Di Ba!

The recent Smokey Mountain Zoom performance was the reunion we didn’t know we need. The songs immediately got me and my friends yearning for the magnificent 90’s, which, I think, was a pretty good decade to grow up in. In true Ray Bradbury fashion as soon as I heard the familiar songs I was transported back to my 12-year old self, all sweaty in my room, waiting for the daily 9-hour brown-out to end. By that time I’ve already read all of my father’s Silver Age comic books and I didn’t have access to a lot of fiction, so the options for entertainment were scarce. The last resort was always the song hits. Frequently gracing the cover was Smokey Mountain, with the members in their tattered clothes, looking all brooding and intense and cool. The downside of their popularity: almost all the interpretative dance to celebrate priests’ day, sisters’ day, environment week, Linggo ng Wika, etc. etc. had my classmates tying ribbons in their hands and dancing to Paraiso. Close contender was From A Distance.

When we got into college us probinsyano’s got excited about the celebrities in our campuses. “Hulaan nyo kung sinong kasabay ko sa entrance exam ng La Salle,” my friend Lolita gushed. “Si Tootsie Guevara!

In UP Diliman there was only one legit celebrity still in the campus: Jeffrey Hidalgo. The Eraserheads were already extremely popular at the time, but they would still occasionally come back to the campus and guest in the annual UP Fair. The more ubiquitous in various events, though, was Jeffrey Hidalgo, and as he was singing Can This Be Love on the last day of the UP Fair, Joni, Chel, Groin, Kikky, and I were in a hidden pocket of the Sunken Garden getting disproportionately emo from those wonderful luminous drinks which seemed to have greater alcohol content than the unscrupulous senior fratmen claimed. After making the rounds of the various “secret” alcohol joints, we started dropping on the ground one by one. The first casualty was Kikky, and before we knew it she was sobbing and pulling out grass. “What’s wrong?” we tried to ask, followed by laughter. Joni was the one in most control of his faculties that night, having learned his lesson the night before when he fell into alcoholic coma. Groin had to drag him back to Molave Residence Hall by herself, leaving behind a trail of puke. In 2013 we went back to the UP Fair after over a decade, and sadly instead of make-shift alcohol booths there were food trucks selling red velvet cupcakes, artisanal coffee, and gourmet lechon.

Nostalgia-festing with Ray Bradbury

Another recent nostalgia trigger was the Youtube presentation of Ang Huling El Bimbo. Some time in 2018 I watched its initial run in Resorts World with Smoketh, Frichmond, Aia, Helliza, and HTGOF. We remember snoozing at some point and not liking it very much for various reasons–I didn’t really understand the motivations of the characters which seemed to have shifted off-screen between the two sets, while Helliza who is practicing in Antipolo didn’t like the idea that a horrific event would happen in Antipolo Overlooking. The version shown in Youtube seemed to have smoothened some of the edges from the earlier runs. I enjoyed the performances more this time, but somehow the show left me again with a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think that art should always send the right message or impart moral values, it’s just that Ang Huling El Bimbo for all the feel-good nostalgia-fest turned out to be quite nihilistic.

When Eraserheads first exploded into radio we were still first year students in a catholic high school. I guess in an attempt to sort of get into what the youth was really interested in, the teachers organized a “rock concert”, with the students as the performers. The most popular, i.e. easiest songs to play on the guitar were the execrable What’s Going On by Four Non-Blondes and of course the D-A-G-A songs of the Eraserheads. Maybe the nuns were not familiar with the songs, or maybe the screening committee members were not really paying attention, but come performance time one of the bands performed “Pare Ko”. When it came to the part “Di ba…”, the lead singer pointed the microphone to the audience and the entire Catholic student body wailed a solid “TANG INA!!!” The nuns got apoplectic.

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