Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an entry about a tribute-benefit concert for Susan Fernandez.  And now, 365 days after that night of real music, the renowned Nightingale of the Philippine Left succumbed to ovarian cancer at the Medical City in Pasig.

I really don’t know her personally. All I know is that her songs, especially the Metro Pop award-winning song “Babae Ka”, contributed alot to the consciousness of the Filipino people during the so-called glory days of the Philippine progressive movement.

For more information about Susan, check http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/entertainment/07/02/09/singer-susan-fernandez-dies or simply Google her name.

Months ago, I was about to write a blog entry for Francis Magalona to encourage readers to support his fight against leukemia. But as I research about him, I stumbled upon his request that his battle not be made too public and his family’s privacy be respected. So I decided not to proceed then.

Until the time to write a tribute came. Francism once wrote on his blog that, “I guess if we just loved our country so much we would be willing to die for it. I would. But a dead me is a useless me. I am more useful alive…”. I beg to disagree though. I believe that any dead person who lived a life relevant to society serves as an inspiration for everyone to be just like him. And the Master Rapper is one of those.

Arguably, Francism’s musical career boom started when he popularized rap music in the Philippines through the nationalistic tune of “Mga Kababayan” in 1990. This moralist approach, a broader definition of nationalism, to Philippine society fits my generation well that time. I was in grade school then. His songs, album after album, became more mature as he ventures into other social approaches; from Ito ang Gusto Ko’s direct action to Nilamon ng Sistema’s social realism.

And then high school days came, Francism is still there. And he is one of those who never succumbed to the artificial war of hiphop and metal. I know a lot of the former teenagers of that time knows what I’m talking about. Despite being in such a situation, the Man from Manila dared to unite the music of the two factions. He set-up the Psychedelic Posse for the hip-hop kids and the Kannabiz Band (I don’t know if this was eventually the Hardware Syndrome during the mid-90’s) for the children of metal. His wife Pia’s Evil Step-Sisters, then, added the soul flavor to his music.

It is with his daring and no non-sense attitude that Francism gained the respect of Filipino musicians from Masta Plann to The Dawn, from APO Hiking Society to Joey de Leon. No wonder that, time and again, he was being invited by a lot of artists to be a guest on their albums and shows. The Eraserhead-song Superproxy is one of the most famous of these.

Even after the Eraserheads’ break-up in 2002, the Master Rapper remained true to his unifying ideals. He resisted the temptation of taking sides and continued to collaborate with each of the Philippine Fab Four individually.

And when Ely Buendia had a heart attack in 2007, he is the first celebrity to publicly raise the call of Eraserhead unity. His now-popular blog entry is supposedly the opening sentence of my blog when I learned of his leukemia and this is how it goes:

“Fast forward to right now, 9:58 am, Jan. 9, a lot of what if’s scenarios pop in my head. What if the E-heads members are back, like long-lost blood brothers? What if ‘the most significant OPM band of Pinoy Rock’ would be in one room, what would happen?… Para sa akin panahon na para mag-reunite ang E-heads. Sugod na mga kapatid…rock & roll na hanggang umaga.” 

One of the most difficult things to measure is how anyone influenced society. We really don’t know if Francism’s earlier patriotic tunes influenced the massive mobilizations against the US Bases that led to its ejection in September 1991. We really don’t know how his blog entry made the Eraserheads’ forget about their differences and give reunification a chance. Well, there are no meters nor celsius for influence measurement.

Surely though, we have someone to thank for the influential music he gave us.

Francis M is dead. Long live Francis M!

The album cover of Circus, Eraserheads’ second album, said, “It is the trip not the destination.” Now, after the concert, albeit cut short, of the Philippines’ Fab Four, I must say, “It is the crowd, not the performers.”

Way before the organizers finalized the details of the concert, not a few people heard me rave that I will never miss that concert and the reason is not really because I idolize the Eraserheads but because I deem them as an influence not just to me but to my generation; the MTV Generation.

I won’t dwell on the reunion concert being cut short due to Ely’s alleged heart attack nor on the apparent commercialization of the event. My verbal rants about the organizers’ seeming conclusion that the happy-go-luckies of that generation have turned into 5-digit in 15 days-yuppies are enough.

I was there, of course,  to enjoy Eraserheads’ music. But more than that, I want to enjoy it with a crowd that I grew up with and, I should say, got high with. This is an audience that does not need growl music (with apologies to Slapshock’s fans) to scream. This is a generation appreciative of the simple honesties (and lies) of daily life as Eraserheads’ songs’ lyrics reflect.

The sad part though is that I failed to see close friends from high school. There are a lot of possibilities why I did not see them. First, it is hard to find a few specific faces in a 60,000-strong crowd. Second, most of us never saw each other for a decade or so and their faces could be really different by now. Another possible reason is that they are either too busy or too broke to watch the concert. Possibilities are infinite why I never saw my high school buddies.

Still, as I expected, I found a lot of friends there. Good thing that I decided to go there alone to prevent me from being bonded to a single group. One of the firsts I saw is my boss heating his ass on the Global City grounds. It is the first time I saw him in such a light, in a MTV Generation-kind of way. I also got to meet old faces from PLM, UP Diliman and UP Manila including Rhia Diomampo, my first Editor-in-Chief in AP before. Some others like former UP Student Regent Terry Ridon simply sent a text message asking if I too was there. They are singing their hearts out as well.

Thanks to Buddy Zabala, Marcus Adoro, Raymond Marasigan and Ely Buendia for reuniting this crowd. I’m still thinking if there are other ways (an instant pancit canton-eating contest?) to reassemble this generation . It seems that other bands are either too political (Yano), too heavy (Wolfgang) or too deep (Rivermaya–the original line-up) to really gather that audience again. 

And, of course, thanks a lot Eraserheads for including Shake yer Head in your first set. Eventhough it seems that some members of the crowd, I assume those from other generations, do not know the song.

I never thought that a hundred and fifty pesos will give me the thrill and entertainment I got Thursday night. I almost forgot it though it is noted in my email inbox but the good thing is that Nica, a friend who is also a former full-timer, asked me if I will be able to go to the gathering at My Brother’s Mustache along Scout Tuason near Tomas Morato. It was a tribute concert for Susan Fernandez, the Nightingale of the Philippine Left who is under medication for a certain type of cancer.

The event was aptly described by Director Joel Saracho, one of the night’s hosts, as a reunion of sorts. I can’t imagine an activity that will make both Judy Taguiwalo and Etta Rosales attend with sincerity. The former is a Maoist who accuses the other as a reformist while the latter is a Social Democrat who labels the other as an extremist. But that night’s cause summoned them in a venue smaller than the lobby of UP’s Palma Hall.

As I said, that mini-concert is amazing. The names may not be pop but are certainly musical gods and goddesses. Mike Villegas and Noli Aurelio are such guitar monsters. Lolita Carbon, Noel Cabangon, Joey Ayala and Gary Granada are timeless singer-composers of progressive music.

Chikoy Pura of The Jerks was there as well as Lourd de Veyra of Radioactive Sago Project. Jazz artist Mon David’s daughter and son were there to sing and play as their father is out of the country. Poet Pete Lacaba was there. Dodong Nemenzo. Jess Santiago. Bayang Barrios. Cookie Chua. Even someone as pop as Bituin Escalante graced the event. Add to that the sarcasm and antics of Joel Saracho and Bagong Dugo.

And without a nil of compensation, none gave a mediocre performance. Nobody left the place unsatisfied and nearly all of us even think that that gathering is more than ten-folds the 150 we cashed-in.