Culture

Most Iconic Campaign Jingles in Philippine Elections

We still can't get them out of our heads.
ILLUSTRATOR Roland Mae Tanglao
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There was a time when election season produced more than new leaders in government, it also gave everyone a bad case of LSS. The culprit? The campaign jingle of a particular big-ticket candidate that was so bad, it was good. It was a definite earworm worthy of another listen.

The Making of an Iconic Campaign Jingle

Campaign jingles may not be as resounding and as impactful now as they were two elections ago, but their power remains undeniable. George Caparas described it best: “A jingle is basically a candidate’s musical score, but its usefulness lies in its being a mnemonic device that compresses name, program, and platform into a two-minute rhyme.”

It’s an effective campaign tool especially for a politician who is courting an electorate that loves music and a populace that treats singers like they’re gods when they vote for the next big TV singing sensation. As painful as it may be to admit, Filipinos do love to sing and dance, and perhaps, enjoy a bit of entertainment when it comes to actual election campaigns.

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While history has shown that a catchy campaign jingle isn’t always successful in helping a candidate win a seat in government, at least those who did lose went down fighting with a memorable, legendary tune Filipinos still remember long after their campaigns.

Below, we list down some of the most iconic jingles in Philippine elections.

Mambo Magsaysay

It may not be the sole reason why he won the highest seat in the land in 1953, but the campaign jingle of former President Ramon Magsaysay surely helped him get to Malacañang. And for good reason. Give it a listen and it sounds as current as it was six decades ago. According to a story by Manuel Quezon III, the Philippines was apparently in a “Mambo Craze” that time, so having the dance music as the jingle’s genre of choice wasn’t arbitrary.

The tune itself, composed by Raul Manglapus, already induces dancing, but its rhythmic lyrics that tastefully combined English and Filipino were what made it a hit. “That is why, that is why you will hear the people cry. Our democracy will die, kung wala si Magsaysay,” the refrain went. Then came the chorus that everyone can sing and dance to: “Mambo, mambo Magsaysay!”

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Bagong Pilipinas

It may not start a dance but it can cause goosebumps.

To combat the star-studded and electrifying campaign of the leading Presidential contender in 2004, Fernando Poe Jr., former Camarines Sur Rep. Raul Roco went for an anthem, sung by some of local theater’s best vocalists, to tug at the heartstrings of those who cared to listen to the lyrics.

Each verse was packed with campaign promises yet it didn’t sound like a pesky lyrical lecture. In fact, it may even remind most of Michael Jackson’s humanitarian hit, "Heal the World," as if it’s just a song for a cause, that is to have Roco as the country’s, well, new hope. Roco finished fourth in the elections, but he’s still remembered by his most ardent supporters as one of the “best Philippine presidents we never had.”

Hoy, Hoy, Hoy

It’s barely 10 seconds long, and yet, Mar Roxas’ first campaign jingle for the Senate was effective in inducing name recallenough for him to finish first in the 2004 national elections. Sung in the tune of Parokya ni Edgar’s "Mr. Suave," Roxas’ "Hoy Hoy Hoy," only had two lines that weren’t those inane lyrics: “Iboto sa senado / Mar Roxas, senador.” There were no promises here, just a catchy hook most can remember. Couple that with his Mr. Palengke image, Roxas became a sure winner.

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Ja-ja-ja-Jamby

How does a politician court a diverse set of markets with a single song? Others made sure to have his or her platform weaved into a single three-minute tune, but 2013 senatorial aspirant Jamby Madrigal knew better. She combined two song genres to attract the ears of both the old and the young. As if inspired by R&B, "Ja-ja-Jamby" starts with a female balladeer singing “Ang magsilbi sa mahirap, isang karangalan,” then it cuts short and jolts listeners into heavy rap: “Galit sa mahirap, ayaw sa corrupt: Ja-ja-ja-Jamby.”

"Ja-ja-ja-Jamby" was effective in her first run for Senator in 2004, but it wasn’t as successful when she sought re-election in 2010.

Manny Villar’s Presidential Campaign Ballad

Sang by a choir of kids, Manny Villar’s presidential campaign ballad with an enduring first line “Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura?” was an early hit in 2010. Sure, surveys may have shown former President Benigno Aquino would emerge the clear winner in the elections, and yet, people still couldn’t get Villar out of their heads, mostly because of this ballad. It told a story, a gripping and dramatic one at that. But once people got sick of hearing it on a daily basis (Villar reportedly spent more than half a billion pesos for TV ads), the jingle spawned glorious comedic spoofs and memes even before they were a thing.

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Elyssa Christine Lopez
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Esquire. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz
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