The Music that Made Me: Remembering NU107

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The world is collapsing/ Around our ears/ I turned up the radio/ But I can’t hear it.” – R.E.M., “Radio Song”

Gone are the days when radio was an essential part of everyday life as a source of both news and entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in the ’90s when Mexican telenovelas invaded the local television screen, and the late Ernie Baron was still TV Patrol’s weather broadcaster. Listening to the radio, however, remained a favorite Filipino pastime until online platforms and social media became extremely popular in the late 2000s, or, in my case, until NU107 FM signed off permanently on November 7, 2010.

Once known as the “Home of New Rock,” NU provided the soundtrack to my high school and college life. Whether I was studying or doing chores, or drinking with friends, NU was always playing in the background. It kept me company on countless nights when I could not sleep, and the lights were out because my elder brother had to sleep for work the next day. Indeed, I was lying on my bed in total darkness when I first heard The Grays’ “Very Best Years” and Jeff Buckley’s “Everybody Here Wants You.” When I lost my scholarship in college by 1.0 point, I almost burst into tears when I turned on the radio and heard Agaw Agimat’s “Kahit Na.” I remember sending song requests using my Nokia 3310 to 29107 during “Remote Control Weekend,” and staying up late for the “Midnight Countdown.” I also recall participating in one of the station’s contests and actually won. My mom accompanied me from Cavite to the station’s studio in Pasig to claim my prize, then I returned a few months later with my friend to buy a copy of Urbandub’s first album, “Birth.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I would rather listen to my collection of songs than stream music online. Needless to say, some of my playlists were named and patterned after NU107’s shows, such as: “Not Radio” with Myrene Academia (Sandwich and Imago), who would play indie and hard-to-find music; “Dredd at the Control,” which played reggae music and was hosted by the late Dominic “Papa Dom” Gamboa (Tropical Depression); “The Crossroads” with Captain Eddie, a 90-minute show of blues and classic rock; “Time Bomb” with Buddy Trinidad (Betrayed), which basically played punk rock; and the iconic “In The Raw,” which featured demos from unsigned bands and was hosted by Francis “Brew” Reyes (The Dawn). It was on this show that I first heard the indie rock bands Narda, Plane Divides the Sky, Bent, Dicta License, and the then-unknown Urbandub and Itchyworms. The TV version of the show was aired on UNTV, which also happened to air the cult favorite TV show and another staple of my teenage years, “Strange Brew.”

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During Holy Week, NU107 would continue to rock the airwaves with songs from the Christian rock program “Against the Flow” until regular radio programming resumes on Easter Sunday. Believe me, I can still hear the show’s tagline “…because only dead fish swim with the current” in my head. Some of the memorable NU107 shows were “Zach and Joey in the Morning,” “Metal Madness,” “Euro Rock,” “Pirate Satellite,” “The Gweilo’s Hour,” “The Real Score” and “Rock Ed Radio.”

It wasn’t only my music taste that NU107 influenced, though. One way or another, the rock station contributed to my political awakening and activism in college when it introduced me to the music of The Jerks, Joey Ayala, Buklod, Datu’s Tribe, and WUDS, even before I immersed myself in nationalist and Leftist literature. The first time I heard The Jerks‘ “Sayaw sa Bubog” on the radio, I felt reborn. I told myself, “Whoa! Now, that’s a song with political commentary!” The band’s vocalist Chickoy Pura would later on perform a live acoustic set in the studio where he sang “Lupa,” “Reklamo” and the agitating “Rage” among others. I will also never forget the studio guesting of Pinoy punk icon Bobby Balingit where he played his poignant adaptation of the Italian song’ “Ti ricordi Joe” and WUDS’ tracks like “Me in the Middle,” “Gera” and “Bayan-Bayanan.” Thanks to NU107, my interest in protest songs had led me to the discovery of the short-lived Underground Radio 105.9 FM, which played songs of Jess Santiago, Musikang Bayan, Inang Laya, and the likes. Some years later, I would be writing articles about protest music, patriotic musicians, and composers like Gary Granada, Heber Bartolome, Susan Fernandez, Pol Galang, Joel Malabanan and Ramon Ayco. And before I turned 30, Young Blood published my essay “Third World Rocking,” a tribute to activist bands The Jerks, WUDS, and Datu’s Tribe.

It’s been more than 12 years since NU107 went off-air, but its memories still linger on. Even today, there are certain songs – songs that I’ve only heard on NU – and when I hear them, I get instant memory flashes, as Woody Allen would say. Sure, I miss the good old days, but it is what it is now. I just find it funny that everytime I come across Wish 107.5 FM, I can’t help but wish that NU107 was still around.

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