"Guys, I saw you on TV a few days ago," Jett Pangan said.
was our first proper radio single, which we recorded in late 1994 at JR Recording Studios in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines; and re-recorded to be included in our one-and-only solo album, Pymyth Prahn
, released in the following year under Viva Records' Neo label. It is the song that enabled my '80s-formed band Half Life Half Death to resurge and gain relative commercial popularity in the '90s."Alimango"
started as a poem.
A satirical essay about Filipino attitudes, entitled "Presenting the Philippine National Animals," which I wrote in 1992 for an issue of Rock and Rhythm
music magazine, was what inspired me into writing a poem about crab mentality
One late night in 1993, I was aboard an aircon bus on my way home from a night-out with friends. (As always, I had with me a pen and a small notebook.) And, it was on that particular moment when I wrote the following verses:Muntik ko na sanang matupad
Ang aking mga pinapangarap
Kung hindi nga lang sa inggit na hubadNg mga taong naninira ng hinaharap
As soon as I arrived home, I immediately beefed up and revised what I had written, until I finished a new poem, entitled "At Nanipit ang mga Alimango
The original members of Half Life Half Death (Joel Reyes, I, Jonathan Mejino, Rain Paggao, and Edmund Villafuerte) in 1988, on a sleepover at the house of our eventual rhythm guitarist, Pet; after a gig somewhere in Alabang, Metro Manila
Months passed. Then, while on a regular sleepover at the house of my friend Pet, who was also the rhythm guitarist of our band, I and he decided to compose a new song. I always had with me the notebook which contained some of my newly written poems. Sifting through the journal's pages, Pet saw the crab-mentality poem. "Let's work on this," he said, strumming his pink guitar.
After an hour or so, we had a new song to show to the rest of the band on our next practice.
Pet and I worked around the song's chorus, which we felt was catchy and intriguing at the same time.
'mo! Ugaling alimango
'taka! Ugaling talangka
'daska! Para kang remora
I surmise that Pet and I were subconsciously transposing our view towards swear words on the song's chorus. Both he and I grew up in a similar household, in which swear words were not commonplace; thus, instead of putting in the lyric Putang ina mo, Puta ka, and Hudas ka, we opted for the shortened words...'mo!, 'taka!, and 'daska!
Half Life Half Death and Alamid, in a back-to-back gig in August 2003 at Mayric's in Sampaloc, Manila, Metro Manila
The Philippine Alternative-music scene was flourishing in the mid-'90s. Many music enthusiasts attribute this to the commercial success of Eraserheads, the band which opened the commercial door for the local Alternative Rock music of the era. Entered the door were other important bands the likes of After Image, Alamid, Color It Red, River Maya, Rizal Underground, Sugar Hiccup, and The Youth. A Metro Manila–based FM radio station, the now-defunct DWLA 105.9, also played a major role in this Alternative-music upsurgence. It helped many unsigned bands like us to gain much needed exposure by way of giving their independently recorded songs regular airplay.
Alamid's vocalist, Gary Ignacio, and I, during my last days in the Philippines, in August 2003
With the prospect of having the chance to be played on LA 105, my bandmates and I began arranging the song Pet and I composed. In early 1994, with our own money, we finally entered Greenhills Sound Studio in San Juan, Metro Manila, and recorded "Alimango." We submitted a copy to LA 105. After only several days, the station aired it to our surprise and delight. I can still vividly remember how I almost cried in joy when—while at home one afternoon and our portable karaoke machine was perpetually tuned in on LA 105—DJ Doctor, after a long pause, suddenly said: "And now, let's all listen to a brand new song called 'Alimango' from a band named Half Life Half Death."
In a matter of weeks, "Alimango" was climbing up LA 105's Top 10 charts. A few weeks more, Ed Formoso (of Lokal Brown) summoned us to the station to discuss our inclusion in a compilation album that he was conceptualizing at the time. This anthology came to be known as A Dozen Alternatives (1994, Iba Music / Viva Records), our first taste of contracted commercial exposure. And, for this compilation album that we composed and recorded the song "Kapit-Tukô," the back story of which I will be featuring on a separate blog entry.
Download an MP3 copy of "Alimango" here.
June 2, 1994, Half Life Half Death's first TV appearance, promoting the single "Alimango" on Channel 9's Chibugan Na
lyric: aLfie vera mella
music: de Jesus, mella, Aznar, Paggao, Ballesteros
Ayaw ko na sanang umasa pa nu'ng araw na 'yon
Pero dapat ko nga yatang gawin ang bagay na 'yon
Kung ikaw kaya ang nasa 'king kalagayan
Ano kaya ang iisipin mo?
'mo! Ugaling alimango (2x)
Muntik na nga akong pumalpak
Palakpak ka pa nang palakpak
Imbes na tayo ay magtulungang dalawa
Bakit ba naghihilahang pababa?
'taka! Ugaling talangka (2x)
Kung minsan talaga'y kawawa ka naman
Lalo na kapag ikaw ang iniwan
Ang sabi mo ay kaibigan ko kayo
Pero bakit n'yo ako tinitira sa likod?
'daska! Para kang remora
Muntik ko na
Sanang matupad ang aking mga pangarap
Kung hindi dahil sa inggit mong sumira
Sa 'king hinaharap
Pero okey lang, h'wag kang mag-alala
Sasapit din ang araw na ibibigay ko sa 'yo
Ang lahat-lahat, pati na rin ang aking kamalasan
Basag! Ugaling alimasag
Wala, wala! Ugaling buwaya
Winasak mo! O' utak-alimango
'mo! Ugaling alimango (4x)
Alimango sa dagat
Malaki at masarap
vocals / sound effects: aLfie vera mella
lead guitars / keyboards / backing vocals: Rainald "Rain" Paggao
rhythm guitars / backing vocals: Ruperto "Pet" de Jesus
bass / backing vocals: Ramil Aznar
drums / percussion: Robert "Bimbo" Ballesteros
female's voice: Karen Mariano (of The Wailing Pixies)
child's voice: Niña Rica V. Mella
"Aligue": Nursery-rhyme version of "Alimango"
During the conceptualization of Pymyth Prahn
, I suggested to the band that we make a nursery-rhyme version of "Alimango
." I derived this concept from a song by The Clash
, entitled "Career Opportunities," which has an alternate version sung by children. To my delight, my bandmates found my concept appealing. Thus, born the nursery-rhyme version of "Alimango
," which I aptly titled "Aligue
For the vocal tracks of "Aligue
," we contemplated on employing the services of some of the street children frequenting the vicinity of the recording studio; but, because we didn't have enough time—considering the sessions that we would have to allot on teaching those kids the lyric and the melody of the song—the idea was dropped. We settled, instead, on having my ten-year-old sister record the vocal part using several tracks.
We had a great time recording Pymyth Prahn
, but it was during the sessions for "Aligue
" when we had the most fun. We didn't employ any electric instrument. Pet and Rain used acoustic guitars. Ramil rendered the basslines with an acoustic guitar as well. Bimbo would have used a miniature toy drum kit, but we couldn't find one. Additional instruments that we used included a toy keyboard and a small four-string plastic toy guitar.
Download an MP3 copy of "Aligue" here.
ayoko nang tumawa pa nu'ng araw na 'yon
pero dapat ko nga yatang gawin ang bagay na 'yan
kung ikaw kaya ang nasa kalagayan ko
ano kaya ang gagawin mo?
muntik na nga akong madapa
bakit ba tawa ka pa nang tawa?
ang sabi mo ay kaibigan ko kayo
pero palagi n'yo naman akong tinutukso
'kong! balagoong-sipsip-talong (2x)
'yupka! kamukha ka ni Chewbacca
lintik ka ba?
sana'y matupad mga munting pangarap ko
kaya lang baka masira ng inggit mo
pero okey lang 'yan, h'wag kang mag-alala
darating din ang araw na ibibigay ko sa 'yo
mga laruan ko, pati na rin ang aking kamalasan
basag! ugaling alimasag
'daska! mukha kang palaka
winasak mo! O' utak-alimango
'taka! mukha kang tipaklong
pagong! para kang kamagong
aligue—taba ng alimango
Niña Rica V. Mella - vocals
aLfie vera mella - sound effects / additional voice
Rainald "Rain" Paggao - acoustic guitars
Ruperto "Pet" de Jesus - acoustic guitars / additional voice
Ramil Aznar - acoustic guitars
Robert "Bimbo" Ballesteros - drums / percussion
Francis Reyes (of The Dawn) - plastic toy guitar
Mr. Jim Sarthou (the sound engineer) - toy keyboard
We recorded a new version of "Alimango
" for our debut album. The main difference of this from the "LA 105 version" is that it has a mandolin-sounding keyboard melody and more guitar layers. The coda
," by the way, is a cover
of a traditional Filipino nursery rhyme.The Female Vocals in "Alimango"
In the first-recorded version of "Alimango," the one that LA 105 first played, the lady who rendered the female vocal bit part was Acel Gutierrez, a friend of the band. However, in the re-recording of the song for our proper solo album, Pymyth Prahn, I had to decide on asking luminaries or minor players in the Philippine Alternative music scene instead rather than simply ordinary friends of the band. My first choice for singing the bit part "Muntik ko na!" was Cookie of Color It Red. However, when I approached Melody Go of the Philippine Alternative Rock band Sugar Hiccup about the possibility of her recording the female vocal part in our song "We Are the Saints," Melody told me that Sugar Hiccup's then manager Ann Angala said that this might pose a label conflict because HLHD was from Viva Records and Sugar Hiccup BMG Records. So, pressed for time, I didn't pursue my plan of inviting Cookie for fear of getting the same rejection and Viva was already reminding us of the deadline/timeline for the album's projected release date. I eventually settled on inviting another close friend of the band, Karen Mariano, who was the vocalist of a minor Philippine all-female Alternative Rock band named The Wailing Pixies. Karen happily reprised Acel's part, "Muntik ko na," as well as singing a bit more backup vocals for the song and eventually rendered also the female vocal part for "We Are the Saints"; but that's another story.The Idea behind Bit Female Vocal Parts in HLHD's Songs
To those who have become familiar with the penchant of HLHD to include bit female vocal parts in its songs, the seed of this idea came from me and Rain (HLHD lead guitarist and chief co-songwriter). We derived this idea from many of the songs of the US Alternative Rock band The Lemonheads, many of whose songs featured bit female vocal parts, usually rendered by Juliana Hatfield of The Blake Babies and The Juliana Hatfield Three and eventually a solo artist--a close friend of The Lemonheads vocalist Evan Dando. This bit-female-vocal-part style is very apparent in The Lemonheads' fifth album, It's a Shame about Ray (1992), which contained the songs "Rudderless," "Bit Part," "It's a Shame about Ray"; and sixth album Come On, Feel the Lemonheads (1993), particularly in the songs "Into Your Arms," "It's about time," "Down about It," "Dawn Can't Decide," and "I'll Do It Anyway."
In 1995, Half Life Half Death with several showbiz personalities (Jao Mapa, Victor Neri, Sharon Galvez, Roselle Nava, and Gio Alvarez), after a live performance of "High School (Life)" on Channel 2's A.S.A.P.
The Philippine FM radio stations that regularly played our song "Alimango" during those heydays included RX 93.1, DM 95.5, LSFM 97.1, and NU 107.5. Also, we were able to promote the album on several TV shows such as Channel 2's A.S.A.P., Channel 7's GMA Supershow, SST, and That's Entertainment, Channel 9's Chibugan Na, and Channel 13's Eye to Eye of "Ate Luds" Inday Badiday.
Pymyth Prahn, 1995, Viva Records / Neo label
Executive Producer: Jett Pangan
Record Producers: Half Life Half Death and Francis Reyes, with Jim Sarthou
Sound Engineer: Jim Sarthou
Recorded in late 1994 at JR Studios in Makati City, Metro Manila
Read more about Half Life Half Death here.