipinos obsessed with looking foreign. A line goes:

Mga Kababayan ko, dapat lang malaman niyo, Bilib ako sa kulay ko, ako ay Pilipino.

“My fellow countrymen, you need to know, I am proud of my skin colour, I am Filipino.”

Another of his hits, “Tayo’y Mga Pilipino” (We are Filipinos) says:

Tayo’y mga Pilipino, hindi Kano, ‘wag kang mahiya kung ilong mo ay pango.

“We are Filipinos, not Americans, don’t be ashamed if you have a snub nose.”

At a time where skin-whitening products are in demand and the affluent undergo cosmetic surgery to change the shape of their noses, all to look foreign, Magalona sings of his pride in the way he looks as a Filipino.

The rapper also addressed societal issues plaguing the country, such as the high drug addiction rate among youths. In “Mga Praning” (The Paranoid), Magalona addresses these wasted youths:

I have a story to tell, for the good of the Kabataan (youth), who are wasting away dahil sa shabu (because of methamphetamine).

He then issues a warning to them:

Umpisahan nang itigil ang salot ng bayan, titigil ka lang ba ‘pag ika’y pinaglalamayan?

“Let’s get rid of this pest of our society, are you only going to stop when you’re being mourned already?”

The song was released in 1992, during a decade where drug addiction was skyrocketing in a post-Martial Law Philippines. Magalona’s burgeoning music career, which was widely revered among youths, was the perfect platform to reach to this troubled generation.

Aside from illegal drugs, the rapper also hit out at the apathy among Filipinos regarding the democratic process. In his song “Halalan” (Elections), he says:

Nakakakita pero hindi nanonood, nakakarinig pero mga bingi pareho, tingala sa lahat dahil sa langit tumitingin.

“You can see but you don’t look, you can hear but you’re also deaf, you are unaware of everything because you’re looking up to the sky.”

It is obvious in this stanza that Francis M. also criticizes the religiosity of Filipinos, citing it as one of the reasons why they tend to be apathetic regarding their political reality. The Philippines endures the unwanted opinion of its’ religious leaders regarding political decisions which violates the separation of church and state, calling this out required a lot of courage from the rapper.

He was a household name, not only for being among the country’s top musical performers but also for the patriotic blend he instills in his work. For his efforts, Magalona was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit in 2009 “for his musical and artistic brilliance, his deep faith in the Filipino and in his sense of national pride that continues to inspire us.”

Despite passing away in 2009, succumbing to cancer, the legacy of Francis Magalona lives on and continues to help Filipinos appreciate their identity to this day. His wife and children would later establish the Francis Magalona Foundation with the slogan: “Find Meaning in the Filipino”. According to their website, the foundation serves as an “invitation to every Filipino to ask themselves about the significance of their roots, their blood and of being a Filipino.” The organization visits schools around the country giving talks on a wide range of topics, helping them achieve their potential and helping them find a sense of pride in their own identity.

With his brash lyrics, his cocky demeanor and his embrace of the moniker “King of Philippine Rap” it was obvious that Francis Magalona was confident of himself, but even more so was he confident of the talent and the greatness of the Filipino people.

On the anniversary of his death, we remember his life and celebrate the legacy he left behind.

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