Yoyoy Villame’s “Magellan” and the quincentennial celebration

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya - The Freeman

Yoyoy Villame is one of my favorite novelty artists. I used to have a lot of fun listening to his music when I was younger, and I still do now. Songs that are relatable to average people, whether they live in the rural or in a city. The song "Magellan," written in 1972, is one of the most memorable songs that are still important today. The song highlights the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines. The date, March 16, 1521, is remarkable as we celebrate the 500 years of Christianity.

Dr. Jocelyn Pinzon, a colleague at UP, conducted research on novelty songs, Magellan, among others. It looked at how real Philippine historical narratives are remembered through popular music. Magellan, about Ferdinand Magellan's discovery of the Philippines in 1521, analyzes the lyrics as cultural text and interprets it in the light of concepts from literature, language and history.

Our Christian religion has been put to the test for many years. Filipinos have been through social, political, and economic upheavals, but our faith has remained powerful and unaffected. The recent pandemic has put our trust to the test. Faith based on our deep devotion to any prominent religious figure, particularly Señor Sto. Niño.

Although there are some factual inaccuracies in the song, such as the idea of the nation being discovered when it already had its own culture and values before Magellan and his men arrived. As pointed out by historian Michael Chua that for many, 1521 would be synonymous with the start of the Spanish colonization, thinking that Magellan started it, which is false. Magellan was stopped by Lapu-lapu and colonization would only start in 1565, after 44 years. Another is that fact that based on the historical accounts, no direct link between the one who really killed Magellan. 

Ms. Lydia Cuizon, my high school speech teacher, used the song as a springboard for her pronunciation activity. Regrettably, the song's substance was not taken seriously; only the incorrectly pronounced words were as we were asked to sing the corrected pronunciation.

One thing that can't be taken away is the song's ability to evoke strong memories. It connects us to significant events that exemplified our forefathers' bravery. Many national heroes have referred to this brand of courage in their subsequent uprisings.

It's worth noting that, as a novelty song, it makes the listeners chuckle. And it is by its own wit that we are reminded of the meaning of the occasion.

It's been 500 years of unwavering faith, of reverence for a deep conviction that directs our daily lives. The song Magellan, by Yoyoy Villame, not only offers entertainment, but also serves as a reminder of the dominant and distinctive aspect of our national identity as a people of faith.

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