Posting the final draft of the article I submitted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2013. This was eventually edited to meet the 5,000 character cap assigned to me. Hence, this was not published in its entirety.
JINGLE LANG ANG PAHINA: THE DOCU FILM AS CREATIVE REPETITION
By Von Katindoy
“What is the point of revisiting the past?,” my philosophy teacher once challenged us in class. “Why not just live in the present and project oneself into the future? Or even better, why not just eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will all die?” Dead silence. After a few moments of holding us in suspense, he gave away the answer: because by repeating and revisiting something, one inevitably stumbles onto something absolutely new and totally unique that most likely escaped your attention earlier. My philosophy teacher called this creative repetition. It’s actually more intriguing in Filipino: mapaglikhang pag-uulit. Never mind that I learned about the concept 20 years ago. It was all that I could think of after my wife and I caught the screening of an indie movie entitled “Jingle Lang ang Pahina” at the Conspiracy Bar and Garden Café a couple of weeks ago.
BORN AND RAISED ON JINGLE
“Jingle,” of course, was the name of the now-defunct music magazine which accompanied many a Filipino adolescent’s growing up years from the 70s to the late 80s. Established by Gilbert Guillermo shortly before Martial Law, Jingle Music Magazine literally gave me my first guitar as it was my growing Jingle collection that gave me the courage to ask my late father to get my brother and me Lumanog guitars from Guagua despite his meagre government pay. This was shortly after I “mastered” what is now considered to be the easiest acoustic song to learn on guitar, “Horse with No Name” by then acoustic folk rock trio America. For those who are unfamiliar, it only has 2 chords: Em7 and DM7. Don’t forget the 7 as the men and women of Jingle took great pains to design an all-in one reference of the entire gamut of guitar chords and its various permutations making it the literal centrefold of each of the issues of the magazine. It’s a precedent that other music publications would follow in the post-Jingle era of music magazines.
Thanks to Jingle, I would later discover that there was more to acoustic folk rock than America: James Taylor, Jim Croce, Simon and Garfunkel, Carly Simon, Bread, CSN, Neil Young, Don Mclean, Linda Ronstadt, and the Eagles were just a few of the acts whose songs I would learn to play on guitar growing up. Jingle was there to refer to when the mood strikes you to furiously strum the opening riff of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” or pluck the melancholic intro to “Aubrey” on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Eventually, I graduated to Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears and Toto and then off to Sting, U2, Simple Minds and the 80s version of Jackson Browne, all under the careful tutelage seamlessly provided by Jingle. Lest I forget, alongside these foreign acts, Jingle also chronicled in even greater and colorful detail the glorious history of OPM from the Juan Dela Cruz Band to Asin, from Gary Granada to Joey Ayala, from the Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society to the Dawn, from Jose Mari Chan to Gary V, from the underground to the mainstream. Thanks to Jingle, I eventually learned how to decently pluck the opening strains to Asin’s “Balita” and “Himig ng Pag-ibig.” Whether you wanted the most accurate OPM chords and lyrics, the latest review of a rock concert which also doubled at times, as interviews or proper reviews of the latest OPM albums out in the market, Jingle was there to provide all-out support for OPM even as it continued to cover the American and British rock scenes.
Jingle also set me off on a life-long record collecting adventure which started when I was 12 years, and which continues to this day. From vinyl to cassettes to CDs and who knows, perhaps, had it continued on, maybe until the vinyl resurgence that we are currently witnessing. I suppose I should blame it on their well-written album reviews which relied heavily on a creative 5-point rating scale ranging from the dreaded “bangaw” (i.e., poor album meant for loyalists with masochistic tendencies) to the ethereal angel icon (i.e., classic album representing sonic nirvana and is therefore, a must-have recording.) I was so impressed by a number of these reviews that I clipped them. A number of them even became my inspiration to complete the catalog of Jackson Browne, Sting, Jennifer Warnes, and Suzanne Vega, to name a few.
In between mastering the opening chords to “Hotel California” or “King of Pain” and dissecting the album reviews penned by music reviewers par excellence Juaniyo Arcellana and Bernie Bagaman, I would find myself plotting the first baby steps towards becoming a DJ or aspiring to start my own band with no regard for available resources or hunting down a much sought-after to-die-for album on vinyl. None of the three ever happened, by the way, except for the last one, albeit belatedly. Thanks to the wide array of articles that appeared on its pages, Jingle made you transcend your mundane circumstances and dream of alternative realities without the aid of alcohol and other artificial substances. Yes, you could say that reading Jingle was both addicting and intoxicating. Lav Diaz, the critically acclaimed indie director, who started out at Jingle has a nice term for it. “Transcendence, Pare…that’s what Jingle is about.” Jingle allowed you to escape from the confines of your present reality and travel not just across time and space but across various versions of reality a’la the parallel realities portrayed in Fringe. Whether it’s through the songs that one would play through its pages or the concert reviews penned by its resident writers, the effect was the same. No wonder Raimund Marasigan refers to Jingle then as “their internet.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.
JINGLE AND MARTIAL LAW
That there was more to Jingle than the spot-on guitar chords and fine prose writing on both OPM and foreign artists and their albums and other related pursuits was something I did not care about before. And this is where “Jingle Lang ang Pahina” comes in.
Chuck Escasa’s movie very astutely positions Jingle not just as a music publication but as a precursor of the so-called mosquito press and the alternative publications that would mushroom after Ninoy’s assassination in 1983 by virtue of its intrinsic trademark: irreverence. Without its meaning to, it was both part of the status quo and yet, by virtue of its being a purveyor of rock music both home-grown and foreign, anti status quo. Notice how in using chapter to chronicle every issue it published it effectively defied the convention of using volume number and issue number. The fact that it came at a time that Marcos was about to declare Martial Law may help explain its irreverent tendencies. Like almost everything in media and in the academe at the time, it couldn’t escape from the context of the First Quarter Storm and the student movement that made it happen. Even the Philippine Military Academy through Victor Corpus was not spared from the context of those times. Interestingly, the thread of that context which was essentially anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist cuts across the true north of rock and roll. Consequently, on September 21, 1972, Jingle was among those that were ordered shut down by the martial law implementors of Marcos “to save the republic from the threats posed by the communists and the oligarchs.” We all know the story. Marcos and his minions wove a very intricate story about the Philippines being at the tipping point of becoming a banana republic given the threats from the left and the right and how the only way it could be saved was for all opposition to a new society to disappear. “May bagong silang. May bago nang buhay…bagong bansa sa bagong lipunan,” I remember singing every school day with the rest of the student body right after the Philippine National Anthem. Thankfully, it was also one of the few that was allowed to resume publication after one of the elder Guillermos appealed to a general in Camp Crame who was considerate enough to give the publication another lease on life as there was nothing explicitly subversive about it, or so he thought. This, however, was on the condition that its publication name which in the 70s became the colloquial expression for relieving oneself, was changed to Twinkle, apparently in keeping with the provisions of the cleansing program of the New Society. Twinkle eventually paved the way for the revival of the original title of the magazine more than a year after Martial Law. When it did resume as Jingle, however, it continued to imbibe albeit subtly the elements that defined its logo: the pissing angel which was both angelic and naughty. Apparently PD 1081-compliant on the surface but every couple of pages or so, anti-establishment to the core because if you read carefully, you would chance upon a couple of anti-government sarcastic comments here or some subliminal anti-Marcos jokes there. And if you’re feeling lucky, the correct set of chords to your favourite agit prop songs used in rallies and discussion groups.
Notwithstanding these initial bumps in its early publication, Jingle would subsequently reach its sales and marketing apex during the Martial Law years. It was one of those things that simply and inevitably connected with the Filipinos across political and social divides as an alternative to the Times Journal, Daily Express and the Manila Bulletin which were all under the close watch by the military. To use today’s terms, it turned “viral” to a point that it became a lucrative business, Jingle’s Ces Rodriguez observes. Noam Chomsky, the left’s self-appointed guardian against the commercialization of media, would have approved. Chuck refers to Jingle as the bible of his generation. Although I never quite saw it like that, the fact that it was everywhere and anywhere where there were young and old people clutching a copy for reference or leisure reading be it a purchased, borrowed or stolen tends to reinforce his perception.
THREE HIGHLIGHTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO AND THEN SOME
“Jingle Lang ang Pahina” is essentially a celebration of music journalism as a dream profession. In this sense, it is a very good audio visual rejoinder to Conrad De Quiros’ “Writer Ka Lang Pala” article that appeared on the pages of the Inquirer several years ago. They may have worked in unglamourous work settings like rented houses and apartments rather than the state of the art corporate offices of high-end publications like Rolling Stone, Spin and Q. Their pay back then may not be able to rival what they are getting today as top notch writers. But they enjoyed something daily that us non-Jingle writing staff mortals could only aspire for in our wildest dreams. To wit: the opportunity to listen ahead of everybody else to the latest vinyl releases and review the same before these records hit the shelves of record stores. If you love music the way they do, you could not possibly ask for anything “heavier” than that. Astig pare! They wrote album reviews that could hold their own versus their counterparts in Rolling Stone Magazine. Reviews that would compel you to go out and buy the album either to validate the reviewer’s perception or to be able to have something to discuss and argue about with your utols or barkada. Reviews that would move readers to fire off letters to the editor putting specific writers to task for not having the wits to appreciate the beauty of a specific album. I was amused no end by pioneering Jingle writer Mike Jamir’s recollection of how he inevitably found himself in the crosshairs of Duranies at the height of the global fascination with Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran when he gave the dreaded “bangaw” rating to a Duran Duran record. I forget which one.
Jingle writers also enjoyed front row seats during live performances of up and coming as well as veteran solo artists and bands whose musical legacy continues to live on to this day. Like Cameron Crowe in the iconic “Almost Famous” film chronicling his early years as a Rolling Stone reporter, they enjoyed all-access passes which allowed them to hang out with the likes of Joey Smith and Sampaguita at the height of their popularity.
Not only did they listen and critique. They practically participated in the creative repetition of the songs that they featured on their pages. That’s because the lyrics and chords that would appear on their pages were borne of endless hours of listening to the recording either on vinyl or cassette, but mostly on vinyl per pioneering writer Mike Jamir to nail down both the lyrics and the chords on guitar. They even have a term for it: “sinipra.” All along, I thought that the lyrics and the chords featured in Jingle all came from the management of the featured artist/s. Now it can be told. They literally burned the midnight oil, so to speak, to get it right – all for the love of music and writing. Jamir though who has become an academician is just one among many writers featured here. Watch out for the chance to be able to finally put faces to the by-lines that you used to read about for decades. Juaniyo Arcellana, Inquirer editor Pennie Azarcon-Dela Cruz, artist Romy Buen, current Inquirer music writer Poch Concepcion, Emmelyn De Guzman, Manny Espinola, Jing Garcia, Tony Maghirang, Yahoo Philippines editor Ces Rodriguez, Interaksyon’s Edwin Sallan and Dinky Aguilar. They’re all here. So make a mental note to catch the next screening and be prepared to be floored by their engaging recollections of writing for Jingle and what Jingle is to them in retrospect.
There is also something here for the devout record collector especially of vinyl albums – a format which was given up for dead after the advent of the CD but which is currently enjoying an ongoing global resurgence even as CD sales continue to decline. Just in case you didn’t notice, Bamboo and Martin Nievera released 3 vinyl-only albums early last month which were all warmly welcomed by vinyl enthusiasts in the country. Interestingly, all 3 were pressed in the Czech Republic. It’s been more than two decades since an OPM title was released on vinyl. Time was when OPM vinyl albums were as numerous as their foreign counterparts found in Astroplus these days. This docu film is guaranteed to take you to that era where Jingle staff writers would compete with each other in reviewing dozens upon dozens of vinyl albums by both OPM and foreign artists. Real-life record collector and Jingle completist Allen Mercado is among those featured here and he recounts the influence that Jingle has had on his record collecting hobby against the backdrop of his endless shelves of thousands of vinyl albums complemented by close-up shots of the iconic Technics SL 1200 turntable – a must-have equipment of many analog enthusiasts worldwide especially now that it is no longer available in the market. I never got to ask Chuck if his close-up shot of the Technics was done on purpose or by accident. But being a “reborn” vinyl collector for the past 4 years now, I got a kick seeing the Technics along with the buyer-friendly albeit durable Shure M-447 taking center stage in a docu-film even if only for a few seconds.
Of course, there is no Jingle without guitars and guitarists. There are plenty of them here as well. The Juan Dela Cruz Band waxing poetic with “Pagod sa Pahinga,” Johnny Alegre crooning like a hopeless romantic by way of “In Love With You,” Chicoy Pura singing the blues with “Rage,” Gary Perez revisiting “Tao” and Eric Guillermo playing his jazz fusion original “Flow,” among others. The most familiar representations of pop, jazz and rock guitar are equally well represented here, from the classical guitar to the acoustic guitar, from the unplugged electric guitar to a live one in the middle of a band’s searing performance. They may represent different musical genres but there is one thing that binds them all – their dependence on Jingle back in the day that they were paying their dues at the start of their respective recording careers and later on, their connection to Jingle when they made it up there and had to contend with the challenge of sustaining interest in their craft and in their music. We might as well say that nearly all Pinoy rock icons who made a dent in OPM history from the 70s to the 90s were born and raised on Jingle. In fact, there is even one Jingle staffer featured in this film who suggested that Pinoy rock had two waves of rock musicians. The first wave was led by the Juan Dela Cruz band. The second by the Eraserheads. Both were heavily influenced by Jingle back in the day when they were earning their stripes as musicians.
Equally worth looking out for is an enigmatic post-script of sorts towards the end of the movie guaranteed to leave the audience with more questions than answers. Kinda reminds me of those Marvel movie cliffhangers which they cleverly position after the closing credits. Will this docu film have a sequel? After all, I didn’t get to see Eric Gamalinda, Joey Ayala (yup, he used to write for Jingle), Joey De Leon (yes, the comedian cum painter is also a writer), Doray Espinosa, Didits Gonzalez, Bert Sulat, and Eric Caruncho, among others. Abangan!
SHOOTING THE DOCUMENTARY
The idea of making a documentary on Jingle was something that has been gestating in Chuck’s mind for so many years. Why Jingle, if you might ask? Like me, Chuck was also raised on Jingle. In fact, he has always dreamt of writing for Jingle. Alas, he never got the chance as other pursuits came a-calling. Fortunately, in 2012, he received a film grant from the Film Development Council of the Philippines along with his wife Aimee who also received a grant to write, direct and edit a full-length feature film entitled “Asin.”
They shot the docu film for about 12 days from February to May 2012 which may partly explain the play with words in the title although I challenge both the reader and the viewer to discover for themselves two other angles from which to appreciate Chuck’s choice of title. Write me when you figure it out and if you get it right, I’ll treat you to a cup of coffee. The entire end to end process of preparing a finished audio visual project took 6 months. Chuck wrote and directed the film while his wife Aimee edited. In this sense, you could say that this film was ultimately and literally, their labor of love. It is noteworthy that the Young Critics’ Circle nominated “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” for Best Editing. Aimee, says Chuck, “may easily be one of the best cutters around. She has an incredible feel for timing and detail as she painstakingly sifted through more than 50 hours worth of footage and crammed it into a one hour movie that makes terrific sense. It’s not a technical marvel but it’s got lots of heart and guts.” After watching the movie, I couldn’t agree more.
The most difficult part of the shoot, according to Chuck, was scheduling the interviews. To maximize on the budget, they had to squeeze in 4 to 5 interviews in one day. It was logistical nightmare pure and simple. “Minsan yung mga available on a certain date, magkakalayo ng locations. One time, we had to start in Mandaluyong, then Makati, then Quezon City and finally Paranaque. All in one day. At ako pa ang nagdridrive.”
In the end, all their hard work paid off because although it lost to “Qiyamah” by Teng Mangansakan which won Best Film, “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” was shortlisted as one of the best films of 2012, along with Raymond Red’s “Kamera Obskura” and Brillante Mendoza’s “Thy Womb”.
“Jingle Lang ang Pahina” was first shown, in its unfinished form, at SM City Davao on the occasion of the 1st Sineng Pambansa last July 2012. Since 2012 it has been shown in two private screenings. There are no definite plans yet for a wider public release, because they need to resolve licensing issues for the copyrighted music used in the docu film. I told Chuck though that given that the film actually promotes OPM music, he might wish to explore a win-win arrangement for both his production team and the artists and their labels. Drawing inspiration from “Sound City,” how about a “Jingle Lang ang Pahina” soundtrack on limited edition vinyl format? Calling on PARI, FILSCAP and OPM?
But will all this augur well for the rebirth of Jingle Magazine in the 21st century? Is this some kind of a Trojan horse-inspired movie meant to allow the Guillermo clan to reclaim their rightful place in music publications? Eric Guillermo says that this is farthest from their minds at this time. The internet, he says, has superseded Jingle. Thousands of guitar chords and tabs are all over the internet at zero cost to the guitar enthusiast. Ditto with album reviews, concert reviews, and the like. Artists and celebrities are more accessible these days via various social networking sites. So, if is not about making a comeback, what is the ultimate take-away from the movie?
Perhaps the final musical segment of the film which was the only song (among the dozen or so used in the movie) that was presented in its entirety could offer us a viable answer. I’m referring here to Sandwich’s famous “Betamax” which I must admit I did not use to care about that much until I saw the said band perform it to cap the movie. “Betamax” chronicles the depth and breadth of OPM history from the Juan Dela Cruz Band to Asin, from the Apo to The Dawn down to Martin and Gary. But even as it did pay tribute to the icons and legends of OPM by way of a 4- minute OPM retrospective, the key message of the song, “Padayon, ipagpatuloy ang daloy ng alon” is not lost to the careful listener. “Padayon…,” which is Visayan for “to continue,” Sandwich frontman Raimund Marasigan would exhort the listener over and over until fade-out. It reminds me of my teacher’s corollary reflection on mapaglikhang pag-uulit. To revisit the past is not to dwell in it, period but rather, to be able to unearth something that would enable one to move forward. Perhaps by reflecting on the elements that enabled Jingle to connect with such a large audience of readers, our continuing musical, make that cultural, heck, make that socio-political journey as a country and as individuals with our respective personal pursuits would be made more meaningful, significant, and purposive. Things like transcendence, passion, resilience, fun, teamwork, and yes, rage, rage against the dying of the light. Familiar elements all which are nothing new and yet absolutely ever new and always compelling and eternally indispensable. My philosophy teacher would have approved.