Q&A: Insoy Niñal of Missing Filemon on the pedagogy of Bisrock music
By Jessica Servande Losorata
Photos by Arni Aclao
WITH his melodic wit and heartfelt songwriting, Max Surban has long graced the Cebuano local music scene since the 1960s. Four decades or so later, a Bisrock stalwart would then pop up under his influence. With Insoy Niñal on vocals and guitars, Eimer Tabasa on drums, Clarence Mongado on bass and Jag Gonzales on guitars, Missing Filemon picked up their instruments and started spewing Cebuano rock pieces in 2002. Max Surban was a basal factor of the equation, one for the music history books. And then it happened.
Last April 11, Missing Filemon shared the stage with Max Surban at the Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu. Dubbed as “We Love Our Titser,” a collaborative album between the two homegrown heroes was launched, and Cebu’s music industry plays on. Insoy Niñal explains why the album should not be missed.
Congratulations on the album! So, why this collaboration?
Max Surban is my idol. I grew up listening to his music in my hometown in Pinamungajan. Working with him, covering some of his greatest hits, doing a duet with him even, is an honor. In a way, this collaboration is the band’s tribute to Max Surban.
Awesome is an understatement. Do tell us more.
As a songwriter and an advocate of the Cebuano language, I consider Max Surban as my music “teacher.” With his songs he has taught me to appreciate and love the Cebuano language. As a songwriter, I learned a lot about the way Max Surban tells stories about Cebuano life in his songs.
The album is more or less two months in the making. There are 11 tracks with two Max Surban originals covered by Missing Filemon; one Missing Filemon original covered by Max Surban; a duet track of a Max Surban original by the man and I; one new Missing Filemon song and three originals; and three Max Surban originals.
There’s no defining theme. It’s just Cebuano music. Also, it can’t be categorized as anything. It’s a split album.
What is Missing Filemon’s favorite track from the album?
The band’s favorite is our cover of Max Surban’s “Turagsoy.” My personal favorite is Max Surban’s cover of our “Harana” original.
Incorporating rock with novelty and vice versa doesn’t come about overnight but you guys nailed it. How was the whole album experience?
It was intimidating at first because we know Max Surban’s songs are big hits to his followers. But when we got to it, it started to be fun. We found out there’s not much basic difference to our songwriting styles. It then became a matter of adding heavier drums here and angrier guitars there.
Meeting our schedules was a challenge. Max Surban is now based in Manila, and he keeps traveling for gigs in the country and abroad. As a band, we also have our gigs, not counting our regular day jobs. But we managed. There were some sleepless nights on my part prior to the launch. I knew we would be playing to a different crowd. There would surely be people from Max Surban’s generation there, and I wasn’t sure how to relate to that type of crowd with our rock music. Honestly, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance during the launch. I had this thing in my mind that it was a Max Surban show, not a Missing Filemon one. That’s why our part of the show was much shorter than Max Surban’s. The whole thing just intimidated me, I think.
No way. You guys, Missing Filemon and Max Surban, fired up the stage. It was a total package. The album is. A sequel would be great.
Because of the success of the show, we are thinking of following it up with another collaborative project. We don’t know for sure yet. Right now, we’re negotiating with other organizers to bring this event to other regions in the country and possibly abroad.
That’s good news. Talk about spreading the word out there. If you were to put it, how does this collaboration contribute to the progress of Cebuano music in and outside Cebu? Why should people, especially the younger ears, listen to it?
The project is meant to be a message that Bisaya music is beautiful, be it rock or novelty, and it’s still very much alive. It is meant to inspire other musicians, including rock bands, to write more songs in Cebuano. The project also tries to link generations of Cebuano music lovers. And it showed in the launch. It was an all-ages crowd that we gathered right there — from students to grandparents. I don’t think other local collaboration projects can do that. Today’s generation lacks Bisaya music heroes. And that’s very sad. That’s one important reason to check this album out.