Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ironic Gratitude

I CAUGHT ON Q-tv news last night Ely being interviewed three weeks after his near-death excursion. It was reported though that he had undergone instead of two, but three angioplasty, to revive him from his almost fall out.

I am very much alive... and kicking... and making music
maraming salamat po sa lahat ng sumuporta...
said Ely who was sporting black framed eye glasses and had his fly-away hair ironed out. A refreshed Ely Buendia face back in his prime was shown walking with a happy face clear of any stresses, except that he's obviously lost some weight due to his stricter-than-your-strict-teacher diet and he was showing off his white macbook during the shoot.

His comments and the way he carried himself was so typical Ely of the Eraserheads. There is now a vivid sign that Pupil has a far way to go.

Long live Ely and his music.

Monday, January 29, 2007

English Zero

I WROTE A few years back in our college student paper, The Solution, about the incompetence of fellow engineering students when it comes to speaking the English language. One of the things that I emphasized at the time was to realize that a sophomore, who was sitting three desks behind me in a Psychology class, didn’t comprehend nor pronounce properly simple words such as ambiguity, transmission, ecology, and the list went on and on. I used it as premise in questioning the quality of education that these students were getting since they passed high school, and was admitted to college and close enough to be graduating as full pledged engineers. I did receive a handful of comments with regards to the article but nonetheless, it had stir less of an issue to be talked about like gossip that spreads like wild fire, and had a little concern to the students. I guised myself, as if they’d completely fail to understand what I wrote about.

Interestingly, the college put up a measure to contain the degrading English comprehension of its students. It required all freshmen who fails English entrance exams to take English 0 (zero) as a prerequisite to enrolling English 1 and 2 for two semesters. However, it turned out as a waste of time because the school had eventually appraised all students to Speech Class the following year with full disregard of their measure in improving English proficiency among the students.

Fast forward to 2007.

Almost everyone that I speak to, either casual or formal, tend to blabber in bilingual fashion. They speak in dual mode, a mesh of the English and Tagalog, or Taglish if there is such a word registered in the dictionary. I could barely find one person who can speak straight English nor straight Tagalog these days. If they do, they will squeeze their neurons finding suitable Tagalog equivalent for “develop” or “print”. Or to translate into English the interrogative sentence “Pang ilang pangulo ng Pilipinas si Erap?”. Even on the television or radio, I could have my thumb bleed pressing the remote controller and search for a local station who patronizes only one medium of expression.

I personally thought that only the colegialas and coƱos were inflicted with these defect in our communication but I am surprised that it has become the standard by which we expressed ourselves, as a person and as a nation. Kasi we understand each other naman eh, di ba.

Internationaly, our country has been known as one of the best english speakers in the world third only to the Americans and English people. That is why over the past few years, Koreans have invaded our country without us realizing it. We let them enroll in our schools just so they could learn english from us and eventually be able to improve their proficiency. They are stealing the knowledge which we have acquired since the time of World War II as history supposes to tell it.

As a result, we end up with a language similar to a tangled yarn and fishing line, one without an identity that we can fully take pride about. And I guess cell phones and text messaging is partly to be blamed for this grammar fault.

It reminds me of Jose Rizal, our national hero’s famous words: (gee, I almost forgot we have a national hero):

Ang ‘di marunong magmahal sa sariling wika,
Ay daig pa ang amoy ng mabahong isda.

Pareng Jose must have been turning into his grave.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ely Buendia

IT WAS A usual afternoon in the gymnasium when we hit the rest room and the showers after our PE classes. Together with my male classmates, we secured our own comfort zones to wash ourselves after a grueling two hour sessions in the gym. Some went straight into a cubicle, only heaven knows whether they peed or they did something extraordinary there. Several others were already shirtless washing themselves with plain tap water coming out of the faucet. I was the first to enter the restroom and little did I know that I will come across a thing that will change my perspective about one of the few things in life that I love very dearly – music.

It was a cassette. An audio tape that can only be played with a cassette player that seems to be nearing extinction nowadays due to the advances of technology following the trend that was the vinyl record. The tape was left saddled and bare in the bathroom tiles just beneath the door of one of the lavatories. There was no album cover, just the tape inside its case.

Then I read the words embedded in its being. Some were weird enough for others to immediately throw it in the garbage as if it contains material of explicit in nature like Punk Zappa, Punk Zappa Three, No Royalty Album Filler #9, Alkohol, Bato, Insomnya and Butterscotch. But the titles such as Alapaap, Magasin, Kailan, Sa Wakas and With A Smile had immediately convinced me to keep the tape rather than look helplessly for whom it belonged. It was the Circus album and when I got home, I instantly played it, turned the volume up and quickly got carried away with its original lyrics and tunes. My grandmother almost hit me when she heard the Butterscotch screeched into its ending but I vanished from her path to escape the beating.

Nevertheless, it was a thrilling experience to have learned that such music existed when all that I’ve been hearing is the music of my great dad. I guess I inherited his being a music lover since he also used to be collecting cassette tapes, however, only that of international fame. But listening to Circus brought me new ideas like the story of Jay in Hey, Jay who is a gay and have a lot of ordeal to face the society. Or Minsan, the story of Ely, Buddy, Markus, and Raymund way back in UP days that became the Eraserheads eternalized in a song.

This had happened 11 years ago during my sophomore as a high school. And it was about how I’ve learned entirely about the Eraserheads that revolutionized the way I know about music.

I re-attempted to study how to make music using the guitar, three years after I’d learned my first guitar chords. It was an inspiration from my eldest brother and the only song I can play at that time is What’s Up. I was still in fifth grade then and my fingers were still small and hard on pressing the frets of a locally fabricated guitar and so I thought I quitted. The Eraserheads have spawned a deeper inspiration and even a dream to have my own band, my own compositions and my own music. (Which still remains to be dream)

I saved more than a week of allowance just to own a copy of their most successful album that came after Circus, the Cutterpillow. It got to the point that I have to content on cheap banana ques and buko juice sold in front of the school every recess to fulfill my mission of earning 120 pesos to buy their tape. It’s just sad to realize that I have lost the tape after listening to it almost everyday.

I have been fond of the band and their music since then and it is amazing that a lot of people of my age still feels the same way. Their time is monumental and that’s what separates us from the youngsters of today whose listening pleasures has been served with a lot of so and so bands. Trying hard music makers whose only hits are revivals after revivals, they missed the time when all you needed to hear in a rock show is the E-heads and your evening will be completed as if you’d had the best you're ready to die.

That is why it is too shocking to hear the news about Ely being stricken during a gig somewhere in Laguna several days ago. He was diagnosed as having his main veins in the heart blocked preventing blood from circulating throughout his body. The blockage was so severe that the first vein is totally clogged while the other one is 95% closed. With this situation, an angioplasty was necessary and twice conducted, which can be described as injecting a material that will clear out the clog and restore normal blood flow.

A lot has been said and written when this occurred even after several days since, including me. I am a great fan and it is far from unthinkable if ever he is to passed away. No! He can’t die, not yet as the boy from smallville succinctly puts it. He must only succumb three ways: an old man like George Harrison or James Brown, assassination ala John Lennon or shot himself in the head Kurt Cobain way, said another blogger.

I even learned Superproxy was a song about the Eraserheads' first encounter of the internet with Francis Magalona describing it when Ely was far from being conscious. Ely is not even voted yet for Hall of Fame and here comes the near chance for him to die and become a legend.

It is very surprising that I have the same matter of life and death experience with Ely. The difference is of course colossal ranging from his being an accomplished musician to his being a loving father to his son, Eon. He is 36 years old when he had to realize that eating meat and those packed with bad ol’ cholesterol could kill, I was about 23 when I had the same.

Even if reuniting Eraserheads is still a fiction (and I guess it will remain that way), I agree that Ely is too young to say goodbye. He is still left with an assignment to attain, a mission to save us all from the realms of revivals and one hit wonders.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


I NEVER THOUGHT I would be fooled by someone who writes numbers on a piece of paper everyday to anyone who wish to get him or herself a sedula.

Early this day, I tasked myself to get a student permit and restart my archaic driving lessons that my uncle, who was taken back home from the land with milk and honey, had taught me. And so I heard that getting a student driver's permit in Philippine soil necessitates a sedula or community tax certificate issued locally in a barangay hall, or more placidly, in municipal hall where a residing corrupt mayor has a greater probability than being promoted in the next appraisal.

That is why I prepped up myself for a long haul in the streets, aside from being literally ignorant of the location of the LTO branch in Angeles City.

With so much complacency and certainty with acquiring the sedula, I didn't asked my brother who recently got his license the other day after almost a year of waiting, if it really is required in the application. I went straight to the barangay hall of a nearby village-- Lourdes Sur East, just a few steps to where I attended elementary-- and aimed for the personnel in charge in filling up the empty fields of a sedula form. The room wasn't empty, in fact, it was embraced by a couple of old folks trading stories in Kapampangan which I lost interest at the very sight of them. I took ownership of a monobloc and began throwing questions to the lady who was very busy with her ballpen.

Her table was swamped with a vintage typewriter and a plastic red basin full of piece of papers cut to small rectangles. She immediately pointed out to write my full name, and details such as address, height and weight. I quickly complied at the sudden turn of an oscillating wall fan that keeps the room a bit humid. I waited a few more minutes since it appears that the old folks somewhere near me actually had the same reason why I was there. It's fascinating to see that one man took a pile of sedulas and sped off without taking out a single coin in his pocket. Or he may have already paid even before I stepped in.

The lady would soon saved me from an avalanche of boredom, when she asked for my kind of work. This is where the part when my mind suddenly went on vacation.

I felt a sudden rush of blood on my lips as it was supposed to be moving and voicing out words. I responded the one word that describes my day job, engineer po ma'am.

She followed by asking about my pay amount and immediately opened her drawers as if her left hands just clinged onto her pistol and on the verge of shooting me right in between the eyes. But instead of a gun, she let out her calculator and punched away the numeric keypads calculating the amount of corruption money, err, tax I was about to pay.

One hundred eighty five pesos! said the lady.

It was then that my brain was suddenly awakened like a splash of cold water was poured incessantly onto my face waking me up from a deep sleep. If it was on a normal state, I would mention that I was an unemployed bum and is yet to become a useful citizen who pays taxes. The result would entail a 5-peso fee and avoid a whopping 185 pesos or more.

The guy next to me who seemed to be dressed in his usual working clothes like that of my old teacher in economics class way back in high school, with gray polyester-made polo embroidered with a lace rectangular outline design in the middle, black wool straight pants and black shoes, tried to outwit the lady and avoid a possible similar mishap. When asked about the pay, he sounded tacit and expressionless. He managed to described himself as a minimum wage earner with 200 pesos as his daily salary. 75 pesos was his fee.

I let go of the frustration that quickly rose as it was my fault for letting it happen, I wasn't thinking at all. I am already paying so much taxes to this government with almost 20% of my salary going into the state's coffers or more apt, pork barrels and bribes, which is supposed to be funneled into giving school children new books or desks, or help establish a new government sector or department that is so much better in a lot of terms than the Pagasa to prevent typhoons in wreaking havoc to our countrymen as such illustrated by Reming and Milenio. The taxes that we pay is so much that everything you buy or pay for is coated with a 12% value added tax.

Just imagine, if I am receiving a salary of 5000 per payday, 1000 is already cut before I even had the chance to get hold of my pay. With a measly 4000 remaining, I could calculate that the total amount I will really enjoy is only 3571.

It saddens me whenever I imagine that my hard earned money will only be used up in paying for the gasoline of some congressman's vehicle, or it will only be added to pay the bill of their buffet lunch or dinner. It is something that I never want or like to happen and I have no option but obey and sadly, pay.

The thing that ignited the spark into a complete burning fire is when I realize later the day that sedula is not even on the list of the identification documents that may be presented for the application of student driver's permit. You know what I did? I just shrug it off and laugh on my way home.