Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

The thrill of singing world hits in Filipino

Posted on February 10, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – February 10, 2019 – 12:00am
Do you love to sing? Do you enjoy Karaoke? Many Filipinos do. And why not? Who doesn’t love singing?

And I am sure everyone has their favorite songs that they sing over and over again. But have you ever had the chance to sing them in Tagalog?

I saw Pete Lacaba, eminent poet, writer, teacher, journalist and friend at the Ateneo de Manila University a few days ago and I suddenly remembered one of the most unique and enjoyable gigs I’ve ever done. In fact, I would not mind doing it again. Pete invited me to do a show gig at Conspiracy Bar about six years ago and sing some of his works.


Pete Lacaba has done a lot of writing over the years, which has earned him great reviews, awards and accolades. But one of his most unique works unknown to the general public is a compilation of some of the greatest songs in English that he translated into Filipino. The compilation is called Salinawit ni Pete Lacaba. You can find popular songs from the ’40s, a Beatles song, and even recent songs up to the ’90s. The edition I have has more than 170 songs.

Singing songs I have always loved, but now translated into the vernacular, is such a wonderfully new way to appreciate them. To be sure, each language has its own nuances. Pete did not translate these songs literally. What he did was more of a “transplanting” of the songs into Filipino. Some things changed and some elements were added. But the songs mostly took root and flowered in the local language.

Take the song That’s All, which was popularized by Frank Sinatra, and lately by Michael Buble. It becomes like this in Salinawit:


(Sa himig ng “That’s All,” Salinawit: Pete Lacaba)

Tunay na pagmamahal sa habang- buhay,

’Yan lamang ang aking maiaalay,

At ang tanging puso ko,

Nakalaan sa ’yo. Yun lang, yun lang.

Alay ko sa ’yo’y pamamasyal sa araw

At kamay na kakapitan sa ulan

At mainit na dibdib

Sa gabi ng taglamig,

Yun lang, yun lang.


Ang iba ay maraming pangakò,

At handang ibigay ang mundo.

Matamis na halik at pagsuyò —

’Yan lang ang maihahandog ko.

Kung pangarap ko ay ibig mong malaman,

Ang isasagot ko’y simple lang naman —

Basta’t sabihin mong ako,

Ako lang ang mahal mo.

Yun lang, yun lang.

When translated into Filipino, somehow the words become more intimate. The images in my mind are transformed into a local setting. And the thrill of the song has a different kilig.

* * *

Here’s the next song.


(Sa himig ng “As Time Goes By,” Salinawit: Pete Lacaba)

Alalahanin mo,

Halik na totoo

Ay di nagbabago—

Kapag dalisay at wagas, Walang kupas.

At sa sinisinta,

Sinasambit tuwina’y “Iniibig kita.”

Kapag tapat ang pagbigkas, Walang kupas.

Rosas at awit Na di naluluma,

Lambing at galit At selos at tuwa,

Isang dibdib, Dalawang nilikha —

Pag-ibig ay ganyan.

Paulit-ulit lamang

Ang ating kasaysayan

Ngayon at kaylanman.

Walang wakas itong pag-ibig,

Walang kupas.

Brilliant, isn’t it? It was like it was originally written in Filipino.

* * *

Here is a famous song by the Beatles.


(Sa himig ng “Yesterday,” Salinawit: Pete Lacaba)

Kahapon lang

Ay wala akong dinaramdam.

Ngayo’y pasan ko ang mundo at sugatan ang puso ko.


Ang pag-ibig ay naging bula,

Kay dilim nitong aking daan.

Kahapon lang ay nasaan?

Ang inibig ko nang lubos

Ay wala na.

Di na babalik

Kaylanman Ang pagsinta…

Kahapon lang,

Ang pag-ibig ay parang laro.

Saan ako ngayon magtatago?

At nasaan ang kahapon lang?

In many countries, translating works is not uncommon. American musicals are translated into the local language. Miss Saigon was translated into German. Les Misérables was a hit in Japanese. We should be doing the same thing with books and music. It would be wonderful if Filipinos could read the world’s classics or famous books in the vernacular. Or watch the great Broadway musicals translated into our local languages.

* * *

Here’s a Carlos Jobim song I love to sing.


(Sa himig ng “The Girl from Ipanema” Salinawit: Pete Lacaba)

Kayumanggi, balingkinitan Itong dilag sa dalampasigan,

At pagdaan niya,

Nasasambit mo lang ay: “Wow!”

Sumasayaw siya sa buhangin, Hinahaplos-haplos ng hangin,

At pagsayaw niya,

Nasasambit mo lang ay: “Wow!”

A! Pa’no mo sasabihin

Ang kinikimkim na damdamin

At ang tapat mong hangarin? Kahit na ano ang ’yong gawin, Ikaw ay hindi mapansin.

Kayumanggi, balingkinitan Itong dilag sa dalampasigan, At ang ngiti mo,

Aay! hindi niya pansin.

(Ay! hindi niya pansin. Ikaw ay hindi niya pansin.)

Wow. Iba na ang dating! We may we feel we fully understand the English language. Intellectually, perhaps, we do. Viscerally, our natural expressions of feelings are still said best in our native tongue. From my own experience, I know that my Tagalog compositions are much more popular than my English ones. And no matter how proficient you are in English, to a Filipino an “aray” is still more instinctive and natural than crying “ouch.”

One thing I know is that a culture can often be enriched when it not only adapts something foreign but especially when it integrates it to the point that it has blended seamlessly and has become “local.”

Pete Lacaba is on the right track. He is expanding our repertoire of songs in the vernacular.

I asked Pete where I could get copies of his book for my friends. He had many copies made before which he gave away. Unfortunately, all he has now is a PDF file. Luckily I still have the one he gave me.

If you are interested and wish to have a PDF copy of Salinawit, try the internet. I found my copy there. Or please write to me and I may send it to you through email.

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