The early 2000s was a magical period when we tenaciously built our CD and cassette tape collections, discovered bands from music channels, printed out lyrics of our favourite songs, and saw our first underground rock shows. It was the glorious banda era in the Philippines.
Filipino Song Hits: iconic guitar riffs part 1 - the '70s, '80s, '90s
Rock bands sprung to life and ruled the land with guitar-driven songs, unleashing powerful riffs that dug into our brains to live on forever. A lot of them stuck to their strings—both acoustic and electric—experimenting with different sounds from punk rock, funk, to grunge. It was a beautiful time.
Let's take a look back, by year of release, at the songs by Filipino bands and artists with iconic guitar riffs from the early 2000s.
Chicosci - 'Sink or Swim'
There's something sinister about Chicosci's 'Sink or Swim'. You know your religious parents would get mad if you listen to it, but your older brother plays it all the time, so what the hell.
'Sink or Swim' is a door, your point of no return, to a curious world of heavier music. You learn the word "schizophrenic" for the first time. You start wearing baggy clothes and picture yourself with dreadlocks. Next thing you know, you're screaming "Please just go away" at the top of your lungs. Your parents then take you to see a priest, but there's no going back. You're officially a vampire now.
Moonstar88 - 'Torete'
It's the year 2000 and you just got back home from school. Waiting at the table is a plate of pancit canton that your mom cooked for you. You grab the remote control and flip through the channels to find Vid-Ok—and Moonstar88's 'Torete' is on. Fork in hand, you slurp up the noodles, trying to fight a smile. A garlicky explosion of soy sauce and calamansi coats your tongue. Little does your mom know that the strums of 'Torete' are making your heart pound faster. It's the song your crush keeps singing after all, and you've promised yourself to master the song on guitar so you could jam during recess.
Slapshock - 'Wake Up'
It's the height of nu-metal and a whole other high for Manila traffic. The tape of your Korn cassette has unravelled, jamming the player in your car. There's a fire raging inside you, but you have to accept your fate. At least FM radio still works. You tune in to NU 107.5 and the opening riff of Slapshock's 'Wake Up' jolts your weary body as if you touched a live wire. The heavy traffic is nothing but a nuisance now. You've come back to life, making a mental note to pick up Project 11-41 at Tower Records or Odyssey tonight (whichever has it in stock).
Sandwich - '2 Trick Pony'
It's your first time at an underground show. You look around to find your friend, but she's nowhere in sight. Suddenly you hear a '90s-inspired riff that reminds you of Radiohead with grungy vibes. You try to take a peek at the band playing on stage—it's Sandwich, playing your new all-time favourite song, '2 Trick Pony'.
(It's so iconic, Sandwich got the name of their 20th anniversary concert Under the Glow of the Satellite, from the song's closing lyric.)
6cyclemind - 'Sige'
It's 2003 and you just started learning how to drink alcohol. You've had some of the good stuff and a whole lot of the terrible stuff, but none of that matters when the opening riff of 6cyclemind's 'Sige' plays. It's Filipino rock at its finest, making listeners—intoxicated or not—bring out the best (or worst) in our vocal cords.
Urbandub - 'Soul Searching'
You and your friends have consumed a whole lot of Incubus over the past years. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. still hits hard, but your entire world changed the moment you heard 'Soul Searching' by Urbandub for the first time. It's got that Incubus feel that you love with a bit of a nu-metal vibe you can't get enough of. It's less funk but more grit, taking you to places outside of yourself as you play it every night before going to bed.
Kjwan - 'Daliri'
All the girls at your school have a crush on Marc Abaya. His presence—whether onscreen or onstage—demands your full attention. But what drew you to Kjwan's debut single 'Daliri' wasn't Marc's obvious charisma. It's Jorel Corpus's killer guitar riff (which Marc wrote, Jorel tells Bandwagon) that makes your teeth clench and want to start a moshpit in your bedroom.
Word gets out that they're playing a free show at your nearest mall, so you make sure to drag your friends along with you. It isn't a big show. In fact, it's inside a record store and there are shelves and displays in the way, but that doesn't stop the crowd from throwing down. J-Hoon Balbuena kicks the bass drum hard, followed by three hits to the snare and a fourth to the hi-hat. Together, Kelley Mangahas and Jorel Corpus electrify the crowd, amps cranked to 11. The hairs all over your body stand. Heavy metal horns rise, and you join Marc to shout, "Bastusan na!"
South Border - 'The Show'
'The Show' is without a doubt South Border's baddest song. You've never heard them go this hard before. The first time you hear it (from your brother who discovered it while clubbing at Embassy), you can't believe it's the same group that released 'Rainbow' and 'Ikaw Nga' from Mulawin. Soon enough it becomes your favourite song because of that line that goes: "Put on some rubber...shoes for running." It always makes you giggle, because you're a child.
Kitchie Nadal - 'Run'
You're back at the mall with your friends. It's a school day, so you're in your uniform but you have to stop by Picture City for a new group pic to keep in your wallet. Of course, it's tradition. Today is extra special though—Kitchie Nadal is playing a show at Tower Records. You've been in love with her music since you first heard 'Run' on MTV. It sounds a bit different on her solo debut album though. It's fuller and more electric, but hearing it live is another experience altogether.
Mayonnaise - 'Jopay'
You've always dreaded the idea of going to prom. Just imagining yourself stepping onto that dance floor and seeing her with him is enough to make you sick, but it's too late—you're here now. At least the student council booked Mayonnaise to perform tonight. The thought of finally seeing them live is the only thing that's keeping you from ditching this place to hide in McDo in your tux.
Then you hear that familiar plucking of electric strings. It's one of your favourites. 'Jopay'. You begin to play along with your invisible guitar, but then you feel a tap on your shoulder. It's her. And she's smiling at you.
Valley Of Chrome - 'Forever Young'
There's always that one metalhead who brings their collection of CDs to school. Sometimes they're in those 72-capacity CD wallets, other times they carry each album in their respective crystal case packaging. Whichever they prefer to use, you can always be sure that their copy of Valley Of Chrome's Love & Devotion already skips due to their constant replaying of 'Forever Young'. Some of your other classmates can't take the song's harmonic Iron Maiden-style intro and its power to start a moshpit during lunch break, but you know they're missing out. Hopefully, one day they'll get it.
Sugarfree - 'Hari Ng Sablay'
There isn't a song that's more relatable to you or anyone on this planet than Sugarfree's 'Hari Ng Sablay'. Too many things can go wrong in a split second, and no one should blame you for feeling bad about it. Luckily, there's this upbeat song with a frighteningly good bagsakan right from the start and a good vocal melody you can sing along to when things simply suck.
Dicta License - 'Ang Ating Araw'
After a long night of cramming for your thesis, the perfect song to get your morning started is Dicta License's 'Ang Ating Araw'. It draws you out of the shadows and blesses your tired bones with a kind of energy that lifts you off the ground.
Rivermaya - 'Liwanag Sa Dilim'
Things haven't exactly gone according to plan. Your head feels like it's about to burst and all you want to do is cry in the corner. But then, by a stroke of fate, you hear music coming in through your window like a ray of sunshine. Your neighbour was in the mood for something feel-good and anthemic and somehow it rubs off you too. Just hearing the riff, you can suddenly see the light. That's what Rivermaya do best. 'Liwanang Sa Dilim' is simply one of those songs that bring hope into your heart.
Sandwich - 'Sugod'
'Sugod' by Sandwich has officially become the computer shop's marker that you're still around. You've been playing it on O2Jam over and over, feeling extremely competitive with yourself so you could top your score. Your favourite thing about it is that no matter how many times you repeat it, you never seem to get sick of it.
The next time you visit the computer shop, the guy at the counter tells you that Sandwich had a mall show that night. Instead of playing 'Sugod' on O2Jam, you ditch the computer shop and rush to the mall parking lot. You finally get to scream "Sugod mga kapatid" at the top of your lungs, determined to rakenrol until the break of dawn.
Bamboo - 'Hallelujah'
There's a special one-night show featuring Bamboo in Manila and you gotta be there. You sneak out of the house with the funky, groovy riff of 'Hallelujah' stuck in your head. You seem to hear it wherever you go—the song's beat dropping every time a bottle of soda is served on a table, the stacking of crates, even the guy selling drinks in the venue is singing it out loud. And just when you can't hold it in any longer, you burst out singing "Oh oohh, ohhh ohhh!" Some girls giggle at you, and just then someone with a megaphone answers back, "Oh oohh, ohhh ohhh!" You turn to find Bamboo Mañalac, half of his body sticking out of the sunroof of a car, and the show begins.
Okay, this may or may not have been a commercial for a popular soft drink.
Typecast - 'The Boston Drama'
It's almost impossible to stop listening to 'The Boston Drama' by Typecast. It's always on repeat at home and you're sure the neighbor's maids already memorize it at this point. Why shouldn't you keep it on loop? It's the soundtrack to your emo patchwork heart after all. The consistent harmony and 8-note chugs of the riff are so addicting.
Itchyworms - 'Beer'
Music has always been the thing that brings you and your parents together. You learned about The Platters, The Chordettes, Santo & Johnny, and The Turtles from them and it'd always been a dream for you to be the one to introduce music to them. Lucky for you, The Itchyworms released 'Beer' from their second studio album Noon Time Show. It's got that dramatic, classic Filipino melody paired with a '60s feel and a mix of funk and rock. Even the lyrics make you laugh, and of course, laughter is the best medicine out there.
Kamikazee - 'Narda'
Everybody loves 'Narda' by Kamikazee. Its pop-punk-inspired riff has this stuck-in-your-head factor that you know the judges at this year's battle of the bands would be into. It's also easy to digest that you'll be able to get the kids at school to sing along with you (bonus points for crowd participation!). Your bandmates agree. Now it's just a matter of signing up.
Salamin - 'Pulso'
Your parents have their bible study group over, but you're just not into it. They let you hang out in the den, as long as the TV isn't too loud. One of the members of the group brought her teenage son with her so you figure you'd make a friend tonight. He sees your Dream Theater poster and asks, "Have you heard 'Pulso' by Salamin?" You haven't.
Next thing you know, he's hooked up his USB thumb drive to your PC and launching Winamp. You begin to bob your head along with the prog rock-inspired guitar riff. Your new friend grins and says, "Good stuff, right?"
Pupil - 'Disconnection Notice'
As you walk through the white-painted halls of your school, you hear a very Euro-sounding guitar riff somewhere above you. It's answered by a dissonant calling like an alarm with a disco-feel that makes your heart pound faster. You follow the sound to the cafeteria to discover an ongoing music video shoot. And Ely Buendia is there. You start freaking out and hide behind a pillar as you listen to Pupil's 'Disconnection Notice' for the first time. There's no denying how much of an earworm it is. You'd never expect anything less from such an icon.
Rico Blanco - 'Antukin'
There's always that kid at school who brings a guitar wherever they go. From across the quadrangle, you watch them play songs by Rivermaya, but it's their take of Rico Blanco's catchy 'Antukin' that sticks with you throughout the day. When you get home later, it's even playing on MYX. You absorb how Blanco turned to arpeggiating chords rather than the strumming (like that kid at school does) for this song. It's so good, you even end up making it your ringtone.
(Another marker that tells you how iconic it is, Rico Blanco even used the opening riff as the stinger for his YouTube videos.)
Pedicab - 'FX'
Let's face it—public transportation in Metro Manila sucks. It's crowded and hot and the strange remixes playing through the radio can get unbearably loud and downright irritating. Good thing you have your earphones with you and Pedicab as a constant companion. Their song 'FX' speaks to you on so many levels with its Euro punk feel, making your journey from work to the mall to home a little easier.
Greyhoundz - 'Shoot to Kill'
It's 2009 and you finally make it to your very first PULP Summer Slam. It's well into the night and you're breathless. Skin slick with sweat—a mixture of your own and from the metalheads around you. Greyhoundz finally take the stage and all tiredness you felt leading up to that moment evaporates into thin air. People climb onto each other's shoulders. The slaman begins.
Greyhoundz play 'Shoot to Kill', your favourite song after "hupaw hu-hu-paw hu-hu-paw" (but they haven't been playing 'Pigface' at gigs these days). It completely takes over you, like an evil spirit.
Up Dharma Down - 'Taya'
Everyone knows Up Dharma Down as that band with excellent bass and key-driven songs, but that all changed when you first heard 'Taya'. There have always been guitars on their past songs, but nothing like what Carlos Tañada plucks out in this one. It's clean and subtle and even hides beneath delaying vocals that transport you into another realm, but is able to sneak its way into your brain.
Franco - 'Song for the Suspect'
Washboard abs. That's basically what Franco's 'Song for the Suspect' is to you. Playing it makes you feel good, especially when you're at the beach (even if you don't physically have these coveted pandesals). It's heavy surf rock with reggae elements and lands in the perfect middle ground between your rocker self and your beach bum self.
This is part two of Bandwagon's list of iconic guitar riffs by Filipino musicians. Stick around as we tackle the 2010s next! In the meantime, tell us what your favourite guitar riffs from the early 2000s are!
Like what you read? Show our writer some love!