Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bulabog Fiction

I used to play bass in a band, that is, a bulabog band. My music-minded friends and I decided to form a quartet. We bought second hand, dilapidated music instruments and amps. We played to anyone who will listen to us. Truth to tell we were not good. We were too old, we played by kapa, and our equipments were not that reliable. But what we lacked in equipments and musicality John, the lead guitarist, more than made up for in showmanship. I remember his most unforgettable performance. We were invited to play a gig at a barangay fiesta in Jansenville Cainta. We were drinking heavily and playing wildly, and John in an ecstasy of guitar adlibs used his teeth to play the lead ala Hendrix. I was awed by his performance, and the audience liked it so much that they nicknamed him the guitar eater. He was so high with his performance that he jumped at the final riff--the climax. We were all laughing and smiling but I noticed that his mouth was bleeding. I pulled him aside and gave him an ice-cold beer to stop the bleeding. The poor man, his guitar strings got caught between his teeth that it lacerated his gums. I told him that the 500 pesos “talent fee” wouldn’t be enough to pay for a reconstructive surgery, for the next time it happens it might be his lips that could be lacerated. Anyway he worked on it and perfected the trick.

The person who invited us to perform that day was so elated that he invited us to play the following week in Binangonan. It was his niece’s debut and the band music would be his gift for her. Like I said, we would play for anyone who will listen to us. So we agreed. The problem is that we never checked the place where we will be playing versus the capacity of our amps.

When we got to Binangonan (I was asking the driver if were still in Philippine territory) we were shocked when we realized that we would be rocking in the mountains. I was thinking of how we would sound since we will be playing in open-air and our amps were the small indoor types. When we got there and we set-up the equipment my worst fear was realized. There were no walls or any barrier that would return the sounds; in short there were no acoustics. Our equipments outputs were like a “drop of vinegar in an ocean of water” (I got that phrase from a theology teacher). We can’t hear a thing. So what we did was to gather all the people in front of the speakers and played full blast. We were able to finish the performance but I felt weird playing and not being able to hear what I’m playing. (We can hear the instrument but the sound was so dispersed and far apart that we can’t even tell if were playing the same tune.) After the usual free drinks we went home. As the jeep were winding down the mountains and we were passing the road sandwich between two mountainsides we heard ourselves playing. In fact I still remember the song; it was “All my life” by America. And the acoustics was great. I can’t forget John’s reaction hearing his voice (he sang that song hours ago), his eyes almost popped out. It was eerie and everyone made the sign of the cross for fear of being enchanted by the mountain spirits. But when we passed the mountainsides the singing faded; there were complete silence. The experience was so weird that no one dared talked about it up to now.

I had a theory though. Sound is energy; it can be reflected back and forth. Imagine throwing a tennis ball across and it got caught between two walls, what would happen is that they would bounce against the walls until their kinetic energy was spent. I think this is what happened here. That particular song was caught between the two mountains and they were simply bouncing back and forth like the tennis ball. But this time all conditions were right the humidity, temperature, and the quality of the soil and stones of the mountains that there was virtually no corruption in the sound quality, in fact it even amplified and improved it. Just a theory.
Our band days are over now. The last time we played together was in ‘98. We are all married now. I quit my job (I had no choice because my boss resigned) and I’m trying to continue my study, which the drinking and the band sidelined. The summer of 2004 I went to the University of Rizal in Morong to get my school records and it took me all day. It was almost dark when I completed the requirements before I got the transcripts of my school records. I was on a jeep on my way home and was admiring the beauty of Laguna Lake and the reflection of the sunset on its waters when I heard a faint but familiar sound. I felt my hair rising when I realized what the wind was whispering to my ears. My God, it was John and the band singing “All my life”.

This is fiction. I missed my bulabog band. Days when were there’s no rule when it comes to playing our instruments.

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