The ‘Mambo Magsaysay’: A look at first campaign jingle used for presidential polls

February 10, 2022 - 2:03 PM
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Ramon Magsaysay
(Former president Ramon Magsaysay in this undated photo from the Presidential Museum and Library's website)

Did you know that campaign jingles have been around Philippine elections since the 1950s?

Back then, the most popular was “Mambo Magsaysay” or “Magsaysay Mambo,” a jingle composed by Raul Manglapus for late president Ramon Magsaysay who was then a former defense chief.

Mangalapus was the leader of the Magsaysay for President Movement.

According to the Museo ni Ramon Magsaysay, the late president was the first one to use a campaign jingle for the national elections in 1953.

“In order to make Magsaysay’s campaign more vibrant and to attract more voters, his supporters created songs with simple messages and inviting tunes,” the museum said on Facebook.

“Through mixed Tagalog and English, this campaign song narrates how the Philippines was so disorderly before he became Defense Secretary,” the post added.

It said that the jingle “emphasized” the “corruption” in the 1949 elections in which then-incumbent president Elpidio Quirino won a full term office.

Quirino at that time was accused of holding a “dirty” election by Carlos Romulo and Marvin Gray, publisher of the Manila Evening News. According to them, there was widespread fraud and intimidation of the opposition by the military.

“In Lanao province, for example, many precincts had more votes than the population recorded in the 1948 census,” the museum’s post continued.

Meanwhile, to convince the Ilocanos to vote for Magsaysay in the 1953 polls, the “Mambo” campaign jingle was translated into their language. Lucas Paredes performed this version.

This was because Quirino had leverage in the region, being born in Ilocos Sur and acting as its representative in Congress before.

Magsaysay’s jingle was eventually “considered an anthem for democracy” after his political career, according to the Filipinas Heritage Library.

On Feb. 24, 1986, Radyo Bandido announcer June Keithley revived the song “to shore up the morale of those facing tanks in the streets,” according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

At that time, the historic People Power Revolution was happening in the streets of the metro.

The tune of the “Mambo Magsaysay” jingle was also utilized in the “Mambo, Mambo” song from the 1986 album “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” which celebrated the EDSA Revolution.

The first politician to have used a campaign jingle in the elections, however, is former Manila city mayor Arsenio Lacson who had the song “Lacson Mambo.”

It was believed that the jingle helped him in his victories in 1951, 1955, and 1959 polls.

Since then, electoral bets have started to use campaign jingles in the Philippine polls.