“Based on what I read in the news, I count myself lucky not being in Manila right now,” my fellow music enthusiast who is now based in Philadelphia wrote in closing as I consulted him regarding an upcoming project. He was, no doubt, referring to our current list of woes – from the post-Marawi siege to the siege against Rappler, from the continuing EJKs to our plodding carmageddons.
I wrote back to assure him that, in the end, given enough impetus, the human spirit can be quite resilient. More so in the case of the Filipino. Like our faith and our humor, music, time and again, has proven to be one of our most reliable weapons of choice for coping with crises. It should not be surprising then that it was partly music, I suspect, that helped integrate a compelling Visayan verb into the Filipino vocabulary. “Padayon” literally means forge ahead or move forward. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate it by way of the three moments it has occurred in Pinoy music. These three moments offer themselves as instructive cues that could serve us in good stead during these interesting times.
In Joey Ayala’s “Padayon,” this curious Visayan word is used in the context of construction workers building mansions they will never live in and minimum wage labourers carrying back-breaking sacks of “dinorado” their families will never eat. While it does intersperse its sad narrative with the Pinoy’s knack for humour even in desperate times, one comes away with an understanding of “padayon” as an exhortation to struggle so that one may survive – “tuloy and hanapbuhay.” Notwithstanding the linkage of their daily struggles to the bigger narrative of making the economy work, it is ultimately heartbreaking to listen to. But it is what it is. Thus, faced by the endless challenges and problems that face us as a country and as individuals, this understanding of “padayon” suggests that forging ahead is simply something we cannot afford not to do.
Written and composed to accompany the film “Kid Kulafu,” Ebe Dancel’s “Padayon” celebrates this compelling Visayan word in terms of fighting for one’s dreams and aspirations. Failures and defeats are regarded as springboards to one’s success. “Bago magtagumpay, kailangan munang sumablay” (i.e., one needs to fail in order to succeed.”) In this sense, it reinforces the Filipino equivalent of Stephen Covey’s Law of the Harvest: “pag may tyaga, may nilaga” ( i.e., “if you persist enough, you will be rewarded.”) One moves forward then not only to survive but because one aspires to thrive. “Padayon” here transcends Maslow’s physiological and security needs and enters the level of self-esteem and perhaps even self-actualization. Hence, the endless challenges and problems that face us as a country and as individuals are mere stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks to our dreams and aspirations. One forges ahead because of something bigger than one’s problems and challenges.
Like an aerial drone that provides a big picture, “padayon” as it is used in the Sandwich song “Betamax” flows from a soaring retrospective of the glory days of Pinoy pop – from the Juan Dela Cruz Band to the The Dawn, from Rico J. to Gary V. “Ipagpatuloy ang daloy ng alon, padayon” (i.e., “sustain the flow of the current, move forward.”) This third moment of “padayon”in Pinoy music celebrates the value of moving forward as one takes stock of how far we have come. Just as it encourages every Pinoy musician and listener to move forward in the light of what the leading lights of Pinoy music have hitherto brought us, “padayon” as it is used here encourages us to continue our struggle as a nation in the light of the great things our forefathers have bequeathed to us. “Padayon” becomes a clarion call for each and every Filipino to forge ahead by drawing strength from our glorious past as a country. Viewed from this perspective, our endless woes and struggles inevitably become less daunting whether one is based in Philadelphia or in Manila.