Friday, September 14, 2007

Music Lesson #14

The first song I'd written in English is called "Louelle."

Well not really the first. That would be a little ditty titled "One Way" (about an unreciprocated romance, of course) I wrote when I was in the sixth grade. I sang it to my sister in the Adam Sandler's retardo-meets-Barry Gibb voice I thought appropriate for it and she of course laughed at my face. Convinced I had no talent for songwriting, I did not write a song again until years later. Great at rebounding from failure and embarrassment I am.

"Louelle", written when I was 17, was inspired by a friend I met at the Philippine Collegian where I spent my most formative years in college. Lou was my editor, a very cool individual and one of my favorite people in the world. If life were, say, a very long stretch of highway and the people you've met are just roadsigns whizzing past you, she would be a nice little rest stop with a park bench and a pond with ducks and a decent washroom with airconditioning. Or something. (Ed.'s note: psst ... don't worry Lou they don't know you're the Lou I'm talking about.)

Anyway, Lou is great at editing works in English since she grew up in the States and English was her first language. Sometimes the guys would try to get her to speak Filipino just so we can snicker at her accent. It's like that movie where Redford White, as a flying superhero of some sort, runs into Superman. White asks "Superman saan ka papunta?" and Superman replies "Poonta akow sa Olongapow kuha akow ng chicks." Also, the fact that Lou had a firm grasp of American idioms came in handy, as in the following real life exchange I've not forgotten for some reason:

L: How's that girl ________(forgot her name)?
Me: Same old slut, probably doing tricks in some back alley.
L: You mean "turning" tricks. Magicians "do" tricks.
Me: (Spacing out, imagining her pulling a pigeon out of a hat)

Now one more thing about Lou also is that she's a very private person who likes to keep to herself so if she's reading this she either a) wants to kill me or b) wants to have me killed to save her the trouble. But this being in the name of Art (my neighbor Art, a serial issuer of bouncing checks), I am sure she will indulge me.


Last night I thought that I was dying
No change to feed the telephone
I had no money for a taxi
And you know how the night leaves you alone, so alone.

Read: When you're 17 and listening to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins, that's the kind of garbage you're likely to write. And also when I'm sad I like to rock back and forth in the fetal position mumbling "alone... so alone..." The telephone part is dated since nobody uses coin operated payphones anymore. The kids wouldn't be "hip" to it as we used to say in the sixties.

I thought we might bump into each other
Like we had so many nights before
Nothing short of unexpected
And then you'd buy me coffee and walk me home.

Read: Other than the Pumpkins, I'd also been listening to a lot of Lemonheads. I play Evan Dando to Lou's Juliana Hatfield in my own version of the song Drug Buddy.


Our friends look so happy
But they all seem to fake it,
We're so melancholy
I wonder how we make it

I wonder how we make it

Read: In real life our mutual friends from the Collegian weren't happy sorts at all, most of them were a bunch of barely sufferable misanthropes. Melancholy, as I know now, is a noun. But I couldn't change it to "melancholic" as it makes the line sound awkward (the "c" at the end halts the rhythm) . Poetic license.


Oh Louelle, won't you come and save me
Louelle, won't you come and save me.

Read: Just so nobody gets any wrong ideas, Lou was never in the business of saving people nor has she ever made any representation to that effect. This was written in the mid 90s, at the tail end of the "grunge" movement when it was fashionable for a hard-rocking man to sing about his helplessness and vulnerability. Now they call it Emo but that ain't no hard-rocking "man" crying in front of you.

Sometimes I think we should get married
But you don't believe in shit like that.
Do you think we might be quite contented
Someday when we're rich and ordinary?

Read: Heeding the song's rich advice, we got married. Not to each other, no (she now lives in an island far away). And I never really asked her in our conversations about her thoughts on marriage so that second line was made up (as are all the "facts" in this blog suckah!). Now the last two lines of the verse just shows to you how obnoxious a 17 year-old UP student can be when talking about his future prospects. I'm pushing 30, I work my ass of and I'm still not rich. And the country is so mired in grinding poverty there's nothing ordinary about being rich.

(Repeat Refrain)
(Repeat Chorus)

And that's that. The song never made it big with my "fans" (mostly because there's no recording of it and they hadn't heard it yet even live). And also because I have no "fans".

But, as Akon would say, it don't matter no. As long as I remember the song I have a piece of the past with me everywhere I go, the melody piping out of the elegant speakers in that marble tiled washroom in my mind.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Music Lesson #13

Sometimes that box of songs in your head can be unlocked by standing dead center in the crap of the world.

Today is the promulgation of judgment for the Joseph Estrada plunder and perjury cases at the Sandiganbayan. Joseph Estrada, for our non-Filipino readers, was the former Philippine president who resigned after being pressured to do so by a bunch of people assembled for days in front of a shopping mall. Yeah I was there too. Now a nigga like me, just like Tupac, just don't give a fuck.

So anyway I had to get up real early to go to court. My plates end with six so, it being a Wednesday, I couldn't use my car. I was trying to get a cab out of Commonwealth Avenue but no cabs would come on account of the protestors marching (more like riding in jeepneys strewn with FREE ERAP banners) to the Sandiganbayan - just a kilometer away from where I was. So, for the first time in years, I had to take a jeepney, which wouldn't have been a big deal if I weren't in dress shoes, tailored pants and barong, and lugging a heavy briefcase.

An hour later, my business finished, I decided to get back to Commonwealth Avenue to where I left my car. Again, because of the FREE ERAP protestors blocking the right half of the road, the jeepney dropped me off at the center island of Commonwealth (dubbed the most dangerous road in the world due to the extremely high motor vehicle related death toll). The driver just told me to cross to the other side. For those in the United States, crossing Commonwealth is like crossing the Los Angeles freeway. Knowing that crossing from the center island would mean certain death, I had to cross back to the other side of the road so I can use the pedestrian bridge. The traffic there wasn't moving much, just a bunch of trucks lurching and horns blowing. I had to hit them with my umbrella as I crossed, in a sort of Ratso Rizzo (from Midnight Cowboy) "I'm walking here!" gesture.

Then I had to walk a great distance through a public market and a tricycle terminal. Again, in dress shoes at ten thirty in the morning. As I was walking I wrote this song.

I've always wanted to write a song called "Larong Mama" (Man Games, my personal translation) ever since I heard the phrase from Carljoe our bassist, but the words wouldn't come to me. The song was to be the third in my gangsta trilogy (the two other being Caloocan and Animal). So there I was, walking across one of those long pedestrian bridge traversing Commonwealth, face caked with dust and exhaust particles and sweat, brow furrowed, muttering these words:

Larong Mama

Ang utak ko’y kamao
Palutang-lutang sa delubyo
Di alam san nanggaling
Di alam kung sa’n patungo

Pagdating sa dulo
Pag ang buhay mo’y natapos
Tumingin ka sa akin
Bibigyan kitang panggastos

Sa impyerno
Wala na sakin yan
Pitong taon sa city jail
Nagpalaki lang ’ko ng tyan

Wala kang laban
Pagkat ako ang dalubhasa

Pagtapos ko magtong-it
Ay derecho na sa casa


Wag mong isiping tabla tayo
Baka paluin ka sa ulo
Wag mong tawagin akong gago
Kakabitan kita ng gripo

Larong mama
Larong mama
Ayoko ng larong bata (2x)

Basketbol sa kalye
Laro ko’y bigay todo
Tawag nila sa akin ay
Kobe Asaytono

May bumangga sa akin
Napikon daw sa balyahan
Kinuha ko ang icepick
Leeg niya ay binutasan

Sabay takbo
Iniwan kong dumudugo

Tinapon ko ang ebidensya
At doon ako sumuko

Ng itapon sa kulungan

Kung gusto nyo kong bisitahin


tayo mag-inuman


Wag mong isiping tabla tayo
Baka paluin ka sa ulo
Wag mong tawagin akong gago
Kakabitan kita ng gripo

Larong mama
Larong mama
Ayoko ng larong bata (2x)

There. A new song for Los Chupacabras, the ass-kickingest band in these Islands. By the way, Erap was found guilty of plunder and acquitted of perjury. I am watching the news coverage from a small canteen near Commonwealth, admiring the neatly pressed shirts and the clean faces of the lawyers being interviewed by Korina Sanchez. I am sipping an iced tea watching the wheels, changing my sweaty undershirt, getting ready to get back, as they say in Vietnam movies, into the shit.

Music Lesson #12

Be careful when writing songs with pop culture references as they tend to get dated.

I was starting my second year of college when I learned that the pop star Joleena had enrolled in UP's theater program. You wouldn't believe it now but she used to be hugely famous, the country's desexualized pop princess answer to Britney Spears. And she went to my school which I thought was pretty cool.

I was once walking across the Palma Hall lobby, briskly, just trying to get from one end to another, when I saw her. I didn't see her face, just a head of hair as orange as a sunset, bobbing up and down, weaving through the crowd. I wasn't even sure it was her, but I was compelled to follow her, keeping a distance of a few meters. Keeping tabs in the notebook in my head, like a private eye.

9:12 - Entered classroom.
9:20 - Went to the ladies.
10:34 - Summoned doll army to do her bidding.
11:00 - Inspired by rainbows, designed clothes/ released Joleena line of
prescription pharmaceuticals.
12:00 - Had lunch (duck l'orange, java rice, Royal Tru-Orange)
1:50 - Auditioned for production of Verdi's La Traviata.
3:00 - (Three o'clock habit)
3:10 - Summoned doll army to do her bidding.

And so on. She was a busy lady.

I knew what I was doing was unhealthy. But I was just a normal, run of the mill starstruck guy. I wasn't a stalker or a deranged fan. I didn't send her love/ransom notes made of pieced-together magazine clippings. Neither did I prop up a naked Joleena doll in my room and draw a pentagram around it. I should have, maybe, but I didn't. Nor did I write poems or songs about her hoping that she'd someday hear them and be impressed by my admiration.

Like this one:


In your blue baby tees,
You're a tight little tease
How'd you get so pretty
Is it rhinoplasty

That orange streak
In your long black hair
Weren't you blonde last week?
Noone cares like I care


We could be dating
You could be my girl
We could be married
You could be my world


Outside the studio
Where you shoot your latest sitcom
With my boots and my revolver
I'm in no condition to

Follow you home
To Valle Verde Five
Sleep outside your door
You keep me alive

We could be dating
You could be my girl
I could be your leading man
I'm your number one fan

Joleena (4x)
I'm your number one fan.

Later my heart broke (like a heart-shaped twig) when she moved to another school and rubbed it in my face by doing a commercial for said school with Joe D'Orange or whatever fruit-based name that guy had. I had no choice but to move on.

Years passed and I saw her again on TV. Her pop princess aura had all but gone. She was now some kind of announcer-princess for a faux interview show on the government network "showcasing" (their word, not mine) the achievements of the administration. Memories came rushing back (not of her, other non-Joleena memories).

Sometimes when I see someone, or thing, with orange hair, I'm tempted to give her, or it, a light tap on the shoulder as if to say "I have not forgotten the past!" And then I awake and my entire life has all been a beautiful dream.

Music Lesson #11

I wrote the song "Ambing" ten years ago in the boarding house of a couple of friends within the confines of UP Diliman where I was studying Economics. The place was a preferred drinking place since you can pretty much do anything in it and it was cheaper to buy beer from a store than to buy drinks at Gulod or Sarah's. Anyway, the song was inspired by their hardluck tales about a friend of theirs called ________ who had been treated shabbily in her relationships with men (boys, actually, since we were still in our teens).

At that time I was in a performance poetry group called Freakshow. Freakshow performed at art galleries, shopping malls, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (as Gatula Performance Poetry), etc. My first performance involved me in a hospital gown in the middle of Glorietta shopping mall with a bedpan smeared with peanut butter that looks a lot like human feces. In a booming voice reminiscent of great poets such as Dylan Thomas, I recited a poem I'd written while appearing to eat the feces from the bottom of the bedpan. Needless to say it freaked out a lot of people at the mall and sent the genteel poet-types in the audience in a rage. One poet from our group once gave a reading of his poem at Balay Kalinaw while pretending to beat up a friend (who had been afflicted with polio) with his own cane-thingamajig. You will be pleased to know that three Freakshow members are now practicing lawyers, at least two have gone on to teach, one is a physician, and one is the editor in chief of a prestigious magazine.


As the performance poetry thing progressed, I figured I'd move on to being a performance poet-folk singer super-art-hybrid. So I brought my nylon guitar to performances and started singing my songs. The one that got most of a rise from the audience was always Ambing. I made a track of the song with the filmmaker Khavn Dela Cruz but we couldn't have it played on the radio for reasons that will become clear to the reader. Nonetheless, we put it in a CD called Easy EP from where it got ripped and passed along to people and morphed from one format to another until it finally ended up on the internet where it took on a life of its own.

Now the song's quite famous. A friend of mine called me in the middle of the night once to tell me that people have been downloading at Greenhills that same recording I did with Khavn to their cellphones and IPods. And there are several Ambing fan videos on Youtube, one of which, with two guys lipsynching the song, has almost 20,000 views. I've heard people on the street singing the song and it makes me real proud to know that I brought that little ditty out into the world. They don't know who Easy is (some think it's the name of a band I guess) but that's cool.

To demonstrate how famous the song is I have copied and pasted these lyrics from one of the few lyrics/tablature sites featuring Ambing.


Verse 1
Naaalala ko pa nung tayo pang dalwa,
sine lang ay ok ka na.
Pero ngayong kolehiyala ka na,
mas trip mong magtoma.
Ewan ko kung pano ka na barkada,
sa mga walang kwenta.

Sa payo ko ay makinig ka, kilala ko sila,
Wag kang, sasama, kakantutin ka lang nila.
Wag kang, maniwala, kakantutin ka lang nila.

Verse 2:
Wag mong isiping di mapapansin,
ang iksi ng iyong palda,
ang kyut kyut mo, pero ang dami-daming
make-up sa iyong mukha.
'Sang kahang yosi, 'sang bote ng beer,
maya-maya ay senglot ka na,

Sa payo ko ay makinig ka, kilala ko sila,
Wag kang sasama, kakantutin ka lang nila.
Wag kang maniwala, kakantutin ka lang nila.

Ngayon tatawag ka, ginago ka nila,
Wag kang mag-alala, reresbakan ko sila.

Aww, yeah!

Wag kang sasama kakantutin ka lang nila.
Wag kang maniwala kakastahin ka lang nila.
Wag kang paumaga kakantutin lang nila.
Wag mong paubaya kakangkangin ka lang nila.
Kakantutin ka lang nila...

If that song (and not my poetry, performance art, or my band Los Chupacabras) will be the one thing I'm remembered for... well, I hope I'm remembered for other stuff also.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Music Lesson #10

Listen to your dreams. Or watch them. Whatever. There's tons of good stuff you can get from dreams.
Like mind-blowing poetic imagery:
"I held a bowlful of angry bees
To the chrome-colored sky.
You were as huge as the sun."
Or crazy ideas for a music video like Michel Gondry's video for Bjork's Army of Me.
Or life-changing sexual epiphanies. Holy shit I'm in love with my best friend! And he's a dude!
And he's been dead for years!
Or song ideas. Like this dream I had where I'm waiting for the big red pay phone in front of my highschool cafeteria to ring. It rings and I lift the handset. There's a female voice at the end of the line. It's cool and seductive, like a spy's whisper.
She: I'm calling for the Philippine Diamond Miners' Bloc of the Philippines. We'd like for you to write a song for us highlighting the virtues of Philippine diamond mining. In the Philippines.
I: What's in it for me?
She: Money, lots of it. And eyes like sapphires.
I: Yes I'll do it.
And then I start singing this song into the handset, that's sort of floating in space. There's smoke coming out of the receiver.
She: Don't mind my smoking.
I: It's getting into my eyes, my sapphire eyes. It burns!
She: Love is like this. It turns in an open flame and is flavored by its own juices. Like a chicken on a spit.Here's the song.
All these years
Collecting like graves in a battlefield
The manufactured lives we lead
Hearts and homes
When we're all gone they'll pile them up like stones
Here's the quarry of my soul
I mine the streets for diamonds
(I'm) simply not over you
I look inside my damaged mind
For things to do
I sail away to China
(I'm) simply not over you
Chasing stars on the horizon of
A country I never knew.
Summer days
Sitting with you waiting for rain
I've no more promises to make
Laying plans
Let's build them up and tear them down again
Waves crash into the sand
Though I'm old
I still picture you, your eyes as black as coal
How I wanted you then
Pave your way with lies and sow your tears
And I'll see you again
I never knew...
Oh woh...You...
I never knew..."

The reference to China is a little trick to make the song sound more new wavey. I remember standing in a cliff in the middle of an island in the Lijiang River, looking at the beautiful misty hills of Guilin, tapping my left foot to a steady beat while slowly sweeping my right hand, pointing at the distance, from left to right singing China! China! like the Red Rockers. Again the song is a love song about a breakup. But I wasn't writing about any particular experience of mine. I was in fact feeling rather well when the song came to me.
In other news, Los Chupacabras now has the distinction of being the only rock band in history with the most Palanca Award-winning musicians. First to win was our drummer Joel (for poetry, twice) and just now our guitarist Mikael Co (also for poetry). Bassist Carl is an-award winning fictionist and a guy with a mustache. I am a nothing but all I can think of is me. Bruises, bruises, bruises. (Hear Lisa Germano's Bruises)
Congrats Mike, or Kael, or whatever you call yourself nowadays! Congratulations land of dreams!

Music Lesson #9.1

I was looking up Elliott Smith's performances and interviews on Youtube and it reminded me how sad it was that he was dead. Great songwriter, great singer. Sometimes I'm tempted to think that you have to be as paranoid and drug-addled as he'd been to write stuff as great as Waltz 2, Roman Candle, and Angeles, the lyrics of which I am reproducing here for your viewing pleasure:


Someone's always coming around here trailing some new kill
Says I seen your picture on a hundred dollar bill
And what's a game of chance to you, to him is one of real skill
So glad to meet you, Angeles

Picking up the ticket shows there's money to be made
Go on and lose the gamble that's the history of the trade
You add up all the cards left to play to zero
And sign up with evil, Angeles

Don't start me trying now
'Cause I'm all over it, Angeles

I could make you satisfied in everything you do
All your secret wishes could right now be coming true
And be forever with my poison arms around you
No one's gonna fool around with us
No one's gonna fool around with us
So glad to meet you, Angeles

Rest in peace Elliott Smith. Now on with our regular programming.

Music Lesson #9

They say that for security reasons you should not write a weblog when:

a. You've been out drinking by yourself on a Friday at Mag:Net watching poorly acted but well-meaning student films about anomie in the call-center setting;

b. And you then went on to 70s Bistro to catch The Jerks (which should get an award from some award-giving body of some sort) but you had to leave because they were taking so long to get on stage;

c. And you then drove home to finish a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and watch 2 consecutive seasons of Peep Show, the greatest sitcom ever made. Ever;

d. And then, finding the Sauvignon Blanc empty, you take a crack at the Stoli and drink until you go temporarily blind and ask yourself, loudly, where did all the time go?

So you should not create blog posts if you had done all the above-mentioned things in series.

Which brings me to my song titled "Sheila Doesn't Live Here Anymore."

Here is my formula for new wave songwriting: Sadness about young love slipping away/ belief that young love is all-powerful + catchy riff + depictions of infrastructure (i.e. houses, buildings, monuments) = haunting new wave lyrics.

This song was written many years after a nasty break-up. I can't seem to write love songs about people I have not broken up with but there you go.

About songwriting though, the lesson I guess is that pick up what you can about any bad experience, throw out the garbage, and try to come out with something that can be universally understood. And nothing is an universally understood as heartache. And boredom and intoxication on alcohol.

Sheila Doesn't Live Here Anymore

I walk down past the street where you used to live
Nothing is the same as how I remember it
Whatever happened to the chapel, the grotto, the small grocery
Your body naked in the water, the color of my memory

The phone booth where I called to check
If you were alone
Standing there behind the door
Your clothes left on the bathroom floor

But Sheila doesn't live here anymore
Sheila doesn't live here anymore

I'm counting all my days, never to be free
What's the point in hiding, you'd always know where I'd be
Our senior year you told me of your greatest fear
You'd end up like your mother
But I'm not your father

There's a place for you, you said,
Waiting to be found
Your friends all thought you weren't around,
Noone knew that you'd left town

But Sheila doesn't live here anymore
Sheila doesn't live here anymore

I walk down past the street where you used to live
Nothing is the same as how I remember it
And where there used to be a chapel, a grotto
Stands a shiny shopping mall
The phantom breeze, the disappeared trees
I remember them all oh

But Sheila doesn't live here anymore
Sheila doesn't live here anymore

People change but I won't change I still love you
And people change but I won't change I still love you
Yeah people change but I don't change I really love you
And people change but I won't change I love you

Love you

Love you.

Seriously, you should go hear our band, Los Chupacabras, go at it. Mikael, Joel and Carl really do justice to all the new wave "weight" of the song. I couldn't have thought of a better arrangement myself. Await our album!

P.S. This entry has been edited the morning after I had written it intoxicated on various liquors and the sweet milk of my own tears. Inappropriate drunken rantings originally in the entry have been neutralized.

Music Lesson #8

July 8, 2007, Maximum Security Ward, New Bilibid Prison.

I am onstage with my band, Los Chupacabras. I look at the crowd, lifers all. Child rapists and murderers, they've been here for years and here's where most of 'em are gonna die. I take a sip of water nervously, step up to the mike and say...

No, not "Hi I'm Johnny Cash" but it might as well've been what I said. My Johnny Cash moment, singing my true crime badass street thug songs to my real fans -- badass lifers covered in tats, shirtless, blood on their hands. I wipe my hands and the stage blood comes clean off. I introduce our first song.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine named Iwa released his Palanca Award winning novel called "Mondo Manila." Khavn Dela Cruz was trying to make it into a film and he asked me to write a song for the soundtrack. I read a few pages from the book, sat down with pen and paper and wrote "Animal."


Gusto kong bumait pero yoko talaga
Ang pera kung di akin ay walang halaga
Small-time lang noong lumalaki sa riverside
Big-time na ngayong ang bisyo ko ay homicide.

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

The first line obviously makes fun of Death Threat's "Gusto kong bumait pero di ko magawa." I'm painting a picture of man who takes what he wants, pure streetbrawler id. Original gangsta. Riverside is what they call those slum settlements located near creeks. As for the "manong(s) kagabi pa nakatutok", it's a reference to sleazy old men who hang out in those bars in Timog frequented by young semi-professional hookers.

Handa mo na ang auto, tanggalin ang plaka
Para kung nagkagulo, wala silang suspetya
Pag punta ko sa Club, and VIP handa na
Kuha kayo ng chicks? Ang sabi ko YOU BETCHA!

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

Read: Taking off your license plates during a frat rumble is a trick I learned back in school a long time ago. I got so used to it I'd even leave my car sometimes in the parking lot without plates. One time, walking to the parking lot, I found to my horror a bunch of cops standing around my car, shining flashlights and whatnot. Scary stuff I will not do again. Ever. Because it's bad.

Animal kang bata ka
Animal kang bata ka.

Gusto kong manggulo, gusto kong mangbandal
Gusto kong maging babae at sa St. Paul na mag-aral
Gusto ko maging barista, gusto ko maging artista
Parang yung kalbong intsik sa La Salle Sex Scandal

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

Read: I remember in high school our prefect of discipline was named Ms. Delicana, a very stern woman (but fair too, to her credit). A lot of the boys would get called to her office on account of vandalism. I got in deep shit with her once when I destroyed a prize winning science project at the science lab with the help of a few friends. Yes, sometimes it takes several people to completely annihilate a science project made of cardboard and christmas lights. Anyway, after the vandalism shakedown some guys learned how to forge Ms. Delicana's signature and signed the armchairs in black marker "BAWAL MANGBANDAL - MS. DELICANA." That was pretty funny.

The St. Paul reference is on account of the old urban legend every Manileno boy knows. The guy in La Salle Sex Scandal looks chinese. Maybe he's not. The girl in La Salle Sex Scandal, the unwilling porn star (guy does her and then she does and gets done by a girl friend of the guy), is said to have committed suicide. But a source says she's alive and well and working for a bank in Makati. Wherever you are, I salute you!


Ubos na ang kaaway ubos na rin ang laway
Binuhusan ko ng gas tinusta parang tinapay
Wala nang manghahassle, wala na ang sagabal
Tinawag ko si Amy at kami'y naghabal-habal.

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

Read: I was watching one of those murder documentaries on the Crime/Suspense Channel where the killer burned the bodies of his victims so they can't be identified. Habal-habal is a kind of public transport motorcycle in the Visayas where the passengers sit astride the motorcycle. Habal-habal, I think, literally means doggy-style. So the guy's saying my enemies be dead and I'm gonna call my shorty and do her doggy-style. Tada!


Di ako gentleman di ka rin lady
Kung gusto mong subukan, halika dito baby
Di ako gentleman di ka rin lady
Kung gusto mong subukan, halika dito baby

Hala mga waiter
Hala mga bouncer
Hala mga dancer tinatawag ng announcer!

Hala mga waiter
Hala mga bouncer
Hala mga dancer tinatawag ng announcer!

Read: One of my dream jobs when I was young was to be the DJ at a strip club, call out the girls with my golden voice all like "And now, dancing to the tune of Bed of Roses, let's welcome Desiree!"

Animal kang bata ka!

So there. After the show in Bilibid, at least three guys went up to me and asked me to sign their tits. Just like Elvis except not with hot groupies but with lifers, which was also cool. They promised that the next time I drop by Munti they'll have whatever I signed on their chests tattooed on them. I wasn't sure that time whether they wanted me to sign my name or the band's name so, if they are true to their word, they'll soon be bearing the peculiar tattoo "EASY! LOS CHUPACABRAS!!!"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Music Lesson #7

Francis Magalona was being interviewed about his early hiphop legacy in an NU 107 radio show. Francis M. never really put out any sort of gangsta persona and his songs were mostly cheesy imitations of whatever was in fashion in US hiphop radio at the time. Anyway, one question posed to him was, is there really a gangsta culture in the Philippines? He seemed miffed at the question, perhaps thinking the DJ was poking fun at him. He abruptly answered, of course not, everybody knows there isn't (wait, tell that to Mankillah and Glock 9), next question.
That got me thinking. Everyday I read in the tabloids about gangs and hardcore fraternities shivving each other in the ribs and bashing heads for territory or respect. Someone's always getting shot with an improvised pistol in Batasan Hills or Tondo. Guys with the same tats or ritual burn marks are arrested for peddling drugs. There is a thriving gang culture. It's the same game, same drugs, same bitches, only for the third world. Passenger tricycles and lowriding owner-type jeepneys instead of Impalas. But it's there nonetheless. There may not be a US gangsta culture in the Philippines, but there is a pinoy gangsta culture. And like their US counterparts, pinoy gangs and frats have their own strict code of conduct, the members tend to dress and talk the same way, there's always some level of criminality involved, and most importantly, conflicts are usually resolved through violence.
Later I heard an OPM song on the radio (on a defunct all-hiphop station) called "Valenzuela," basically a ripoff soundalike of Tupac's California Love that goes:
"Valenzuela, dating municipality
Ngayon ay city na, no doubt about it,
Ain't that the dumbest fucking thing. And then I was driving along Caloocan one day to run an errand, through a street where the only shops were alternating funeral parlors and saw-sharpeners ("naghahasa ng lagari"). This song started writing itself in my head. The narrative is patterned after Warren G and Nate Dogg's "Regulate" and the imagery is, well, part movies and part experience (I won't tell which is which).
It starts with the chords B, A#, A, G then when it drops to E all hell breaks loose, like a film that opens to a bloody gangwar, ala Gangs of New York, only its Gangs of
Musmos palang ako iba na ako umarte
Siga sa iskwela dyan sa amin sa Zabarte
Monumento, Valenzuela dyan ako lumalagare
Tanungin mo'ng mga Krishna ako lang ang Hare-hare
Kung sexy ka na chick pumasok ka sa'king tanggapan
Kung gulo ang hanap mo ding-hindi ka uurungan
Tama ang narinig sa 'bubulung-bulungan
Ang sinumang humarang huhukayin sa kangkungan
Sa Caloocan, sa Caloocan
'Yoko nang bumalik, huwag niyo 'kong ibalik
Sa Caloocan, sa Caloocan
Pagtapos ko ng high school palibhasa kumikita
Naparami ang inom naparami ang barkada
Nagkalat man ang gamit ay hindi ko tinitira
Negosyo lang sa akin para 'di ako masira
Saan man pumunta nakabuntot ang mga bata
Lahat kumakarga mapa-bote man o bala
Kung gusto mo ng away 'kaw narin ang bahala
Kami ay na Litex sa Select tayo magkita
Pumutok ang warning shot at nagdatingan ang PDEA
Tumakbo ang mga Runner, naglaro and mga Playah
Sa ilalim ng tulay doon kami lahat nagtago
Bumili ng kwatro-kantos naginuman mga gago
May humarurot owner-type na lowrider
Tumatawa ang busina may disenyo sa kurtina
Bumaba ang may-ari baka di ka maniwala
Naka-bonnet at alahas, Ilokano gangbanger!
Pagputok ng pillbox, kami ay kumaripas
Ako ay nadapa sumadsad ako sa burak
Akala ko buhangin puro bubog ang nakuha
Merong thumbtacks, merong pako ang mukha ay nangasugat
Nasan ang barkada? Wala man lang naiwan
Lumapit ang kalaban at ako ay inihian
Bumunot akong nuwebe tinutukan ko si loco
Makalipas 'lang minuto pinatawag na ang SOCO.
Mahirap mang malayo sa bayang tinubuan
Gusto kong umalis, lumihis sa kalokohan
Kapwa mandurukot ay nagdurukutan
Kapwa mandudurog ay nagdudurugan
Kapwa manginginom ay nag-iinuman
Yoko nang bumalik sa Caloocan!
Sa Caloocan (4x)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Music Lesson #6

If you want to get your ideas out, you gotta take risks.

Murder is a touchy subject and I don't believe any Filipino songwriter, or poet for that matter, has ever written a murder ballad. Maybe it's because murder ballads aren't really part of the Filipino artistic tradition, unlike in England and in America. American folk music, for example, is rife with murder ballads. There's Stagger Lee, the Original Gangster who walked into a bar with a Colt 45 and a deck of cards and shot everyone dead. There's Neil Young's Down By the River where he shot his baby dead... deahhhhd. There's Jimi Hendrix's Hey Joe about a guy who kills his girlfriend for "running round town" and then flees to Mexico. Then there's the creepiest one for me, the Kingston Trio's Tom Dooley, a North Carolina folk song based on the murder of a girl by an impoverished civil war veteran named Tom Dula and the latter's subsequent hanging.

And then there's my own murder ballad "Patay na Babae sa Loob Ng Bahay."

The song is about a guy who parties all night, blacks out, then awakes in his house to the sight of a dead girl covered in gore. There's a bloody hammer on the side and knives stuck in the victim. He doesn't know how the corpse got there. Hilarious consequences ensue.

It's definitely a risky subject. I don't think it's going to please the women's groups. And I certainly don't want to offend any victims' rights advocacy groups. But the thing is grisly, mind-blowingly disgusting murders happen everyday. In a way, they make us examine the nature of good and evil inside of us. You don't have to read Shakespeare's Macbeth to know that murder is a legitimate subject of art.

In law school, by the way, you spend your freshman year with two criminal law subjects where you read, among others, piles of Supreme Court cases describing in detail crimes against persons so horrible you can't show them on CSI. There's the politician who had his enemy disemboweled and the guy's intestines wrapped around his neck while he was still breathing and his own testicles stuffed into his mouth. There's the the guy who sleep-hacked his wife to death. There's Manero who killed a priest and ate his brain. Lawyers are trained not to be shocked by the grisliness of the act so they can focus on the evidence and the procedure.

I guess you can say that med students are desensitized to dead bodies while law students are desensitized to murder. Or maybe not. Notably, Ted Bundy, one of the worst serial killers in United States history, was studying law when he was finally caught. He conducted his own defense with laughable results, straight to the gas chamber.

For those who don't read the news, Ador Mawanay was a guy who came out into the open years ago accusing a certain powerful politician of being a drug lord and a murderer. Later on, a guy by the name of Udong Mahusay surfaced accusing another powerful political personality of equally derogatory things. Both Mawanay and Mahusay, through their own acts in the public eye, have separately earned reputations as unreliable witnesses. That's how the song jokingly makes reference to them.

Patay na Babae sa Loob ng Bahay

Partied 'til the break of dawn sa bahay
Sa daming nainom nawalan ako ng malay
Paggising ko ng hapon may nakahandusay
Na patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Paggising ko ng hapon may nakahandusay
Na patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Kung pwedeng manag-inip ang panag-inip
Ito na marahil ang masisilip
Alin ang kathang-isip at alin ang tunay
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Alin ang kathang-isip at alin ang tunay
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Nakabaon pa ang mga kutsilyo
Nanginginig pa ang duguang martilyo
Dapa sa sahig, tumutulo pa ang laway
Ng patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Dapa sa sahig, tumutulo pa ang laway
Ng patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Tumawag akong pulis ako ay natakot
Pagdating nila ako ang hinakot
Laging natotrobol pero di parin masanay
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Laging natotrobol pero di parin masanay
Sa patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Ang magpaliwanag ay pangkaraniwan
Pero maniwala kang ako'y walang kasalanan
Ano lang naman ang iyong patunay?
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Ano lang naman ang iyong patunay?
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Abogado ko si Ador Mawanay
Star witness ko si Udong Mahusay
Hatol sa akin ng huwes ay bitay
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Ano lang naman ang iyong patunay?
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Minsan talaga ganyan ang buhay
Di puti di itim, paib-iba ng kulay
Merong nangyayaring di inaasahang bagay
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Patay na babae sa loob ng bahay
Merong nangyayaring di inaasahang bagay
May patay na babae sa loob ng bahay.

Awang-awa ako kay nanay at tatay
Hiyang-hiya ako sa kapitbahay
Sana nama'y huwag nang mahukay
Ang patay na babe sa ilalim ng bahay.

Patay na babae sa ilalim ng bahay
Patay na babae sa ilalim ng bahay
Sana nama'y huwag nang mahukay
Ang patay na babae sa ilalim ng bahay!

Yeah! Come on!

So there. Chupacabraz plays this song quite regularly usually as the last one in the set. The Mag:Net service staff goes freaking crazy everytime they hear it. Khavn dela Cruz made a video (with English subtitles) for a short version of the song but it's too hot for TV so just check it out on Youtube.

Music Lesson #5

I spent May 5, 2007 at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina. A beautiful Saturday afternoon, sitting on a stone bench, listening to the wind shaking the trees. It sounded like the ocean. This is me at the most peaceful spot in all of Metro Manila, surrounded by the dead.

My dad died May 5 all of 21 years ago. Head on car collision along San Manuel, Pangasinan. I was in the car too. So were my mom, sister, uncle, aunt, and two cousins. It took around two months for each of us to recover from our injuries, enough to go home. By then, I'd been told my dad had to be flown to the States for emergency surgery. I did not know he'd been dead for two months already. I found out a few months later, when they finally brought me home where I would spend the good part of a year learning to walk again. For many years I had dreams of my dad walking home from San Manuel, naked except for his briefs. He'd ring the bell in the middle of the night but we'd all be too asleep to open the door for him. And then he walks right back to the scene of the accident. For many years I had trouble sleeping because of that recurring dream.

Years later, I wrote a poem about the experience. As usually happens in poetry workshops, subjective (i.e. actual) details from the source experience are whittled down until all that's left is a set of images that conveys an objective experience. The end result was okay, but I needed something that truly captured the trauma I'd felt from the accident, inTechnicolor, so to speak. I needed something that could convey my interpretation of being 8 years old with my face smashing into the side window of a car. I needed something that could capture the traumatic recurrence of that particular event, maybe the single most important and definitive moment of my life.

I wrote "Car Crash" because the poem couldn't cut it for me. My band Chupacabraz performs the song sometimes and I think the somber accompaniment that builds up and dies down again really captures how the song was intended to be.

Car Crash

Driving to the interior
Between trees I see you
Drawn to the fire

Candles litter the roadside
Lead to the place I
Left you that night

It's all in the give up
All in the let down
Trapped in a small town
Stay for a while

Fall like a rain of
Dismembered angels
Show me some dark clouds
Put on your veil

Put on your veil
Put on your veil
Put on your veil

Unread books on the backseat
Spell out your story
Right to the ending

I remember that evening
Strained it of meaning
Drained it to nothing

(Repeat Chorus)

I want to do it over
Brace myself for it
Make myself stronger

Sun shines down like a migraine
I'm ready for more pain
So long as I feel it

Chorus II:
So bring in the give up
Nuclear letdown
Foot on the pedal
Picking up speed

All of them children
Breaking to pieces
Strewn on the dashboard
Glow-in-the-dark saints

Glow-in-the-dark saints
Glow-in-the-dark saints
Glow-in-the-dark saints.

Music Lesson #4

This post is brought to you by my favorite pop chord progression: G-D-Em-C.

Lower register G sounds like youthful fun, jangly and up-tempo. Higher register D builds up the song's energy. You play with just four strings of the guitar and yet you can dance to it. And then there's the E minor. The E chord sounds like a stocky, sure-footed guy, with a booming voice, ready to fight. You take away that G# to turn it into an E minor and it sounds like the same guy only with a hole through his soul. He's dark and depressed now and he needs to be saved. And then we come around to that redeeming C chord, Do-Mi-Sol, pleasant like the sound of a slot machine vomiting tokens into your tumbler.

Learn those four chords and you can write a hit song, if you were so inclined. Even if you can't play worth a damn, if you know how to work those chords you can still do wonders.

I got my first guitar when I was ten years old -- a classical Yamaha guitar. My mom bought it from my uncle who'd spent many lonely nights with it as a civil engineer in Jeddah, singing his favorite Bread songs and probably, at other times, swinging it wildly to fend off Bread-hating ass-rapists at the construction camp.

The first songs I learned were Beatles songs. Back in grade school and early high school, I was friends with a guy named Rommel who was also a big Beatles fan. It was the early nineties yet our notebooks were full of pasted-on photos of John, Paul, George, and Ringo from the 60s and early 70s. I learned guitar first and Rommel soon followed suit.

Nineteen years later, with LOTS of practice, I can still play only a few chords well. I can't climb up and down the scales or do Van Halen-esque two-handed tapping. Rommel, a few years after learning how to play guitar, became the legendary guitarist of possibly the most famous Pinoy death metal band in the country. He's now an eye doctor, I hear.

Let's go back to college. It's 1997, I'm in my Humanities 2 class at UP Diliman discussing musical instruments. I'd written a few songs but was mostly still into poetry. But I'd been playing guitar for many years now to believe that I was a very decent musician. The teacher, an attractive young woman, asks for volunteers who can play the guitar in front of the class, sort of a live demonstration just for fun. I immediately raised my hand. So did another guy from the back row, an unassuming Engineering student by the name of Lenin.

The next meeting I brought my guitar. Lenin asked to go first. To my amazement, he plays (if I remember right) Man in The Mirror, that Tuck Andress jazz piece they used to play at that Bob Garon show. He plays almost flawlessly and the class applauds enthusiastically at the end.

My turn. I don't know where to begin. I announce "This is a chord progression that the Eraserheads uses in some of their songs" (I now forget which songs and maybe I was wrong) and commence strumming the G-D-Em-C pattern, nervously and clumsily. The class looks on, unimpressed. The teacher saves me from further embarassment and tells me I'm excused. Almost a decade of guitar playing by then and all I could show for was G-goddamned-D-E minor-C.

Still I believed in those four chords. I kept hearing melodies in my head built around those chords. And later the words just sort of wrote themselves into the melodies.

That same year I wrote two songs using that chord pattern. There's Fran (see previous post) and Ambing, a song that has achieved some notoriety through the years. Just this afternoon outside the Mandaluyong courthouse, I passed a couple of tambay types singing Ambing while horsing around. If I'd stopped in my barong and briefcase to tell them I wrote (and sang) that song they wouldn't believe me. Or they'd punch me in the face and steal my wallet.

The old Yamaha sits beside my office desk. Like me, it's now battered, slightly out of tune, and world-weary. And like me, after all these years, it's earned the perfect right to sing the blues.

Music Lesson #3

Music is a fantastic way of perpetuating beautiful lies.

I wrote "Fran" in 1997 during the tail end of one of the more prominent writers workshops - sort of like summer camp for young and not so young writers and writer types. The song is about a guy who cannot let go of his girlfriend who has since dumped him for another guy. This, of course, presupposes that the speaking voice had been having some kind of meaningful romantic relationship with this "Fran" character.

The real life inspiration for "Fran" was actually a co-fellow at the workshop whose true identity I shall conceal under the name "Bhabes."

"Pieces of you broken on the floor
Now I'm standing right above your photograph
Remember how we took it on the dam, Fran."

-read: cinematic beginning. Guy stands above a framed picture of himself and his ex that he let fall to the floor in pieces. It's safe to assume his ex has since been avoiding his calls, as exes are wont to do, so the Fran he's talking to is all in his head. The word "dam" sounds like such a contrived rhyme for Fran, especially with the word "damn" from the next verse. But the idea of a weirdo who'd actually take his girlfriend on a date to Magat dam or something felt right for the song. Especially with the imagery from the chorus of falling from a bridge.

"Now I don't give a damn, at least I don't think so,
I don't think I care about that guy
I saw you you with inside the disco."

-read: When you're a nineteen year old poet, it's easy to get lovesick at girls in their early twenties who are also into poetry and art and are named "Bhabes." My friend Joel, who had been fancying himself (still does, actually) a "New Romantic" in the new wave music sense, kept feeding me at that time mind poison like The Care, Wild Swans, and Red House Painters and this only aggravated my, ehm, infatuation.

One of The Wild Swans' songs - Archangels, from Bringing Home The Ashes - goes something like this:

"You dwell with archangels,
I am as poor as any
You are invincible
I am in awe."

I listened to this song over and over in my bunkbed, night after night during the three-week workshop, until I was feverish with, well, actual fever. I'd never met a girl with such an effect on me (though now, in retrospect, I think the fever was brought on by the copious amounts of cheap canadian whiskey I'd been imbibing). I knew I had to ask her out, or I would die (again, because of the Seagrams. If you have the cash, go for Jameson or JB).

"Go, go, go
You said I should let go I never did
Now you are a solitary branch left to the wind.
My tired hands are hanging off a cliff
Where you said I should let go, I never did."

-read: I was thinking of Charlie Brown hanging off a root sticking out the side of a cliff, from those Peanuts comics, when I wrote that part.

So I did ask her out one night. I asked around what the best, most romantic seaside restaurant was in those parts and they pointed me to a place I still call Ghost Ship Restaurant, because of the ghostly ships stalking the horizon that beautiful, cloudy evening.

"Now I'm hanging with my friends right outside the 7-11
Smoke another cigarette, 'til I can get you off my breath
See I can't get you off my breath, Fran
I wish that you were dead, but then again,
My favorite CD's still in your apartment."

-read: "Fran," of course, was a hit with my workshop friends, especially for mutual writer acquaintances of myself and Bhabes who were amused by the reference to real people. Poets and fictionists are a gossipy lot. I remember everytime we'd find ourselves smoking in front of a 7-11 someone other than me would sing that first line. I liked the idea of a guy trying to drown his love sorrows in cigarets instead of the more conventional alcohol.

The real Bhabes, I have never wished dead. And she doesn't have any of my CDs.

"Go, go, go
I said that I'd let go I never did.
Now I've everything to end none to begin,
And tired hands left hanging off a bridge
Where I said that I'd let go I never did."

-read: So the ex tells the guy to buzz off and he says, if I let go of you I'll die. Can you get any more romantic than that?

"Late at night I'm up in bed
I can't get you off my head
I wish that I could call you home
But I don't even have a phone
How'd my walls get so cold
You're the only room I know"

-read: After that date with Bhabes, two things were exceedingly clear:

a. She was just as interesting and completely way out of my league as I had imagined; and
b. Nothing whatsoever was going to happen between us. Nada!

And that, as they say, is that. I never really saw her again, but I wrote this song anyway. A year before the workshop I was telling my friend Ed about wanting to incinerate all my old poems from high school, all that embarassing juvenalia garbage. He told me to hang on to them because they were snapshots of my progress as a poet, sort of an ongoing chronicle of my literary life.

I got rid of them anyway.

Well, this is one piece of juvenalia garbage that survives (and hopefully will survive me) and that my band Chupacabras still performs on a more or less regular basis. Bhabes, I believe now modifies toasters in Greenhills for a living and I'm still at the top of my game in the prosthetic elbow business. Everything has turned out well. Sometimes we bump into each other at writer gatherings and I still act like an idiot. Some things will never change.

"Pieces of you broken on the floor..."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Music Lesson #2

I wrote a song a few years back called "Satan Rules."

I was deep into law school by then and holding a very sensitive government position. I lived in a small studio type along Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City. It had roaches and I had to walk all the way up 5 flights of stairs to get home since it had no lift. But I loved that old deathtrap. It was cozy and quiet and I pretty much had the entire floor all to myself. Most nights I spent out drinking with friends, always making sure I was drunk enough to sleep soundly when I crash.

One night, as I was about to meet up with the guys at the defunct Inca Cafe, I found myself humming the opening bars of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" (which also sounds like Ice-T's "Freedom of Speech"). At that time I was playing semi-regularly by myself at the also defunct Ora Cafe. Just me banging out songs with my trusty Yamaha nylon guitar. I was looking for a bass line I could play while doing spoken word.

I got a pen and paper and it pretty much started writing itself.

"Madilim na pagdating ko sa Ever
Lahat ng katulong d'on friends forever!"

- read: When I was in UP in the late 90s I hung out a lot at Ever Commonwealth, don't ask me why. They had in an arcade in the basement a token-fed videoke machine. Every so often there'd be a line of jolog kids at the machine. They'd play "Gangsta Paradise" over and over and do rap battles over the melody. This was all impromptu of course. I remember watching them, fascinated at all that squandered talent. They had their own gangsta subculture complete with gang colors and tats and flashing gang signs. Now I guess they're full time tricycle drivers.

"May nakasalubong na merchandiser
Pinainom ako ng energizer."

- read: My sister used to work for a company in Makati that supplied promo-girls/boys or "merchandisers" to grocery stores. They're the ones manning those special promotion booths you see in the supermarket. That's where I learned the word. Energizer, of course, is code for amphetamines. Merchandiser is code for, tadaa!, drug dealer. At least in my imaginings.

"Satan Rules
Satan Rules"

- read: To put things straight, this song isn't meant to glorify the lord of lies. I was raised a Catholic and my beliefs were pretty much set when I was young ("do you renounce Satan and all his works?" "Yes!" SLAP!). I have to say though that I never swallowed the idea of the fire and brimstone, pitchfork-toting Satan. I was never afraid of satan or satanic imagery. When I was a kid, my dad read to me and my sister a book of children's stories called "The Devil's Storybook" by Natalie Babbitt. In the book, Satan was always getting the better of human beings, with all their vanities and weaknesses. In the book, Satan totally rules. There's also one story about God and Satan toying with humans. There's a similar story in the Bible in the Book of Job.

The chorus I think was inspired by a horror story I'd read from the Shock Rock anthology called Margr Rules.

"Pagnood ko ng sine may babae
May binubulong wala namang katabi
Tinanong ko kung anong sinasabi
Bigla akong finrench kiss lasang wasabi"

-read: I used to go to the movies alone a lot (still do, actually). Lots of creepy people in moviehouses, especially late at night at cheap places like Ever. Once I was there I felt a cat brush against my legs. I lifted my legs up the seat. Later I found out the cats were meant to kill the huge rats. The imagery is pure horror movie.

"Sa parking lot nagkalat ang mga magsyota
Parang kang nag-check in sa Motel California
May mama na lumapit inalok ako ng pera
Ayaw niya ng lyrics mas mahilig siya sa nota!"

-read: You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. So goes the Eagles' "Hotel California." Interestingly, Rolling Stone magazine in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time issue says that while the song was rumored to be about heroin addiction or Satan worship, Don Henley et al. had more prosaic things in mind. "We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest," he said. "Hotel California was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles." So it was written by three midwestern kids with wild imaginations about West Coast decadence.

The gay stuff is me joking around about getting propositioned a lot by older gay dudes when I was much younger. Not that I take it against them. It's all good.

"Pag-uwi ko sa bahay, walang imik si kuya
Sumisigaw si Mommy ng Aleluya
Punta ako kay Daddy pahingi ng pang-gimik:
Hetong pang-inom pero boy kiss muna!"

- read: This was my impression of shallow suburbia with religious mum and the bigay hilig dad who lets his son go out and get wasted with friends. Just don't do drugs. Also a not too subtle hint about the dad being an incestuous gay pedophile.

"Madilim pa pagbalik ko sa Ever
Lahat ng katulong d'on friends forever
Pinainom ako ng energizer
At sinakay sa tricycle ni Ghost Rider."

-read: Here the forces of vice and darkness have taken our hero away in their chariot of evil. I had a lot of Ghost Rider, Scarecrow, and Jonah Hex comics when I was a kid. Ghost Rider was particularly scary to me because he sold his soul to the devil. Bottom line: don't do drugs kids.

Satan Rules!

Music Lesson #1

This blog will be about writing music and writing about music.

Today's feature will be a song I wrote many years ago called "Dark Backward," written in our garage on a hot evening, with my friend Ahmed, while studying for our Criminal Law 1 final.

"The Dark Backward" is a 1991 movie of the black comedy genre by Adam Rifkin, a writer-director who also wrote the Disney movie Underdog and will direct the new He-Man movie. The plot of the movie is as follows:

"A man pursues stand-up comedy encouraged by his fellow garbage man. Though his friend, who accompanies him on accordion, continues to tell him how great he is, he actually stinks. When the "comedian" grows a third arm out of his back, the friend uses this twist to get him signed up with a sleazy talent agent, and it begins to look like his career is on the move, even though his girlfriend has left him."

Yes, very strange. I remember seeing it on VHS when I was still a daisy fresh boy in high school, feeling that garbage defile my mind.

And so it goes. The song starts like this:

"Locked inside my room
I am just a ghost of myself
And there's so much to do
Somewhere else."

- Read: Law school is really, really tedious and kills the spirit. I should be out drinking.

"Yellow suburban house
In this warm Manila town
I'd like to see it all
Tumble down."

- Read: A hot night, house next door was yellow. We lived in a gated village. During my Collegian days, as a breather from the drudgery of late night press work, I'd sometimes go down to Sunken Garden from Vinzons Hall, lay on the grass and think, uhm, mind-type thoughts. One of which was this hypothetical: what if the ground near my feet suddenly breaks up with smoke and weird blue lights and out springs Jesus? Then he says, "Come with me my son, come be saved." And there I am in the middle of the night alone, lying on the grass smoking cigarets. I imagine myself totally freaking out and running. Then Jesus chases me around campus on his cloud sled and I'm screaming my lungs out, arms flailing. I always thought that was funny.

"I don't want to go out
I don't want to go out
Dark Backward."

- read: Strange. I thought I did want to go out.

"Take me somewhere else
Take me to a war-torn hell
Nothing, like something,
Happens everywhere."

- The quote "nothing, like something, happens everywhere" comes from an excellent poem by Philip Larkin, whom I read in college hanging out at the Main Library on rainy afternoons. More interesting than Larkin, however, were the graffiti on the tables (anyone who's been there knows this), one of which, an exchange, circa 2000 went like this:

"I like guyz who are nasty in bed"
"Ako nasty nandudura sa mukha pagtapos magsex"

Last stanza:

"Don't matter where we are we're never there
Let's close our eyes and watch the world die
Tinfoil animals, hanging over us,
Thrown matches burning up like shooting stars

Like shooting stars
Like shooting stars
Like shooting stars"

- read: This last stanza was added as an afterthought two months ago. I'm not sure what it means. The tinfoil animal is a reference (pramis!) to the origami bird from one of the end scenes in Bladerunner. But I'm not sure if Edward James Olmos used tinfoil.

Ah, the magic of songwriting. See how easy it is!