In Memoriam

March 24, 1933 – March 25, 2011. Three cheers for Ella!

1. Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town by Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is probably best known for two things. First, as one of the bands that popularized grunge music from Seattle in the ’90s. Second, they are probably the only living example of a band that have become so big but have not sold out. If I’m not mistaken, Jeremy is still their only song with a music video to date.

This song, with its lengthy title, is from their second album “Vs.”, which was released in 1993. I remember one of my classmates in high school was able to buy one of the rare copies of Vs. that didn’t have the title of the album in the cover.

This video doesn’t sync so well with the audio, but it’s the best audio quality I found.

2. Be Strong Now by James Iha

James Iha was the guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins from their very beginnings to their very end. This song was the single for his first and only solo album to date, Let It Come Down, which came out in 1998 while he was still with the Pumpkins.

3. I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan is a Canadian singer who gained popularity in the ’90s. Below is the official video for the song in the live album, Mirrorball. Trivia: the guy on drums is her husband.

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A Bus Ride to Yesterday on My Way to Tomorrow

I can no longer remember the last time I took a bus back to my home town by myself. I mean, I take that trip at least once a year, during Christmas and/or summer. But it’s different when you have your son and/or daughter on your lap, sleeping or looking at vehicles zooming on the highway. It’s different when your wife is resting her head on your shoulders, catching a snooze or two. It’s different when you take the trip as a family.

But yesterday, I took the bus back home by myself. The ride reminded me of my days as a student when I would go home on weekends. Just by myself, thinking and watching the world through a tinted glass pane. I watched the scenery just as intently as I did then. I saw again the white egrets that spend their summers in the floodplains of Candaba, wading in the rice fields and ponds. I saw the solar systems; service stations with their satellite restaurants. Behemoths of revenue that grew from sacrificed farmland, devouring money from the all-too-willing victims who drive around in their so-called piece of mind. For the first time in many years, I saw Mt. Arayat. Not as  the permanent fixture in the background, but as the sleeping volcano that Maria Sinukuan calls home.

There was one marked improvement with this last trip worth noting. When I was a student, I would play my chosen soundtrack for my trips in my head. It was quite difficult to think about this and that and maintain the playback of the soundtrack. It became next to impossible when the bus had pop radio playing. Thanks to the leaps and bounds that technology had taken over the years, I was able to actually play music. Not only was I able to think about this and that and more, the music also shut out the noise that passed for pop. I watched the fields as Billy Corgan sang By Starlight. I looked at the city of San Fernando from above its lone flyover, thinking back to when it was just a town and I was just a child, as Thom York sang Fake Plastic Trees.

I’m not sure, but maybe it was the reason for coming home that made me think about all those things. My sister called the night before, telling me to come home. The eldest and only sister of my father, my aunt practically raised my siblings and I just as much as our parents did. She had been ill for many years, but her condition had deteriorated in the recent days. It was just a matter of time. And so we were all called home. To visit her, to talk to her, for what may very well be the last time.

It’s difficult when you don’t share the same belief system as your family. I sat at the foot of the bed as my mother and our long-time neighbor prayed for my aunt. I waited, holding my aunt’s hand. To say that she had seen better days was an understatement of epic proportions. I wanted to talk to her alone, but everybody was there. I did not have the time to wait and be alone with her, and neither did I feel comfortable to ask them to leave. In the end, my fear of not being able to tell her what I meant to say became greater than any fear of saying it in the presence of others. So I did. I bent close to her ear and whispered her name. I said my thanks for the many books and the gambling lessons. I also told her that when Didi comes to take her, that she will like her. That they will get along just fine walking to the sunless lands. My sisters all cried.

But I was not sad. Like I said, I did not share my family’s beliefs. I celebrate life. Death is merely the culmination of life. It is what defines life by way of negation. And as far as I am concerned, my aunt’s life is one to truly celebrate. And on my way back to Quezon City that night, I figured out just how to do that.

Ella

Your old books are all but gone

Just like your memories

Faded words on pages torn

By time and the ravaging of termites

But it was not for naught

They served their purpose

They have given their gifts

Their stories live in me

Just as part of your story is in mine

Your plastic playing cards are lost

Just like the light in your eyes

The color faded and worn

No longer vivid in hue

Falling apart at the fringes

But it was not in vain

I can count without numbers

I hardly flinch when stakes are high

I know how to play my hand

Just as I know the color of your eyes

Your house is old and broken

Just like your body

It will not stand for much longer

Life that resides there will soon depart

But it was not wasted

It cared and nurtured

It stood strong in times of need

Home will always be with me

Just as you will live on forever

Words fade from paper

Faces from cards

Strength from beams

But not you from me

Farewell

Thank you

I’m sorry

Sketchpad (5 of 6)

I used this sketchpad from 2002-2005. The contents vary. There are a lot of drawings of shirt design ideas and drawings of friends of mine sporting them. There are also drawings of characters for my would-be graphic novel.

When I drew the elemental sisters (there are supposed to be 12), I tried out a manga drawing style. I think I was looking through some work by Masamune Shirow during that time.

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They’re Very, Very Loud

Still going strong.

This week, it’s the Foo Fighters. I didn’t really like them when they first came out. I guess partly because at that time, I still wasn’t over the abrupt end of Nirvana. But when their second album, the Colour and the Shape, came out in 1997, I became a convert. Not only because their material just kept getting better, but also because they’re rockers, not rock stars. This band eventually became another big influence in my song writing. You also gotta love their humor.

I find it very hard to pick my top three Foo Fighters songs. I’m only sure of my #1. To complete the lineup, I have two songs that are my favorites from their respective albums.

1. Best of You

This song is the first single from their 2005 two-disc album, In Your Honor. This one is simply intense. Even in the beginning when it’s not loud, you know there’s power about to be released.

2. Generator

This song is a track from the third album of the Foo Fighters, There is Nothing Left to Lose, which was released in 1999. It was only released as a single in certain parts of the world. There is no official music video for this song. Below is a live performance of the song. I don’t know where this is or when exactly. The Talk Box makes this song (and the performance) shine.

3. Everlong

My all-time favorite Foo Fighters song. It’s from their album, the Colour and the Shape. The music video is superb! It’s pokes fun at martial arts action films, but at the same time executes a non-linear narrative very well.

Sketchpad (2 of 6)

I had this sketchpad from 1997-1998. This was the time I almost stopped drawing altogether and started writing. In this pad, there are less than a handful of pages with drawings as most of them are filled with song lyrics. I probably wrote more than 40. I’m not sure if any of them made it to having arrangements and instrumentation though.

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Sketchpad (1 of 6)

When we moved, I got to look through my sketch pads again. This is the oldest one in the group. I had this in 1994-1995, my freshman year in college. During that time, I was reading Dragonlance novels and Heavy Metal magazine. It shows too.

Reading Heavy Metal regularly also led me to develop a graphic novel idea. It has yet to be done, but the setting and its characters are not only intact, but have actually developed over the years. The setting and the characters are the same ones I’m using for the card game I have shelved. My students even got a peek at that world during the Sagada trip by way of impromptu, old-school, table-top role-playing.

I don’t have a scanner, so I took photos of the sketchpad pages and did some editing in Gimpshop. I made a duplicate layer behind the image, ran it through a Gaussian blur filter, and applied it as overlay.

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Here’s where I got the stuff:

Gimpshop

Image-editing technique

Home: When the Universe Conspires

These are probably my first attempts at using a camera to do more than take snapshots of family gatherings and parties with friends. What you see are snippets of my family’s ancestral house in the province of Pampanga. These were taken last summer… I think.

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After writing and uploading the photos for the draft of what you see above, I wasn’t sure if I would go through with posting it. However, the universe seemed to conspire towards it as the idea of home kept popping up around me; in conversations, in writing, and in photographs. I’m not a victim of the universe’s conspiracy. I’m a willing accomplice.