One night in 1978, a budding singer-songwriter named Freddie Aguilar performed on stage his finalist piece to the first Metropop tiff held at Folk Arts Theater.
For the now-OPM legend, it was his best live rendition of the song, “Hindi ko na makakanta ng ganung kaganda yung ‘Anak’,” he recalled , poignantly pondering, “Nandun ang career ko nakasalalay. Sabi ko ‘If I make it here, mapapatunayan kong hindi ako ang sisira sa pangalang Aguilar.”
Ka Freddie was a runaway at age 17 who tried his luck at Olongapo’s burgeoning gig scene at the time. The day he reconciled with his father Gregorio who hoped he become a lawyer, he showed him the song’s now-classic lyrics.
That fateful Finals Night telecast over RPN-9, his entry was met with loud applause and positioned to take the top prize. He claimed that “Anak” placed first during the pre-judging, with “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy” by Heber Bartolome ranking next. But judges thought otherwise and both songs failed to bag a trophy.
Even with the crowd chanting “Anak” to victory, the big winner turned out to be “Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika” written by someone named, yes, Ryan Cayabyab and performed by then-rising star Hajji Alejandro. While it’s a choice eventually vindicated owing to its OPM-empowering theme and Mr. C’s magic pen, it was allegedly booed that night because, as Aguilar flashbacked, it wasn’t the people’s choice.
“Nung dress rehearsal ay lagi akong nakayuko. Nagdadasal kasi ako,” he half-joked, “Akala ko nung pinalakpakan ako naaawa lang sila sa akin.”
Prior to revelation, Aguilar remembers then First Lady Imelda Marcos gesturing that he approaches her. She told him, “Iho, ang ganda ng song mo sana manalo ka.” Another VIP cried out, “You will go places!”
Of the song’s origin, he shared, “Ako yung ‘Anak.’ Sinulat ko ‘yun sa ‘Gapo nung inabot ako ng tunay na repentance for hurting my mother and father kasi naglayas ako para sundan ang pangarap ko. Humagulgul ako for what I wrote at pakiramdam ko binigyan ako ng regalo ng Diyos kasi nagsisi na ako.”
He added, “Mararamdaman mo kapag dumating sayo ang magandang kanta. Sa demo ng ‘Anak’ may tahol pa ng aso at tilaok ng manok.”
Along with “Anak,” Aguilar submitted another composition called “Naglaho” which apparently landed in the top 40.
Right after the historic event that also saw noted interpreters like Celeste Legaspi and Anthony Castelo pitted against each other, Aguilar went home to a hero’s welcome, with neighbors who did not know him yet calling him simply “anak.” Vicor Records quickly released the beloved tune as his breakthrough single.
“Literal na overnight sensation ako,” he jested.
“Anak” kickstarted a career eventually peppered with other hits like “Magdalena,” “Ipaglalaban Ko,” “Estudyante Blues,” and the interpretation of Snaffu Rigor’s “Bulag, Pipi, At Bingi” that won Metropop grand prize in 1979.
This year Ka Freddie is running for a Philippine senate seat. His fate no longer just in the hands of few judges.
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