Only Lyrically

Tag: music


Before Diwata invited me to join her and her friends up north, I was listening almost non-stop to numerous versions of Waters Of March and other songs that had ‘water’ in them. Moonrivers, Wave Of Mutilations, I Melt With Yous, Bridge Over Troubled Waters – you get the drift. These songs made up pretty much my entire December working playlist. Therefore, they were the same songs that bridged my last two journeys – the southern one and the northern one.

I don’t know – there’s something in the groove of those songs that somehow echo the laid back air of the shores, and hearing them gave me the feeling that I am ever on my way to the next place. I may be sitting here, now, but I am actually on the move. Or something like that.

When the holidays set on, for the first time, I did not play much carols. The songs I mentioned would not let go. They even invited more songs, journey songs, songs that had something to do with ‘place’ and ‘roads’ and ‘movement’ – which was what had me singing I Am The Highway for the most part of the holidays –

especially since the song sounds even more potent if you imagine it’s God speaking in the chorus. Try it: you take the verses, and let Him take the chorus – it becomes one little weird dialogue. You get to be reminded that there’s just no running away from Him.

Yeah, maybe it was meant to be a dialogue. Maybe those ‘pearls’ and ‘swine’ references were actually biblical. And didn’t the song open with an organ? Musicians have so often employed the use of an organ, which is a church instrument, to connote spirituality.

Well, actually, I don’t know what the hell those Audioslave boys intended. All I know is it made me shed geeky, guilty tears to be imagining that God was nagging me through Chris Cornell’s tough voice, “I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky!”

During the New Year, I happened to see Great Expectations again after so many years. In one of the scenes, where a heartbroken Finn walks the streets (?), a song sung by Cornell was played. It was familiar but I could not recall the title. I felt it a hassle to ask my host to open her computer just so I could Google the lyrics and find out what the title of the song was. I had to wait until the holidays were over and I got back to this desk to finally find out: Sunshower. God will finally get a break from tough-loving me through I Am The Highway, I thought – there’s a new song for comfort.

* * *

On the long road to the north, I remembered a few more road songs – A Horse With No Name by America and Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson.

A Horse With No Name made its real impact on me ages ago, when I heard it played in Hideous Kinky, over the montage where the character of Kate Winslett and her daughter were hitchhiking their way through Morocco to reach the Sufis – meeting strange fellow hitchhikers, stopping on the side of the road as their Moslem drivers prayed, watching the desert landscape unfold before them as they moved on.

This is the best clip I could find with the montage – you will have to wait quite long to get to the song, and the montage is even cut, but if only to give you a glimpse, here –

As for Everybody’s Talkin’, the song was originally performed by Harry Nilsson, off the film Midnight Cowboy. For the longest time, again, when I still worked back in the courthouse, one of the songs that got me through was that song. It was anthemic and it suited my needs – it spoke of not fitting in, and going away where one could belong. That time, I was always in the look-out for such songs.

I preferred playing it rather than listening to Nilsson, though. I just was not so much into its original country feel. I had never been into country. Folk I love, but not country. So, if only to keep hearing the song whenever I wished, I learned the chords and figured out how to play it without the country bouncy feel. I chose a more feminine key, and sang it. I used to sing it daily on my way to my rotten bundy clock enemy –

until Borat came out and made a travesty of it. :/

I shall never be providing a clip of that.

Actually, I loved the sick hilarity of Borat. I was achingly laughing out through the movie – until they dared play my anthem, my comfort, over some scene where Borat was cruising the New York streets for a score, to spoof Midnight Cowboy. I stopped laughing at that point.

I kept a grudge against the movie because of that Everybody’s Talkin’ desecration. Since seeing that scene, all I could remember, whenever I heard or thought about the song, is Borat. In that idiotically stretched underwear. It couldn’t be helped – soon I was asking myself whether my misery, salved by the song, can actually just be equated to the perversions of Borat. It wasn’t fair, eh?

When I got back from the north, during the short work period between my Christmas and New Year break, I sought the two songs. In the process, I came across Madeleine Peyroux’s take of Everybody’s Talkin’

and just like that, all my Borat grudge was washed away. It never occurred to me that the song could be given a jazzed up arrangement. Before I knew it, I was already checking out her discography, and found out that she also sang Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen songs. And that she wrote songs too. And that she played the guitar –

Peyroux, referred to by some as Billie Holiday on hi-fi, is highly noted for her choices of song to cover, when she covers. Fleshing out the Leonard Cohen-penned Half The Perfect World, she sings –

“On that fundamental ground

where love’s unwilled, unleashed, unbound

and half the perfect world is found”

Now if I could only write like that. I can’t be just stumbling upon lines like that, and they won’t just come to me, too.

* * *

And just as I have been carried by songs to and fro, I heard something from the bus very recently that took quite a challenge to catch –

All I knew of the song is its melody. And that it’s quite old, maybe from the late seventies. I could hum it in perfect pitch, but I could not make out much of the lyrics. Which made it virtually impossible for me to Google for its name.

I typed the words as I heard them – “sentimental” “flowing through my life again” “fourteen” “’cause there may come a time”.

Nothing came out, because as I found out later, I did not hear accurately the few that I heard. But I had to work on what I got in hand, which brought me to try various possible combinations of that set. Remove the quotes, add the plus sign between the phrases, place ‘lyrics’ upfront. Didn’t work.

I even went as far as singing those words to my fellow writers, who are all practically still kids, and were all still likely unborn when the song probably came out. They either just laughed me off or gave me the look.

I kept typing combinations, though, the song was too good for me to give up. At last, I stumbled upon a search page which had in bold most of the words that I typed. I’ve forgotten the exact combination I typed. All I can remember is that when I sang the words from the link that I found, they all perfectly fit in the melody. I got the song, finally! Next goal, to play it.

It’s one happy song. I could stay in it for a while:




Hells and Chris Cornell

When I still worked for the government, for the longest time, the only real highlight of my day was playing some music before I march off to the courthouse, wrestling my way through the morning slaves rush and racing to beat the demon bundy clock. I was way younger then, and angry about the fact that, in a way (and as a family member once shamefully pointed out) I was prostituting myself. It actually did feel like I was selling myself cheap, and so my every day felt like hell.

Everyday, I felt like leaving a hell for another hell.

It would be no surprise then if you’d hear me playing Rusty Cage loud enough to be heard in the bathroom, and possibly in the bathroom of neighbors too, every blessed day. Nobody ever complained, surprisingly. You’d think everybody else felt hellish every morning and that just maybe, they found comfort in hearing Chris Cornell echo their pent up lamentations. I found great comfort in hearing Chris Cornell growl out my lamentations.

One day – very early in November, about five or six years ago, I am absolutely sure it was a November because I could remember my dread of the traffic brought by the opening of the second semester of classes that day – a Chris Cornell song saw me not only through one of my hellish mornings but through real, life-threatening danger.

As usual, I was about to be late again for work. It was much harder getting up from bed around those times already because it was getting colder and colder. It felt much better to just stay in bed and lie in a fetal position, hiding beneath the sheets. I guess it was around that time when I first adopted the expression “gisingin n’yo na lang ako ‘pag pasko na!”

And as usual, my mother was yelling her staple “mag-resign ka na lang kung ayaw mo nang pumasok” morning mantra. She found me the job, it was understandable if she resented my growing disinterest on it. The thing is, that mantra never worked. Everytime I heard it, my bones all the more did not feel like budging.

I had to again drag myself through the routine: rise, turn on music, brush teeth, bath, wear uniform, drink warm water, turn off music, go. But that day, as I was about to turn off the radio (fixed on NU 107 most of the time), I heard the strains of a classical tune.

I instantly recognized it: Schubert’s Ave Maria. I turned up the volume, thinking, “why is this station playing a classical piece?”

Then, I heard Chris Cornell’s voice. “Chris Cornell is singing Ave Maria!” I exclaimed. Of course my mother did not care, all she wanted was that I beat the bundy clock, she had to exclaim back at me, “late ka na!”

But I couldn’t move. I crouched in front of that aged speaker. I was transfixed. I wanted to cry. I did not want the song to end. I did not feel like going anywhere. I just wanted to keep listening.

Of course the song had to end. And of course I knew I was already late. I did not care. I walked on still hearing the song in my head.

I took the endmost seat in the jeep that I rode, and slouched. I held my head, I wanted to sleep. I saw that I even did not care to fully button up the blouse of my uniform – anyway, I had an inner shirt – I looked like I just got up from bed, real pathetic, I thought.

I also noticed a young man, even smaller than me and also looking like he just got up from bed, insisting to ride our jeep despite it being fully packed already. I remember saying to myself upon seeing him, something like “mukhang holdaper ‘tong lokong ‘to”.

He was.

He rode the jeep as it stopped in front of U.S.T. He shoved his ass right in the very little space there still was between me and the passenger next to me. As we neared Isetann Recto, and as he pulled out from his back pocket what was probably the longest fan knife I ever saw in my life, he announced the hold-up.

“O, ‘wag na kayong papalag,” he said, or something like that, probably to address the men also in our jeep. I remember we had a lot of them during the ride, all dressed in office garb too. They all did as that little, pathetic looking guy said. Not one man moved.

Even before I saw the knife in all its unfurled, deadly glory, I was already shaking as I saw him reach for his back pocket. I was expecting him to point it to me, after all I was just next to him, and he got me cornered against the end railings. Instead, he pointed the knife to the two teen-aged looking girls who also rode in U.S.T. The girls were holding their cellphones out in the open. Apparently, the guy followed them. They handed their phones without resistance, then the guy ran off.

Here’s the part where I’d assert that it didn’t matter that I looked like a slouched, pathetic loser who had nothing anyway, and that it didn’t matter that those teeners foolishly held their fancy phones in the open – I believed I was spared from danger because I heard Chris Cornell sing Ave Maria, giving the song due respect as I refused to go until it was finished. I was blessed through the song, I thought.

Maybe. Yes, it was just a song. Maybe I would’ve not gotten to share the ride with the hold-upper in the first place had I just gone quickly through the god-forsaken routines and left the song. I really don’t know.

It felt as if my knees wanted to give way as I alighted from the jeep and walked all the way past the giant Manila City Hall clock, all the way to the bundy clock awaiting me. I was still in one piece alright, and the entire piece trembled. In disbelief. In awe.

Things are much better now. There still are hells, seasonal ones, for which I still need the necessary re-assurance. Lately, over the holidays, I saw Great Expectations again after a very long while, and was directed to a song I have forgotten all these years – Sunshower. It’s no hell song, though. That one deserves a new, clean sheet.



Sustenance From Communions



Fully Booked has recently sent its new releases update to its mailing list. Being one of those updated, I learned that finally, after months and months of waiting, it has finally arrived: Miles Davis’ recording of Porgy And Bess.

So go kids, go grab it. That one’s a treasure. It will be worth every cent, I promise.

Hopefully next year, or even sooner, I can afford a copy. I have been missing a lot in music and poetry/books lately, due to insufficiency of funds. Last June I saw a Vintage expanded edition of W. H. Auden’s Selected Poems, and a non-movie-tie-in edition of Girl, Interrupted in Fully Booked Rockwell. By July I have been seeing Madonna’s Hard Candy (hail the queen of pop! wahoooo!) and Jars Of Clay’s Greatest Hits all over the place. This August, I learned that Weezer has a new album, The Red Album. And this August too, just as I was still pondering if I would approcah nanay for a loan so I could get even the cheapest ticket to it, the Eraserheads concert had already been staged. It would’ve not mattered to me if I heard only half-a-set, nevermind if the ticket i could’ve bought posted me all the way back.

I wanted to commune. Apart from the music, you can go to concerts, to live performances, to commune. That communion, that’s what I would’ve wanted to see and hear and feel –

– but I couldn’t, because there’s the rent and the tuition and the daily question of what-can-I-eat-for-twenty-pesos.

I pray for better days ahead. For Ely’s full recovery, for another Eraserheads reunion (I heard Raymund Marasigan on TV say that there will be another… I love that guy, I love his attitude), and lots of money for me so I can finally go.

Last time I saw them live was when they opened for Foo Fighters and Sonic Youth and Beastie Boys at Araneta. I was still in college. My ticket was for a mere 100 pesos, balcony section, but I got near the pit after a little riot ensued and the Araneta chicken wirings dividing the sections were torn apart by my enthusiastic brothers. They caught me in their arms as I leapt in the dark to cross every section. It was magical.

And then I read Buddy Zabala in Eric Caruncho’s Sunday Inquirer magazine article on the concert say of his experience, “I feel like a baby.”

Or was it ‘felt’? Or ‘feel’? God, I’ve forgotten.

I guess I’ll just have to be content right now with staring at that sick bottle of San Mig given to me by a friend who made me promise not to drink it. Staring at it as I lie down, with Alkohol blasting in my ears.

Tu-ru-rut-tut-tut-tu-ru-rut… alkohol alkohol alkohol!

The Philosophy Of Uncool

[The following are excerpts from a scene from the film Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe. William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), after going on the road with the band Stillwater, is having trouble writing his article on them for Rolling Stone, so he calls his friend/mentor, Creem magazine’s Lester Bangs (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) over the phone.]

Lester Bangs: Oh, man, you made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.

William Miller: Well, it was fun.

Lester Bangs: Because they make you feel cool… And hey, I met you. YOU ARE NOT COOL.

William Miller: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn’t.

Lester Bangs: Because we are uncool. Women will always be a problem for guys like us.

William Miller: I’m glad you were home.

Lester Bangs: I’m always home. I’m uncool.

William Miller: Me too.

Lester Bangs: You’re doing great, man. The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool. Listen, my advice to you, and I know you think these guys are your friends, if you want to be a true friend to them, be honest. And unmerciful.


This one’s for Alts, Candy, Lou, my LEAPmates, my councilmates Alvin and Suzeth, and Coach, should they pass by. With gratitude always. And so much love.




(written by Neil Young, off the film Philadelphia; lyrics here as sung by Tori Amos)





Sometimes I think that I know

what love’s all about

and when I see the light

I know I’ll be alright,



I’ve got my friends in the world,

I had my friends

when we were boys and girls,

and the secrets came unfurled.


City of brotherly love,

place I call home,

don’t turn your back on me.

I don’t want to be alone.


Someone is talking to me,

calling my name,

tell me I’m not to blame.

I won’t be ashamed of love,



City of brotherly love,

brotherly love,

don’t be ashamed of love,



Sometimes I think that I know

what love’s all about

and when I see the light

I know I’ll be alright,

I know I’ll be alright,


On Nouvelle Vague


Album: Nouvelle Vague

Artist: Nouvelle Vague

Genre: jazz (bossa nova)

Release date: 2004

Copies last seen at: Music One (Quezon Avenue) and Fully Booked (Rockwell).

Track listing:

                   1.   Love Will Tear Us Apart

                   2.   I Just Can’t Get Enough

                   3.   In A Manner Of Speaking

                   4.  Guns Of Brixton

                   5.  This Is Not A Love Song

                   6.  Too Drunk To Fuck

                   7.  Marian

                   8.   Making Plans For Nigel

                   9.   A Forest

                 10.  I Melt With You

                 11. Teenage Kicks

                 12.  Psyche

                 13.  Friday Night Saturday Morning

What could be more rebellious than rendering guttural punk in sensuous bossa nova? This is the inversion of inversions, the counterpoint of counterpoints.

My brother, along with a cousin, both of them playing in punk bands, and both of them utterly stubborn and close-minded when it comes to punk song revivals, could not believe how this group, Nouvelle Vague, made a jazz song out of The Clash’s The Guns Of Brixton. Me neither. But Nouvelle Vague did just that. And decently.

No, more than decently, respectably.

This record is but a proof of how foolish are those who say that punk composers are dumb for limiting themselves in the usual three-chord harmony structure of a punk song. But a great punk song either pumps the blood up with its beat, or gives you a good case of last-song-syndrome with its infectious melody. Or both. Great beat, great melody. Punk requires it. Nouvelle Vague would have had nothing to work on if not for that.

Of the thirteen tracks, I have heard only four in their original form, Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, I Melt With You by Modern English, I Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode, and Guns Of Brixton by The Clash.

Does one need to hear each track in original form to trust this record? No. I have not previously heard in its original form the song which prompted me to search for this record, In A Manner Of Speaking, yet I bought it. And at this point, with the song’s grip on me, I actually feel no urgency in hearing the original. But then again, that’s just me.

The point is, this record stands great in itself for being a well-rounded jazz output. The fact that it is a cover album of punk and post-punk songs turned into jazz, bossa nova, is simply its profound bonus for the apprehensive, or cynical, or unwitting listener.

The question still hangs, though, how was Nouvelle Vague able to do justice to the songs? From what I can only deduce, simple – by understanding each song, and re-interpreting it based on the song’s spirit. As hope and inspiration is what I Melt With You basically exudes through Modern English’s energetically and danceably upbeat conception, Nouvelle Vague achieved the same end by going the laid-back way, with whimsical xylophones and an echoing bass. Meanwhile, the fear and desperation in Joy Division’s own danceably upbeat Love Will Tear Us Apart was brought out by Nouvelle Vague not through the vocalist Eloisa’s internalization of the said emotions – on the contrary, her lazy, carefree interpretation would be what might cast the fear on the song’s supposed addressee. The Guns Of Brixton is sheer daring and attitude as originally sung with a nagging yet controlled angst by Paul Simonon. Nouvelle Vague, through Camille on vocals, went the teasing way to arrive at the same daring attitude. One could imagine Camille smirking as she half-drawls and half-whispers “no need for the Black Maria, goodbye to the Brixton sun”.

As for my obviously-overrated-by-this-time personal favorite In A Manner Of Speaking, apart from the painfully yearning take of Camille which accurately brought out the song’s lyrical irony, especially whenever she arrives at the chorus, and then with seeming surrender as she goes la-la-ta-ta-ta-ta… at the close, there is that line of brass (or was that strings?) that enters the song upon the second chorus, sustaining itself until the chorus’ next repetitions, underscoring the said yearning suggested by the vocals. I guess hearing the original is not required for one to see the depth of respect Nouvelle Vague has for the Martin Gore penned song. Only a respectful musician could work out such subtleties from its source material.

It’s as if Nouvelle Vague just made sure that they would always simply get to the song’s core, no matter what. And they did.

Just as Camille’s vocals would go in Too Drunk To Fuck. In the song, the persona needn’t – well… she already sounds as if she’s come.

Again, no matter how, seemingly. Same destination. Good music.


An Optional Prelude To A Review Of Nouvelle Vague

Didn’t I tell you you’re mine? You are mine. Now we go home.


* * *


Bossa nova to me used to be solely and strictly Antonio Carlos Jobim. I would want to include Astrud Gilberto but the only exposure I have to Gilberto is A Certain Sadness, oh, and Waters Of March which almost every jazz singer or instrumentalist has a version of. And I did not even get to listen to Jobim out of a curiosity for bossa nova. I got to him through Frank Sinatra. Just around that time when Sinatra just passed away, RPN 9 had a re-run of his 60s TV show, and in one of the episodes I saw, I was fortunate enough to catch that one where Ella Fitzgerald and Jobim guested. Jobim played acoustic guitar to a smoking Sinatra’s medley of Jobim’s compositions, namely Girl From Ipanema, I Concentrate On You, Change Partners, and Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars. It was so sexy. I never perceived of Sinatra as sexy until I heard him sing those songs. I got hooked instantly. When I learned that the two actually collaborated on an album, I sought the said record (Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim), and found it eventually.


The last two years actually saw a rise in the number of bossa nova acts and the release of their recordings locally. Former mainstream artists, say, Agot Isidro, even came up with bossa nova albums. And the record shelves are always stacked these days with bossa-fied versions of Bacharach and what-have-you.


Quite a what-have-you is what I got upon scoring a copy of Nouvelle Vague’s self-titled album. If before my perception of bossa nova is simply Brazilian jazz or 60s jazz or beach jazz, Nouvelle Vague turned it to what it should be – rebellion. And Nouvelle Vague is, as bossa nova is, rebellion.


Bossa nova came around during the late fifties as a new, hip form of jazz. It literally means ‘new wave’ or ‘new beat’ in Portuguese. Nouvelle Vague, as I would later learn, plays only punk and new wave/post-punk songs in bossa nova arrangements. A typically close-minded punk or new wave listener would probably raise eyebrows at the thought. I did not. Actually, having heard them now, I can’t wait for them to make covers of, say, I’m Not Down, or Brainstew/Jaded, or hey, Hey.


* * *


In the film A Mighty Heart by Michael Winterbottom, just right after the character of Mariane Pearl played by Angelina Jolie gave birth to her son Adam, just as she cradles the baby in her arms, the strains of a classical guitar can be heard. This plays on in the next scene, supposedly a few years having passed, where the mother is shown walking hand-in-hand with her boy in a European city street. The song blooms at this point, and the words, which speak of yearning, fittingly brings the film to its close –


            “ … In a manner of speaking, I just want to say

                  That I could never forget the way

                  You told me everything by saying nothing…


              … So in a manner of speaking, I just want to say

                  That just like you, I should find a way

                  To tell you everything by saying nothing.


                  Oh, give me the words, give me the words

                  That tell me nothing.

                  Give me the words, give me the words

                  That tell me everything …”


The song is In A Manner Of Speaking. It was written by Depeche Mode’s Martin L. Gore. Yes, the same guy who wrote the Depeche Mode classic Enjoy The Silence. Apparently, he seems to have quite a fix on silences.


In A Manner Of Speaking as played on the film was not performed by Tuxedomoon, though, the group which originally recorded it. The version in the film was by Nouvelle Vague.


* * *


The song was so haunting and heartbreaking I was immediately sorry that I could not wait for the film to be shown in the theatres – I had to be listening to it through my supposedly-stereo-sounding TV, as played off my Quiapo copy of the film. But if it had that effect on me despite the circumstances, what more had I been listening to it in a dark, cold, sonics-friendly theatre? I would be welling up tears, I bet. I had to wait for the song credits to be shown, then zoomed in the title of the song to see the performer: Nouvelle Vague. Consoling myself, I just made a commitment that from hereon, every time I go into a record store, I would always check the jazz section for a Nouvelle Vague record.


And then one night, after seeing a fashion show for the first time, and after I had to leave the venue quick because they were through playing Bjork and I couldn’t find the cocktails and I felt timid asking about it and I just basically suddenly felt out of place, I decided to go to the nearby mall, Rockwell, and check out the Fully Booked there. Freezing in my halter dress, sore in those killer heels, and carrying my Saturday book load, I climbed up to the mezzanine floor of the bookstore which housed the record section. The new releases shelf was right up front, and I quickly cussed as I saw a copy of Radiohead’s The Best Of, because I knew I couldn’t buy it, along with some other poetry books I saw downstairs. I looked further on, hoping not to see another goodie.


But there she was, the fair woman on the cover with her chin up, staring right at me, the words Nouvelle Vague right below her neck, so readable despite the purple and close-knit layout. She, along with a twin, was stacked right beside Massive Attack. I grabbed her immediately, held her close to my heart like a loony, and turned her over to see if indeed this was the Nouvelle Vague that sang In A Manner Of Speaking. It was! And along the titles in it were I Melt With You, and Love Will Tear Us Apart. Interesting, I thought. An even more interesting was that it cost only 350, a hundred lesser than Radiohead, but still I couldn’t afford it. All I really had was taxi money, and if I insisted on buying the disc, I would have to risk waiting for ages in Rockwell for a jeep. That could take me the whole night, all the way to dawn. If only I brought slippers, if only I didn’t eat in that coffee shop before the show…


So I laid her back down in her place. But not without saying you are mine you are mine you are mine


It always works, you see.


The next time I saw her was August 18, 2008. I was in really good spirits, having finished an important personal project. I wanted to reward myself. It felt to be the right time to look for Nouvelle Vague. And because I couldn’t afford taxi fare all the way to Fully Booked Rockwell, I had to decide to go to the nearest good record store which was merely one jeepney ride away, Music One at Quezon Avenue.


And there she was, erroneously classified under electronica when she should be in jazz (I first looked at the jazz section but did not find her, so good thing I remembered the disc as laid next to Massive Attack way back in Rockwell, I actually thought of looking for Nouvelle Vague’s right there at Music One in electronica, just in case).


So I approached her, took her again for good this time, and in my head said, as I cradled her, didn’t I tell you…

I had to be cut off quickly though, for as I embraced the disc while lining behind a few other people towards the counter, I saw the concerts section. And there was another lady there who I had to approach. Suzanne Vega Live In Montreux.

For 395. More than a week’s lunch. Caramel was in the listing.


La di da…




“ … Music pours over the sense

    and in a funny way

    music sees more than I.

    I mean it remembers better… “

    – Anne Sexton, from Music Swims Back To Me




Yesterday I went to see my mother after learning from her staff that she went on sick leave for the day. Migraine, they said. For a moment I was worried that perhaps her vertigo has struck again. It usually comes to her with migraines. So I visited her, to check.


     She was holding a broom when she opened the door. After asking me if I had eaten (“Hindi ako nagluto, pero may sapsap sa ref, kung gusto mo,” she greeted), she immediately went back on top of a chair, held the broom up, and swept away some cobwebs. Either the migraine had already worn off or she just went on leave to clean, I thought.


     I looked around the house, she was alone, so I said I’m turning on the computer. Forget the fish, I want to hear some beach music. I was all set on an infinite loop of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World while drinking some coffee when mother suddenly asked, “Pwede ko na bang itapon ‘yang mga iniwan mong tape d’yan?”.


     “’Wag!” I protested. There are still quite some rarities there that I haven’t found on CD, I said, I can’t throw away a tape unless I already have it on CD. Actually, I don’t remember throwing even those I already have on CD. I passed them on to whoever wanted them, my brother Jonas’ friends usually. Those tapes were what made me skin and bones through high school and college. I would rather save up my lunch money to buy them than be thrown bits of rice at and be called four-eyes in the bully-laden PNULSHS cafeteria. They were what bade me farewell everyday before I went inside the fortress that was Intramuros, having attended Lyceum for college. The songs coded in those ribbons were what I’d sing in my head to shut off the bullies that chased me all the way to my Journalism classes. Those were what I hummed as I walked the cobblestone streets, going home. Those songs in those tapes were my home. My fortress. And those songs were the songs that my brother and I slam-danced and head-banged to, with the neighbors below not being able to complain on account of my mother’s pakikisama. So those tapes made up the soundtrack of my youth, as the saying would go.


     Among those tapes are the following: The Pixies Surfer Rosa and Bossanova, The Breeders’ Pod and Last Splash, Rancid’s And Out Come The Wolves, Hole’s Live Through This, The Flaming Lips’ Transmissions From The Satellite Heart, The Smoking Popes’ Born To Quit and Destination Failure, and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ The Boatman’s Call. That is not even inclusive of the compilations I have made out of recording from the radio, listening then to NU 107’s Midnight Countdown, DZFE’s The Master’s Touch, and that program in some other station hosted by that good woman who called herself Midnight Madonna. She played almost every torch song I asked her to, as long as they date no later than the 1970s. I also have some soundtracks, including Swing Kids which introduced me to jazz, and Pulp Fiction. I remember my brother memorizing Samuel L. Jackson’s And I will strike down upon thee speech off it, using it in place of hello when answering the phone. Most callers thought they dialed the wrong number.


     And because our VHS machine was hooked up to the karaoke, I was able to record on cassette tape performances by Brad Pitt on Johnny Suede, Diane Keaton on Annie Hall, Michelle Pfeiffer on The Fabulous Baker Boys, and that wonderful, psychedelic on-the-road montage from Hideous Kinky, stringing together America’s A Horse With No Name, Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love, and the Arabic prayer of one of Kate Winslett’s on-screen daughters, its echoes bouncing off from Moroccan mountains. My tapes with those performances and montages are the next-best-things I could have in place of their soundtracks which I still have not come across in my years of scouring cruelly posh Makati or Taguig record shops and dangerously friendly Recto and Quiapo stalls.


     “E wala ka namang cassette player, ‘pano mo pa pakikinggan ‘yang mga ‘yan?” She really wants to be rid of them.


     Over at cousin Aizel’s, I thought, she still has a cassette player. I wouldn’t mind traveling all the way to Far-view to hear Black Francis ask Where Is My Mind?. Nevermind that I already have a Quiapo copy of Fight Club where the song plays gloriously at the end. It would be a whole new experience jumping to the tune of it now, with my nephew Kodi, Aizel’s son, and definitely still with my doting aunt, Tita Deng in the background, yelling “Dito ka na kumain ha!”


     Just leave them be, I tell mother while stirring my coffee, and one of these days I would come back and sort through them, so she could throw away everything else.


     In the meantime, let those ribbons stick themselves tighter unto their spools. Let them lie down there in that bottom drawer. Let them remind the mother of her daughter.