Before there was K-pop, there were Spanish-language songs. Though much forgotten by K-pop loving millennials and Gen Zs, Spanish pop songs — specifically reggaeton and trap — are slowly conquering the country again with the viral TikTok dance hit “Que Calor.”
But before that, here are other seven Spanish-language songs that became popular in the Philippines in the last three decades:
Four years after the 1987 Philippine Constitution abolished Spanish as one of the official languages in the Philippines, this song from Mexican singer and songwriter Daniela Romo became a massive hit.
In the 21st century, a typical Filipino wedding party won’t be complete without it in the background. In fact, it is one of the crowd-pleasing songs in many Filipino line dances. Here’s a video of Filipinos dancing to the tune of the — gasp — Tagalog version of “Todo, todo, todo”:
“Macarena,” popularized by the Spanish Latin pop duo Los del Río, was a dance fad in the mid-1990s. Though it is a total “bop,” the song is actually about infidelity. Per the HuffPost, it follows a woman named Macarena who “cheats on her boyfriend with two friends while he’s being drafted into the army.”
Back in the day when translation tools were not yet available and when people were less aware of social justice issues, this song became viral in the Philippines.
Released in 2002, this debut single by the Spanish one-hit wonder Las Ketchup made the Philippines and the whole world dance. Though Filipinos didn’t really understand the lyrics, they perfected the song’s unconventional dance moves.
But due to its popularity, “Asereje” was a casualty of a conspiracy theory purporting that it has “Satanic undertones.” Fifteen years after it debuted, however, a Twitter thread by user @Kueaff debunked the myth in 2017. “Asereje” is, after all this time, about a man named Diego who goes to a club but finds it packed. But since his favorite song is playing — “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugar Hill — he enters there nonetheless.
This reggaeton hit became popular in the Philippines circa 2004, and it catapulted the Puerto Rican singer and rapper Daddy Yankee into the spotlight.
“Gasolina” was very popular during parties and school events; it was a total “bop” after all. And though the lyrics didn’t make sense to Filipinos, the song resonated with them very well. A couple of years ago, I heard it play repeatedly in a wedding party I attended somewhere in the north.
This song by Jessica Jay, whose real identity remains unknown, became a hit in the Philippines sometime in 2008 when Filipina-Spanish actress Marian Rivera used it in many of her dance performances on television.
Rivera’s record label even released a music video of her dancing to the said song.
Daddy Yankee is apparently a big name in the Latin music industry. And though most reggaeton songs are vulgar, they are currently dominating the world.
“Dura” has somewhat become popular in the Philippines in 2017, just when it became viral worldwide.
This bilingual banger is the most popular Spanish-language song that conquered the Philippines in this decade. When it was first released sans Justin Bieber, it gained popularity in other countries — but not enough to make Filipinos sing in Spanish. When Bieber was thrown into the mix, that’s when Filipinos became fluent Spanish speakers in one night.
The remix version of “Despacito” is still somewhat popular in 2021 — four years after it was released — especially in wedding parties and events in the provinces.
The newest Spanish-language dance hit that took the Philippines by storm is the viral TikTok song “Que Calor” by Major Lazer, a Jamaican-American electronic dance music trio; J Balvin, a Colombian reggaeton singer; and El Alfa, a Dominican recording artist.
Though it’s not as popular as “Macarena,” “Asereje” and “Despacito,” it went viral on TikTok Philippines. Filipino TikTok users even made dance challenges that featured it.
Time and time again, the hit Spanish-language songs aforementioned made Filipinos speak the language again — even just for a bit. And although times change and trends come and go, they are testaments that Latin music will resonate more with Filipinos than any genre ever will.
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