It was easily the unlikeliest source for anything that could be considered anti-establishment yet for much of its three-decade existence, especially during its Martial Law heydays, Jingle Chordbook Magazine was the unofficial freedom wall for those who wanted to say what they could not say anywhere else.
Founded by Gilbert Guillermo’s Jingle Clan Publications in 1970, Jingle provided an invaluable service to music fans by printing lyrics of current and past hits long before anyone would ever hear of the internet.
As its name also suggests, it also featured chords on top of song lyrics—allowing many of its countless readers to learn how to play guitar through its pages.
“Like many others from my generation, I learned to play the guitar through Jingle. Thanks to its centerfold chord chart, plus the specific instructions of its talented music editor, Hexel Hernando, that made the more difficult finger-bending chords a whole lot easier,” said independent filmmaker Chuck Escasa, an avid fan of the magazine who recently paid tribute to it with the documentary, “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina.”
But Jingle was much more than just a music magazine. As its popularity grew, its content expanded to include record reviews, local and foreign music news, feature articles, jokes and yes, opinion pieces that were not always flattering to the establishment.
“Each chapter was always packed with good stuff. The earlier issues had the obligatory Beatles songs and articles, teeny bopper items, the joke page, grin songs, poetry and record reviews. Eventually during the middle chapters there were ‘special issues’ focusing on OPM, stereo gear, broadcasting, the state of Philippine radio programming, journalism, campus radicalism, even sex, among many other subjects. Everything was reported as ‘in-depth’ as possible,” noted Nonoy Banzon, administrator of the Jingle Music Magazine Facebook page.
“It was a surreptitious yet sublime piss on the system,” said writer Kap Maceda Aguila in describing Jingle’s relevance during Martial Law.
“The protest was hidden in plain sight. In stories and art and the spirit of rebellion in the design,” added Facebook user Gil Valdez, another big fan of the magazine.
Jingle wasn’t always very subtle, though. Prior to the declaration of Martial Law, it also printed songs and chords of certain protest songs. Allen Mercado, who has managed to collect almost all issues of Jingle, recently posted one such page on the Jingle Facebook account.
“This was from 1971 or early ’72 probably. Di na puwede yan noong martial law,” Mercado posted.
As Jingle continued to push the envelope and its luck, its anti-establishment commentaries did not always go unnoticed. “It was one of the publications that incurred the ire of authorities and was targeted for closure during the Martial Law days,” wrote blogger Alex Castro in 2010.
Juaniyo Arcellana, one of Jingle’s longtime mainstays and record reviewers, pointed out in an April 2012 column piece for The Philippine Star that the magazine even had to change its name to Twinkle “for reasons of re-registration under the new regime.”
“Only much later, when things seemed to have settled down on the surface and the disiplina-ang-kailangan mindset was already perhaps well ingrained, did the chordbook reclaim its original name,” Arcellana further wrote.
And the magazine’s anti-Marcos spirit did not stop with the chordbook. Facebook user Alf Lagrisola noted that even sister publications like Jingle Songhits had “subtle digs on the Bagong Lipunan” as well.
“The songhits had a ‘Voice of the Youth’ feature that they added on the splash page circa 1984 or probably soon after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination. That made it very different from its contemporaries because it was not shy in tackling socio-political issues unlike other music mags. Basta at a very young age, ramdam ko na na kakaiba ang Jingle among its fellow mags,” he said.
Right around the same time, Jingle Clan Publications also became the first publisher of “Dekada ’70,” Lualhati Bautista’s bestselling novel that depicted the abuses of Martial Law and was later adopted into a Star Cinema movie by director Chito Roño.
Even without its anti-establishment content, Jingle was still a source of inspiration and entertainment during those trying times. Freelance writer Claire Agbayani remembers the role Jingle played during her college days as she and her fellow campus journalists at the College Editors Guild of the Philippines were fighting against many issues at the time.
“It was our semestral break around schoolyear 1983-84 in Pangasinan during one of the CEGP’s national conventions. We would gather around a bonfire every night. Somebody would bring his guitar and I or somebody else would take out our copies of Jingle and we would just sing all night. Nakikibaka kami sa maraming issues sa araw pero sa gabi united kami sa pag-awit. Salamat sa Jingle.”
In summing up the overall impact of Jingle today, Castro, who actually won first prize in Jingle’s send-a-joke contest for its famous Grin Page, wrote:
“Before Jingle, we only had squeaky-clean songhits with predictable titles like ‘Hit Parade’ and ‘Song Cavalcade.’ But the launching of Jingle changed all that: it was fun, it was attuned to the times, it was irreverent and wacky, it poked fun at the establishment and it answered young people’s clamor for better entertainment.”