The Top 10 Most Iconic Bands of the Philippines

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Filipinos are known the world over for their love of karaoke. No gathering is complete without a session and expertly delivered renditions of old classics are about as common as the bottles of rum that usually come along with them. It’s no surprise then that a country with such an affinity for the musical has a historic scene of its own. The country has seen many a great band over the decades past and narrowing them down to a list of ten is no mean feat. Nevertheless, Top 10 of Malaysia has risen to the challenge and painstakingly put together its pick (presented in no particular order) of the top 10 most iconic bands of the Philippines. 

Eraserheads

Eraserheads were a Filipino rock band consisting of Ely Buendia, Marcus Adoro, Buddy Zabala, and Raimund Marasigan. Formed in 1989, it went on to become one of the most successful, influential, and culturally significant bands in the history of the Philippines. Often referred to as “The Beatles of the Philippines”, Eraserheads are seen as the genesis of the Manila band invasion that followed its arrival on the scene. Paving the way for other iconic bands of the era such as Rivermaya, Eraserheads is also the only Filipino band to have received the Viewer’s Choice Award before the conception of the MTV Asia Awards – achieving this at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards in New York. 

Parokya ni Edgar

Parokya ni Edgar (Edgar’s Parish in English) was formed in 1993. Known for its satirical covers of popular songs as much as its extensive body of original work, Parokya ni Edgar’s repertoire spans a variety of musical genres. Referred to by the media and a number of award-giving bodies as “Pambansang Banda ng Pilipinas” (“The National Band of the Philippines”), Parokya ni Edgar gained popularity during the peak of the Filipino rock explosion. The band thrived in an era where the local rock community was – much like the rest of the world enamoured with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and the other luminaries of the 90s grunge movement. 

Rivermaya

Rivermaya is an alternative rock band formed a year after the aforementioned Parokya ni Edgar, with whom it shares the label of being the Philippines’ national band. One of the top 30 best-selling artists in Filipino history, Rivermaya has embarked on a series of Asian tours – building an appreciative following beyond its local shores. With songs that touch the deepest sentiments and express the most heartfelt emotions, Rivermaya has cemented its place in the hearts of many adoring fans who feel the band puts into song what they might have felt but long struggled to articulate. 

Bamboo

Bamboo saw its beginnings in 2003 when lead vocalist Bamboo Mañalac and bassist Nathan Azarcon (both formerly of Rivermaya) paired with lead and rhythm guitarist Ira Cruz and drummer Vic Mercado to form a new band. Cruz explained that the name ‘Bamboo’ was derived not just from the frontman’s name but also from the English word, bamboo, because of its association with strength and durability. The band’s debut album, As The Music Plays, was released in 2004 – receiving multiple awards and enjoying widespread acclaim. Bamboo’s fourth album, Tomorrow Becomes Yesterday, similarly was an instant hit – achieving platinum status just two days after its release in 2008. 

Kamikazee

Historically seen as a quintet founded by members who met at the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines, Kamikazee now counts two additional members in its present lineup. The band was formed at the turn of the century and has since garnered many admirers for its pop-punk meets hardcore punk sound. Known for its edgy live performances which feature liberal sprinkles of expletives, sexually suggestive content, and references to genitalia, Kamikazee’s bold and abrasive identity resonated with those disillusioned with all things conservative and the status quo. They maintain close ties with the previously mentioned Parokya ni Edgar, with both bands often swapping singers on concerts where they are billed together. 

Silent Sanctuary

Silent Sanctuary is a 6-piece band that started with three founding members – Norman Dellosa on vocals and guitar, Paolo Legaspi on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Allen Calixto on drums. The band experimented heavily in its formative years, mixing in classical music elements to create a unique sound. This was helped by the addition of Norman’s high school classmate Anjo Inacay on the cello, with Jett Ramirez (violist) and Chino David (violinist) being invited into the band later on. Not a band to remain stagnant, Silent Sanctuary further spiced up their signature blend of rock and classical music with the release of its fourth album Monodramatic in 2013. 

Wolfgang

The only Filipino rock band to release albums in Japan and the United States, Wolfgang is beloved for its exhilarating brand of hard rock and heavy metal. The band submitted two of its demos, “Darkness Fell” and “Left Alone”, to local radio stations in 1994. The two songs were heavily requested by listeners and the band then signed with Tone Def on the back of their growing reputation. Leaving Tone Def and signing with Epic Records in 1996, Wolfgang’s first release under the label, Semenelin, reached double-platinum status and made Wolfgang one of the most popular bands in the country. In 2009, frontman Basti Artadi was diagnosed with a head tumour. Told he would not be able to talk or sing on account of his condition, he valiantly battled back and continues to perform today. 

The Juan de la Cruz Band

Regarded as the band that puts the Philippines on the rock map, The Juan de la Cruz Band started the journey that would pave the way in 1968. The band was not, as one would think, named after a particular member but instead had its name introduced by founding member drummer Edmund Fortuno. Headlining the first open field rock festival in the Philippines in 1970, the band’s stock rose further still after the release of their debut album in 1971. The country’s foremost rock band of the 70s, the success of The Juan de la Cruz Band has carved its name firmly in the annals of Pinoy rock history. 

Urbandub

Urbandub is a band that is no stranger to difficulty. Its debut album was faced with distribution problems due to a lack of support from major record companies. The band’s first single “Come” was released later that same year together with a music video funded by Sonic Boom productions. Achieving a modest amount of success, the band nonetheless managed to earn itself some notoriety within the Cebu City music circles. The early work’s production quality was rough, but placed the band as successors to the scene that dominated independent radio in the mid-90s. Their second album, INFLUENCE, took on a new sound that the band would come to be known for and featured their most famous release to date, “Soul Searching”

The Itchyworms

The Itchyworms is a Filipino rock band consisting of Jazz Nicolas on drums, Jugs Jugueta on guitar, Kelvin Yu on bass guitar, and Chino Singson on lead guitar. Formed in 1996, the band got its start performing at various school-based events and local competitions where it performed Beatles covers alongside a handful of original songs. The band’s music is a commercial favourite, with its songs being used by KFC, Close-Up, and Pringles in campaigns and television advertisements. The band has also been commissioned to write original songs for advertising campaigns for Enervon and San Miguel among others. Its song “Kabataang Pinoy”, was the theme song for the first season of ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition and is arguably the band’s most popular. 

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