Nearly 30 years later, ‘Tatsulok’ still perfectly captures PH’s struggles

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Many are unaware, but ‘Tatsulok’ wasn’t originally sung by Bamboo. Composed in 1989 by singer/songwriter Rom Dongeto, it was first performed in 1991 by folk band Buklod, composed of Dongeto, Noel Cabangon, and Rene Boncocan.

Bamboo went on to cover the track as part of his third album ‘We Stand Alone Together’ in 2007, and his take has gone on to become one of the most notable rallying cries in activism.

‘Tatsulok’ preaches about the futility of in-fighting between the masses, and instead, asks its listeners to redirect their frustrations to the root cause of their sufferings: those people in charge who refuse to share their power.

It’s both sad and amazing that a song still perfectly captures society’s problems, even almost 30 years after its original release. Its evergreen message is a reflection of its composer’s brilliance – and proof that things haven’t gotten much better since then.

For instance, the line ‘hindi pula’t dilaw tunay na magkalaban’, once a reference towards the conflict between the Corazon Aquino administration and the New People’s Army, could now be a jab to the misguided debates of the so-called ‘DDS’ and ‘Dilawans’.

Totoy makinig ka, wag kang magpa-gabi / Baka mapagkamalan ka’t humandusay dyan sa tabi could allude to the extrajudicial killings and other numerous human rights abuses, which have been slammed by the United Nations and various international organizations.

And of course, who could forget that iconic pre-chorus line ‘Ang hustisya ay para lang sa mayaman?’. Certainly not the 30,000 who have been arrested for quarantine violations, while pro-admin violators remain free.

Tiktok, <b> Nearly 30 years later, &#8216;Tatsulok&#8217; still perfectly captures PH&#8217;s struggles </b>
Human Rights Watch

The song’s main message, about how injustice produces never-ending problems, was magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Years of corruption and neglect handicapped the Philippines in the fight against an enemy no one saw coming.

The pitiful public transportation system, already groaning on a regular day, looked chaotic on the first day of the general community quarantine. The government’s financial aid is not enough for everyone. And as the calls for mass testing grow louder, it’s the politicians and their families who received first dibs.

 

Decades later, that hard-hitting chorus still rings true: ‘Habang may tatsulok at sila ang nasa tuktok, hindi matatapos itong gulo’. It’s a sad reminder of what was and still is happening in the Philippines.

But just like Bamboo’s other iconic single, Noypi, and the brand new Here I Am‘, we personally believe there is hope. As much as the pandemic highlighted the worst, it also brought out the best in people.

The youth are more vocal (and creative) than before. Promising leaders have emerged while the incompetent have been exposed. We now have an idea of what needs to be fixed and what we want in our leaders. With 2022 coming up, there’s still hope that Filipinos will emerge stronger than ever.

 

Art by Marx Fidel

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