The following are by no means the best of the best of the best. And I am also by no means an expert on OPM.
It actually saddens me how, as I was writing this list, I realized that I barely listen to OPM anymore. Aside from the releases of Viva Records, Star Music, and a few independent hip-hop labels, I know zero recent songs that are written in Filipino or—for those who are not as pedantic about the language vs. dialect distinction—Tagalog.
So the following lyrics are from old Filipino favorites. I considered including songs written in English but eventually decided against it.
Not all of the songs in this list are about romance but they’re all about love in varying intensities. And if you have Filipino music recommendations, you’re more than welcome to enlighten my ignorant, overseas ass.
1. Palayain ang isa’t isa / Kung tayo, tayo talaga
Session Road’s “Cool Off” should really be in one of those #hugot playlists which are mostly laden with ballads or pogi rock sludge. Since when did it become cool to openly admit liking Cueshe anyway?
2. Kaliwa at kanan, harap at likod / Ano mang anggulo, titigan ay bumibigay ako
I know Up Dharma Down has other frequently “quoted” songs (eherm Tadhana), but I like this line from “Sana” because it is visual. It’s a nod to that powerful, oh-so-magical eye contact. As Ian McEwan claims: “falling in love could be achieved in a single word–a glance.” Ganda. ❤
3. Kung gusto mo/ Pwede tayong maglaro / Pamato mo ang aking puso / At huwag mong aapakan ‘to
The whole song “Patintero, Habulan, Larong Kalye” is a true Pinoy piece. It’s probably the most Pinoy song in this list. The metaphors are Filipino street games (obviously), which is a playful affront against the negative link between love and playing games.
4. Nagsisising matatapos ang gabing alam naman nating meron nang taning
“Mariposa” isn’t Sugarfree’s best song and maybe Ebe has written even better verses. But I think this line perfectly encapsulates the kind of loneliness the song is about—that of feeling lonely amid company, of feeling lonely because you fear the temporary.
5. Tayo lang ang may alam / Nando’n sa pagitan ng paalam at pahiram
This is also one of those songs that should top all heartbreak playlists. “Tayo Lang Ang May Alam” talks about secrets, about the thin lines trod and crossed, and about how sinful and harrowing love could be.
6. Sa malas kong ito / Minsan sinwerte din ako / Nang makilala ang taong tulad mo
Bamboo’s “Muli” is a song for the fans, really. I think it’s similar to Eraserheads’ “Para Sa Masa.” But this line, its casual self-deprecation and cute honesty, is nothing else but sweet.
7. Gusto kong marinig ang buhay mo / Gusto kong halikan ang puso mo / Gusto kitang yakapin hanggang may umaga
I believe “Gusto” is a collab between Jolina and Khavn dela Cruz, who also released a Fando & Lis version. I like the innocence of the lyrics; it makes the song’s profession of love both tempered and hyperbolic.
8. Wala mang katiyakan, muling pagsasama / Natutunan na niyang mahalin ang pangamba / Natutunan na niyang mahalin ang paghihintay
Buklod’s “Lea” is a narrative song about a fisherman’s wife who waits for her husband as he comes back from the seas every morning. In most love songs we hear that to wait is to hope, but “Lea” juxtaposes waiting, not with hope, but with submission to a cyclical routine of the working class. It is a song of love bigger than two people yearning for each other.
9. Hindi naman pala lumilipad si Batman. Kaya paalam, malupit na mundo. Paalam, mahal.
Radioactive Sago Project is a jazz rock band that incorporates spoken poetry in their music (the front-man is no less than poet Lourd de Veyra). “Alaala ni Batman” is a song that narrates the story of a man who likes Batman and the fantasies he has amid the despicable reality he lives in.
10. Field trip sa may pagawaan ng lapis / Ay katulad ng buhay natin / Isang mahabang pila / Mabagal at walang katuturan
These lines from Eraserheads’ “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong” are probably my favorite Eheads lyrics. It’s witty and philosophical at the same time—the existential angst and the absurdist undertone are appropriately paired with the seemingly random endeavor of visiting a pencil factory. It begs you to ask the question, “anong point?” and Ely answers, “wala, ‘tang ina walang point!”