Advancement in Pinoy Pop Culture

The last blog post focused on the concept of Advancement as outlined by pop-theorists Jason Hartley and Brit Bergman. While the examples cited by Bergman (Bob Dylan, Paul Mcartney, George Lucas, etc.) are naturally from the west, a Pinoy student of Advancement could only wonder: is there such a thing as an Advanced Pinoy?

Today, we explore answers to that question using the rules of Advancement.

As a refresher, the qualifications for Advancement in music, film, and pop culture in general are: (1) established greatness, preferably for 15 years, but for this list we’ll do the Pinoy thing and ignore the cutoff altogether, (2) enough weirdness to alienate one’s original fans, (3) complete earnestness with which one embraces that weirdness, (4) unpredictability (doing the exact opposite of what is expected of you is considered predictable), and (5) signs that the person in question has “lost it”, spectacularly. Those who fall short of Advancement because they’re either ironic or predictable – or both – are considered Overt. So with that, let us now tackle the matter of Advancement, Pinoy style.

Rico Blanco. Ostensibly, he seems Advanced. He was the chief songwriter of the most commercial band of the Eraserheads era. Rivermaya also happens to be responsible for some really good songs. Their post-Bamboo period, though, reeks of Overtness, especially the song “Ambulansya”, which, while extremely good (and even channels Advancement Hall of Famer David Bowie), is not Advanced. Same goes for their “Free” album, which was released literally for free on the internet (the complete opposite of what a commercial band should do), although the fact that they were the first OPM act to do so is somewhat Advanced. Rico Blanco’s real voyage into Advancement began when he went solo (another hallmark of Advancement, as previously demonstrated by Reed, Bowie, Mcartney and Jagger), which is when he finally embraced commercialism with matter-of-fact (as opposed to reckless) abandon and even started appearing in a primetime soap opera about vampires.

The Eraserheads. Since they’re widely considered the greatest Pinoy band ever, they certainly deserve consideration. The problem with the Eraserheads though is that they were probably close to Advancement when they started out but have grown progressively Overt since then. They used to be the underground band that “sold out” and wrote unabashedly-corny love songs. Now Ely Buendia might be the most Overt Filipino alive.

Cesar Montano. He has to be Advanced, if only to explain his transformation from action star to serious art film actor to director of serious art films to game show host. Marrying Sunshine Cruz, buying out the greatest “Titillating Film” never released, and effectively ending her showbiz career may or may not have been Advanced but it definitely was something.

Robert Jaworski. He definitely was an innovative playmaker; no Filipino basketball player – past or present – can even compare to the Big J. The playing coach thing has to be Advanced. The fact that he played well into his forties and insisted on defending the opposing team’s best player, then refused to retire even though he wasn’t playing anymore has to be some sort of Super Advancement. Unfortunately, his foray into politics was ridiculously Overt, especially in this country where running for public office is the most cliché thing that any famous person can possibly do.

Rene Saguisag. Now this dude has to be the most Advanced political figure in the country. Everybody thinks he’s “lost it” ever since defending Joseph Estrada during EDSA Dos but if you actually listen to the things he says, his logic and libertarian spirit is still very much intact, whether or not you like Erap (who is clearly not Advanced).

Manny Pacquiao. By far, the most fascinating case. He dominated the sport of Boxing by going up eight weight divisions despite being deemed insane for every step up. He sings and acts in movies and TV shows much to the dismay of his fans and detractors alike but his entry into Congress is so disappointingly Overt. On balance, Pacquiao is still Advanced because no one has made Will Ferrell look more Overt, unable to keep up with his unironic performance of “Imagine” on Jimmy Kimmel Live.




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