BY MC GALANG AND IAN URRUTIA
The last 10 years of music videos from the Philippines have inarguably tipped the scale from major label-backed promotional content towards artistic interpretation. Because the medium is visual, we became privy to the musician’s specific vision—a story within a story.
Listening to a song allows us to project our own narrative to it; whereas, music videos offer an immediate account. Moreover, videos have largely defined many musicians’ brand and/or message. We are exposed to a plethora of platforms that offer wider access to multimedia, where ironically, one of the most, if not primary, vital agendas is connecting to the audience. The greater challenge lies in the intrinsic value of that relationship. What do you want to say? Did you say it well?
From one of the rare moments of trans visibility and representation in the industry to a striking portrait of societal decay, here are, in no particular order, the 20 music videos from the 2010s that made a lasting, compelling impression.
BY IAN URRUTIA
BAMBU (F/ KILLER MIKE)
Directed by Filmonita (2017)
It’s fascinating when artists challenge the boundaries of what a music video can be, redefining the form into a call for social action. Riveting in every frame, the music video of “Prey’er” depicts the systemic oppression and rampant exploitation faced by marginalized communities and people of color. Removed from its geographical context, it shares affinity with the current socio-political landscape of the Philippines, where the poor and the underprivileged suffer the most from state-sanctioned killings and doomed justice system, where the country’s institutional policies favor only the rich and the powerful. Music website Raw Drive call it “a theatrically deranged visual accompaniment,” but I call it a work of sly confidence. Subtlety be damned, this statement of protest deserves global attention.
BP Valenzuela (F/ CRWN)
Directed by Apa Agbayani (2017)
Late-period BP Valenzuela has gifted us with music videos that champion LGBTQIA+ visibility. “Cards,” BP’s collaboration with director Apa Agbayani, pushes the envelope forward for queer and gay perceptibility, giving a glimpse into the romantic dissolution that unfolds between a young couple. For all the simplicity of the narrative, Apa evocatively captures the moment when every great relationship is bound to fall apart, lingering on metaphors, visuals, and facial expressions to get its point across.
Directed by Dwight Galang (2017)
What’s remarkable about the music video of “Executive Order” is how it resonates on an emotional level in a time of political strife, showing the scale of the situation in a manner that needs to be told. Dwight Galang’s absurdist take is an allusion to the killings of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos and 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz—both “handcuffed, dragged, and shot” by cops as part of the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs. The video shows how a tragedy can break a family’s spirit in an instant, rendering their life useless and grappling for sanity.
Turn Me Down
Directed by Paco Raterta (2017)
Somewhere in the tropical wild, Jess Connelly is accompanied by a rooster and a yellow parasol umbrella, singing alt-R&B jams in her pink pajamas. It’s a striking visual standout that marries camp aesthetics with eclectic style, and only Jess can pull it off. She’s a star in her own version of a daydream paradise, a colorful persona who has found a deep connection with nature, surrealism, poetry, and romance.
PART 1: Taxi Taxi
Animation by Megan Palero (2014)
With the help of acclaimed animator Megan Palero, the video for “Taxi Taxi” continues the surreal and forward-thinking exotica of kaapin’s music videos, one that is bent on creating a world populated by robots, aliens, and strange characters “living as unconscious beings.” While the music itself conjures a rich and recursive dreamworld of its own, Palero’s work brings the aural playground to a more discernible aesthetic representation– a loose but fun depiction of the little freaks we have become in our constant struggle to escape from life’s harshest challenges and realities.
Directed by Cameron Clarke (2018)
There’s a lot to unpack on similarobjects’ “tilde” music video. In a series of dreams, a young woman is haunted by a recurring image of religious symbols and wild animals. She’s also seen performing a ritual, trying to make sense of the cryptic signs and hoping that it would give meaning to her identity and purpose. The clip, helmed by Cameron Clarke and edited by Czar Campos, takes you to a journey that seeks answers to our existence, albeit narrating the visuals from an abstracted view point.
Directed by Malay Javier and Gym Lumbera (2015)
A true masterwork from Gym Lumbera and Malay Javier, the music video of Wilderness’ “Pasaway” attempts to unfold a lyrical essay on a rebel’s life in the mountains and the pain of losing one of the comrades in the middle of a battle. It succeeds in honoring intimate moments of grief and loss, but more than anything else, it remains unwavering in showcasing a different side of the armed struggle—the humanized facet that seems wholly unconcerned with what we think.
Directed by Unique Salonga (2018)
Unique has always defied industry expectations with compelling artistic vision that is miles ahead from his peers. Aside from being a musician, he is also an underrated music video director with thought-provoking motifs and exciting ideas. “Cha-Ching!,” a grotesque visual portrait of greed, lust, and money, showcases the wunderkind’s bleak but progressive worldview. For many people who have seen it, it’s beyond goosebumps-inducing. The kid certainly knows how to turn a Lynchian imagery into something that stirs emotional sensibilities.
Directed by Rob Jara (2015)
Before hugot became the go-to concept for nearly every local music video that earned a spot on mainstream music channels, there was The Purplechickens’ “Casanova”—a gorgeously shot clip that captures romance in the time of endless rains and uncertainties. Directed by Rob Jara, it effortlessly evokes young love’s distinct pleasures, but conceived in such a way that doesn’t romanticized overwrought sentimentality and big symbolic gestures. There is just the delight of seeing two people from opposite sides of the class spectrum, finding an instant connection and letting fate run its magic to pull them closer together no matter the circumstances.
Bheybi Pa-shembot Gang
Yuji De Torres
Directed by Patricia Laudencia (2017)
The premise of “Bheybi Pa-shembot Gang” is nothing like you’ve seen before, but its attempt to showcase a progressive exploration of a trans character in less than four minutes deserves a pat in the back. Wickedly funny and morose at the same time, it sheds light on the life of a trans prostitute in the urban jungle, where struggle is a form of survival and pain is masked by smiles and neon signs.
BY MC GALANG
Tama Na Ang Drama
Ang Bandang Shirley
Directed by Joanne Cesario (2015)
The music of Ang Bandang Shirley is razor-sharp in its familiarity, weaving stirring narratives even from the most prosaic, overlooked, or unusual sources. The titular single to their excellent 2012 album, Tama Na Ang Drama, is an exercise in emotional ingenuity, elevated visually by director Joanne Cesario in sequences abundantly capturing a spectrum of feelings: from the every day (after-work exhaustion) to the extremes (heartbreaks) through behaviors and practices spectacularly acted by its two female leads.
The visual cues and editing are fitting, on point. Halfway into the video, the videoke interlude message (“Are you having fun?”) shows a cheerless Mailes Kanapi, who then perks up when the cavalry returned with a couple of beers in hand.
The casting of Erlinda Villalobos, to me, is the most significant of artistic decisions: an industry veteran whose roles were largely comprised of being a grandmother, a neighbor, a bystander, a common folk. Because there is no better representative to our collective joys and miseries than someone who’s literally, a face in the crowd. Someone who truly feels, just like us.
BLKD x UMPH
Directed by Paco Raterta (2016)
Released amidst a spate of extrajudicial killings sanctioned by the new president, the music video for BLKD x UMPH’s “Taksil” shows the everyday life of citizens undisrupted (hauntingly documented in slow, vertical crawl by director Paco Raterta), consumed by other perils not immediately fatal but nevertheless disturbing. The threat of societal betrayal, according to the poet-activist, lurks in every corner. Every day is a new license in life, and our preoccupation with living is not merely confined within survival—we’re just not programmed that way. This false sense of complacency and misplaced vigilance, BLKD warns, will only make us a different kind of victim, one of our own doing.
Directed by Jerrold Tarog (2019)
The urgency in Bullet Dumas’s “Usisa,” the title track to his 2018 debut album, is a forceful plea for action, itself driven by striking motion: whether by intense choreography or guitar strumming, or how his wails rapidly occupy a space, making it uncomfortable and impossible not to move and be moved. Director Jerrold Tarog (Sana Dati, Heneral Luna, Goyo) executes the increasing tension of Dumas’s anguish, neither overstated or minimized.
When Dumas premiered the video on Facebook, he wrote a short note, replacing the last word of the first verse of Francisco Santiago’s “Pilipinas Kong Mahal,” from “hirang” (chosen) to “hibang” (crazy). He understood that patriotism, like any profound devotion, is not immune to the thin line that separates love from madness, and that the tragedy of “Usisa” lies in our failure—or unwillingness—to break free from our own chains.
Directed by Sarie Cruz (2013)
The dread is palpable in the beginning of Earthmover’s “Two.” Director Sarie Cruz opted for mood, capturing bleakness and paranoia enclosed in shadows and silhouettes. Its vignettes in the second half moved with the cadence of the song’s climax, signaling a rebirth, a second act. It is with this display of reclaiming your life that echoes Friedrich Nietzsche’s view of courage springing from facing “simultaneously one’s greatest suffering and one’s highest hope” as heroism, one that’s directed at the self.
Sisikat Ka Iha
Bita and the Botflies
Directed by Michelle Palomo and Kevin Dayrit (2018)
The juxtaposition between the buoyant renderings of surrealist art that suggests inspiration from the feminist and luminary artist Frieda Kahlo and the overt theme of Bita and the Botflies’ “Sisikat Ka Iha,” is compelling, a “disturbing, but all-too-common story.” One of the most familiar rise-to-fame anecdotes usually involves a person with considerable authority (e.g. a “talent scout”) plucking an impressionable girl from anonymity, promising riches and celebrity.
While Bita and the Botflies and directors Michelle Palomo and Kevin Dayrit told the visual story from the “perspective of a predator posing as an agent to emphasize the objectification of women,” it also made oblique references to the oppressive environments that allow the abuse of vulnerable people to perpetuate, including relationships that involve unfair labor practices or contracts that disproportionately disempowers women and children.
The video is littered by animals as stand-in for a human audience (the only human in sight is a pallid image of vocalist Sofy Aldeguer, herself a subject of rampant objectification within online spaces purportedly championing local music), with the “agent” characterized by an octopus demon, its tentacles gripping and pulling the young woman in directions in which the latter has no agency in. The tragedy in our society is that women can only enjoy the spectacle of herself—as Frieda Kahlo did—if it’s for another person’s, usually a man’s, benefit.
Directed by Aaron S. Gonzales (2015)
The stop-motion animated music video for “To Sleep” is comprised of 5,590 photos, 7 handmade dolls, and 7 miniature sets (including a full band setup), a painstaking labor of love from pop-jazz act Lenses (formerly known as Hidden Nikki), helmed by director and vocalist Aaron S. Gonzales. It is a testament to finding grace in the dullness of routine, the incremental beauty in stillness.
It brims with tenderness, understanding our occasional need for it and offers a refuge at the end of the day when you need to. “Everybody needs a holiday,” Gonzales sings. And when you fall asleep, it keeps the promise of companionship.
Directed by Michael Manalastas (2016)
NINNO’s “Simmer” is a caustic tale of both morality and mortality, one that weighs heavily on him. When the music video was released in 2016, I wrote that it “galvanizes, with its searing visual commentary, the realities of our time—not just history—and the actions and inactions we are all culpable of. As long as systematic oppression remains entrenched in our society, our freedom remains to be in vain.” Not much has changed since then.
That freedom is at the core of NINNO and director Michael Manalastas’s vision, a dire warning of what’s at stake, and all three fictional characters (all played by NINNO himself) fighting for it: freedom from any threat to our sovereignty, freedom to express and expose the truth, and freedom to live.
Directed by Samantha Solidum (2018)
“Unsay kalaki nato?” (What the hell are we doing?) is a question that far outlasts a first love. The anxiety, even though we may not have a name for it at the time, is unbearable. We often forget the complexities of that formative experience all happen in a much smaller world. This makes it more vivid, more magnified—like this is that great love we will never recover from, should things don’t work out. Or worse, not reciprocated. Ouch.
There is no flagrant emphasis on gender role, which makes it more important because it’s conveying a very natural experience and that it normalizes it for everyone. It’s not trying hard to make the situation unnecessarily complicated or gimmicky. What we will remember the most about those firsts is how it made us all feel.
Viva Records’ Compiled Footage (2016)
I don’t have to be emotionally invested in the end of the JaDine era (offscreen, at least) for me to recognize the infectious charm and palpable chemistry of one of the country’s most beloved love teams. The song, taken from the excellent Reid Alert EP (written by the formidable hit-making tandem, Thyro Alfaro and Yumi Lacsamana), carries the emotional weight of the blossoming offscreen romance between the two leads, captured in the behind-the-scenes footage from 2015’s On The Wings of Love drama series, turning the love story of Leah and Clark from reel to real.
“Randomantic” is essentially about a man’s quest to win a woman’s heart—a song written in all manners and forms many times before, but not always as potent when it involves a couple who seems clearly besotted with and destined for each other and whose fate we latch our hopes on. This is why it feels all the more affecting that, during the live viewing party of the teleserye’s finale, James Reid finally professed his love for his onscreen partner, Nadine Lustre.
Their fans (and I consider myself one in many ways) may still be heartbroken about the two’s separation, but if we insist in evaluating the end, then we must look at the totality of their relationship. Because to all of us who witnessed, JaDine, with “Randomantic” as one of its proofs, even at one point, made love a little more lovelier, too.
Directed by King Palisoc (2015)
Dance is a language of movement, one that could be structured (choreographed), or one that, according to Virginia Woolf, “yield[s] to that strange passion which sends you madly whirling round the room.” The video for UDD (Up Dharma Down)’s “Indak” explores the energy, vulnerability, and rhythm shared in an act where trust is necessary, especially when contact is established as a routine—being aware of our own body’s relationship with another through instinct, touch, guidance, and mutual support.
“Indak” is a single from the band’s third studio album, Capacities, its most evident manifestation of emotional gestures, one that fully embraces love as a physical language. Beautifully shot by King Palisoc, vocalist Armi Millare rehearses with two dance partners: one at a time, then both at the end, showing the unrefined parts of process, noticeable in a room bathed in natural light. It is electric, not when the dancers touch, but in moments measured by the space between them, one where their hands linger almost on top of each other, but not touching. This moment of hesitation perfectly encapsulates its greatest conflict: love in surrender.