When I lived in Singapore in the late eighties, I hung out with my Malaysian neighbors off River Valley Road. One of their friends, named Cel, sketched me (below). I’m not sure if he was the one who introduced me to Freddie Aguilar’s song. The cascading F major, G major, and A minor chord progression has haunted me ever since.
Recently, I came across a photo of my young self, the way I’d dress for work in the mornings. Without a piano those hot, humid days in Singapore, I had grown my nails long and painted them bright red. I wore tight skirts and high heels to fit in the yuppie scene at the bank.
I’m surprised how different I look from Cel’s sketch. Had he met me after Singapore, when I returned to school?
The sketch and the photo don’t match, but the music brings back memories I had nearly forgotten.
Though I remembered the tune, I didn’t know the lyrics or the meaning of the song. It made Aguilar an overnight sensation in Manilla and eventually the most famous Filipino musician in the world. Anak means child. It is said that Aguilar wrote it to ask for forgiveness from his parents because he left home at age 18 and disappointed them.
On my late friend Bart’s Steinway Model O in the Hague in September, I played Anak for his widow. She recognized it instantly. At the bottom of this blog post, I copy/paste her translation of the Tagalog lyrics with many thanks.
Here it is again, on my Baldwin concert grand in Boston. I call it the moonshot piano, for it was born in 1969.
There are several original versions of Freddie Aguilar singing and playing this piece. Here is one with English verse. The British band Ooberfuse made its own version, with setting in the Philippines. There are plenty of guitar and piano covers online, even tutorials on how to play it on the guitar and ukulele!
If you’re looking for the lyrics and guitar chords, simply google “Anak Aguilar chords” and you’ll find it. I doubt there is sheet music for a piano version though. My version in the video below is a combination of reading from a guitar solo score and improvising to fill in the registers.
Nung isilang ka sa mundong ito When you were born into this world
Laking tuwa ng magulang mo Lots of joy your parents had
At ang kamay nila
Ang iyong ilaw
At ang nanay at tatay mo’y And your mother and father
Di malaman ang gagawin
Pati pagtulog mo
At sa gabi’y napupuyat ang iyong nanay And at night your mother will stay up late
Sa pagtimpla ng gatas mo
At sa umaga nama’y kalong ka ng iyong And in the morning cuddled by your
Amang tuwang-tuwa sa yo’ Father who is pleased with you
Ngayon nga ay malaki ka na
Nais mo’y maging Malaya You wanted to be free
Di man sila payag
Ikaw nga ay biglang nagbago
Nagging matigas ang iyong ulo You became hard-headed
At ang payo nila’y
Di mo man lang inisip na ang You did not even think that
Kanilang ginagawa’y para sa yo What they did was for you
Pagka’t ang nais mo’y másunod Because of your desire to be spoiled
Ang layaw mo di mo sila pinapansin You did not pay attention to them
Nagdaan pa ang mga araw
At ang landas mo’y maligaw
Ikaw ay nalulong
Sa másamang bisyo
At ang una mong nilapitan
Ang iyong inang lumuluha
At ang tanong niya ANAK
Ba’t ka nagkaganyan?
At ang iyong mata’y biglang lumuha And your eyes suddenly teared
Ng di mo napapasin
Pagsisisi at sa isip mo’t nalaman
Mong ikaw’y nagkamali
Original lyrics by Freddie Aguilar
English translation by Wads Wijnberg-Tiongson