Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Songs and Memories and Friendships

I STARTED my day reminiscing. Bittersweet memories 
as I listened to songs in my CD, songs that I wrote with friends when I was in my 20s to 30s. Very meaningful ones in my progression as a human being, like a chronicle of my journey before I crossed oceans to America... Due to copyright intricacies, I will have to work on legal issues first before I could properly market them though (via the internet). I can't download it on YouTube or Facebook either, but see me—I will hand you a copy. I hand out “friendly copies” for donations (to my community projects) each time there is a chance. Besides the songs that I wrote with my band, Duane's Poetry—I also wrote a lot of songs with my bestfriend Duwi when we were very young, like 13 or 14 years old. Then some more with other friends in so many places—songs that I left on cassette tapes, lead sheets, notebooks (with scribbled music ledgers and stuff), and memories of those who heard them.

     Meantime, when I was in New York, “Awit kay Clarita,” an ode/sonata behind kneading strings and piano solo break about a slain tribal amazon in the Cordilleras back home, was interpreted by an Alvin Ailey dancer/teacher, Elena Colmenares, in an art exhibition opening in Soho's Puffin Gallery. The master copy was co-arranged with my best buddy Rolly Melegrito, Pearlsha Abubakar and the late Mike Basilio (who engineered the recording). I rearranged “Pagano,” a statement vis a vis traditional/conventional religion and tribal faith, into a multi-percussion interplay and choral voices. “Mutya,” inspired by a Filipino poet Romulo Sandoval who died of cancer at 40, about the beauty of poetry in the backdrop of a cruel world, was sung by a Columbia Univ student as “gift” to the late Senator (and presidential hopeful) Raul Roco and his wife upon their visit in Manhattan in 2000. “Yakap” (“Embrace”), written with Pearlsha, was about a mother's endearing, undying love for her child.
     I learned that a very young group in Manila wants to record an old blues-rock broadside that I wrote with Rolly and Kai Conlu-Brondial, “Praise The Lord, I am Cool,” in reference to the Pope's visit in Manila that time. Then there's the old blues howler, “Mama, Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to be Politicians,” a piece that me and Rolly wrote for our little poetry/blues side-project, “Lightning Joe and The Bluesman.” The sad but closure-tinged “Looking for my Comrades” was my send-off song as I prepare to fly to New York City on my 38th birthday, it's about the surreal confusion of party/ideological-line ruin following the fall of the dictatorship, that we were still “fighting” after the so-called revolution. “May Habilin ang Uhay” (“The Rice Sheaves' Message”) was an eligy to the protesting farmers who were shot at and perished in front of the presidential palace in early `90s. “My Daughter is Missing” talks about a summarily-executed or “salvaged” young activist, a desaparecido...
Oh, that song, “Ode to the Beauty Queen,” written with Ray Nunez, with the lines, “Now that you have a most desirable body / Sure bet to boost tourism in any country / And as computers check your vital stat / Tabloids scrutinize your most private parts... / Go on fair muse, sell that toothpaste smile / Neon gods whistle as you strut down desolated isles / And what have you got inside that lovely swimsuit / Have you traded your stars to a sequined fruit... / There goes your stairway, stairway to heaven / All you have to do is get a perfect ten.” Oh yes, at that early age, although I always watched beauty pageants with my four sisters and mom and aunts, I never agreed that awesome shapes and beautiful faces define “beauty” in a woman. And my takes on love as a young man, “”Love is a Poison,” is warm song, written with Kai, based on The Little Prince and The Fox. Then a “harana” (serenade) that I'd like to rearrange and record one of these days, composed with Rolly, “Hindi Ito Panaginip” (“This Is Not a Dream,” that love is not idealized—but realized).
     To think that, these are just little fraction of the many songs that I wrote in the past... What about my poems, plays, unproduced screenplays? There are so many to catch up on, retrieve and resurrect, while my little brain keeps on chugging along everyday, every minute, every second—even in my night dreams. It's not over until it is over, you reckon?

Friday, May 8, 2015

ALL THESE WORDS, After All These Years

FOR some deeply personal reasons, I left almost all of my work back home in the Philippines when I flew to New York City on my 38th birthday in 1998. Poems, fiction, essays, newspaper/magazine articles and reviews/criticism and column pieces, TV scripts and sequence treatments, stage plays, grant project drafts, screenplays and storyboards, drawings and illustrations, ad copies and thoughts, art photography, paintings (acrylic and mixed media), publications that I edited/published, organizational brainstorms, comics and graphic novel sketchbooks, political platform germs, songs and lyrics, letters and correspondences, community program proposals designed for legislation, book ideas etc. Boxes and folders of manuscripts, notebooks, wads of bond papers. Mostly written in English although majority of my literary output were in Filipino/Tagalog language (a few in Spanish and Ilocano provincial dialect). I started writing by the time I stepped in First Grade and professionally writing as newspaper reporter at age 14. Then, it was non-stop. When I eventually decided to settle here in the US when I “discovered” Asheville (North Carolina) few years later, I never made an effort to retrieve my past work—I simply continued churning out more words and (creative) work.

       MY past bodies of work (before I "crashlanded" in America) were distributed among friends and ex-relationships, family house closets, file cabinets of organizations that I belonged, media offices, friends in the countryside, even random people that I met while working as journalist, community organizer, concert producer, traveling cultural worker/researcher and artist/musician. Those were the “unplugged/unwired” years. There were IBM computers, floppy discs and tape recorders and 16mm and 35mm movie cameras—but saving or stocking up work in several devices wasn't a general psyche. It's all hard copies and master tapes. Also, I wasn't very conscious about filing up my work or my mind was so busy creating more work and heeding 3 or 4 “day jobs” and loads of community and/or activism commitments so that a consistent, sustained file system didn't have room in my busy, erratic, gungho, cramped up head...

       A GOOD friend from my theater days in Manila, Joey B., mentioned that he kept a copy of my one-act play, “Maputla ang Ulap sa Laot” (“Clouds are Pale Out in the Sea”). I am sure it was about life in tiny fishing villages where I spent time as writer/researcher and grassroots communications teacher when I was in my early 20s or late-teens. A French friend maintains that I left in her care a crate of writings—handwritten and typed (on typewriter) or printed via those “ancient” noisy IBM machines. She reminded me that she has a copy of a collection of poems, “The Rainbow is Bleeding," plus an anthology of essays with an intriguing title, “Not Valid for Public Consumption, and other words that I shouldn't have said or written.” Some friends (and ex'es), who are scattered all over the globe, also informed me that I left them notebooks of doodles and/or verses, sheaves of handwritten words on loose bond papers and musty notebooks, prose on personalized cards, lead sheets on music pads, paintings (acrylic and ink), cassette tapes of demos, words and words on fancy scrapbooks etc etcetera. I also had this practice of writing a few words (poetry, prose) on whatever piece of paper that I could grab and then handing it to whoever was around for keepsake, like a gift. I am glad that some of those beautiful people kept some of those little yarns... I write everyday like it's breathing—I produce work like it's all I do, if I don't do it, I die. So from NYC/summer of 1998 to this very moment, you could imagine the volume of hard copies and megabytes of computer space juices and dirt that I already produced or accumulated—out of my crazy, crazy mind.
       I AM a poor fellow at age 54 with four grown-up kids treading their own paths. I am not sure if I'd be able to leave my kids something on the line of inheritance or trust, in the form of bank accounts and properties/assets—although I am still trying. Maybe a grandfather actually left me a cattle farm somewhere in the Pacific, LOL! Anyhow, all I got are my work. Work that hopefully will amount to many books, movies, projects, stuff and whatever they could be used for.

       MEANTIME, I just want to keep on writing and writing and writing--whether these get published or not. Years ago, I used to pursue most of these while sharing ideas with colleagues, friends and strangers—in small inner city cafes and barrio farm fields or oceansides, or workers picketlines, commuter bus, terminals. My writing process was always part of my steady, sustained interaction with people. Sadly, I don't have that “luxury” anymore, around my circumstances and situation in the US. We are inside this little gizmo called computers and fiddling around in social media circles. I wish it is easy these days to just sit down and discuss a screenplay's progression or a poem's birthing from a coffeecup without sounding rude, condescending, politically-incorrect, provocateur, or just talky and boring. Every word that comes out of our mouths is a target for a kind of in-depth scrutiny for its sense or sensitivity, although this reflex and response happen at a quicksilver pace. Confused. Attached yet detached; connected yet disconnected.
       I CAN always say that it was easier to write and create before because it was easier to be human and alive in those days, almost instinctive—no matter how physically unpleasing or mentally/emotionally harsh the times when I produced volumes of work. More importantly, it was easier to be recognized or validated and confirmed with whatever I wrote—the work is right there on their hands. These days, I can write 15 poems in 3 days, but once I saved that on my hard drive, it's almost forgotten since more words are going to inhabit and crowd my hard drive and thumb drives, anyway, in the next 12 hours--all funneled in the internet well. One post is a blink because I will be posting more in the next minute. But then many years ago, as I loosely and nonchalantly handed out my work to people, or left them somewhere, they kept and treasured them. Hence, my soul is saved, my spirit exists. No Apple app or the most expensive computer gadget could ever do that. The surest depository or undying bank of human thoughts is the human heart. It never forgets. That is the only way how to live forever as a writer--or as a human being. [--Pasckie Pascua, from “My Life as a Greyhound”]