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music Pinoy

My 15 (+1) Favorite Songs of 2009 — Number 16: Wonder Girls, “Nobody” (2008).

Continuing a series I more or less started in 2008 (here’s my 15 favorites from last year), I’ll be counting down the rest of the year and into 2010 with my list. (Best to start it now, because the order keeps changing, and many other songs — “Laura” by Girls, Parov Stelar’s “Blind Alley”, Eulogies’ “Is There Anyone Here?”, Thom Yorke’s “All for the Best”, “Surprise Hotel” by Fool’s Gold, “What About Us?” by Mr. Lif, Atlas Sound’s “Walkabout” — keep threatening to crack the top 15, and I’ll never get this finished.)

Unlike last year, only six of the songs on the list were actually released in 2009. I’m sure no one would object.

We’ll start with what might be called a postscript.

16. Wonder Girls, “Nobody” (2008)
– from the single “Nobody”
Official website.

It’s not even about the song, really, and I can‘t even understand the lyrics; it’s about a particular moment in 2009. The song itself — both cheerfully disposable and damnably impossible to purge from your head, in equal doses – really has no relation or significance to what I write below. (And even then, “Nobody” is really all about that dance, isn’t it?)

In that dark and terrible period in the waning days of September 2009, and deep into October (just as “Nobody” became the first song by a Korean artist to make it into the Billboard Hot 100) — how brief and long ago it seems now — Filipinos all over the world were glued to television and the Internet, anticipating hour on the hour the agonies that Typhoon Ondoy had unleashed on their homeland. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter became the primary conduits for information, faster than anything the traditional news media (even online) could publish or transmit. Those of us far away, with families and friends in the Philippines, could only look helplessly; sometimes it felt that all we could do was retweet.

But for every bit of footage of horror — people desperately hanging on to floating islands of garbage, families stranded on rooftops, vehicles and furniture mired in brown muck, politicians dithering endlessly while refugees clamored for food and medicine — there were also stories of heroism, and videos that fell right in the when-life-gives-you-lemons category: swimming and diving competitions in rivers that were formerly major highways, or a grimly funny room-by-room guided tour through a newly-submerged home.

And it was during this moment of despair that this profoundly silly video of a giant chicken and a giant bee went viral, at least among Pinoys. A video of two mascots (from two rival fast food chains in the Philippines, KFC and Jollibee) caught live in a seemingly spontaneous dance-off, complete with cheering bystanders, doesn’t sound like much. But I watched that link get posted and reposted at least a dozen times on Facebook that very day I first saw it and then again after. It competed with typhoon updates on people‘s news feeds, but I didn’t mind.

The comments (both on YouTube and on Facebook) were of the generic “this is hilarious!” or “Only in the Philippines” kind, but I watched that video over and over, and I honestly laughed till I cried, and I understood at that moment why a bee and a chicken dancing to a Korean song in the Philippines suddenly seemed so important somehow. Sometimes a little bit of sunshine goes a long way after the rain.

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