If Joey “Pepe” Smith and the rest of Juan de la Cruz band gave birth to Pinoy Rock in the 1970s, Francis M, or simply Kiko, brought us Pinoy Rap, at a time when the local industry was dominated by rock bands. Eventually, he earned the title “Master Rapper” and made hip-hop part of the national consciousness. Francis M also made “nationalism” a cool virtue to follow for the Filipino youth. Born Francis Michael Durango Magalona on October 4, 1964, he came from a prominent family of actors and public servants. His parents were the late Philippine movie icons Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran. His great-grandfather was Sen. Enrique Magalona of Negros Occidental, who was elected and served in the Philippine Senate from 1946 to 1955.
Just a day before Francis Magalona was reportedly about to appear as a surprise guest at the second reunion of the Eraser-heads, he passed away after almost a year of being diagnosed with acute leukemia. It was supposed to be his first major live appearance. Magalona, 44, succumbed to multiple organ failure noon of March 6. His body was taken out of the Medical City on Friday afternoon and brought to the Funeraria Paz at around 5 p.m. The 44-year-old musician-actor-TV host-entrepreneur-art photographer is survived by wife Pia Arroyo-Magalona and their eight children: Unna, Nicolo, Francis Jr., Elmo, Arkin, Clara, and actresses Maxene and Saab.
“He is a big loss to us musicians, to the industry, to all Filipinos, and he will be dearly missed. Be that as it may, his music lives on with us,” said Eraserheads drummer Raimund Marasigan, who was among the first celebrities to visit and comfort Pia and the children at the Medical City, where Magalona had been confined for months. An outpouring of emotion from friends and fans came as soon as Vic Sotto, a long-time friend and cohost on Eat Bulaga, GMA’s long-running noontime show, broke the news on television last March 6 during the live broadcast. Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino, cohosts of ABS-CBN’s prime-time showbiz-oriented show SNN, dedicated the entire March 6 night episode to cover the death of Magalona. Both regarded Magalona as a big loss to the industry.“Salamat sa Kapuso at Kapamilya, sa mga naki-ramay; iisa lang po ang tawag sa atin, mga Pilipino,” said Sotto on Eat Bulaga, obviously alluding to the thought that where many movie pairings and other showbiz attempts failed, the death of Magalona reunited the two warring networks.
In the March 7 episode of Eat Bulaga, Gary Valenciano, an ABSCBN mainstay, sang a ballad for Magalona and introduced a video of him and Magalona performing at the Ultra in 1993. “That was one of the best performances of my life. The crowd was really dancing and singing with us. It became a party place, not just a concert. As long as rap music is alive, for me Francis will live on,” said Valenciano. Andrew E, a comedian and rapper, confessed that it was Magalona who plucked him from obscurity. He once served as a production assistant for Magalona, who also introduced him to the music industry.
Actor-singer Raymond Lauchengco sang a heart-wrenching version of his early hit, “Farewell to You My Friend,” for Magalona. They were costars in the seminal youth-oriented film in the late 1980s titled Bagets 2. In recent years, they formed Bagets Foundation, which aims to serve the youth. “A man who lived one day at a time and who was really intense, very passionate about life,” said Lauchengco, who also professed his admiration for Magalona’s bravery and focus in doing what he thought was right and good, especially in rap music. It can be recalled that the early 1990s was the peak of Magalona’s career as a musician. He is being credited for introducing hip-hop to the Filipino masses and making it their own with his original compositions like “Mga Kababayan Ko,” “Cold Summer Nights” and “Kaleidoscope World.”
In his later years, Magalona was behind a clothing line named FMCC (FrancisM Clothing Co.), which is behind the “3 Stars & a Sun” stores. The clothing line introduced nationalistic designs, like the motto “I Love Pinas,” among others, that reminded us to respect the Filipino flag. Magalona also directed music videos for bands and artists under his production company Filipino Pictures Inc., and started his own record company called Red Egg Records. Last year he started a foundation with Eraserheads frontman Ely Buendia called Heartist Foundation, which aims to assist cash-strapped Filipino music artists and actors with health problems. Buendia was among the last visitors of Magalona at the Medical City in the week before he died. They were supposed to release a collaborative album, titled The Sickos Project. Buendia is a heart-attack survivor. As a tribute to Magalona, the Eraserheads dedicated their song “Superproxy” to him and sang a few lines from “Kaleidoscope World” during their March 6 night second reunion.