2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Isang Pamaskong Playlist Taong 2014

Sinasabing walang katulad ang Paskong Pinoy kumpara sa pagdiriwang ng panahong ito sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo. Sa Pilipinas nagsisimula ang nakatutuwang paghihintay nito pagtuntong sa mga tinatawag na “ber months.” Kasabay ng pagtatayo ng belen at pagsabit ng parol ay ang pagpapatugtog ng mga awiting Pamasko. Narito ang sampu sa mga awiting Pinoy na nakaugalian na naming patugtugin twing Kapaskuhan.

Alin kaya sa mga ito ang paborito nyo rin?

1. “Heto Na Naman” (Ryan Cayabyab) Ito, sa ganang akin, ang pinakakwelang awiting Pamasko na imposibleng di makatawag-pansin tuwing naririnig namin. Nakaaaliw itong pakinggan gawa ng iba’t ibang “a capella voicings” na inawit lahat ng pamosong si Mr. C. Kasabay ng aliw na dulot ng natatanging tyempo at melodiya ng awiting ito ay ang isang mahalagang paalala na wag manatili sa mga panlabas na aspeto ng Kapaskuhan.

one christmas ryan cayabyab

2. “Tuloy na Tuloy Pa Rin ang Pasko” (Apo) Maituturing na hawig ang tema ng “Heto Na Naman” sa awiting ito na sinulat ni Andrei Dionisio at pinasikat ng Apo. Ito ay dahil sa pagbibigay diin nito sa katotohanang ang diwa ng Pasko ay wala sa aginaldo at noche buena. Ang kakaiba dito ay kung paano nasumpungan ang katotohanang ito ng isang namumrublema kung papaanong maidadaos ang Pasko sa panahong “kung tayo naman ay kapos at wala nang pera.”

apo christmas album

3. “Kumukutitap” (Joey Albert) Ang komposisyong ito nina Ryan Cayabyab at ng direktor na si Joey Javier Reyes ay maituturing na isa sa pinakamasayang sabayan twing pinatutugtog sa plaka o CD. Gawa ito marahil ng dalawang elemento. Una ay ang napakasayang melodiya na inilapat dito ni Ryan Cayabyab. Ikalawa ay ang nakatutuwang patotoo nito sa kagandahan ng wikang Pilipino. Pansinin: “Kumukutikutitap, bumubusibusilak, ganyan ang indak ng mga bombilya; Kikindatkindat, kukurapkurap, pinaglalaruan ang iyong mga mata.”

joey albert xmas

4. “Pasko na, Sinta Ko” (Gary Valenciano) Hindi kumpleto ang Pasko pag wala ang pinaka-senting “Christmas love song” na ito. Kaya na rin siguro lahat halos ng mga sikat na musikerong Pinoy ay may “cover versions” nito. Wala pa ring tatalo sa orihinal na bersyon na unang pinasikat ni Gary V noong 1996. Salamat kina Francis Dandan at Aurelio Estanislao na syang nagsulat ng titik at naglapat ng musika.

gary v xmas album
5. “Fruitcake” (Eraserheads) “There’s a fruitcake for everybody; there’s a B-side to every story.”  Pinakanakaka-“last song syndrome” na Pamaskong rock song ang “Fruitcake.” Sinulat ni Ely Buendia sa kasagsagan ng kanilang kasikatan bilang Eraserheads, ito ang nagsilbing “lead track” sa “concept album cum Christmas album” na may parehong pamagat taong 1996. Kasabay ng paglabas nito sa CD ay ang paglathala ng isang “storybook” na ganoon din ang pamagat.

eraserheads fruitcake

6. “Hele ni Inay” (Gary Valenciano) Maituturing na Pamaskong bersyon ng “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” ang “Hele ni Inay” dahil sa pagbibigay-pugay ng awiting ito sa napakahalagang papel ng isang ina sa ating buhay. Pinakamaigting na nararanasan ito ng mga anak na nagtitipun-tipon tuwing Kapaskuhan. Sinulat nina Lisa Tayko at Roy del Valle, isa itong pagpapatibay sa tinuran ng Alemang pilosopo na si Martin Heidegger: “to the heart that loves, absence is presence.”

gary v hele ni inay
7. “Isang Taong Lumipas” (The CompanY) Mula sa panulat nina Ryan Cayabyab at Jose Javier Reyes, ang awiting ito ang kumakatawan sa mga karaniwang naiisip at napag-uusapan ng mga kapamilya, kapatid at kapuso sa twing nagtitipon-tipon ang pamilyang Pilipino sa buwan ng Disyembre. Sa kabila ng mga pagbabago, may mga bagay pa ring di matitinag ng panahon kahit na anong mangyari.

the company christmas album

8. “Emmanuel” (Noel Cabangon) Isang di maitatangging mahalagang bahagi ng mga “chorale repertoire” sa loob ng misa tuwing panahon ng Kapaskuhan. Ang bersyon ni Cabangon ay pinaigting ng “counterpoint” na inareglo ni Vincent De Jesus. Isinalin ito sa Tagalog ni Rene Oliveros, SJ at binigyan ng karagdagang titik ni George Gozum. Ang pamosong kompositor na si Manoling Francisco, SJ ang naglapat ng musika.

huwag mangamba
9. “Himig ng Pasko” (San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra at San Miguel Master Chorale) “Malamig ang simoy ng hangin, kay saya ng bawat damdamin; ang tibok ng puso sa dibdib, para bang hulog na ng langit.” Ito na siguro ang pinakamasarap sabayang awiting Pamasko tuwing may tumatapat sa ating mga tahanan para mag-“caroling” lalo na pagdating sa pagbitin sa linyang: “Masaya ang…mga tanawin.” Utang natin ito sa talento nina Ruben Tagalog at Sergio Ramos.

pasko by san miguel chorale

10. “Payapang Daigdig” (Regine Velasquez) Sinasabing sinulat ito ni Felipe de Leon isang umaga matapos yanigin ang Maynila ng mga pagsabog ng mga bombang hinulog ng mga Hapon noong Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig. Patuloy pa din itong nangungusap sa atin sa ikadalawampu’t isang siglo. Nakalulungkot isiping tila baga nadagdagan pa ng pag-abante ng teknolohiya ang ating kakayahang wasakin ang mundo at ang ating mga sarili. Salamat na lamang at nakapaloob sa titik at musika ng awiting ito na sa bandang huli, ang mensahe ng pag-asa ng Pasko ang maaaring sumalba sa atin.

regine xmas

A 2014 Christmas Playlist

“Ruby” or not, come rain or come shine, Christmas is practically just around the corner. And along with the familiar sight of the parol and Christmas lights all over the country, one sure sign that there is no stopping Christmas is the almost omnipresent sound of Christmas carols from a myriad of storage devices and streaming media.

Here are my top 10 Christmas tracks or if you will, songs my family and I can’t do without come December. Thankfully, most, if not all of them have not been accorded the overplays that tend to make some songs grate on your ears after some time. Check out how they stack up compared to your list.

1. “Gabriel’s Message” (Sting) Notwithstanding his declaration that he now eschews all types of organized religion (including the Judaeo-Christian tradition in which he was raised) – choosing instead to believe in a higher being – Sting’s inspired rendition of this 1892 classic by Charles Bordes and Sabine Baring-Gould makes you feel like you’re actually eavesdropping on how Gabriel must have spoken to Mary complete with the flapping of wings in the backdrop. The ethereal counterpoint is its key highlight.

a very special christmas

2. “7 O’Clock/Silent Night” (Simon & Garfunkel) Recorded in 1966 as part of the album “Parley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” this song features the signature harmonies of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel against the backdrop of depressing headlines read by newscaster Charlie O’Donnell during an imagined 7 O’Clock evening news. This version of “Silent Night” is unparalleled in communicating the continuing relevance of the carpenter’s son for fleshing out the meaning of love for 33 years in a world that continues to be in dire need of it. It was so in 1966. It is so in 2014.

Parsley-Sage-Rosemary-And-Thyme-cover

3. “Hands” [Christmas Version] (Jewel) Composed by Jewel Kilcher and Patrick Leonard in 1998, this song reminds me of the philantrophic mindset which, I suspect, grounds how Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates have chosen to regard their vast wealth and resources. The same might as well be said about humanity’s less celebrated unsung heroes who have chosen to devote their lives to serving the poor and the marginalized. “In the end,” Jewel would remind us, “only kindness matters.” And the Christmas season is the best time to realize that each of us has been blessed with a pair of hands precisely to explore the varied ways we could show such kindness.

joy by jewel

4. “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)” (Amy Grant) The ominous-sounding introduction of this song is almost cinematic in paving the way for appreciating the burden Mary must have felt as she conceived the Son of God. “I have traveled many moonless nights. Cold and weary, with a babe inside.” The song takes flight as Mary chooses to humbly ask for the grace of God to handle “the load I bear.” In this regard, it naturally offers itself as a fitting continuum and an apt response to Sting’s “Gabriel’s Message.’

amy grant xmas album

5. “Christmas Lights” (Coldplay) What Coldplay describes as a “mid-tempo number” was actually released in 2010. In any case, a careful reading of its lyrics would seem to suggest its motif would have made it feel at home with the tracks that comprise the 2014 “Ghost Stories” album. Like most of the Coldplay songs we’ve grown to love, this song is melancholic both with respect to its melody and its lyrics. Its soaring and thankfully, hopeful chorus is a valiant musical attempt to get over heartbreak and move on: “May all your troubles soon be gone. Oh Christmas Lights, keep shining on.”

Coldplay_-_Christmas_Lights

6. “The Rebel Jesus” (Jackson Browne) In the event that Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” has lost its edge to unsettle you due to repeated overplays, check out this little-known Christmas song guaranteed 101% to disturb your merry-making and make you aware that Christmas should not be reduced to “noche buena” and “aguinaldo.” It’s also supposed to make you ask why some of us enjoy the best of the season with style while some of our fellow Filipinos make do with “pagpag” over candle light in a room that, as it is, is already too small to fit 2 but is nonetheless occupied by 10.

jackson browne

7. “A Christmas Song” (Dave Matthews Band) This song which first appeared as a surprise track in “Remember Two Things,” the debut album of DMB back in 1993 offers an unconventional and, therefore, fresh retelling of the life of Christ from His Nativity to His Crucifixion. In fact, the first time I heard it, I thought Matthews was narrating the story of a boyfriend and a girlfriend until the part where he cites the wise men who came to visit the bouncing, baby boy. Makes you realize that indeed, “Emmanuel”  means God with us.

remember two things

8. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” (Sarah Mclachlan) Written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1971, this song was the culmination of more than 2 years of peace activism mounted by the couple against the Vietnam war. It was given a new lease on life when Sarah Mclachlan recreated it as the carrier single of her Christmas album entitled “Wintersong” in 2006. This along with “Rebel Jesus” offer themselves as powerful wake-up calls to counter the siren call of consumerism which is at its peak during this season and bring back, as the cliché goes, Christ to Christmas. Hence, Lennon and now, Mclachlan’s conscienticizing: “And so it is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Sarah_McLachlan-Wintersong-Frontal

9. “The Answer” (Corrinne May) This is the only original track in Corrinne May’s Christmas album aptly entitled “The Gift.” It is also the most personal as it is actually a prayer penned by May herself, a devout Catholic who completed her studies at the Berklee College of Music. “Give me strength when I am weary; give me hope when I can’t see; Through the crosses I must carry, Lord, bind my heart to Thee.” Interestingly, its melody is based on “Jupiter” which was part of the “Planets Suite” composed by classical music composer and conductor Gustav Holst (1874-1934.)

corrinne may the gift

10. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (James Taylor and Natalie Cole) For some reason, James Taylor and Natalie Cole’s 2006 cover of this 1944 classic brings to mind the witty one-liner exchanges between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in the 80s hit “dramedy” series “Moonlighting.” Penned by Frank Loesser, this song has been recorded by over 25 pairs of musicians from the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr and Carmen McRae to Idina Menzel and Michael Buble. It is quite possibly the most romantic Christmas song.

james taylor christmas

Have a Blessed and Meaningful Christmas celebration!