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How Budots, Ja-Ja-Ja-Jamby Jingled All the Way to Election Victory

Ready to get LSS?
by Arianne Merez
Sep 27, 2021
Photo/s: Composite

"Ikaw ang NaIS KO" blasted from loudspeakers as Manila Mayor Isko Moreno declared his candidacy for president. The wordplay and earworm melody are straight out of the old school campaign playbook wherein a catchy jingle could mean victory, or at least name recall, for politicians.

The jingles, some cringe-worthy, herald election season and make candidates' platforms easier to digest, said University of Santo Tomas Political Science Asst. Professor Ronald Castillo.

"Campaign jingles are like vitamins. You take it, it can help you but you won't die if you don't take your vitamins. It can boost your campaign, it can strengthen your appeal to your demographic," Castillo told reportr in a virtual interview.

"That's how campaign jingles work--they support the popularity element of candidates," he said.

READ: Why 'Raffy Tulfo in Action' and 'Wowowin' are Powerful Vehicles for a Senate Run

While campaign jingles are not mandatory for candidates, it has helped boost the popularity of many aspirants in past elections--all the way back to the 1950s with late President Ramon Magsaysay's "Mambo Magsaysay."

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Take former Sen. Jamby Madrigal's 2004 LSS-worthy jingle with the lyrics "Ja-Ja-Ja-Jamby." The song was catchy enough for voters to remember to write her name on the ballot when she first ran for the Senate. She won a seat.

There's also "Mr. Palengke" Mar Roxas, who used Parokya Ni Edgar's Mr. Suave song with the lyrics changed to "Mar Roxas, Senador" for his first Senate bid with the tune playing for only around 10 seconds. He placed first in the 2004 elections.

"The Philippines has an electorate that's very aligned with popular culture that's why these jingles leave an impact on voters," analyst Castillo said.

What makes a good campaign jingle?

How can politicians jingle their way to election victory? There are three main considerations in composing an effective jingle according to analyst Castillo. First, a good campaign jingle effectively serves as a mnemonic device, it resonates with voters, and finally, is catchy (or memorable enough) for the public to remember it.

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Think of Pia Cayetano's 2010 reelection bid using her "Pasado" campaign ad which featured the lines "Pia, Pia, Pia Cayetano" in a tune that gave voters enough LSS to shade her name on the ballot. She won that year, placing sixth. 

"The voters love popularity. They're attracted to the popular... It is a worrisome idea though that we really need to have better voter education in the Philippines since voters vote based on popularity," analyst Castillo said.

As ridiculous as it may seem, campaign jingles don't even need meaningful and well-thought-out lyrics to strike a chord. Sometimes, it just needs to carry a beat and be memorable enough for voters to associate it with the candidate.

Take Sen. Bong Revilla who danced his way to a Senate seat in 2019 with the Budots beat--a song that was said to have originated from Mindanao before spreading to the Visayas--after he was acquitted of plunder charges over the pork barrel scam.

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The action star-turned-lawmaker swayed his hips for 15 seconds without even making any campaign promise--except to say "Bong Revilla po, number 16 sa balota.

"Even if the Budots thing doesn't have an impact on the substance, it immediately has an impact on the popularity and the popularity is the vote," Castillo said.

Jingles need to fit the candidate's image

But no matter how catchy or memorable campaign jingles are, sometimes it's not enough to carry a candidate all the way to victory.

Take former Senate President Manny Villar's iconic 2010 presidential campaign ballad that featured a choir of street kids. Yup, its the one with the "nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura?" opening line.

For what it's worth, the song got stuck in the public's head and made Villar a memorable candidate even though it was clear that the late Noynoy Aquino would win the elections.

The jingle was played almost daily on television, spurring a lot of parodies and by election day, voters were simply tired of the song. It became a turnoff according to analyst Castillo.

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What went wrong with the jingle? People viewed the lyrics of the song as a lie about Villar--who is one of the country's richest personalities, and an insult.

"The jingle should always be positively aligned with the image of the candidate,"analyst Castillo said. "With Villar, it insulted people. Politicians lie but the people are happy with lies that tickle their mind or lies that are cute. With this song, it simply insulted people--those who are actually poor."

Take that in contrast with Sen. Revilla's Budots that fit in with his celebrity image. A video of a good-looking actor dancing is entertaining for Filipinos, making it an effective campaign material to boost his popularity, Castillo said.

"Budots, no matter how ridiculous it was, is a fit with the image of Bong Revilla visually. You see this man called 'pogi' and he's dancing--that's a move to win Filipino voters who love popularity," he said.

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So how will campaign jingles fit in the 2022 elections? Like in the past, campaign jingles are expected to dominate radio stations, television ads, and even social media even if the COVID-19 pandemic has changed several aspects of elections.

"We'll still see vans, tricycle drivers going around the neighborhood with speakers and playing campaign jingles," Castillo said.

And with gatherings limited by the pandemic, Castillo said candidates are expected to harness the power of media even more.

"Campaign jingles are like vitamins. They boost your popularity but vitamins also have a recommended dosage. So if a campaign jingle is starting to make you more unpopular than popular, you might want to rethink it," he said.


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