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The Salt of the Earth remains Salty

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I was in the folk bar My Brother's Moustache in QC last Saturday to celebrate the birthday of my girlfriend's brother. What started to be a simple celebration turned out to be a night of poetry, a celebration of nationalism, a glimpse of the wisdom from music-makers of 27 years and lots of drinking in between.

There is no better way to say it: We were with the legends of folk Lolita Carbon and Pendong Aban, collectively known as the duo (formerly trio) Asin celebrating a Saturday that would turn out to be what I can call the best performance of any artist I know today.

I had to say: Yes. This is how music is supposed to make me feel.
It all started gloomy at first. Only four tables were there to witness the crisp yet sultry voice of Lolita Carbon. "Mahaba-habang gabi ito, twenty songs to go..." one man from a table across us had to say, much to the laughter of Asin.

What followed was a series of poetic lines conjuring up a sense of nationalistic nostalgia for such chilling music of the classic Pinoy '70's Movement



Lolita is not without her humor, as she kept to the composure of professional musicians in entertaining the crowd. "Sino nanalo game 1 ng Spurs-Detroit?" I, being a fan of the Spurs myself, while my girlfriend that of Detroit had to blurt out..."Oh! Spurs", which prompted Lolita to scream in delight saying she's for the Spurs! We connected from thereon as she dedicates the next songs for us, apparently the "youngest" table of those present.

They opened with the environmental protest classic, "Masdan", and what followed was a series of poetic lines conjuring up a sense of nationalistic nostalgia for such chilling music of the classic Pinoy '70's Movement with such classics as "Itanong Mo sa mga Bata", "Sayang ka", and the original "Balita", covered by the international R&B group Black Eyed Peas:

Lapit mga kaibigan at makinig kayo
Ako'y may dala-dalang balita galing sa bayan ko
Nais kong ipamahagi ang mga kwento
At mga pangyayaring nagaganap sa lupang ipinangako

Ang lupang pinanggalingan ko'y may bahid ng dugo
May mga lorong 'di makalipad na sa hawlang ginto
May mga punong walang dahon, mga pusong 'di makakibo
Sa mga pangyayaring nagaganap sa lupang ipinangako

She interjects Spurs every now and then, much to our delight... It kept the first set alive in a way. But such is only foreshadowing to the intensity of the second set.

Up to that point I am distressed by the fact that the poetry and wisdom which flowed naturally from Pendong's and Lolita's mouths will not reach so many

"ASIN's songs are like an old pair of boots: They're a little scuffed at the toes, a little worn down at the heels...but it feels right" - Eric Caruncho

hearts that night. It's a sad tale that lessons from their lyrics would be forgotten by the generations too preoccupied with apathy, mediocrity, and the empty consumerist attitude for senseless songs without soul nor meaning. I do not want to see a fading star, lose all its brightness before my eyes. And there they were...

Asin's words still remain true to this day, and seem to whisper a haunting fortune for the Filipino. How can the problem of the seventies, 30 years after remain the same? The song, "Magnanakaw" still ricochets:

Ang magnanakaw ay mapagsamantala
Magaling magkunwari, madaling makilala
Balat-kayong ginagamit kahit hindi sa pirata
Magnanakaw pa rin ang nakikita sa kanya

May nagnanakaw ng oras, talino at pawis
Pati ang galing kung minsa'y ninanakaw rin
Ano kaya ang dapat gawin ngayong alam na natin
Dahil na rin ba sa katamaran, hahayaan na lang ba natin


I had to say: Yes. This is how music is supposed to make me feel.

Much later in the night however, the place became more packed as four other tables were filled by close to twenty people. That seemed to have awakened Lolita and Pendong to their usual fire. Twenty-seven years of music-making, six albums and a whole nation insulted by never learning from the wisdom of their lyrics prompted Pendong to say, "May rumor ... magulo na naman ang bayan natin..."

Are we doomed by repeating the same history? It could almost make me cry hearing him sing, "Nag-people power one, Nag-people power two... kahit mag three, four, five walang mangyayari kung di ka natututo..."

From the tragedy of struggles and strife in "Tuldok" I heard the absurdity of it all:

Ang tuldok ay may salaysay at may kahulugan
Na dapat mapansin at maintindihan
Kahit sino ka man ay dapat malaman
Na dito sa mundo ikaw ay tuldok lang
...
Tingnan mong mabuti ang 'sang katauhan
Maraming nag-aaway, tuldok lang ang dahilan
Sa aking nakita, ako'y natawa lang
'Pagkat ang nangyayari'y malaking kahibangan

While in "Ang Bayan kong Sinilangan" more popularly known as "Cotabato" to the classic diasporic tale of "Pagbabalik" which most people remember as 'Bayan ko', I found myself humming along:

Bayan ko, nahan ka
Ako ngayo'y nag-iisa
Nais kong magbalik
Sa iyo, bayan ko

Patawarin mo ako
Kung ako'y nagkamali
Sa landas na aking tinahak

Asin was there to sing a key of politics, ring a note of our age, and a strike a chord in the Filipino heart. Formed in the 70s, this band was originally to be named "Salt of the Earth" - later Filipinized to "Asin." Ginnie Faustino-Galgana reviews their 2001 Reunion Album:

Lolita Carbon's voice has not lost it's crisp, sultry touch. As she whispers her lines in the ballads and belts out the verses in the rest, one is encouraged to join in with the melody of Pendong counterpoint to Lolita.* While Eric Caruncho says: ASIN's songs are like an old pair of boots: They're a little scuffed at the toes, a little worn down at the heels, a little cracked and creased from the mileage. But once you put them on, you remember all the places they've taken you, and you're ready to resume the journey. They just feel right.

Asin was there to sing a key of politics, ring a note of our age, and a strike a chord in the Filipino heart.

The evening ended with resounding applause and with a beso from lolita herself to me, my girlfriend and her brother. "Spurs ako, game two." she says. Her signature stilled rocked my ears. I had to say: Yes. This is how music is supposed to make me feel.

I just had to say, "While I know it has been said many times, and in many ways, I think you deserve to know that someone from the third generation is listening to

I shook her hand firmly, thanking her a lifetime of meaningful music.

your songs. You deserve to be congratulated by your poetry, and more for the social relevance in your cause. Every word still rings true. And I'd like you to know somebody heard you." I shook her hand firmly, thanking her a lifetime of meaningful music. She would be 46 now, far form the 19 year old that started it all.

I know nothing pays an artist better than knowing somebody is listening. Lolita Carbon and Pendong Aban refused to be fading stars, until the lessons of history is learned.

Lolita Carbon herself said it very well that night: "Oh, 'di ba ang Asin maalat pa rin!" How true, the salt of the earth remains salty. But what of the Filipino? Will we remain having ears but hearing nothing?

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posted by Jdavies @ 6/12/2005,

10 Comments:

At 6/12/2005 05:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moments after I got home, I suddenly couldn't stand that my brother got for himself an Asin shirt, and I didn't. Hahahaha! Thank goodness the place started to fill up as the night progressed. Remember how bad I felt when I too noticed that the people who were watching (aside from us three) were either friends or family? Guess that's why it was as if they were glued to the stage when people started coming in :) It was a great night ;) mwah! glad to have spent it with my two favorite guys ;) 

Posted by Andrea

 
At 6/12/2005 06:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same here... and i had a great time, too.

They deserve to be heard more. They were really great on stage! But how many people have heard their laments and acted on it? People can hum along for all we know without doing anything positive or life-changing after the show... 

Posted by jdavies

 
At 6/13/2005 11:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kaka-inggit naman Jardine! Did you know that they are playing that night?

I love the poetry of their lyrics, the haunting melodies and Lolita's sultry cool voice. I just wish I was there. She was right - may alat pa rin ang Asin! 

Posted by celiaK

 
At 6/14/2005 05:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maalat pa rin talaga ang asin! last year nag-organize ako ng special show doon sa resto bar ng boss ko para ASIN. grabe, umapaw yung tao. syempre nagpalitrato ako kasama si Lolita :)

 

Posted by Apol

 
At 6/14/2005 06:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Celia/Apol: Maalat pa talaga ! Lalo na ngayon... damang-dama pa rin! 

Posted by jdavies

 
At 6/14/2005 09:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great performances naman nowadays are usually those of groups from way back. ngayon kasi puro image lang na binubuo ng talent centers e. wala nang genuine filipino performers ngayon. right? but i love mishka adams. hehe. 

Posted by brian

 
At 7/16/2005 12:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

Once in a great while I would check websites and blogs and came across this wonderful, well-written article/blog on ASIN. There is definitely a lot of truth behind everything that was said. I don't see the name of the writer of the article, but whoever you are, bro, thank you. Thank you for expressing it so eloquently.

Reading your article made me feel homesick. Pendong happens to be my brother-in-law. His wife Chat, Asin's manager, is my sis. I got to see them perform again last year when I went home for a visit. They still have it. From my (un)biased opinion, they're the most fun group to watch. Their musicality, their stage presence, their songs - they're just right. I wish there were more groups like them, skillful and real. What you see is what you get, no pretentions.

On behalf of Pendong, Lolit, Chat, and the band, thank you for supporting Asin through all these years. Take care.

Roy Coloma
Sacramento, California 

Posted by Roy

 
At 8/05/2005 03:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello guys;

All y life i wanted to hear Asin (sadly only 2 people left now) play live music. Their haunting lyrics, enchanting voices makes me realized that Filipinos are musical genius in a way.

Thank you for this article, I hope one day I could visit MAnila, and hear them play live..

Helen A
Toronto, Ontario Canada
 

Posted by helen a.

 
At 9/24/2005 03:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello everyone!

maraming salamat po sa inyong suporta sa ASIN.

helen, i have good news for you. we are presently here in Toronto at nag-start na po ang Canada tour ng ASIN last sept 17th. here is our schedule just in case you want to come and visit us.

ASIN Canada TOUR 2005:

Sept 17 (Sat) ? Scarborough (Toronto), Ontario (Bayanihan Banquet Hall ? 20 Principal Road) - SML

Sept 18 (Sun) ? Scarborough (Toronto), Ontario (Rembrandt Banquet Hall-930 Progress Avenue) - LRG

Sept 23 (Fri) ? Scarborough (Toronto), Ontario (Bayanihan Banquet Hall ? 20 Principal Road) - SML

Sept 29 (Thu) ? Scarborough (Toronto), Ontario (Bayanihan Banquet Hall ? 20 Principal Road) - SML

Oct 2 (Sun) ? Montreal, Quebec (Theatre National?1220 Sainte Catherine East) - LRG

Oct 7 (Fri) ? Toronto, Ontario (Cusina Bar & Restaurant-288A Wilson Ave.) - SML

Oct 8 (Sat) ? Niagara, Ontario (Ramada Suite Hotels-7389 Lundy?s Lane)- MED

Oct 10 (Mon) ? Toronto, Ontario (Pimienta Restaurant-18 Wynford Drive) - SML

Oct 22 (Sat) ? Edmonton, Alberta (venue to be announced) - LRG

Oct 23 (Sun) - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (venue to be announced) - SPCL

Oct 29 (Sat) - Calgary, Alberta (venue to be announced) - LRG

Oct 30 (Sun) - Winnipeg, Manitoba (venue to be announced) - SPCL

Nov 05 (Sat) ? Toronto, Ontario (Caesar?s Timog Restaurant-8044 Dixie Road, Brampton) - SML

Nov 11 (Fri) ? Toronto, Ontario (Cusina Bar & Restaurant-288A Wilson Ave.) - SML

Nov 13 (Sun) ? Windsor, Ontario (St. Thomas of Villanova Audi- 2800 North Townline, La Salle) - LRG

Nov 19 (Sat) ? BIG FAREWELL CONCERT IN TORONTO (venue to be announced) - LRG

Nov 26 (Sat) ? Vancouver, British Columbia (venue to be announced) - LRG

do invite all your friends and relatives at siguradong masayang reunion po ito. teary-eyed po ang mga Pinoy na nanood last weekend at Bayanihan and Rembrandt Banquet Hall here in Scarborough. hope you can join us in our upcoming farewell concert on November 19th at the Canada Christian College.

do email us at a-sinpilipinas@yahoo.com.ph or call B&B Promotions at 416-286-7469 should you want to get in touch with us.

thank you again and regards from Lolita and Pendong.

maalat pa rin,

toinette
ASIN Production Manager 

Posted by Toinette

 
At 11/19/2005 12:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a wonderful feelings to sing with ASIN.Thank you so much LOLITA & PENDONG. I hope to see you again here in WINNIPEG! I will never ever forget that night. You guys made me happy before my birthday.  

Posted by Jun Onio

 

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The Author

J.Davies

Jdavies lives in Quezon City, Philippines and has been blogging since 2002. A brand manager in a leading technology company and a freelance new media/web strategy consultant, he has refocused his blogging from personal, political & sociological observations, to marketing-related efforts and Internet trends that are relevant to his career and branding advocacies.


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This blog is a depot of thoughts and observations on marketing trends which remain personally relevant to the Author as far as his marketing career is concerned. Having evolved from the personal blog of Jdavies, much of the earlier work contained herein are laced with personal speculation, political views, and similar advocacies. These posts are being kept for posterity's sake and for no other reason. No effort is being made to claim that the author will not contradict himself from his previous positions or that such advocacies are absolute.

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