RELEVANT and entertaining—two words that describe Katoto, an independently produced song compilation from two UST alumni. Erstwhile Varsitarian editor-in-chief Victor Emmanuel Carmelo “Vim” Nadera and former staff photographer Paul Val Peña are the minds behind Katoto. Peña set Nadera’s poetry to music, a collaboration they have had since their college days at the University. In his music, Peña employs guitars almost all the time, while making use of ethnic-sounding instruments like the cajon and the harmonica.

The lyrics, like the music, are distinctly Filipino. “Kantambayan,” a medley of four songs, is probably one of the most humorous writings of its genre. Nadera and Peña use traditional dances, but Nadera replaces lyrics with his own take on social issues. “Leron Leron Sinta,” for these two becomes “Meron Meron Linta” and goes on to talk of how the Philippines’ colonizers had negative effects on the country. Nadera likens colonial mentality to a leech that plagues the nation. “Sitsiritsit,” here, becomes a commentary on the different ways that exploitation happens in the country. “Bahay Katutubo,” on another hand, talks about the killings of journalists in the country. “Ang Sabi ng Ilan” is almost self-deprecating, with lyrics that take a humorous jab at the indiscretions that the media—TV, radio, and the newspapers—have.

“Akala Ko” is about coming-of-age, where the speaker recounts the things he thought to be true about his world. The chorus, while understated, is the most effective part of the song. “Merong maling akala, at meron namang tama. Basta naniniwala, imposible ay wala,” gives the listener a realistic yet hopeful worldview.

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Photograph UST—now

Indeed, the songs in Katoto have a weighty message covered by glib lyrics and lively music. This is especially evident in “Kita,” which has a performance poetry feel. “Kita” illustrates day-to-day ironies many Filipinos are familiar with—two sentences go, “Namigay ng lupa si heredero” and “Nagsimba si siga kahit ‘di Linggo.” Nadera and Peña show in their compositions that they know the Filipino psyche, which most songwriters fail to incorporate in their work.

An interesting take on UNICEF’s Rights of the Child is “Karapatan Mo,” which was translated to Filipino and set to music. The last line of the song is the most striking, which goes, “Karapatan mo, kapwa ko, kahit ikaw mismo ang lumabag sa batas.” This brilliantly sums up the ultimate democracy that UNICEF’s provisions grant every human being.

For Nadera and Peña, what is important is not the earnings from their work—they actually give the CD for free, and the tracks are also available for download at Katoto’s official site. For those who insist on a donation, Nadera and Peña tell the people to give the money to charity. The money was never an object for Katoto—it was the fulfillment that the two felt after seeing their end product and listening to it. Marian Leana T. Dela Cruz

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