Only Lyrically

Tag: Pagudpud


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:







I have a classmate whom the class fondly calls Diwata. On the eve of the last Christmas of the millennium’s first decade, I rode with her, heading far up north. A half-moon, shaped like a boat, was rigged up in the sky.  During one point in the long ride, I pointed it out to her – Diwata, we are going to the sea, and the moon is a boat! A little more moon talk followed, especially as the decade was about to end with a blue moon, and a partial eclipse, even. Diwata is a moon-watcher too. It felt real good that I had someone I could wax moon-geek with, even if for just a few days.

Diwata earned the nickname Diwata because of her mystique. When in her company, one would hardly catch her leading the conversation, or speaking. When she does speak, though, be prepared to hear something you will probably remember for a long time. Poetry to Diwata is a reflex, she does it naturally, like breathing. Most of the time, though, when she is out with our school group, she simply listens to her fellow writer-classmates expound, digress, question, argue. Actually, I often get the feeling that one will all the more only tend to lose Diwata once the conversation verges into argument. She always struck me as one who dislikes tension and conflict. Diwata is zen made flesh.

She is also clearly the prettiest in class. And fittingly, she wrote the sexiest poems. My personal favorite is that one that describes a pair of thighs “larded with love”. I could imagine the subject of her work glistening with desire.

Diwata is also a recluse. She hardly answers text messages, and when I finally asked her about this, she said that she only replies under life or death circumstances. She hardly shows up for impromptu gatherings too. And so to get Diwata to respond to one’s online post or text message or invitation has often roused awe from her reply’s lucky recipient.

Imagine my awe when she allowed me to join her and her friends in a trip to Pagudpud. Not only would I be seeing the place where the shores are said to be the farthest northern edge of the country, I would also be witnessing the Diwata in her laid-back glory.

Perhaps the most vivid Pagudpud image of Diwata for me would be her, in her white swimsuit, drifting like a pearl, at times raised high and at times held low by the waves, which seemed to me loved her and held her gently.

[with writer Razel Estrella, a.k.a. Diwata, in the Cape Bojeador lighthouse – photo by Aisha Vidal]

White Wave

While Diwata’s next goal is to polish her butterfly stroke, I can’t even swim. I never found the urge to learn to swim in my youth, especially since the only bodies of water I ever got exposed to as a kid are family outings’ treacherous gigantic pools and Sampaloc’s seasonal and ever-dependable floods. Even at Caramoan last summer, the allure of the waters was not enough to convince me that I should finally learn how to swim. And even after the advice of people for me to take up swimming to strengthen the lungs, I still pretty much held up the idea in the air –

until I stood there at those northern shores, nailed dumbstruck on the fine pebbled beach because I could not brave the waves. I could die here, I thought, these waves don’t look forgiving, they could take me in for good.

Then a towering white one rose in front of me all of a sudden, and rolled towards me with a speed I could not outrun. It caught me, hitting me real hard on my side, pinning me down on the sand, and went on rushing over and past me. The wave did not claim me for the sea alright, but it brushed me aside, and forcefully. It would be easy to get into the old habit of equating what happened with plain rejection, but I guess that wave smacking me out of my wits had to do so not to reject me but to affirm what I earlier sensed of it: it was telling me, I am no joke, I am powerful, you have to have what it takes, in the meantime: shoo!

That wave made sure I got it, I guess. The great wave, after its passage, left a drone in my head. Water got in my right ear and I could not shake it off. One of the elderly women in our company laughed at seeing me tilting my head to the right and hitting it with my palm on the left side. After she had her fill of laughing, she taught me how to get rid of it, by tilting my head to the right, letting in a clean drop of the sea on my left ear, then tilting my head to the left to shake off the drop. It worked after a couple of attempts, the drone was gone. Besides, I have not been encountering any trouble listening to this or to this. Send-off music ‘til the next journey.

I wonder if I could have the songs played in a boombox while I take the swimming lessons. It would be nice to hear “going where the weather suits my clothes” echoing in some indoor swim school.

[Saud beach – photo by either Diwata or Aisha Vidal]

Red, pink, yellow stones

At Bangui bay, the waves were even fiercer. Because I was not in my non-swimmer’s swimwear during our stop to those windmill-lined shores, I all the more could not dare come nearer to the waters. I had to content myself with beholding the sea at a safe distance. At one point, Diwata stood next to me and said that the smaller waves looked like fingers crawling towards the beach. True, it seemed like a thousand white fingers were crawling towards the windmills and to us. The windmills were too high up on the beach, though, while me and Diwata ran away with little shrieks every time a wave rose and rolled nearer.

The sands of the beach there are black, with multi-colored rounded stones, sprawled like jewels. I remember pointing out a red one to Diwata, and picking up a pink one for her too. She asked why I was not taking one for myself. I said I thought about it, but as I was thinking about it while examining some stones, I stepped on a thorny twig which struck deep into my rubber slippers.

Good thing Diwata understands things like that right away, I needn’t explain. Perhaps had it been one of the good elderly women we were with who asked me, I would’ve answered with something like “Maybe because it’s not environment-friendly?”. One of them, by the way, the oldest in our company, took some huge gray ones. She carried them with just one hand, her left. She walked on with the stones raised next to her ear.

And while everyone else went to the windmills for photo-ops, I went on scouring the shores to find Diwata stones of more difficult colors, like yellow, and I did! I thought about picking up a green one for her too, then returned it back to the spread, thinking she might have already picked up one, there were a number of green ones around after all. I also tried looking for a blue one, but the waves began stretching farther towards the shore, threatening, until they reached parts where I had to leave the jeweled spread and retreat.

But it’s not for me, I yelled to the sea, it’s for Diwata, she’s just like you and all your children, so you shouldn’t mind, you know, I said. I don’t think the sea cared for what I had to say. His waves kept pushing forward. And even before I could make up my mind whether or not to continue looking for a blue one, I heard someone from our company yelled my name. The group had to be moving on.

The truth is I did not want to take anything because I wanted to return to the sea, and I wanted to be compelled by my desire to return. And I want my desire to remain raging, like those waves.

Before I turned my back to the water, swearing that I’ll catch him again in another shore, I stepped into the white foam of the last Pagudpud wave that I saw. It was warm and the warmth rose all the way up to my body – from the skin of the soles of my feet, to my legs, to my chest, to my face. The chill of the morning air all washed away.

Back in the van, in the chill of artificial, aircon air, I handed Diwata the yellow stone, saying sorry that there was not enough time to look for a blue one. She said it was okay, and held all the three stones in her palms. The thing is, all the stones turned grayish the moment they dried up.

Maybe you should just wet them again, I told Diwata, their true colors come out when they are wet.

Tama, lumalabas yung tunay pag basa, Diwata said. I will remember that for a long time.

So, I really have to go back, you see. To be true. I am coming.

[Bangui beach – photo by Aisha Vidal]