Yoyoy Villame and Max Surban
are known for their recording
of novelty songs.
nobody has done more to carve the date of the “discovery” of
the Philippines in the minds of the populace than a comedy singer,
former public utility driver, and incumbent elected councilor of
one of the boroughs of Metro Manila. He had been entertaining
friends in Bohol and Cebu for a long time before the chance came
to record his most requested song, Magellan, a history lesson in
broken English, with accents in the wrong places, and the most
illegal rhymes in lyric history. But the song Magellan catapulted
Yoyoy Villame to fame, and recording companies have since fielded
scouts to the Visayan region as though people with his talent grew
on trees. There are two of these comic song writers whose
phenomenal success put Cebu on the map.
The other could easily be taken for
Pagliaccio, the clown with the broken heart. Max Surban is a comic
with a problem: he is sober and at time somber and would just as
soon be writing a serious songs as a funny one.
There were those inspired
times when he wrote Tagalog classics such as Ang Tao ay Marupok(Man Is a
Weakling), and the familiar Cebuano lover’s farewell, Saksi and mga
Kabulakan (The Flowers Were Witness). Still, on not a few occasions, the
lyrics of his songs can turn raunchy and thus, along with Villame’s
songs, place the listener in a state of wonder. Is this a trend or a
trade-off: one raunchy song for every masterpiece?
These two leading Wonderboys
who have recorded songs in the Cebuano toungue have sailed into the
1990s with undiminished popularity. There were times, though, when other
comics - the duos called Doble Cara (Two-Faced) and Dos Pulgadas (Two
Inches), and a quintet called Cinco Litros (Five Liters) specializing in
a feel-good songs celebrating friendship - could have given stiff
competition. But with years of recording plus stage and radio exposure
behind them, Villame and Surban may have been challenged, but not
Though never a pair, the two
finally had a taste of ensemble work through a concert that pitted the
musical comic talents against each other. The sold-out performance at
the Cebu Coliseum spawned numerous other “squabbles” between the
two, performed on the community stages of many remote town in the
Visayas and Mindanao. This was in the late 1980s, when their sold-out
performances made it clear that Villame and Surban may not be big news,
but they were nonetheless well-loved comedians.
Villame’s incursion into
comedy flicks did little to expand his audience, as it did little to
alter the assessment of his contribution to Cebuano music. Surban’s
later albums likewise break no new ground. Their best works are those in
the field of the novelty song, in which they wed the naughty lyric to a
trite melody. Perhaps without meaning to, they have managed to share the
same crown, use the same material, the same techniques of allusion and
satire, the use of recognizable melodies, and even the use of risqué
lines that ruffle pretensions and challenge the demarcations of taste.
Ever since Legazpi’s
decision to move the nation’s capital from Cebu to Manila, Cebuanos
have been at home with their “second city” status. By and large
difficult to please as a consumer of either good, service or
entertainment, they reserve no special awe for any stage, screen or
recording personality who come from out of town.