Monthly Archives: June 2017
I was born in May, 1954 and I was informed that the top 1 at the billboard then was the song “Wanted” by Perry Como. I listened to the song on Youtube—wonders of technology really—but it gave me no recollection at all. We had no radio then most probably. My mother could have listened to the spill over music from across our house where a radio repair shop had its appliances always turned on. My mother loves music, she probably was thinking of a symphony while she was laboring on me, I don’t know. In 1955, Billy Hales and the Comets was number one in the billboard with their “Rock around the Clock”, followed by “Only You” by the Platters, “Love is a many splendored things” by the Aces and “Unchained Melody” by Abb Hibler. These were songs that achieved classic status that even at present, it is still hummed. As a matter of fact, a lot of them became theme songs in unforgettable films later.
My generation was lulled into sleep on these melodies.
The roaring 50s
In 1956, Elvis Presley was the iconic singer. His “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Don’t be Cruel” were occupying the first and second rank in the billboard, followed by the Platters’ “My Prayer” and Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera.” I think at the age of two, I could perceive things around me. I could remember how mother would lullaby me and my sister to sleep by singing “Que Sera Sera.” My uncle Greg, my caretaker, from a distance was already my idea of how Elvis looked like at the time. My father was always out and virtually a denizen of his office. He was like the sound of the base guitar, one can easily ignore but without it, the sound is flat.
In 1957, Elvis was on top again with his “All Shook Up”, followed by Pat Boone’s “Love Letters in the Sand” and Debbie Reynolds “Tammy.” I am very familiar with these melodies because our household was vibrating with these tunes. Even today, I could sing the songs complete with their lyrics.
1958 was Everly Brothers’ period. Their “All I have to do is dream” and “Bird Dog” were on the top chart along with with Elvis’ “Don’t” and Dean Martin’s “Return to me.” It was the song “Volare” by Domenico Domugno however that took the number one post. Once these songs are played today, I could smell the familiar fumes, the cigarette smoke of my Uncle Greg. He was always there at my side whenever mother was in the marketplace. Some kind of nasal recall.
1959 was school year for me. I was 5 and enrolled in the Kindergarten. Our lessons were conducted through music and true enough; it was easier for the memory to absorb anything once given a tune and constantly sang. The Chipmunk’s song was always in the air. While these were altered voices to make it appear as if it was the vocals of rabbits, the novelty of it all lent its special flavor and acceptance. Could be that listeners wanted to hear other voices other than Elvis, Perry Como and the Platters; although their songs were just a slide away.
The flower peopled 60s
In 1960, I was the youngest in Grade 1 and the song “Bikini”, the itsy, bitsy yellow polka dot bikini thing by Brian Hyland and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” were the craze. But of course the top song that year was Frankie Avalon’s “Why.” I could still experience goosebumps whenever this “Why” is sung. Check it out in Youtube and confirm. It was actually in formal schooling that I got a full appreciation of what music is all about.
From 1961 to 1966 were all primary and intermediate years and it was during this period that boy bands came into light. The sound bytes of Mat Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and their ballad got buried quickly. The combo came into town with a bang. There was the fabulous four, The Beatles, then the Monkees, the Turtles, the Beach Boys, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Happenings, Four Seasons, Dave Clark 5 and their songs virtually carried our spirits into another level of inspiration. We were all entertained not only with the best melodies but equally as well, the best lyrics one could think of. Suddenly our subject on poetry lost its luster. My generation was mesmerized with the songs “My Girl,” “Eleanor Rigby”, “Yesterday” by Beatles, “Don’t Worry Baby”, “Surfing”, “Papaom-mawmaw” by Beach Boys, “Diamond Ring”, “See you in September” and “Thousand Eyes” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys.
We could sing by heart the following: Wooly Bully, I can’t help myself (Sugar, sugar), I can’t get no (Satisfaction), Downtown, Help!, My Girl, Crying in the Chapel, Help me, Rhonda, This Diamond Ring, Hang on Sloopy, whoaaa the whole cabudle!
And a lot more! Truly the songs of the 60s were the most nostalgic and emotion laden. There was too much creativity in everything.
Onwards from 1967 to 1970, the metallic sounds and almost Mozart like sounds would grab the air lanes. Chicago, The Who, Cascades, Spiral Staircase, Santana, Ventures, Shadows were all there, and more, to regale us with their wizardly in base guitar, rhythm, drums, percussion and wind instrument. The most skillful musicians took over and the most literate composers bonded with them. This has become the symbolic sound of a new generation professing peace amidst a world engulfed in war and turmoil. Music virtually protected mankind from the deafening noise of bombs and explosives. Suddenly, the war mongers had been confronted by hippies and the people stared at each other, and for a while, the world was rendered without a pulse.
The rebellious 70s
The 1970s in the Philippines was, for the most part, shielded from foreign influence to include music. Before the decade opened, it was the sound of Fifth Dimension, Lettermen, Chicago, Carpenters, Santana…but it faded as a consequence of militant fear. It was the beginning of protests and demonstration. Finally, government ruled by fist, through martial law and music became, either rebellious or capricious. Filipino composers and singers took over. The OPM or Original Pilipino Music was born. Florante, Juan de la Cruz band, Apo Hiking Society, Rico Puno, Coritha, Sampaguita, VST and company, Boyfriends, Cinderella were all prominent in the air and they virtually accompanied a sober generation in search of social direction. While Martial Law made them strong and a bit disciplined, the excesses of those who implemented it created a monster called agitation among the youths. Some went abroad as in flight, others retreated to personal scholarship, a few went underground and others due to frustration got hook on opiate and got buried on the ground.
The liberated 80s
The 80’s was refreshingly different. There was the Commodores, the Village People, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Paul Mcartney, Kenny Rogers, Madonna on the foreign side and there was Side A Band, Rivermaya, Ogie Alcacid, Jose Marie Chan, Sharon Cuneta, Nora Aunor among the top chart singers. Their combination of sounds made the Filipino more sophisticated and stylish. This was also the birth of singing talents. Local sounds have higher octave than their foreign counterparts hence their vocal superiority when competing here and abroad.
The emotional 90s
The 90s and year of 2000s were mostly rehash of past sounds, a return to nostalgia. This time around the local talents, the Regine Velasco, Jose Marie Chan, the River Maya bands, Eraserheads, but their promotion could not be pushed to the limits because of media payola concerns. Radio stations were not prone to play the songs unless paid for. That weakened the local music talent and corruption had been made a compelling issue to be addressed in the entertainment business. Aside from the fact that foreign and local talents, those who have made their mark, were already ageing, there were a few talents following through. Hence, people were just contented replaying retro music and retrofitting the melody into newer versions. Irregularities had permeated the fiber of music industry and left a sad mark.
The practical Y2ks
In 2015, after I retired from government service, the song “Happy” by Pharell Williams was a charm. I thought that I would never appreciate from my vantage point songs that pervade the air. Up to now, I still could not grasp the songs of Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, One Direction, among others. A Bruno Mar’s “Uptown Girl” was a rehash and I came to respect his upbeat and better version. From there on, music, the old ones at that preoccupy my personal airwaves at home. Not that I am “racist” as far as selecting music is concerned but unlike before, music today is feeble and fast. Before I could mentally familiarize myself with the melody, another has taken place already.
The Latino and blues music of yesteryears is still my preference. At any given time, they are memory-friendly.
And I love her so.
Naty Berroya Caliguia must be in her late 80s already. She is the nearest maternal cousin of my father, also the closest. Her mind is still sharp and there is no ageing as far as her memory is concerned. She can still recall any minute incident in her life or that of her community. And why not? In her prime, she was once one of the smartest elementary teachers in the town of San Roque, San Pedro, Laguna.
My recollection of my auntie Naty has always been compelling. She was an angel during my juvenile years while I was spending precious moments of summer with my grandmother at my father’s hometown. And since my grandma was always out, Auntie Naty would find herself very generous in pouring attention to me. With my aunt around, I could feel a sense of importance and yes, in her eyes, and I could reckon it in my fledging thoughts, that I was a celebrity! She and her family would treat us that way, and always.
How I wish to see her up close and hug her even at this time when this nephew of her looks more like one of her senior citizen peer already. I just wanted to project to her how I deeply respect her for giving me a significant period to appreciate myself and in the process attain a certain degree of success in life. Without her coaxing, without her simple pampering, I would have been one of the inferior beings that have populated a sagging organization, assuming that I get employed in the process. She gave me that sense of superiority, poise for something great although at that time, I was merely an appendage of a famous parent.
She has been that indulging and cajoling elder person, always vigilant and fretful. She was not only a sympathetic sister to my father but a mother superior to me whenever I am on vacation in their province. She would empty her purse just so she could give me something valuable. Along with her aunt, Lola Pepay, they would backstop their enterprise just so I would have some cash in my pocket. At that time, it was my father who was more intrigued on the amount I had accumulated. At that time, I cared less about money and it went on even in my adulthood up to my senior years.
I have learned generosity from her. I have learned also the value of kindness, thoughtfulness and vigilance directly from how she attended to me and my father.
There is likewise the virtue of selflessness which I learned from her lap that I projected which I would attribute my ascension to a higher responsible position in any organization I would join. Indirectly, she had taught me leadership principles which John Maxwell has not determined yet during the 60s.
I will not wait until the fog of old age would visit her or me and dim her appreciation of her surroundings before I could share to her and to the world how grateful I am for the generous attention she poured on us. It is never wasted. As a matter of fact, I have perpetuated it in my arts and the genes I passed on the succeeding generation. I am sure that my children and their children would be like her—selfless, generous and kind too.
Nobody could recall that my father (Prof. Carlos Legaspi Tesoro) was a hero, greater even than those we read in our history books. He was unfortunately bumped off by his contemporaries but not in the deepest bin of history, at least not as long as my notes on history is concerned.
During World War II, there were numerous accounts of heroism. Soldiers fought mightily hard, statesmen fought using their position of influence, guerillas fought on the sidelines, martyrs fought with their faith, so on and so forth. All of them became heroes, were feted, recognized and even lionized for a while. They all went out of their way to keep enemies at bay and while some survived to live another day, others perished.
My father was not a soldier during World War II. He was not conscripted too in the guerilla movement. He was neither a martyr nor anyone pretending to fight the enemy. He was a lowly acolyte in a provincial church then. He was in charge of keeping the convent which at that time the Japanese Imperial Army held court.
He tried to learn the language of the occupant and sooner became conversant. In just a few months, my father could already discuss military science and philosophy in Nipponggo and could even write in Jap characters to the amazement of his foreign visitors. The occupant armed forces were impressed with the youthful chapel helper. In time, he became even a consultant for social affairs, explaining tradition and customs of the townsfolks.
One day, hundreds of local citizens (in San Pedro, Laguna) were huddled inside the church, all of them arrested as a matter of fact, and were about to be sentenced to the firing squad on suspicion that they were cooperating with the insurgents. It was then that my father appeared before the Japanese tribunal to appeal the case of the condemned. Eloquently delivered, my father championed the cause and innocence of the people. That very day, hundreds and truckloads of people saw freedom. If that is not heroism then I don’t know what it is.
These were the people who populated an entire town and whose descendants are now prosperously living. They may no longer remember what happened to their ancestors. They never knew that the courage of one man made an entire town a living proof of diplomacy. They merely inherited their elders’ industry and assets, their accumulated properties and trade. The descendants are no longer keen on their past because it was nearly traumatic and must be forgotten. But had my father merely kept his silence, the place could have been a ghost town by now and for a long time.
The invading army could have easily wiped out not only a town but an entire province. The armed invaders however never resorted to massacre anymore but had grown relatively attached to the community. They left after the war, brotherly and socially attached to the town as if it was their birth place. Thereafter, my father went back home and continued with his studies.
My father, during his internship in the enemy’s camp, taught the fierce invading army the value of peace and understanding through his acts of friendship and cooperation. He interceded in their requirements, organized their social interactions, and evaded trouble in every form. He was virtually a church in the absence of any religious superior. He showed faith to a fierce and battle ready alien armed forces.
My father knew peace more profoundly than those who professed power and supremacy. He had a greater appreciation of amity and harmony more than those who projected then to have an understanding of concord and unity. He exuded spirituality at a time when faith was hidden and tucked inside the armory. Yet his pronouncements were louder than bombs and explosives.
That day my father saved hundreds of people is to my estimation a fitting legacy to call as Father’s Day.
Retirement gives a person a new perspective of things to come. First, he has done away with or has graduated from his routine—getting up early, catching the morning traffic, hobnobbing with officemates, accomplishing monotonous paper works, rushing home and then splaying on the bed. He is now greeted with stress free surroundings and pampered with high cholesterol foods. No more politics and the good times that go with it. In my case, I virtually sit all day reading books in my library and if my eyes ache, I do some sketches. To a large extent, this is also a formula for physical disaster like high blood or cardiac arrest. Too much rest might build up fat on the heart and may even damage internal organs if it develops into diabetes.
And since I have no more pressure from work, smoking becomes irrelevant. I kicked away the habit as soon as I vowed out from employment. And this time around, I might move towards a vegan lifestyle. No more eggs, meats, chicken and even fish! It would be a pure vegetarian or plant-based diet for me. And why not? I am no longer physical whenever I move around unlike before when I must exert effort and embrace martial art as part of my official exposure in the prison community. Now, I only have books and tech gadgets to move around. I do not need foods rich in protein anymore. If at all I would maintain such mouth watering items, it might only poison my body since I would not be able to burn it. The same is true with other highly nutritious processed foods. I would only make my body a warehouse of toxicity.
I have seen people, mostly those within my age group, in various places I have been to, looking like a wreck because of failure to adapt. Man has survived and never for once become a candidate for extinction because of adaptation. In a simple way, I have to reckon this basic human formula too.
I have not experienced any pain yet from my joints and other parts of my body, except for occasional cramps. My complexion and posture are still youthful. But this could change in a few summers. The type of food ingested has something to do with one’s health, looks and physical condition. I do not intend to short cut how I should look a hundred years from now. I do not wish to encounter pain or anything that would surprise me later like high blood, diabetes, paralysis or dementia. As the saying goes, health is achieved through education and practice. I have read a lot of studies that point out to the fact that vegan diet is the way to a “heart attack less lifestyle.” It might as well be the key towards strengthening the brain against any age related ailments like Alzheimer too.
Now, how is that phase for a change where a person must have to undergo another routine if only to make a period worthy of passing through? For sure, that person would experience a reversal of character. It is akin to death. The neighborhood may be a little sentimental and would miss the person but sooner, say after a week, he is completely forgotten. But of course, it is not the end yet because the person can still yank out comments and share gossips. He can do it with less authority though. He was no longer the person he used to be. He has become ordinary, a regular guy, a commoner.
In my case, I stopped smoking like a mafia boss after four decades. I have become a figure of an old man by the sea. And eventually I stopped my love affair with processed culinary regimen and luxurious, high protein foods too, enjoyed by the rich and famous to become a vegetarian.
Truly, I would look very different through another phase and with another face.