Category Archives: Music

Dapithapon, Samu’t Sari and maybe more beer

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The song Dapithapon (2010) is a buddy who’d drink heartaches away with me at Sarah’s in Diliman. When I first heard the song – just Johnoy Danao’s voice and his acoustic guitar – I decided to get hold of the artist’s album of the same title. Six copies, to be exact. Back then, Johnoy himself would meet you to deliver the CDs. He delivered and signed my copies at a friend’s kitchen somewhere in Teachers’ Village.

I’d put the song on repeat, its lyrics seeping through my heart’s cracks, the way the grilled chicken intestines (OK, isaw manok) and beer filled my stomach. It was the song for a sadness both raw and slow: “Ang pag-ibig nga naman, kapag hindi na maramdaman, hindi kayang pagtakpan ng sumpaan.” It was a friend who would ride the Ikot jeep with you to Krus na Ligas, who would divert her photocopy allowance to beer fund, so you’d feel better.

The first album has twelve original tracks, half of which were written by Johnoy. My other favorites are Tara Na, Bayan, written by Sammy Asuncion and Isang Iglap, a song about dreams ruined by calamity. Remember that this was released in 2010, we were still reeling from Typhoon Ondoy. Johnoy’s voice, with the riffs, percussion and backing vocals, take you back. Remember, with lyrics like “Nadungaw ko si Tatay, nagtatanim ng palay / Umaasang ang butil ng pawis niya’y maging bigas / Ito namang si Nanay, nag-aayos ng bahay / Ilang taong pinag-ipunan nang kami’y masilungan.”

I admire Johnoy for the acoustic songs he performed alone. His covers made me watch Good Times With Mo (GTWM) on YouTube even though Mo Twister is such a pain to listen to sometimes. But it’s always interesting to hear Johnoy collaborate with other musicians.

GTWM may have helped him go mainstream. His second album, Samu’t Sari, was released under Universal Records in 2014. I bought one copy in a shopping mall.

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Samu’t Sari is a mixture of remakes of familiar numbers, two tracks from the first album, and new songs. I’m not comfortable listening to his cover of Imago’s Sundo, but I forgive Johnoy and the band for trying out Beer and lacing it up with saxophone. Try listening to it while stuck in EDSA traffic after work, when you’re too weary to sing along to the more upbeat original by Itchyworms.

The second album has the hopeful Buntong-Hininga as opening track. This is Johnoy inviting us to fall in love again, almost four years after Dapithapon.

“Sa aking palagay, tayo’y nagsasayang / Ng araw at gabing sa’tin dapat” – I, too, would need a band complete with ukelele and harmonica if I’m going to express this. The song Ikaw at Ako from the first CD is included as a bonus track. If sometime between 2010 and 2014, you already met someone who can help you relate to the lyrics, it’s a bonus, indeed.

The song Dapithapon comes back in the album, Johnoy plays it with the band this time. The Dapithapon of 2014 is the same drinking buddy who has been working in Makati City for years now and like me, uuwi nang walang nag-aabang. This friend might still find me heartbroken, for reasons different from those of 2010. We hold our glasses of whisky and pretend we don’t miss Sarah’s.

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It’s February, month of freebies. I’m giving away a signed copy of Dapithapon.

This is so easy. Just be the first single person to share this post publicly on your Facebook account, then tag me in the comment. You will be required to present proof of singlehood (i.e. lack of romantic/love relationship) before I send you the prize.

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Hello, 2016!

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Cebu sunset

When Tatay Cirilo (my Nanay’s father) was last confined in a hospital, he talked about a dream he had while lying in the operation room. In the dream, he was walking in a forest so deep he almost couldn’t see its end. That was one of the last few words I heard from him.

Months before that, he told me maybe I can already start thinking about building a family or a relationship, at least, because my career is already going well. That was the first time I heard him say that. Far from his usual authoritative voice, the suggestion was uttered softly. It sounded as if he was trying not to embarrass and pressure me in front of the other family members. But I stayed true to character and just changed the topic.

We lost him early last year. His life lasted for more than nine decades. Before 2015 ended, I found myself looking back and thinking of his words.

The past few months left me with the lesson that I should stop spending so much time stressing about the future and learn to value what I already have. That may sound like a cliche. But some time ago, I ignored that simple lesson and the hurt I caused was far from being predictable. It was not like anything that I imagined.

Tatay Cirilo handpicked the wooden foundation of the house he built for his family at Poblacion, Morong, Bataan. That ensured that the foundations were of high quality and would last a long time. I only figured out recently that at the hospital, he might have been dreaming of the time he was looking for wood.

Relationships – with family, friends and loved ones – require hard work. For someone who works in a profession that requires careful use of words, I can be careless when it comes to personal matters. This year taught me that in any area of life, I should always make sure that my words reflect my intent. More importantly, take time away from the noise of words and let my actions catch up with my promises. Take time to carefully and lovingly pick the foundations upon which I build relationships. What I want to remember in my last hours is the forest I walked because of love. For people who matter to me.

There are so many people to thank for what they shared with me in the past year. But as I said before, I will just make my life an expression of gratitude.

Thank you, 2015.

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River of my childhood in Morong, Bataan

Hello, 2016. Here’s my partial to-do list for this year.

  1. Help set up an art exhibit.
  2. Join the TNF trail run in Benguet.
  3. Train for the TBR Dream Marathon 2017.
  4. Skim and surf in Davao Oriental.
  5. Visit Palawan.
  6. Ride the Pasig River ferry.
  7. Donate blood.
  8. Get a new tattoo.
  9. Start a new business.
  10. Climb a mountain.
  11. Organize a free museum trip for kids from Bataan.
  12. Donate books to a public school.
  13. Finish a painting.
  14. Finish reading at least three of the books I bought pre-2016.
  15. Write for a travel magazine.
  16. Plant 33 native trees in my hometown.

Help me cross out each of these goals before 2016 ends. One by one, I will tell the stories of how these are connected with the lessons from the past year. This will also be a period of learning, collaboration and adventure. Happy new year!

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Nine questions: Prabda Yoon

To read [and listen] is human.

Let me put this out first: I love bookshops.

Last month’s weekend trip to Thailand led me to Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC), where the treasure trove called Bookmoby Readers’ Cafe can be found. If you’re staying for less than 48 hours in a country, why would you spend more than an hour in a bookshop?

My haul from Bookmoby included a few familiar titles and a shirt with the shop’s logo. While paying at the counter, I also picked up a CD entitled Naming of a Storm and asked the staff if I can listen to it first. The album had me at “Bangkok Blues” so I got a copy.

Days after Naming of a Storm became my staple driving music, I took some time to read the jacket and found out that the the lyrics were written by Prabda Yoon, who also runs Bookmoby, Typhoon Studio and Typhoon Books. Prabda won the S.E.A. Write Award in 2002 for his story collection, Kwan Na Ja Pen. He has written books and screenplays, produced music and designed numerous book covers. His writings have also been translated to Japanese and published in Japan.

So why would you spend an hour of your short vacation inside a bookshop? Because it could be the door to a nation’s mind. And when you walk through that door, your trip continues even when you’re already back in your own country.

A week after my trip to Thailand, I found myself exchanging e-mails with Prabda Yoon. I’m so thankful that the prolific and influential artist took time to answer a few questions.

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The Typhoon Band, Typhoon Books and Typhoon Studio, Naming of a Storm. Is there a story behind the names and title? It’s just from my interest in meteorological phenomena. Also, it’s a word that is the same in Thai and English which makes it easy to use alternately.

The tracks in your band’s album, Naming of a Storm, has been my driving music for weeks now, since I picked it up at Bookmoby. “Cuba, Bollywood” is my favorite. Will you be releasing new album or music anytime soon? It’s unlikely because music is not my main thing and I don’t have time for it at all now.

The album was released in 2008. I understand that you wrote the lyrics for the songs. How different will the words be if you were to release a new one today? If I wrote new songs now the lyrics would probably be darker. I am feeling a bit frustrated with the political situation in Thailand and I think I would enjoy expressing that through songs. The music would also be more punk.

You’re a designer, writer, translator, publisher and musician, among other things. Have you always wanted or planned to do these? I’d always wanted to write and make art in some ways, but no, I didn’t really plan any of this. I never really believed that I could make a living doing these things. I tell myself often how lucky I am and how it’d be a terrible shame to waste it all by doing bad work. That’s my inspiration. I’m trying my best because I’m grateful I can do what I love.

Can you please tell us a bit about what makes you passionate about all these things that you do? I’m really no good at anything else. I feel that I’ve found my place in the world and I want to make the best out of it. For me life is about work, more than anything else, because I don’t have much passion for other things. So I just want to do what I do as much as I possibly can.

How do you see Thailand’s literary and art scene? It’s developing and at times it can be exciting. But Thailand still has a long way to go.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve been to the Philippines for some time. What brought you here? I have some good friends in the Philippines. And in 2009 I received a research grant from Japan that allowed me to stay in different parts of the Philippines for 3 months.

Do you have a favorite place in the Philippines? I love Siquijor. I went there twice. I would love to go back.

Is there any chance of you coming back? Yes, but not anytime soon. I know I will be back though.

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If you’re planning to visit Thailand, pass by BACC and spend time (at least an hour) at Bookmoby. You may also visit its website: www.bookmoby.com.

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Museum Weekend

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 Rizal’s flute

There are articles urging us to date someone who travels. Who writes. Who reads. Whatever. I’ll date anyone a good person who takes me to a museum or an art gallery when I need to feel better.

Last weekend, I was sick and needed something to keep me out of my room, where I’d probably just wallow in the futility of my vitamin supplements. Good thing it was also International Museum Weekend. (International Museum Day, but thanks to international date line differences.)

Free entrance! Chicken soup for my flu-infected soul. This year’s destinations: Lopez Museum at Ortigas and Ayala Museum at Makati.

The exhibit Complicated, featuring works by Mike Adrao, Leslie de Chavez and Ea Torrado, runs until August 2, 2014 at the Lopez Museum.

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Ea Torrado during her art talk

Ea Torrado’s talk was conducted at the Lopez Museum last Saturday. She led us, a roomful of museum visitors who have no (declared) dancing talents, into an appreciation of dance as an art. Her pieces on exhibit include Sisa, a video of her dancing in the dark with flashes of light and where names of desaparecidos are read.

When I think of dances, the creative process in my mind involves making up movements to suit a certain music. Ea spoke of how it is not always that linear. In fact, a lot of times her movements are conceptualized before the music. For some of her performances, the music was composed to go with the movements.

After the talk, I went around the Museum, where guides gave free tour for groups of visitors. I also wanted to go to the Yuchengco Museum at Makati, where Ambeth Ocampo was already wrapping up his talk on Philippine museums. But I had an appointment that afternoon and it was not possible to be at two geographically separated places at the same time. Believe me, sometimes I try. Also, my new job gives me free access to the Yuchengco Museum, anyway.

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Sunday was for the concert at Ayala Museum. Grammy award-winning pianist Edsel Gomez was there to perform with Nelson Gonzales (drums), Johnny Gaerlan (bass), Tusa Montes, Harold Santos, and Jacques Dufourt (percussion section from UP College of Music’s Asian Music Program).

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I’ve been exploring the music of jazz clarinetist Don Byron lately, because I’ve also recently decided to focus on my clarinet studies. That’s how I first came across the works of Edsel Gomez. Byron and Gomez worked together in Cubist Music, an album that features improvisation based on Cubist Art. The latin jazz pianist has also collaborated with vibraphonist Gary Burton of the Berklee College of Music, whose online improvisation courses I’ve been following.

So I was excited to listen to him perform live and wondered if I can remember the titles from his latin jazz compositions. There are a few pieces I was expecting him to play to the audience, some of whom I bet have been following his music closely.

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That night I was reminded of what draws me to jazz: its unpredictability.

During the introduction, Gomez told us how he studied Filipino instruments and music, then enchanted us with the way he mixed it with his own style. I sensed the same fascination in the audience as we listened to numbers, such as Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut) and some war chants, rendered in jazz and mixed with music from ethnic instruments, such as kulintang, kubing, etc., by the artists from UP’s Asian Music Program. Gaerlan and Gonzales (who owns Tago Jazz Cafe in Cubao) perfects the chemistry needed to seal the fresh sound we were hearing.

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Edsel Gomez didn’t tell us how he would call the music they performed that night. I wish I’d asked. I also need to see them perform again, hopefully at the Philippine International Jazz Festival next year.

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