Monday, March 9, 2009

The Man From Manila

Dear Francis,

I'm still in disbelief, man. You know, I was thinking about you recently too. Wondering how you were holding up, how your music was going, how your family was doing. I remember shooting you that text when the news of your diagnosis was first announced. I could tell you didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I kinda wish I didn't listen to you.

It's funny, I wasn't sure what to expect when I first met you, that Summer in '07. I had heard how big you were, the impact of your music as far as hip hop in the Philippines. But honestly, probably like many Filipino-Americans, I didn't really take hip hop from the Philippines that seriously. I was totally ignorant with my perception of y'all. With my arrogant American viewpoint, I didn't think hip hop from the P.I was quite up to par with what we were doing in the states.

And you proved me wrong.

There you were, this slim, handsome Pinoy in a bright pink t-shirt. I immediately knew it was you. Not that you were loud or anything, but you just had this presence. That "glow." And you were just amazingly cool and totally approachable. And when I finally got to see you hit the stage, man, I was blown away. You were the first and only rapper I've ever seen go from rapping to singing a straight-up rock song, then switching to a blues joint while playing the harmonica. You were articulate, you cracked jokes, you told your story. I remember turning to my friends who were with me like, "Okay, THIS is my new favorite rapper."

After that night, I remember going back and borrowing (okay, stealing) all of my homie's Francis M songs. It took me a minute to figure out the tagalog, but I understood. These songs were about the people. The kababayan. Our struggle. And not just on one or two songs neither. And the youth I work with, who grew up to your music, when they speak of you with reverence and respect, I understand why. I would probably speak of Chuck D or 2pac in the same way. I would probably speak of some of our local elder activists in the same way. Your stuff was not just music for music's sake. You spoke fiercely in your criticisms of the system, with real pain over our people's suffering. You sang love songs. You were a prophet, and the whole nation loved you because you spoke the truth.

There are many artists and rappers I meet that come and go, but I truly considered you my friend for life. You didn't give me that industry vibe I get from many hip hop artists; you embraced who I was, and allowed me to be a part of what you had started. You let me rock a stage with you. You hardly knew me, but you treated me like a brother, even offering your crib the next time I visited the P.I. And so, I light a candle for you, as my brother, the Man from Manila, the Master Rapper, Kiko...aka Francis Magalona. Thank you for living, for your gift of music, for your voice of reality. Your legacy will live on through your music, and the inspiration you've given to countless young people in the Philippines and beyond. Mabuhay!

Your friend always,

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