Tuesday, July 27, 2004

firing squad

photographers aim and shoot at an anti-war mobilization near the US Embassy in Manila. 21 May 2004. photo by sep Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Love and Beauty in the time of Decay

juan isip Posted by Hello

“Urbane”. I was searching for a word to describe the poetry and music of Bobby Balingit in Juan Isip. I encountered that term in a Billy Bragg CD called Back to Basics. Bragg’s music was called “urbane folk music”, whatever that means. So I looked it up. Urbane is an adjective for sophisticated, classy, refined. Whoever came up with that word must have lived at a time when urban still equated to sophistication and class; to confidence and certainty. The word must have been coined at a time when cities and the “metropolis” were the exclusive enclaves of the chic and off-limits to primitives. But was there ever such a time?

There have always been rats in the rat hole called Metro Manila , I thought. There has always been Cubao and its shiny black, slimy streets after the rain; with its young warriors throwing fluorescent bulbs like modern day spears; with all the sights and smells of decay. There has always been Quiapo with its pick pockets, fortune tellers and its fatalism. And movies like City after Dark and Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag. For me, the urban has always been about crowded, dirty and mean streets and the constant struggle for survival.

bobby balingit with the idiots. 10 July 2004. welcome rotonda. photo by sep Posted by Hello

And that’s exactly the urban landscape that Bobby Balingit and his gang paint in Juan Isip. The album is a storybook filled with musings of street kids and dreams of prostitutes-the princes and princesses of the streets. Juan Isip is like an ice-pick through the heart- a visual, verbal, aural assault on the senses. When Bobby sings "Makitid na silid/ at ilaw na bombilya/ kamang kutson na nangangamoy" in Saranggola sa Gabi it's as if you're actually there in that dilapidated, god forsaken room. You're a voyuer close enough to smell the sheets. The songs of Juan Isip are more than an introduction to the characters of urban Manila, they invite us to look at the world and search for hope and redemption through their weary and jaded eyes.

Juan Isip is no more urban than say Jess Santiago’s Obando rural. Bobby Balingit and Jess Santiago are landscape artists and both these albums are their modern masterpieces. Both convey our stories. Alternately whispering and screaming about hope, angst, beauty, truth,and love.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Stop the Killings! Little girl joins vigil for Angelo dela Cruz. Welcome Rotonda. 10 July 2004. Photo by sep. Posted by Hello

Friday, July 09, 2004

tambay kasama si tata gil at si koyang.June 2004. UP theatre. Photo by Jess Aznar Posted by Hello

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Mang Rudy and Leonard. Howl Session at PRRM. January 2002. Photo by sep Posted by Hello

Holy, holy, holy Mang Rudy
At ang mga musikerong namamahagi ng mga kanta sa kalye

Holy ang mga kundimang inipon at binaon mula Visayas at Mindanao
Holy ang mga kwento ni manang ng mga paboritong awitin sa mga amateur contests sa probinsya

Holy ang pagiibigan at alalayan ng dalawang kaluluwang ligaw sa maingay at magulong lansangan ng kyusi; Naririnig ko si Tom Waits at ang kanyang BLIND LOVE habang nakikita ko kayong papalapit; hinahawi ng inyong mga ngiti ang nakakabulag na usok ng barbecue sa carliz

The only way to find you, is if I close my eyes/ and find you with my blind love/ Must be blind Love/Only kind of love is stone blind love

Holy, holy, holy si Manang at si Mang Rudy
Long time no see.

(pasintabi kay G. Allen Ginsberg+)

shoe shine at goregaon east train station

Mumbai. January 2004. Photo by sep Posted by Hello

This photograph was taken on a dusty afternoon at Goregaon East train station in Mumbai, India. The trains(as everything else in Mumbai)move at a crazy pace and during rush hour are bursting with people. So this scene of a man nonchalantly having a shoe shine right at the station is like the calm before the storm.

Monday, July 05, 2004

My old friend Steve

I got hold of Steve Earle’s Transcendental Blues album a couple of months ago and it has been spinning oh so constantly in my cd player. If I were to compile a cd about my own struggle to transcend, two of Mr. Earle’s songs would surely be included- transcendental blues and the classic My old friend the blues. These two songs written almost 15 years apart (My old friend.. from 1986 album Guitar Town and transcendental blues in 2000) express so plainly and yet so eloquently the pain of lost love and yet almost in the same breath the soothing and liberating power of music over the pain. Thanks to steve earle’s blues I know its just a matter of time before I get my guitar and my harmonicas packing and hit the road to transcendence. Rock on!

transcendental blues

Steve Earle's Transcendental Blues Posted by Hello

I have spent most of my life (like most people) avoiding transcendence at all costs, mainly because the shit hurts, Merely defining transcendence can sometimes be painful. I once heard that "Transendence is the act of going through something". Ouch. I see plate glass windows and divorces. Someone else told me that it was "rising above whatever one encountered in one's path" but at this point in my life that smacks of avoidance as well as elitism of some sort. I am compelled to look back on years of going through, above, as well as around my life looking for loopholes to redefine everything including any and all of the ideas that I have held close to my heart along the way-Art-Freedom-Justice-Revolution-Love (a big one)-Growth-Passion-Parenting (a really big one)- and I find that for me, for now, transcendence is about being still enougn long enough to know when it's time to move on. Fuck me

Steve Earle
January 2000