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Exploring OPM as a vessel of our truths with Saab Magalona-Bacarro

By Andrea Panaligan, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 28, 2023 5:00 am

Truth often reveals itself in the unlikeliest of places, such as fiction. It was the novelist Elif Batuman who said, “Writing fiction lets you be a little more emotional and unguarded, a little freer,” if only because of plausible deniability.

Perhaps this argument can be applied to the arts as a whole—maybe artists, in all our wild imaginations, are simply looking for ways to tell our truths, again and again.

Saab Magalona-Bacarro, co-vocalist of indie rock band Cheats and daughter of late rapper Francis Magalona, is a truthteller in this way. For her, OPM carries our truths not only because it’s reflective of the social conditions in which it was made, but also because listeners can ascribe their own truths to it, and it only becomes heavier with meaning as time passes.

The Philippine STAR: What was your life like being so surrounded by OPM?

SAAB MAGALONA-BACARRO: I’m very happy that I was exposed to music at a very young age. My dad would always play different kinds of music—not just OPM or rap, but also rock or blues and jazz. I would wake up before going to school and there would still be musicians in our house from the night before, and (I would) step over them as they were asleep. It was pretty cool, when I grew up, to figure out what a big deal that was.

You’re a creative who dabbles in a lot of different mediums. What draws you to music specifically? What makes it so resonant for you?

Aside from the fact that I think it really does run in my blood, there’s just something in music that intensifies my emotions. I’m a very sensitive person – I used to think it was a bad thing and I was embarrassed that I would cry easily. I feel things so, so much, and when I listen to music, it’s intensified. Music makes a person feel like a main character; it romanticizes and scores your life. That’s what draws me so much to music: I love feeling things. Even if it’s negative (feelings), I’m just happy that I get to feel.

Do you believe that music, or OPM specifically, is like a treasure chest of our culture and history as Filipinos?

For sure. Personally, when I say music scores your life, it means that when I hear certain songs, it brings me back to my own experiences. Like the songs I listened to in high school, it transports me back to that time when my classmates bring out their guitars and sing Eraserheads and Rivermaya. Then I experienced going to Cubao Expo, dancing along to Pedicab and Sandwich, and that was such a special time in my life as a young girl finding myself.

“And I love the fact that, even if my dad is not physically in this world anymore, I can still hear his voice, and his music does transport me to a time when he was still here.”

I think my dad is a great example of music as a time capsule and sadly, what he was writing about back then—his social commentary on the corruption and poverty in the Philippines—still holds true today. But he also made songs that make you really proud to be Filipino. It wasn’t something trendy for him. He championed that for his whole career.

And I love the fact that, even if my dad is not physically in this world anymore, I can still hear his voice, and his music does transport me to a time when he was still here. That’s just what music does.

Saab is the co-vocalist of indie rock band Cheats.

As a writer yourself, do you take into account whether the audience will be able to relate to what you’re writing?

I used to think that way. But funnily enough, it was a song I wrote about losing my daughter that is one of our most streamed songs. It was written by me and my husband and I guess we weren’t thinking of anyone else but for us to be able to honor her. It resonated with so many people, and a lot of them don’t know the backstory of that song. I think there’s something so special and magical about speaking from a place of truth and what’s true for you. As long as you’re being true to yourself, you’re really going to connect with people even if you’re not trying so hard to connect with them.

I think that’s what’s so special about OPM as well. Kasi halimbawa, the songs of Taylor Swift help me connect with my emotions, but there’s something about hearing a song in Filipino or that mentions the places I’ve been to that hits so differently. Like if Taylor’s Cornelia Street was about Padre Faura Street instead.

Yeah, like Kyusi by Zild or Mariposa by Sugarfree. And for us in our band, the songs that are most well-received are the ones that we wrote from experience. It’s just more colorful when you’re speaking from a place of truth.

What are some of the OPM songs that score your life?

Pag-Ibig Ko’y Ibang-Iba by Cinderella, Procrastinator by Sandwich, Kalawakan by Pupil, Baliktad ang Mundo by Francis M., and Milk by Cheats.


Saab Magalona-Bacarro is a writer, content creator, musician, mental health advocate, and mother who currently brings 20 years of creative experience to the realm of social media and podcasting alongside her husband, Jim.