What is Original Pilipino Music / OPM?

This weekend, Undiscovered SF pops-up at Sunday Streets for a 12-block street jam in the heart of SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District and we’re bringing the heat with island style band Native Elements and OPM legends, Dakila. But what exactly is “OPM”?

Original Pilipino Music, now more commonly known as Original Pinoy Music, Original Philippine Music or OPM for short, originally referred to Philippine pop songs, particularly ballads, that were popular in the Philippines during the late 70s to the present. OPM artists such as Rico Puno Jr., Ryan Cayabyab, and Celeste Legaspi in the 70’s, and Regine Velasquez, Sharon Cuneta, Martin Nievera, Pops Fernandes, among many others led the way in the 80’s and 90s.

Today, OPM is experiencing a bit of a resurgence, with new Pilipino underground artists like Jess Connelly, BP Velazquez, CRWN, Lustbass (from Manila Rising event last year curated by Mark Herlihy) and more creating a new OPM sound. Oakland party crew ASTIG OPM has a monthly night dedicated to the past, present, and future of OPM music. Record collectors are even digging for Pilipino rare grooves on vinyl.

Here’s a few of our favorite OPM rare grooves:

VST & Company is one of the most influential Filipino disco groups, and is considered to be one of the pioneers of what is known as the Manila Sound, the precursor to OPM. Peep this epic video of the band rockin’ out in Manila during the 70’s.

Sharon Cuneta is one of the most popular OPM artists to come out of the 80’s. Today, she’s an actress, talk show host, commercial ad endorser, and a reality show judge. Listen to this beautiful modern soul track off Sharon’s “Sixteen” album.

Dakila, which means ‘great’ and ‘noble’, is one of the first Filipino American bands to be signed by a major record label in 1972. Known for their Filipino Latin Rock sound, they toured with Malo and Buddy Miles and opened for Cal Tjader, Jose Feliciano and Cheech and Chong among others.

Eva Eugenio was another popular singer from the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is most famous for the hit song Tukso, but Ang Tangi Kong Pag-Ibig was the banger off the same album.

To get you ready for Undiscovered SF x Sunday Streets, listen to ASTIG: A TRIBUTE TO OPM mix by Proof.

Written by Marky Enriquez

marky enriquez
Mirage Medicinal’s Vision for Community Enrichment

“Lawyers, politicians, they function off statistics. In order to get laws passed, we need numbers. You never lose sight of the fact that those numbers represent people's ruined lives. And we have the numbers that show black and brown folks are anywhere between two and 10 times more likely than white people to get really harmful things done to them by the law, just for possessing or selling cannabis.”

Malcom Mirage Medicinal

Malcolm Weitz speaks quickly and decisively, the way kids from the City do. Reflecting on his path to owning and operating Mirage Medicinal – the new cannabis dispensary set to open on Folsom and 6th Streets – Malcolm recognizes that his experience doesn’t mirror that of most American kids, Filipino or otherwise. It’s a story that starts with childhood education around cannabis as a therapeutic solution, and ends with him at City Hall, directly negotiating the terms of San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program, signed into law in 2016.

“I grew up in The Mission, always getting dropped off at my Lola’s house. I remember how everyone came there to eat. My uncles would be there, and I would see them smoking with their friends, who looked really sick. I was just a kid so I didn't know that they had AIDS; they just looked very sick to me. And they would tell me, ‘Hey, what we’re smoking is medicine for my friend.’ So even before getting into the contemporary culture, and street culture, that was how I first came to understand weed: as a medicine.”

Not surprisingly, Malcolm proudly points out that Mirage Medicinal strives to center the curative and restorative benefits of the plant, even as the recreational market explodes. It’s a major opportunity for growth and economic development that Malcolm looks to steer toward his community through the Mirage project.

“The equity program in San Francisco is specifically designed to rebalance the scales against the harm that has been inflicted upon communities of color via the war on drugs, specifically cannabis arrests. It identifies and designates equity program applicants to either gain employment in the cannabis industry, or to receive priority for licenses to open up businesses of their own — and that those businesses will receive community benefits, to give them a First Mover's advantage.”

Currently, municipalities can issue a limited number of licenses for cannabis retail, cultivation, and delivery. San Francisco’s equity program works to mitigate inevitable speculation from outside of San Francisco — people who simply want to show up in the City and build a cannabis business. By prioritizing individuals who were harmed by anti-cannabis laws for job placement and business licenses – and linking those entrepreneurs with investors — the people whose lives were pushed off-track by outmoded laws can be made whole again, as they become the central beneficiaries of the industry and marketplace they in fact built. In this way, Malcolm sees the possibility for major socioeconomic strides that elevate communities of color into higher realms of entrepreneurship, ownership, and independence.

“The cannabis industry is really kind of a Tech Explosion type of thing — it’s going to change the world. The world is exploding in terms of the directions this can go in. There is the medicinal direction, there is recreational — it’s going to be a wave of prosperity for people who want to gravitate towards this early on. So people have to start letting go of the stigma; that's the only way this is going to help the entrepreneurs in communities like ours, communities of color, is if the leaders in those communities can facilitate the letting go of the biases around cannabis -- so they can embrace it early and get on top of the wave. Because we already know who's getting on top of this wave, right? Corporations! And the reality is that it’s the communities that could benefit the most who could end up getting left behind the most – all because they carry the same traumas around the very thing that not only could help heal them, but could also help bring economic prosperity to the hood.”

Again, for Malcolm and Mirage, these goals emerge from a genuine place of concern for family and community well-being – itself built on his personal history and experience with how industrialized medicine can complicate existing health issues, rather than solve them.

“You see it so many times in our community. Our people, our elders, continuously have diabetes, arthritis, high blood. But just as often, their treatment plans end up making them more sick! Like my Lola -- her heart medication gave her diabetes. All these Western medications are giving us other health problems, you know what I'm saying? So helping to educate people on the therapeutic and homeopathic aspects of cannabis, especially CBD, is going to be one of the big pieces to Mirage Medicinal  — starting with the elders, because that's really whose lives therapeutic cannabis can help optimize the most.”

Being a source of information and healing for a community means taking on additional responsibilities as a business. That’s something Malcolm says he welcomes at Mirage, because he carries a healthy understanding of his work within a much larger cultural context.

“I was persona non grata in my family – I didn't graduate high school, and I was always doing off-kilter shit to make money, and one of those things was being big in the marijuana business. And it was like, I was a bad example to my nieces and nephews, and it was very painful for me to be in this business when it comes to my family. I was very much on the outside for a long time. But it's good, because now it's being more accepted and, at the end of the day, it's going to help them. There's no ‘I told you so.’ God put this plant here; I didn't put this here. I didn't invent this! I am just a messenger.”

Written by Paul Barrera.

Cat Jimenez
Dakila: A Journey to Greatness

“Looking back, it was a very bold move and I think it was ahead of its time to name our band Dakila, a Filipino name. And we kept some of our lyrics in Filipino. To do something like that in 1972 was unheard of.”


David Bustamante is an original member of Dakila – the five-piece San Francisco-based band whose boutique multilingual recordings have become staples in the rotations of DJs, producers, sound designers, and OPM enthusiasts alike. Still, David clearly remembers the San Francisco scene in the ‘70s as being anything but hospitable to Filipino people.

“In order to survive here, you had to speak Filipino at home and not out in public, right? You had to sort of act and think that way so you could get ahead. So Filipino life was only at home. So if you’re out there in the public, you had to assimilate yourself, because a lot of people didn’t know what Filipinos were. And it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, because you weren’t important enough to say anything.”

But for David and the rest of Dakila – whose lineup to this day includes his brother Rome Bustamante and cousin Francisco Magtoto – saying nothing was out. They were witnessing the social justice movements of the era. They had seen projects like Santana emerge from the local Latin Rock scene into the national consciousness. They knew their sound attracted listeners, and they knew they wanted to use music to explore Filipino and Filipino-American life, without compromise.

Dakila performing at Pistahan

Dakila performing at Pistahan

“Dakila is a Filipino word. It means greatness. It means nobility. Being that a majority of the musicians in Dakila were Filipino, we wanted to keep our identity within the music and with the band itself – because at that time there were dozens of Latin Rock bands coming out of the Bay Area, and we didn’t want to be like them. We wanted to be who we were. And I think looking back, it’s really something to be proud of. It would have been easier to try to blend in with the Latino scene – or with anybody else, really – and to [change] our identity. So when we came out in the ‘70s, we made a lot of people proud.”

Local popularity led to sustained bouts of out-of-town gigs, but life outside of music – family, school, work – separated Dakila, and relegated their music to relative obscurity, where it waited to be rediscovered by another generation of creatives, including the next wave of Filipino-Americans.

“We got to tour up and down California and Hawaii, played places like the Fillmore, and Winterland, the Greek, all these places in LA. To this day, one of the dreams is to get this band to the Philippines; we were supposed to go in 1972, but Martial Law stopped it from happening. So we made two albums, and only one was released. The record was pretty popular in Europe and Asia, but the band never really made money off of it. And now here we are, almost 40 years later, and I find out the album is considered a classic, people are collecting it. DJs are using samples from the music. It is being used in movies, commercials. And over the span of those 40 years, the culture has changed, and Filipinos are everywhere. We are in media, in music, in politics, in the film industry, in literature. We’re everywhere.”

Tracing the growth and influence of Filipino-American people and understanding Dakila’s unique and ongoing positionality in that history, David notes the final series of events that reunited the band around one of its original values: speaking for yourself, in your own way, and not letting others do it for you.

“This book was written about the music that came out of San Francisco in the early ‘70s, and it was called ‘Voices of Latin Rock,’ and we were mentioned a lot in this book. But it was funny, because they never actually interviewed any of the original members of Dakila – it was all told in the third person! But it did put us back into the limelight again and caused a lot of interest in the band. So I got my brother, Rome Bustamante, who’s an original band member, and my cousin Francisco Magtoto, who’s the original drummer, and we put some songs back together, just out of curiosity, and also to see if we could put a tribute performance back together. And we actually sounded pretty good!”

With their UNDSCVRD SF performance at Victoria Manalo Draves Park – the veritable heart of the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District – Dakila reinforces the story they have been working on for almost five decades, told through their music as much as the journeys and lives they’ve lived. And they reflect back the stories and journeys of every successive generation of Filipino and Filipino-American people who come through the City and make the Bay their home.

“What we did back then was to try to make a statement about who we are, and that is real now. [There’s] another generation that’s just learning about Dakila, who may have heard their uncles listening to this music. Learning about your heritage and the struggle for our families that come here from the Philippines and try to make a better life for their family, that will always be of big significance for this band.”

Written by Paul Barrera.

MusicCat Jimenezmusic
A Look Back at Filipino-American R&B Music of the 1990s

We’re kicking off the 3rd Season of Undiscovered SF with a Throwback Edition of your favorite night market dedicated to Filipino-American culture, and you may be asking yourself… why? Well, if you grew up in the Bay Area in the 90’s, it was quite a special place. Of course, fashion was different, with girls rockin’ pumped up hair w/ aqua net, and fellas rode around cars that went BOOM... But there was a scene bubblin that would spawn a new generation of Fil-Am R&B singers coming out of the Bay at that time. Artists, like our headliner Jocelyn Enriquez, would pave the way, becoming one of the first Filipino Americans to sign a major label record deal. More acts would follow, and it became common to hear Filipino American freestyle and R&B music acts, like Jocelyn Enriquez, Kai, Pinay, OneVoice, Buffy, and Jaya (to name a few) playing at family parties, cotillions, night clubs, concert stages, and even the radio. Here’s some of our favorite groups to come out of that era:

One of the first Filipino-Americans to sign a major label record deal, Jocelyn Enriquez’s 1997 album Jocelyn was released on Tommy Boy Records. Fueled by the infectious freestyle club hits "Do You Miss Me?" and "A Little Bit of Ecstasy," Jocelyn hit No. 12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

The boy band Kai, whose slow jam "Say You'll Stay" could be heard at every Filipino wedding and cotillion in the 90’s, reached No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1998 and was the second Filipino American act to release an album on a major label, after Jocelyn Enriquez.

In 1993, University of California, Berkeley, students Irma Laxamana, Maylene Briones, Angelica Abiog McMurtry and Jocelyn Enriquez formed Pinay Divas. A Filipino American version of En Vogue. Jocelyn eventually split from the group to go solo. Continuing on as Pinay, they had a hit song "Is It Real?"

One Voice (styled as OneVo1ce) is a Filipino American R&B girl group that originated from Vallejo, California. The group is well-known for their 1999 single When U Think About Me.

Other popular acts from that era include: Buffy, Jaya, M:G, One Vision, DNH, Forte, Pure Harmony, Simple, Julie Plug, Fatima, Passion, Legaci, among many others.

To get you ready for Undiscovered SF Season 3 Opener, check out our playlist on Spotify and listen to this throwback mix by Proof.

Don’t Miss Freestyle Queen Jocelyn Enriquez Performing Live!

FREE Sat. July 20th 4pm-10pm @ UNDSCVRD Creative Night Market w/Triple threat djs + CRSB + More! click for info

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Undiscovered July 2019 CRSB

Written by Marky Enriquez