TEXT & PHOTOS BY MIDGE K. MANLAPIG
It is 2:00 AM on a March morning and my father is driving me from southern suburbia to a radio station in Mandaluyong. I send a text: Hey, Genius. I’m on the road; see you in a bit. He texts back: Got it. On my way, too. See you! ☺
“Genius” is my pet name for Clem, someone whom I’d written off a very long time ago. But that’s all in the past now: we’re friends. We back up each other’s creative endeavors. We annoy each other from time to time, but we make each other laugh. For now, that is all that matters.
And, of course, the music. The music is what has the two of us rushing to a radio station long before the crack of dawn. Clem is promoting his latest album, The World is Your Oyster; it’s his first salvo as a solo act which happens to also commemorate his 10th year in the music industry. It’s an eclectic piece of work: ten soul-stirring tunes about life, love, and death sung in his lilting, melodious tenor. And the sensitivity inherent in the music is one of the things that sets him apart from most of his contemporaries here in the Philippines. That, his particular joie de vivre, and a particular quirkiness to his personality, to be exact.
My role in this particular case is that of a public relations specialist—or, as we say between ourselves, a PR witch—to help promote artist, album, and music. Hence the round of texts, mobile calls, and Facebook messages to friends in the media who could be of assistance. As it happens, the first person to wave back in our direction is a high school friend who does an early (damned early) morning show on the radio. And away we go…!
But, first: let us backtrack a little...
The year is 2009 and I am minding my own business at my computer, trying to write but not getting anything done. Then a message pops into view with a link to what turns out to be a music video for a song called Clinically Dead for Sixteen Hours. The message is from Clem whom I have not spoken to since I graduated in 1997.
“Give it a listen,” he says. “It’s the new single.”
Last I heard, he was in a band called Orange and Lemons—a bunch of guys from Baliwag, Bulacan, whom critics claimed was the Philippines’ answer to the Beatles or, at the very least, the Smiths. But I heard rumors—some good, many bad—that he’d left the band. I would not know until much later that his own band had fired him out—something that would have lasting repercussions on everyone involved. For now, though, Clem was in a band called The Camerawalls; this time, he was the front man.
I raised an eyebrow as I recall, remembering a much younger Clem Castro on an October evening when we were still in school. We were pulling an overnight planning session with other student leaders. Clem had a guitar and was strumming along as the rest of the kids sang one popular song after another. Then, when most people’s voices had given out, he began to sing a Beatles classic on his own, his voice a soft, somewhat compelling tenor.
Who knows how long I’ve loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime?
If you want me to, I will.
And I remember sitting on the Paseo steps, staring up into the starry sky overhead, and wondering if this skinny, pallid boy with such an angelic voice was singing for me—and me alone. Of course, he wasn’t; but I was young—we were both very young—and I dare say that was where our friendship pretty much went downhill.
But that was all in the past. I remember clicking the link, feeling rather disinterested as the video began to play. The Clem in the video didn’t look too far changed from the boy I’d known in school: still skinny, still pale as a sheet; only the hairstyle had changed. But the music, that voice, as it began to play….
My heart is a terrible failing
I am just beginning to fathom
Love's difficult concept
Swift beats are bending my mindset
I blinked. It told the story of someone who was under the knife and was considered dead for quite a long while. It was a lyrical near-death experience with a rather pointed moral to it: That we don’t realize what we have till we lose them.
I found myself shooting off a reply: Brilliant song there, mate. Kudos to you!
Back to the present....
It’s only gone past 3:30 AM, but Clem is in full-fig as he sings a song from his album:
I don’t know the right words to say
To breathe this wanting
Give up these things that weigh me down, I fly
So I’ll play the drums instead
And beat a path to your door....
There is No Remaining in Place is the title of the song. The title alone conveys a message that everything changes and nothing stays the same. Not childish quarrels. Not bouts of depression. Not even losing everything.
And I find myself swaying a little as my friend sings, a little lost in memory and a little lost in the melody. I catch his eye: he smiles and I smile back.
A little while later, in the back of a cab hurtling off to my office in the Global City, we talk about things past, present, and future. Some things have changed for the both of us—many things have changed for the both of us.
But we have our friendship back. We’re working together on a project. Once more, we’re on the same team.
For now, that’s enough for the both of us.
Notes: Midge K. Manlapig is an advertising professional and public relations specialist from the Philippines. Her kitchen exploits are online via her blog Midge in the Kitchen at http://sybdive.wordpress.com. She is currently working on her first novel. Her friend Clem Castro (AKA Clementine/Dragonfly Collector) is a multi-awarded singer-songwriter also based in the Philippines. He released his solo debut album, The World is Your Oyster, online via iTunes and Spotify. Check out his music at http://dragonflycollector.com.