this was previously published in Metakritiko when it was still cool and fearless (haha). and because i don’t like repeating myself, and we were brought up to not talk about ourselves, am posting it here as tribute to pinoy music on the one hand, birthday greeting on the other. for Kuya, without whom this blog (and therefore my writing) wouldn’t be possible, and who should really be writing more often, too. cheers!
Mix Tape 1: Ode to Sibling-hood
When I was a kid, my liking for the local was judged as baduy by my Kuya who took to liking everything not Pinoy. We fought over the remote control on Sundays when I couldn’t get enough of GMA Supershow, and he wanted the rerun of any other foreign show or movie on Channel 9. I watched That’s Entertainment, day in day out, to Kuya’s raised eyebrows. Yes, the talentless lived there, and they were “watermelon singing!” Kuya said, exasperated. That is, they didn’t know the words to the songs they pre-recorded and so they just keet repeating the word “watermelon.”
And here, the songs that I love(d) from the height of baduy Origina Pilipino Music (OPM) in the mid-80s to early 90s, all of which I’ve got memorized like a know how to ride a bike, to Kuya’s distress/disgust/despair, of course.
Side A: The Baduy Collection
And then the next thing we knew, we were in the same boat, of loving OPM, memorizing whole albums (cassette tapes, baybeh!) and even (yes! show our age!) the last of the 45 records. We also started loving Gary Valenciano (before the V.), but were wont to spend more on tickets for – or tried harder at finding free passes to – the foreign acts. Name it, we went to it, Vanilla Ice, (the fake)Milli Vanilli, Gloria Estefan. I would try and keep this tradition going and watched Metallica with my first boyfriend (bad idea, he hated that I failed to catch the fluggin’ guitar pick thrown my way); watched Earth Wind and Fire with my boy(best)friend and did think there could be some sweet love growing on a Saturday night.
But then, there was Kuya, and our growing collection of OPM that we both agreed weren’t baduy, anyone who said so, be damned.
Side B: The Compromise Collection
Mix Tape 2: Distance(d)
And then Kuya left, just as I hit college and found my own kind of OPM in the Pinoy rakenrol and alternative music of the mid-90s and first decade of 2000. He would come home and visit, and find himself in record stores to buy CDs that I couldn’t bring myself to get: an acoustic album here, a live album there, of the most recent hitmaker, non-songwriter. Meanwhile I lent him bags filled with CDs: the Eraserheads, the new ones of FrancisM, some of the older ones he might not remember, or we didn’t have money to buy CDs of when we were younger.
And then there are times like the past two months, when we spend more time together than we have in the past 13 years that he’s been away, and we realize how we remain within the same sphere as far as taste is concerned: Jason Mraz, between the two of us, without knowing it. I give him Peryodiko and Sugarfree’s Mornings and Airports, the only two OPM albums on my laptop that traveled from Manila to Kuya’s home in Holland. He introduces me to Stephen Lynch, downloads the latest Natalie Merchant. And now in Manila, the conversations of our pasts, a reminiscence and presence of music, and yes it has been mostly OPM.
Side A: Past Forward
Side B: (Re-)Present!
And for the first time, we are going to gigs. It is the teenage life of having a Kuya that I didn’t have, the one where there’s always back-up at the same time that someone has my back. Quite a liberating thing, really. It would be silly to refuse OPM this reunion.