Sunday Lifestyle

An UltraElectroMagnetic journey with The Eraserheads

- Edward Cruz  BA Political Science -

It must have been late June 1991 when I first heard the song Pare Ko by The Eraserheads.  I remember the circumstances quite vividly as a confluence of events ensured that the song would make an indelible mark on my stay at UP.

I set foot in UP Diliman as an incoming BS Political Science freshman, a mere few days after Mt. Pinatubo erupted and covered much of the country in powdery gray ash, including my home inside the campus, Kalayaan Hall, which incidentally was the inspiration for another poignant song from The Eraserheads, Minsan.

As the campus street sweepers were still clearing the strangely amusing ash-covered driveways, the Palma Hall lobby was abuzz with technicians setting up a makeshift concert stage for the annual Freshman Welcome show. My blockmates were mostly from Manila and couldn’t stay for the concert, so I was by my lonesome that night, trying to fit in by nodding my head, which was being assaulted by angst-ridden songs sung by band after band. The acoustics in the lobby were not really designed to complement amplified noise, so imagine the added distortion made by the sound bouncing off the concrete walls.

It was around 8 p.m. when The Eraserheads were called onstage. After a slew of grunge bands, it was refreshing to hear a melodious set that had catchy refrains and funny lyrics, which I now surmise to have been Toyang, Shirley and Magasin, among others, from the then still-unreleased first album, “UltraElectroMagneticPop” (1993). And then as the set wound down, the band started the opening riffs of their torch song with the soothing vocals of Ely Buendia calling on his pare  to listen to his girl problems. I got instantly hooked. The universal theme of lamentation coupled with the use of vulgar words both amused and shocked this young man from Batangas City.

At the time, I honestly thought the song’s title was Lecheng Pag-Ibig as the chorus of people grew louder each time it was sung. I looked around and found myself belonging to a lobby-full of people singing and cursing. Not cursing at each other or the band, but at life’s funny twists and turns that we normally share with our pares over a couple of beers.

And so started my fascination with the band’s music. I would always watch them with friends during the numerous times they appeared in free concerts in the Sunken Garden. Slowly, my cassettes of Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Milli Vanilli and Mastaplann from the late ‘80s were replaced by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Soundgarden and, of course, The Eraserheads.

Because of this awakening, after four years I had unwittingly amassed more than 200 rock and pop-rock cassette tapes, including emerging OPM bands that quickly followed The Eraserheads’ explosion onto the music scene. I would scrimp on my weekly allowance and buy a new album over the weekend. This made me the music lover that I am today.

In a campus with 12,000 students at any given time, fate decided that I share classes with two of the band members of The Eraserheads — Buddy Zabala, who played bass, was a classmate in Comm2 under the winsome Tricia Dizon, and Raymond Marasigan, who sported flat-top spiky hair back then and was a fellow MP (Military Police) in ROTC. They most probably won’t remember me now, but I sure do remember their music and the fond memories of college life it brings.

And in my job today as marketing manager of a product that sponsors concerts, I sometimes laugh at how things have turned out. Bands that I used to fervently follow and watch are now my allies in reaching out to a targeted audience, albeit in a less altruistic context. Some of them are still around and my events feature them.

It may sound selfish but some of my decisions have been influenced by my personal belief in the enduring talents of The Dawn, Bamboo, Rivermaya, Sandwich (with Raymond Marasigan), Cambio (with Buddy Zabala), The Mongols (with Ely Buendia), 6Cyclemind (with Chuck Isidro), Tropical Depression, and True Faith. I’m lucky that a lot of people still agree.

But it was The Eraserheads and their seminal hit Pare Ko that I dare say is The Defining Song of the decade for me. It reassured and empowered people that whatever curveball life might throw at you, you can always talk things over with a friend. Or if that isn’t an option, one can at least curse freely just by singing this song, and to let it all out as a form of catharsis.

The music of The Eraserheads liberated me from a dull existence in UP.

* * *

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