The songs of our lives | Inquirer Opinion

The songs of our lives

/ 05:26 AM December 24, 2018

They trigger our minds to remember the bygone days of our lives. Like time machines, they transport us back to relive the blissful or melancholic years of our past. They are the songs of our lives.

Songs serve as markers of days gone by. When we hear songs that were imprinted in our minds during the years of our childhood, teen years or adulthood, memories flood our minds. We remember people, places and events of those times.


No one knows which ancient culture invented songs, because their use predates recorded history. All cultures have been using songs since time immemorial. Songs are used as rituals to worship gods, as featured traditions to celebrate festivities, as language repositories to preserve history, and as forms of entertainment to convey a variety of emotions.

Songs constitute primal communication that human beings understand. Babies still in their mothers’ wombs have been observed to react to music. And when they are born, babies respond to music used to make them sleep or smile, or to convey that they are loved. Before children learn to read and write, they are already singing songs.


Songs constitute a universal language. Freddie Aguilar’s heartrending song “Anak” became a worldwide hit, with people around the world singing to its tune without contemporaneously understanding its lyrics. We sing English, Spanish, French and Aboriginal songs even if we’re unfamiliar with the words.

Religion and foreign cultures have spread by riding on the back of songs. The spread of Christianity must have been aided by the entrancing impact of its songs. Filipinos

continue to be under the spell of American culture because our minds remain colonized with songs that speak of strange words like “mistletoe,” “levee,” and “bayou.”

The powerful impact of songs is most felt during the Christmas season. It’s the time of the year when we hear the most number of songs we associate with our past. We’ve been singing and listening to Christmas carols every year of our lives, beginning from the moment we started to form memories. Christmas songs serve as sound posts of the different phases of our lives.

I am transported back to my childhood days in the province whenever I hear these song lines: “Sa maybahay/ Ang aming bati/”; “Ang pasko ay sumapit/ Tayo ay mangagsiawit/” and; “Pasko na naman/ O kay tulin ng araw.” In our sleepy little town, I joined children in our neighborhood during the Christmas season as we went on nightly caroling by singing these songs. We went home with loads of delicious rice cakes, which were the reward for caroling children in our hometown then.

I am beamed back to my college days whenever I hear these lyrics: “Pasko na sinta ko/ Hanap-hanap kita.” Before the Christmas school break, my college friends and I would drive down the long stretch of the University Avenue of the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, and with car windows rolled down, we would belt out the song at the top of our voices and with exaggerated despondency as we lamented our lack of girlfriends then.

The 1965 Beatles song “In My Life” evokes the most nostalgia-inducing effect of a song with these lyrics: “There are places I’ll remember/ All my life, though some have changed/ Some forever, not for better/ Some have gone and some remain/ All these places have their moments/ With lovers and friends I still can recall/ Some are dead and some are living/ In my life, I’ve loved them all.”


This holiday season, many people will reminisce on happy Christmases of their yesteryears. Others will be wistfully remembering loved ones who will no longer be around the noche buena table.

The oldest musical composition discovered is a first-century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” It is etched on an ancient gravesite marker of a woman. This song of antiquity reminds us of how we must spend our fleeting days on earth with these timeless lyrics: “While you live, shine/ Have no grief at all/ Life exists only for a short while/ And time demands its toll.”

Merry Christmas!

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TAGS: Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, Music, singing, songs
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