It’s definitely not “swag,” but this pack of four has got some serious unexplainable magnet. These days, appeal can just come around with any band with cute smiles and that typical boy-like charm. But this Cavite-based band is unlike those heartthrobs, as Bantayog is the band you wouldn’t regret knowing.
Even if you don’t bother to ask, these guys play music as good as those on our favorite OPM Spotify playlist. Except that we won’t find them there ‘cause there’s no way they’re putting their music on the Internet. They’re aware that some things are too good to be free, and these guys are just waiting for their big break before releasing their tracks.
While waiting for the dream to happen, the band jives into gigs around Cavite and sometimes Manila. The band’s already been active for some time since 2004. Although most of the members have changed, each generation still continues to be DLSU-D alumni, including their newest member, bassist Ar-J Villanueva.
Only the lead vocalist, Ryan Marquez, has remained from the pioneering days of the musical collective. When he’s not performing in front of the crowd, he’s most likely in front of a class teaching Spanish—just in case you didn’t know that we have a faculty member in DLSU-D who head bangs in his spare time.
Being a linguist himself, Ryan is a lyrical master. There are songs that just come out of his mind and get done in a span of minutes—with the words, rhythm, and chords all furnished. Since then, he’s written countless of songs—perhaps hundreds, he can’t really tell.
Despite how he makes songwriting sound easy, drummer Dominic La Madrid reveals that writing songs takes time, “Doon [sa oras] kasi lalabas ang potensyal ng kanta eh,” he explains. And when it comes to potential, Bantayog is certain about their music. “Hindi masyadong [tungkol sa] love,” Ryan describes before the entire band laughs. “May mga [tungkol sa] love, pero marami kasing mga bagay na kailangan mong i-focus. Predicamental kasi eh, ‘yong mga pinagdadaanan ng mga tao—‘yon kasi ang gumuguhit sa kasaysayan.”
Guitarist Vincent La Madrid furthers that their songs are never deep in terms of language and message, as they prefer it to be straightforward and practical, “Kumbaga sa inuman, walang chaser,” Dominic adds. Their songs are basically about the crazy life stories you’d rather hear personally from friends, staying away from the cliché.
Being different is their asset, but for them, that isn’t always equivalent to being wanted. As things go beyond art, in terms of money, it could be otherwise. Ryan shares that it’s hard to make a living in the industry. He also shares a little blunter in this untold side of rock-and-rolling, “Pera ang driving force,” he says—a reason why a lot of music artists continuously ride into the generic trend. “Sana isang araw, mapakita mo ‘yong art mo na gumamit ka ng isang mainstream element. Mas maganda siguro ‘yon—which is napakahirap gawin.”
After everything, Marquez recalls where the name for the band came from. Once in his younger years, he wrote an article for a newspaper about the monument of Andres Bonifacio—which upon seeing he thought to himself “Hindi naman ito bantayog. Kasi ‘pag bantayog parang skyscraper—dapat ang sky ang background niyan dahil dapat binabantayog siya.” It all makes sense, but when asked what this story’s relevance to the band’s core and history was, the band looked at each other and laughed.
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This article was originally published in La Salleño Volume 25.