"Alimango" by Half Life Half Death
"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 hubad
Ng 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."
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!
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.
lyric: aLfie vera mella
music: de Jesus, mella, Aznar, Paggao, Ballesteros
Ayaw ko na sanang umasa pa nu'ng araw na 'yon
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.
ayoko nang tumawa pa nu'ng araw na 'yon
muntik na nga akong madapa
'kong! balagoong-sipsip-talong (2x)
sana'y matupad mga munting pangarap ko
basag! ugaling alimasag
Niña Rica V. Mella - vocals
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
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
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.