The Tres Marias are composed of Bayang Barrios, Cooky Chua, and Lolita Carbon. If those three names ring a bell and sound familiar, that very well should be the case. In my own book, these three acclaimed singer-songwriters are some of the most musically influential, socially and politically aware, and nationalistic female artists in the annals of the history of OPM.
While it is tempting to call them a super group based alone on all the recognitions and awards they have collectively accumulated as individual artists over the decades, I view them more as a trio of equals who complement each other’s strengths.
It is not an everyday thing that a trio with these impressive credentials and name recall can come together and bridge the gap among their fans. That is why I would like to share my own honest opinion and first-hand knowledge of these three iconic local artists.
Who hasn’t heard of her band Color It Red ? Color It Red were stalwarts and permanent fixtures in the 90’s local scene and were one of the key bands that almost everyone gravitated towards them in those years. From singing about handling the rigors of school life, relationship pitfalls, and even to the most mundane situations seen from their own perspective, it was in their songs that they captured the essence of the uniquely Pinoy culture and truisms. The lyrics of their songs appeared so simplistic but underneath those lay deeper meanings. Select songs from Color It Red lyrically still resonate well with young listeners like “Paglisan” and “Na Naman” that even today’s youth can relate to these songs.
Cooky Chua isn’t only an excellent vocalist for Color It Red but she has been featured on the tracks of other popular local artists as well. There was one particular collaboration that stands out in my mind and that was when she was featured on a melancholic and groovy track called “Panaginip” with the late Karl Roy in his band P.O.T. . “Panaginip” is still a personal favorite of mine when it comes to local 90’s music. It was like a match made in heaven to hear Karl Roy and Cooky Chua share vocal duties in one classic track.
Cooky Chua still performs occasionally alongside with the latest incarnation of her band Color It Red.
Bayang Barrios is one of the foremost authorities and remains to be a continuing force in Folk-influenced music. But beyond that, she is also a respected figure in OPM. Bayang Barrios is quite unique in so many notable ways. When I think of her, I can’t help but think that she is a throwback to the yesteryears and admittedly, she is a link to a time when OPM was viewed to be at its purest state and was booming with talent that had exhibited more substance over style. Even years back, when I would get to read about her on the newspapers and on occasion, find a way to listen to some of her songs being played on the radio, in my very young age then, I could already sense the natural talent she possessed. Her amazing talent is the reason she has been awarded a number of recognitions and awards in her career.
Her music to me will always be directly derived from our Filipino culture, especially to the fact that she was one of the first ever local female artists to have successfully incorporated native instruments into Pop-based songs that also had heavy Folk influences in them. Bayang Barrios afforded young listeners then like myself a chance to discover—and in some cases to re-discover—the “musical treasures” that sometimes lie hidden in our own country. She reminded us just how rich our history is when it comes to the development of our own native instruments. The love of country that Bayang Barrios has shown all these years is truly inspiring. There is no denying that she is one of those artists who embodies the “P” in OPM.
Even though I wasn’t born yet when Lolita Carbon’s group ASIN was formed, but when you are born into a world filled with music as I was, there are just names like Lolita Carbon’s that instantly and almost instinctively command the word respect. I know that because it was through the stories my parents would tell me about the legendary group ASIN that I would begin to realize just how influential they would come to be–proudly nationalistic and politically charged some of their songs were. ASIN made a special mark during the martial law years, I was told, due to their singing commentaries that pointed out truthfully what had to be said. Later on in my older years, I would do my own research to fill in the gaps and to educate myself on the music of ASIN. And as I write this article now, I realize that strangely and poignantly, almost frighteningly so, those very sentiments they held still hold true today!
Lolita Carbon rightfully will always be associated with the legacy of ASIN as she helped build that legacy and she deserves credit for helping compose some of their greatest hits which are now classics like: “Masdan Mo ang Kapaligiran”, “Himig ng Pag Ibig”, and “Balita”, just to name a few.
Indeed, those songs have become timeless hits that still echo the continuing struggles of a nation.
We are reminded of the music of ASIN, particularly now that the country is experiencing another difficult time connected to government corruption and the misuse of the PDAF. It would seem we have again the songs of ASIN persistently but gently reminding us, tugging at our shirtsleeves, to make us turn our heads and take a look around us, at our fellowmen, at our country. And to ask ourselves: “What now, what can we do?”
Tres Marias are three strong-minded women who have braved the challenges of their own respective decades to get their music across. Watch out for the debut album of Tres Marias to be released soon.