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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Francis Magalona

Francis Magalona

Born: October 4, 1964
Died: March 6, 2009

Also known as FrancisM, Master Rapper, and The Man From Manila, He was a Filipino rapper, songwriter, producer, actor, director, and photographer. Often hailed as the "King of Pinoy Rap", he was considered a legend in the Philippine music community. With the success of his earliest albums, he was the first Filipino rapper in the Philippines to cross over to the mainstream. He is also credited for having pioneered the merging of rap with Pinoy rock, becoming a significant influence to artists in that genre as well. He was also a television host on MTV Asia and on noontime variety television show Eat Bulaga! Magalona died seven months after being diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Magalona was later awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Merit. The award's citation noted that it had been given “for his musical and artistic brilliance, his deep faith in the Filipino and his sense of national pride that continue to inspire us.”

Family Background

Magalona was one of the nine children of actors Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran, popular film stars of the 1940s and 1950s. His grandfather, Enrique Magalona, served in the Philippine Senate from 1946 to 1955. He graduated from High School at the Don Bosco Technical College in Mandaluyong and studied at the San Beda College in Manila from 1981-1984.

Early Career Stint

With the familiarity brought about by having celebrity parents, Magalona started out as a breakdancer in the 1980s. He was cast in several Filipino movies of that decade, including Bagets 2. He likewise gained attention as the resident DJ/rapper in the IBC-13 variety show Loveli'Ness.

Magalona was introduced by co-actor Richard Gomez to Pia Arroyo at a party in a disco owned by the late film director Ishmael Bernal and the couple got married in 1985. The couple had eight children, two of whom were Francis' step-children: Unna, Nicolo, Francis Jr. (Frank), Elmo, Arkin, Clara, and actresses Maxene and Saab.

Music career

In 1990, he released the groundbreaking album Yo!, the first commercially released Filipino rap album. Yo! included several popular singles such as "Mga Kababayan" (My Fellow Countrymen), "Gotta Let 'Cha Know", "Cold Summer Nights" and "Man From Manila". With tracks that featured politically conscious and thought-provoking rhymes in both English and Tagalog, Yo! was a big success and helped catapult Filipino hip hop from underground to mainstream status. It also marked the birth of Makabayang (Nationalistic) rap in Filipino hip hop.
Magalona remains highly respected in the Pinoy Rap scene

In 1992, Francis Magalona released Rap Is FrancisM (1992). With tracks addressing the various cultural and social problems that plagued his country such as drug addiction in "Mga Praning" (Paranoids), political instability in "Halalan" (Elections) as well as the detrimental effects of a colonial mentality in "Tayo'y Mga Pinoy" (We Are Filipinos), the record's complexity and conscious message quickly earned it its classic status and became the standard by which future albums of the genre were to be compared. This album helped tag Magalona as one of the most politically conscious voices of his generation.

The release of his third album, Meron akong ano! (I Got Some!) in 1993 marked the beginning of Magalona's experimentation with Pinoy rock. It also saw the birth of Hardware Syndrome--previously known as Cannabis--the band which would, with Magalona at its helm, introduce the merging of Pinoy Rock and Rap to the Filipino music audience. Members over the years included musicians Carlo Sison,Francis Villanueva, NiƱo Mesina, Boyet Aquino, Elmer Blancaflor, Noel Mendez, Perf de Castro, Benjie "Bagets" Mendez, Albert Tamayo, DJ Kimozave, DJ Radikal MK, Kenji Marquez, Jack Rufo, and Wendell Garcia.

Magalona was soon cited for excellence in both genres of music. He frequently collaborated with other OPM luminaries such as Joey Ayala, Heber Bartolome of Banyuhay, Ryan Cayabyab, Mike Hanopol of Juan Dela Cruz Band, Andrew E., Michael V. and the Eraserheads. In the latter part of his career, Magalona worked together with Gloc 9 and Parokya ni Edgar. In 1994, Magalona moved from Octo-Arts EMI Philippines, which had released all of his previous albums, to BMG Records Pilipinas, the same label as the seminal Pinoy rock group, The Eraserheads.

Freeman was released the following year, 1995, and firmly established Magalona's legitimacy in the Pinoy rock scene. Tracks like "Three Stars & A Sun", "Kabataan Para Sa Kinabukasan", "Suckin' on Helium/Kaleidoscope World" would become defining touch-points in Magalona's body of work. A track titled "Intellectual Property Rights" would sample a speech by then-president Fidel V. Ramos. Intellectual property rights was an issue that would continue to be an important and very personal advocacy for Magalona. "Kaleidoscope World" went on to win 1996 Awit Award for Best Produced Record of the Year, and the 1996 NU 107 Rock Award for Song of the Year. Its music video was directed by the celebrated director/cinematographer Raymond Red.

Magalona's next album,Happy Battle, was released in 1996. The launch for the video-game themed album at the Hard Rock Cafe in Makati was noted by the press for its wide range of influences: aside from fans of Magalona's music, he had showbiz fans and coworkers from Eat Bulaga!, where he had already started hosting; and two sets of Sony Playstations with giant screens set up so people could play video games while watching the gig. The album was also notable for a number of significant collaborations: "Unstrung Heroes" with Ely Buendia; "Sapot", with project band Planet Garapata, which included Raimund Marasigan, Jeng Tan and Mark Lakay, who would later form Sandwich; and "Make Your Move" with pioneer Filipino punk band Betrayed. In keeping with the nationalistic theme in Magalona's work, 1-800-Ninety-Six was written in celebration of the centennial of the Philippine revolution of 1896. "Rainy" won Best Folk song, and the album itself would became the first and only album to win Best Rock and Best Rap Album at the Katha Awards. When Magalona was diagnosed with Leukemia, he and his wife Pia would use the album name "Happy Battle" as a reference to his fight against cancer.

The 1998 album The Oddventures of Mr. Cool saw a move from the last two albums' heavy guitar sound and explored mellow, urban-style rapping. It featured the song "Whole Lotta Lovin'", whose music is a sample of the Eraserheads song "Alapaap".

Later albums with BMG would include Interscholastic (1999) which featured adaptations of various artists' songs; and Freeman 2 (2001), which would echo many of the themes that had made the first Freeman album so popular. In 2002, his greatest hits album The Best of FrancisM was released by Musiko and Sony BMG Philippines. 2004 in turn saw the release of a single titled "Pambihira Ka".

In 2002, with the assistance of then FUBU Philippines' management employees Carlo Maniquiz and Nick Tuazon, Magalona launched a compilation album of the same name.

Magalona founded his own record company called Red Egg Records, and a production company, Filipino Pictures Inc., where he served as the resident Director. Through his production company, Magalona produced and directed music videos for several bands and solo artists such as Ely Buendia. His work on Sponge Cola's "KLSP" won Best Rock Video at the 2006 MYX Video Awards.

Shortly before his death, Magalona collaborated with Ely Buendia on an album with the working title The Sickos Project. It will be released posthumously. Both Francis M. and Ely Buendia were having health problems at that time. The album's carrier single is "Higante" (giant) which is about illness. In an interview, Ely Buendia described his self as a "ticking timebomb" and Francis Magalona as "on borrowed time." The album will include a documentary about Ely and Francis, shot by Magalona's very own production company Filipino Pictures.

Television career

In 1997, Magalona played the lead role in the acclaimed TV film Kamada, by Raymond Red. The film, a full length feature shot on 16 mm, received awards from The Philippines Broadcasting Television and Asian TV Awards in 1997.

And in addition to co-hosting LoveliNess, Magalona was one of the original members of the youth oriented show That's Entertainment in 1987. He was also a co-host of the Philippines' longest running variety show, Eat Bulaga!, as well as being a VJ for MTV Asia. Magalona was MTV Asia's first Filipino VJ and remained with the network from 1996 to 2000. He was also chosen by Fremantle Media, owners of American Idol as one of the judges of in the first Philippine Idol season that aired on ABC-5. Magalona and his fellow judges Ryan Cayabyab and Pilita Corrales were not retained by GMA Network when the franchise transferred to that network in 2008. Aside from television, he also hosted live events and presentations.

Other endeavors

In his last years, Magalona also turned his attention to photography, a hobby which he began to take more seriously when he started submitting pictures to magazines for publication. News reports note that he was overjoyed when he was accepted as a member of the prestigious Camera Club of the Philippines, and eventually received critical acclaim for his photographs.

Branching out into fashion, Magalona also established a clothing line named FMCC, standing for "FrancisM Clothing Co." FMCC also operates its stores under the "3 Stars & A Sun" brand.

And way before celebrity blogs had become the norm, Francis had begun blogging to communicate with fans. His website, A Free Man, chronicled his latest projects, new endeavors and even family affairs such as birthday parties and other activites with his children. His wife Pia, and some of his children had likewise started their own websites.

He also started a foundation with Ely Buendia called Heartist Foundation, which aims to help Filipino artists with health and commercial concerns.

Illness and death

Magalona, then 43, was diagnosed on August 8, 2008, with acute myeloid leukemia at the Medical City Hospital, Pasig City. After his first treatment and discharge, he made his return on Eat Bulaga together with Ely Buendia, who had also been recently discharged. Not wanting to let the disease get the better of him, he remained active, chronicling his battle with the disease on his blogs and continuing to pursue his creative efforts in spite of his illness. His daughter Maxene noted that "He always did what he wanted to do. He never let anyone or anything stop him from doing what he loved to do. He still went to the Camera Club, he still took pictures, every time he was discharged from the hospital, he recorded songs with Ely Buendia. He taught us that life is short but it can be well lived. Don’t waste your time in the world.

His wife Pia later described her husband's battle with the disease, saying "Francis was a very passionate person. When he was angry, he was very expressive. He would get angry with his cancer. That was his way of coping with it. But he didn’t give up. I remembered that he told me, 'I'm going down fighting.

On March 6, 2009, at 12:00 p.m., Magalona succumbed to multi organ failure secondary to septic shock, secondary to pneumonia in the immunocompromised (immediate cause); acute respiratory failure secondary to acute respiratory distress syndrome (antecedent cause); underlying cause: acute myleogenous leukemia blast crisis. He had undergone several chemotherapy sessions since he was diagnosed the previous year, and had been expected to undergo a bone marrow transplantation (BMT) and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (PBSCT).

The announcement was first made on the television variety show Eat Bulaga!, which he had co-hosted. News of his death sparked a surge of web traffic to several Philippine news sites, causing a momentary slowdown in the operation of those sites. Guests at his wake included former president Corazon Aquino, along with other politicians and artists who paid tribute to Magalona's contribution to Filipino music, and to the national pride - the dominant advocacy theme in FrancisM's music. Fans arrived in droves to pay their last respects, some of them making a point to wear shirts from Magalona's FMCC line. Numerous television programs, ranging from noontime variety shows to primetime newscasts and late night news documentaries, paid tribute to Magalona.

Magalona had been slated to appear as a special surprise guest at the Eraserheads' "the Final Set" reunion concert on March 7, 2009. Since he died the day before, the band instead dedicated the concert as tribute to Magalona. Buendia rapped the 22-bar portion in Superproxy which FrancisM had written, and the penultimate song of their last ever Eraserheads performance was the reprise of Kaleidoscope World.

Magalona's remains were cremated before daybreak on March 11, 2009. After final rites, his ashes were then brought to his final resting place in the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City, causing traffic to stall in the Marikina Riverbanks area near the park as fans joined the convoy. Military rites and a salute were offered to Magalona, and his wife Pia accepted a Philippine flag from the Philippine Army, in recognition of Magalona's patriotism and for being an army reservist with the rank of sergeant.

Magalona holds up two medals awarded by the Camera Club of the Philippines

Honors and Legacy

Magalona would ultimately be cited as the "King of Philippine rap". Magalona's contributions to the genre have been featured in several international hip hop publications including the All Music Guide to Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap and Hip-Hop (2003) published by Backbeat Books; as well as the May 2004 issue of the U.S.-based publication The Source. He was also given the Pioneer Hall of Fame Award by Empire Entertainment at the 1st Annual Philippine Hip-Hop Music Awards in 2005.

Magalona was the recipient of the MTV Pilipinas Video Music Awards Generations Award in 2006 "in recognition of his career that has spanned decades and broken boundaries, and for his music which continues to inspire generations of artists and music fans both here and abroad." He was the second person so honored, the first having been singer Gary Valenciano at the 2005 rites.

On March 18, 2009, the Philippine Government - through the efforts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts -- recognized Magalona with by awarding him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Merit. The award's citation noted that it had been given “for his musical and artistic brilliance, his deep faith in the Filipino and his sense of national pride that continue to inspire us.”


Octo Arts

* 1989 Francis M. (Extended of Loving You)
* 1990 Yo!
* 1990 Mga Kababayan (E.P. Dance Remix)
* 1990 Gotta Let 'Cha Know (E.P.)
* 1992 Rap is FrancisM
* 1993 Meron akong ano! ("I have something!")

BMG Records (Pilipinas)

* 1995 Freeman
* 1996 Happy Battle
* 1998 The Oddventures of Mr. Cool
* 1999 Interscholastic
* 2001 Freeman 2
* 2002 The Best of FrancisM
* 2004 "Pambihira Ka" (single)


* 2008 F Word
* 2009 The Sickos Project (with Ely Buendia; working title)

Television appearances

* MTV Pilipinas Music Video Award 2006
* Eat Bulaga!
* S.O.P. (Guest Co-host)
* A Telefantastic Christmas: The GMA All-Star Spcecial (2005)
* True Love: Eat Bulaga Special (2005)
* Philippine Idol (Judge)
* Show ko 'to (2004)
* Astigmatism (2004) as Victim 1
* GMA Telesine Specials
* MTV Talk
* Life’s A Beach
* Music Bureau
* Kamada (1997)
* Student Canteen
* That's Entertainment
* Plaza 1899
* U. F. O. (Urbana, Felisa & Others)
* Loveliness (co host)
* Vilma In Person (co host)


* Anak ni Brocka (2005)
* Kwentong kayumanggi (2002) as Narrator
* Tong-its (1996)
* Ano ba 'yan 2 (1993)
* Mama's Boys (1993)
* Engkanto (1992) as Uban
* Estribo Gang: The Jinggoy Sese Story (1992)
* Joey Boy Munti, 15 anyos ka sa Muntilupa (1991)
* Iputok mo... dadapa ako!!! (1990)
* Gumapang ka sa lusak (aka Dirty Affair) (1990)
* Hati tayo sa magdamag (1988)
* Action Is Not Missing (1987)
* Kung Aagawin Mo Ang Lahat Sa Akin (1987)
* Family Tree (1987) as Edwin
* Ninja Kids (1986) as Tone
* Doctor, Doctor, We Are Sick (1985)
* Bagets 2 (1984) as Ponce