Asin – Asin

ASIN was formed in late 1976, the nucleus of which was the duo of Mike Pillora Jr. of Negros Occidental and Cesar Bañares Jr. of South Cotabato, who were playing at folk joints and pub houses in Manila as ‘Mike and Cesar’. A year later, Lolita Carbon was recruited by the duo to fill in the missing middle voice and eventually became the third member. Pillora named the trio ‘Salt of the Earth’ after the song recorded originally by The Rolling Stones and later by Joan Baez. Other than the song title, Pillora also based the name of the group from the Biblical metaphor salt of the earth which represents the humble and sincere masses.

In 1978, the trio signed their first recording contract and localized their name ‘Salt of the Earth’ into ‘Asin ng Lupa’. They ultimately became known simply as ASIN. The members also adopted handles (sobriquets) for themselves based on local style nicknames and they became known to their fans as Nonoy, Saro and Nene. In the same year, their eponymous debut LP “Asin” was released, giving birth to an alternative form of music which was different and distinct from what was mainstream. Their songs conveyed a message that roused a social-awareness among the vast majority of Filipinos becoming a rallying call for social and political aspirations

In the last quarter of 1979, they launched another album called Himig ng Pag-ibig (“Hymn of Love”). The group’s break-up abruptly followed. However, their absence from the music scene did not hamper their growing popularity.The group was not heard from until 1983. In the summer of the same year, AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales), a students’ business organization based in the island of Cebu, made a project to reunite the group. Nonoy was summoned and was tasked to reunite his band. This resulted in a jam-packed reunion concert of the group at Cebu Coliseum, Cebu City. From that time on, ASIN, with their manager Dindo, rolled into a series of performances in Mindanao, sporadic shows in the Visayan Region, and marathon concerts in Luzon.This culminated in the creation and launch of their third album Himig ng Lahi (“Hymn of the Race”) in the same year. Through Nonoy, Fred Aban Jr., the session bass player known by the name Pendong, was adopted by the trio and became the fourth member of the group although he had not been a songwriter (“Mga Limot na Bayani”, “Siglo”, “Pag-asa”, among others were written by Pendong Aban Jr.)

In early 1984, the group released an experimental album called Ang mga Awitin ng Bayan kong Pilipinas, an adaptation of traditional and contemporary songs from various regions of the Philippine archipelago.In November 1985, they came out with another original compilation that Nonoy called ASIN…Sa Atubiling Panahon (“Asin…In A Doubtful Time”). This was unfolded by the roll of events that happened in the beginning of the following year, among which was the EDSA Revolution that toppled the ruling Marcos regime. ASIN called it “atubiling panahon” (doubtful time) and the group split for a second time. In 1988, they decided to regroup again hoping to come up with new material to make another album that would speak of the time. Instead they were urged by their new manager into making an adaptation of outdated songs and came out with a double album called Himig Kayumanggi and Sinta. Later on, various intrigues led to the expulsion of Nonoy. The disgruntled Nonoy went to Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Greece, Israel and Egypt to “look for his soul”. Back home, the dream of making a new album was not fulfilled. Soon after, Saro and Nene, together with the name (ASIN), joined the band known as Lokal Brown.

In 1990, the remaining members of Asin (who were under the leadership of a clique headed by their new manager) disbanded. Saro went back to his home province of South Cotabato, Nene formed ‘Nene Band’, and Pendong formed ‘Grupong Pendong’. In 1992, a concert promoter gathered the three original members, Nonoy, Saro and Nene for a reunion concert. Pendong, according to the promoter, was not included because of issues with scheduling. The concert was staged at the Folk Arts Theater. However, it was nothing more than a one night gig and each member went their separate ways again after the concert. Then on March 18, 1993, member Cesar “Saro” Bañares was at a karaoke bar in his hometown of Koronadal when a brawl erupted among several customers. A single gunshot was fired which hit Bañares on the forehead. He was brought to the hospital but eventually died.

Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nene or Asin as she is known among her fans in Cagayan province up north, frequented her friend Willi Catral for some gigs. Her frequent visit to Tuguegarao has help her establish contacts with environment groups like the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club. In 2002, Nene and Pendong made the album Pag-ibig, Pagbabago, Pagpapatuloy. Later, Pendong shared his stories with the media, of how Nonoy had finally decided to put down his guitar and settle into a peaceful life; and of the band’s beginnings, of how together with Nonoy and Saro, he met Nene at a folk rock club called Kola House and then decided to form their own musical group, naming it ‘Salt of the Earth’. This he claimed was the beginning of the group ASIN. Nonoy continued to perform with a new partner named Ginji, known together as ‘Noyginji Interaktiv’. They distributed CDs with new compositions, such as “…Ang Karugtong” (“…The Continuation”). In mid-2006, Nene and Pendong parted ways. Pendong and his family emigrated to USA where he continued playing as Grupong Pendong. During the last quarter of the same year, Nonoy and his family moved to Israel and continued to perform as Noyginji Interaktiv. Nene stayed in the Philippines and played as a soloist.

On July 14, 2010, Nonoy and Nene reunited as ASIN to pay tribute to their fallen colleague Saro Bañares Jr. in Koronadal, South Cotabato. Their performance marked the opening of the 44th T’nalak Festival, a yearly celebration showcasing dances and crafts of the tribal communities as well as the produce of South Cotabato. The following day, they were invited by Manny Pacquiao to play in his home province Saranggani before a large crowd. On the third day, they casually played for invited guests of the mayor of Lake Sebu in Surallah, South Cotabato. In 2021 ASIN Won the MYX Magna Award at the 16th MYX Music Awards for their contribution to OPM and folk rock music in the Philippines

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