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That was then, this is now - again

I was a pretty lost girl in college (and, come to think of it, the next few years thereafter). I’d gone to the same school since kindergarten; was on the same bus service for just as long. The kids I alternately liked and hated were pretty much the same from when I was too young to care if my socks didn’t match to when I was old enough to understand that one of the things that stood between me and the popular girls were their rolled St. Michaels socks. Mine wasn’t a pampered life, but there’s no denying I was sheltered. But I was able to live outside of my own little suburban world through music. And, through music that could follow me wherever I went, I was able to somewhat make sense of what the hell I was doing, wherever I was. The music of The Eraserheads was like that.

This, I believe, is as close as I can get to writing about a medium that I could only wholly appreciate as soundtracks — both to movies and moments in my life.

Upon the insistence of my mother whose main objection was that I might get knocked up if I went to the University of the Philippines-Baguio, I found myself as a freshman at De La Salle University, where she taught chemistry part-time. I didn’t think I would like it, but I did. So much, in fact, that I went back there for my graduate studies. At DLSU, I made friends with a girl named Jona, who was in love with Ely Buendia. I, in turn, was in love with Buddy Zabala. That was the year of Circus, and also one of the last years when we still didn’t know enough not to use the term “in love” loosely. Our anthem: “With a Smile.”

Jona was a go-getter. She had lists: things to buy, things to wear, tasks to do. On her list was to meet Ely, by hook or by crook. I was sixteen, and I thought many things to be impossible, and one of them was this. But Jona made the impossible happen and scheduled an ambush interview with The Eraserheads, after their That’s Entertainment! gig, at Broadway Centrum. I count that as one of the most embarrassing, yet most amazing experiences I’ve had as a some-time E-heads stalker.

There would be many more, with the last one when I was finally one of those tie-dyed wearing, messy-haired and sandal-clad kids in the University of the Philippines-Diliman, the school I knew I absolutely had to go to the first time I heard “Minsan.” Writer Celeste Flores-Cosculuella, who’s also an excellent songwriter and singer, had an appointment with Ely at his house. She asked at least five of us to tag along, and I was pretty embarrassed at the thought of crashing her meeting with Ely, but hey, who’s going to say no to that? This memory remains: I was melting in embarrassment, too star struck (still) to say anything; Cel was her adoring self; and one of our orgmates was telling a half-listening Ely about the painting of four naked women under the tent of our tambayan and how cool our org of artists, musicians and writers were. He and his wife Diane were playing Bubbleburst on the PlayStation.

All these came to mind Wednesday last week, as I stood in front of Ely, Raimund and Marcus (too bad Buddy wasn’t there) at the restaurant across Café SaGuijo, which is a current hot spot in Manila’s music scene. It was my college orgmate and music writer Aldus Santos’ book launch—he wrote a really cool compilation of Pinoy rock biographs, Repeat While Fading—and I was having dinner with some friends when we saw the three of them sharing a table outside.

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I knew Marcus was around, because Markus Highway had just played (and they played a reggae version of “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong”), and I knew Pupil was going to play in a while. Raimund was a pleasant surprise.

Joy, who I just met that night and was also a ‘90s girl, had prevailed upon me to have my copy of Repeat While Fading (specifically, the page where the article about the Eheads started) signed. I had given her a lot of excuses, from, “No, it’s okay; they’re not complete anyway” to “I’m not that much of a fan anymore since they broke up” to “I think they’re having a meeting” to “I’m absolutely going to die of embarrassment if I did that.” But Paul Catiang, who edited the book, said, “You are going to regret it if you allow this opportunity to pass!”

And it clicked. Because, really, when am I going to see even the three of them together and this accessible again?

So there I stood, in front of Ely, Raimund and Marcus at the restaurant across SaGuijo. I took a deep breath, and asked them to sign my copy of the book, one by one. My friend Jenny dragged her feet, too mortified to approach three of her biggest idols, because it was her first time to see them, ever. But when we both finally held our signed copies, deep inside, you can be sure we were squealing like it was 1994 all over again.

At 31, when I’m supposed to be on my last year on the calendar, as the popular euphemism goes, and sometimes I still feel like I’m still going nowhere, it’s good to have something to go back to.

Repeat While Fading will be out in bookstores soon. For more information, you can go to http://aldus.multiply.com. Email your comments to alricardo@yahoo.com or text them to (63)917-9164421. You can also visit my personal blog at http://althearicardo.blogspot.com.

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