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    Tuesday, August 6, 2019

    W.L.A.I.K.: How A Beloved Ballad Became A Wrestling Entrance Theme

    We Pinoys are a sentimental lot and it shows in our love for sappy ballads, romcoms, and teleseryes, some of which last for years and years' worth of daily episodes (we're looking at you, Ang Probinsyano). That explains the endless supply of love teams and romantic comedies that grace our silver screens, not to mention why the playlists of masa radio stations are mostly comprised of ballads. It's no surprise that when you're on a Grab or taxi ride home late at night, your driver will most probably be listening to an adult contemporary (or masa) station, which will then be playing an Air Supply or Michael Learns To Rock or Jim Brickman track.

    One such song that has remained a staple on these stations' playlists—especially late at night—as well as songlists of karaoke bars is "Ikaw Pa Rin" by Ted Ito.

    If you grew up here in the Philippines, there's no way you could have evaded this song at all. Unless you lived in a strict household where your parents forbade you from consuming any Filipino/Tagalog content, you're likely to have heard this on public transportation, a security guard's radio, a nearby karaoke place, or even in your very own home. 

    Produced by legendary composer Vehnee Saturno, "Ikaw Pa Rin" was recorded by a Japanese singer named Ted Ito, who must have lived in the Philippines in the 1990s because he managed to land a deal with Ivory Records—which, believe it or not, still exists to this day as Ivory Music. Not much is known about Ted Ito, but a few Redditors have pointed out over the years that while he recorded songs in Tagalog, he didn't speak the language

    There isn't much information available, if at all, but you can hear it in the way Ted Ito sings. His non-natural sounding Tagalog accent comes out as he sings the song's chorus, particularly when he makes the "L" sounds. Notice when he sings the lyrics, "makapiling kang muli" and "mayakap kahit sa sandali." It's as if he put a lot of effort into singing the "L" sound because it's not natural in the Japanese language, and therefore is more difficult for them to pronounce.

    Aside from that, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything else about Ted Ito—well, save for an Inquirer.net article from 2016 about how his twin sons got arrested for (I'm not making this up) syndicated estafa. Welp.

    Anyway, what's mostly forgotten these days is that "Ikaw Pa Rin" is actually just a cover of an older Japanese song entitled "Saigo no Iiwake,"—"Last Excuse" in English—which was written and recorded by Hideaki Tokunaga. It isn't difficult to find videos of Tokunaga performing "Saigo no Iiwake" because it was actually a big deal in Japan all those years ago. It was even the theme song of a drama series entitled Naokishō Sakka Suspense. Tokunaga is a pop star in Japan, whose career has taken him through the last four decades, but his most enduring work has got to be the song that would go on to spawn five different cover versions in the Philippines alone.

    Where it gets crazy is when you realize just how many times Filipino producers, composers, and songwriters can come together to make another cover of the same song. (Cue DJ Khaled.)

    We've already covered Ted Ito's "Ikaw Pa Rin," but did you know that another artist recorded not one, but two covers of "Saigo no Iiwake?" 

    Maso Diez-Rivera is most known by fans of the Manila Sound era as one of the vocalists of the band Hotdog. Yes, that Hotdog. Sometime in the '90s, long after Hotdog's heyday, Diez-Rivera attempted to launch a solo career as Maso. One of the singles her label pushed was—you guessed it—a "Saigo no Iiwake" cover entitled "Kailanman." 

    For some reason, Maso's record label felt that one cover wasn't enough, so they went ahead and recorded a second one in English entitled "Come Back Home." Interestingly, the lyrics on this one aren't a direct translation of "Kailanman." In fact, it's essentially a different song that just happens to have a similar theme revolving around heartbreak and just happens to have the same fucking source material. Whoever paid for the rights to cover the song must have wanted to get the most bang for their buck.

    Hey, don't go ahead and call us the Home Shopping Network just yet because WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Remember when Keempee De Leon was being packaged as an all-around talent? Yes, he did way more than join his dad in that campy "Batman" parody film in the '90s. 

    In 1991, Keempee De Leon released an album under OctoArts Records (remember them?), with the lead single being—yep—yet another cover of "Saigo no Iiwake." With lyrics by Jay Peralta, this song had the same theme of being brokenhearted and pining for a lost love and the same arrangement.

    What's fascinating about this song is how Keempee literally sings, "Saigo no Iiwake," in Japanese as the first line in the chorus, as if the songwriter couldn't find another line that would actually fit. To Peralta's credit, they made the line rhyme with "My One and Only." What I found egregious was how the hook couldn't even fucking rhyme.

    Saigo no iiwake, my one and only,
    All I want is to hold you, but you're not there.
    If I wake and find it's only a dream,
    I'd gladly take you back into my heart. 

    If that was awkward to read, imagine singing it. Hooboy. I can't blame Keempee for looking that uncomfortable on stage (and on-camera). Let's move on.

    Did you know that "Ikaw Pa Rin" had a rap cover?

    Damn right it did. Michael V did one in 1991 as part of his album Maganda Ang Piliin, where he sampled "Ikaw Pa Rin," rapped about someone he truly loved—a welcome change compared to the other versions, all of which were about heartbreak—and left the hook for a sax to play over.

    After spending the last two hours listening to all these depressing covers of the original, PWR referee Leynard Quizon did me a solid by showing me the Michael V version.

    The last cover version of "Saigo no Iiwake" that probably isn't on the dark web is one by the late saxophonist Jake Concepcion. Known as "The King of Sax," Concepcion recorded several covers of well-known adult contemporary hits on the sax. And honestly, his rendition of the Tokunaga classic is as soulful as it gets. Hell, you could conceive a child to this thing.

    If you're a normal person who has no time to go down a deep rabbit hole, then I don't know how you managed to get far into this column. But let's say you are such a normal person, then chances are, you are just familiar with "Ikaw Pa Rin." 

    That's also why lots of normal people (who don't have all this free time on their hands) found Kapitan Juan Tutan's own parody of the song hilarious and why it went viral not long afterward. His own rendition of the song has since racked up over ten thousand views and he debuted it as his new entrance theme at PWR Live: Championship Spirit

    A big fan of ballads himself, the man behind Kapitan Tutan—or "Kap," as he's affectionately called by the PWR locker room—has always identified "Ikaw Pa Rin" as a song with a distinctly "Pinoy" and "tito" sound. He's not wrong. The people who will recognize this song the most are probably those born before the early '90s because that's when it was released a single. 

    Throughout his run as a member of the Naughty Boys of Philippine Wrestling, Kap found his stride as a comedy character, who often found himself singing in skits on the Carleaux Sheaux web series. Realizing that he loved parodies, too, he wanted to incorporate that into his own "W.L.A.I.K. (Wrestling Lang Ang Iniisip Ko) gimmick. "Baka mas nakakatawa ang pagpuna ko sa isang kilalang love song (na sobrang emosyonal) na binaliktad para sabihing mas mahal ko ang wrestling," he shares.

    Kap recalls being aware of the song's melody ever since he was a young private. But as he's grown, he learned that Ted Ito recorded the version he's most familiar with and even discovered the original by Hideaki Tokunaga. "Mas gusto kong pakinggan ang orihinal, sa totoo lang," he admits.

    Putting his wit to work, Kap wrote his own lyrics for his "Ikaw Pa Rin" parody with some help from PWR backstage correspondent Pasas Castro. "Ilang buwan nang naisip ko lang talaga ay ang huling linya (Wrestling lang ang iniisip ko to the tune of "Ikaw pa rin ang iniibig ko")," he recalls. "Pero isang linggo bago ang Championship Spirit, tinapos ko ang mga linya sa chorus at tinapos sa isang umaga ang iba pang mga linya. Natapos ang recording sa loob ng isang gabi."

    Tutan confesses to going through YouTube playlists labeled "Pinoy OPM Love Songs" in his spare time and imagining himself in a music video. But traditionally, these songs don't necessarily get you hyped up to march to the ring and deliver an ass-whooping. "Ang tingin ko talaga sa sarili ko ay isang comedy wrestler," he explains. "Kailangan lang seryoso na sa loob ng ring kasi wrestling lang ang iniisip ko kapag nandoon na." Going deeper into the nuances, he adds, "Pero gusto ko kasing maging larawan ng pangkaraniwang Pinoy bilang wrestler: seryoso sa bakbakan, laging nagpapatawa, at mahilig sa karaoke."

    Photo taken by Dodong Dela Cruz,
    From Kapitan Tutan's Facebook page

    Whether he realizes it or not, Kapitan Tutan picked the perfect song to parody for his mission, to be the parody of a Filipino who finds himself in a wrestling ring. "Ikaw Pa Rin" and its various doppelgangers have been mainstays on Filipino radio and in the Filipino consciousness. There is probably some scientific explanation for all this, but the most basic one has got to be that we Pinoys are sappy as hell. "Saigo no Iiwake" has such a sad, heartfelt melody that you just can't help but be mesmerized into listening and then remembering the song. Add the earnestness in the lyrics and rendition by Tokunaga, Ito, Maso, hell, even Keempee De Leon, and you'll have a picture of just why this song hasn't been forgotten more than thirty years after it first got released.

    Kapitan Tutan just happened to have given it an extra life by parodying it. And now, we at the Smark Henry offices can't stop singing "Wrestling lang ang iniisip ko" to the tune of "Ikaw Pa Rin." Dammit, Kap.

    Screenshot taken from Kapitan Tutan's Facebook page

    Disclosure: Smark Henry is independently managed and operated by a group of local wrestling fans, but includes members affiliated with the Philippine Wrestling Revolution.


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.

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    Item Reviewed: W.L.A.I.K.: How A Beloved Ballad Became A Wrestling Entrance Theme Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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