Music has always been a huge part of my life. It has inspired me, entertained me, and sustained me. Some of my earliest memories involve music (mainly, The Beatles), and this is a direct influence of my parents: they both came of age in the hippy era…my mother comes from a very musical European family, while my dad got to attend concerts in New York City during his youth, seeing some of the biggest names in 60’s rock perform live.
So, while growing up music was always around me, and it didn’t take much time for me to set out to discover my own tastes as a child. After a steady dose of 80’s radio hits, and a brief foray into rap, I discovered heavy metal around 1985. Since then, it’s always been a part of me…I also learned to play guitar and played in metal bands myself.
To those who don’t know metal, or can’t stomach the roar of distorted guitar, it likely sounds like a cacophony of noise. In fact, metal has come to be one of the most diverse genres in all of music. Metal has come to incorporate several different influences from other styles, often with good results.
This will be the first of (hopefully) several posts about music; I’ll often focus on metal because it’s my favorite, but I’m quite eclectic when it comes to what I like to listen to, so there will be some surprises as well. These first few entries will focus on “Love Songs”, specifically songs that I attach some significance to in terms of Cecille. So, prepare for a mix of warm fuzzies and thunderous grooves!
Here, I will focus on a specific album by one band, Deftones. This particular album holds a special significance to me in terms of my romance with the lovely curator of this blog; first: the timing – it was released 12 days before I flew to Bangkok and met Cecille. But more importantly, the theme of the album and the mood of the music.
The title of Deftones’ most recent album is Koi No Yokan, which is a Japanese phrase which means “Premonition Of Love” 恋の予感, which fits the lyrical and musical theme perfectly. Of course, it didn’t escape my notice that this American band chose a Japanese name for their latest release, because my love is in fact ¼ Japanese herself! More synchronicity thrown at us from the Universe? It certainly feels like it to me!
Deftones has a musical career that spans almost 20 years, and through their releases they’ve become quite adept at creating an ethereal atmosphere which is created by the layered, lush production, space-pop and trip-hop influences, but mostly by vocalist Chino Moreno’s unique and instantly recognizable crooning. They ensnare the listener by taking them on a journey between adrenaline-fueled catharsis and soft and subdued soundscapes. Chino’s voice can tranquilize like a lullaby or screech like a banshee, but his phrasing is sublime and his placement is perfect. This most recent album showcases some of Deftones’ best songwriting to date, and quickly became the perfect soundtrack to falling in love.
So without further ado, the first Deftones song I’m presenting is called “Romantic Dreams”
Even the very first line brings Cecille to mind:
“I process your constant changing phases”
Yes, nothing simple here – my love is a complicated woman. She keeps me on my toes…it takes some “processing” for sure 🙂 But this is a Love Song, so things are about to get a lot more romantic:
“So why wait to discover your dreams?
Now here’s your chance
I promise to watch and raise your babies”
Ah yes, a chance to discover love, the kind of love where the male protagonist entices with dreams, and promises of procreation born from said love, and steps up to the role of fatherhood. I imagine that for many women, this is about as romantic as it gets…Amirite?
“I’m hypnotized by your name
I wish this night would never end”
These words were echoing through my mind during the last hours I spent with Cecille before having to leave Bangkok and return to the US; I really wanted those moments to stretch into forever. They were full of smiles, tears, whispered promises and passionate kisses. Some of the most profound memories of my life so far.
Another song that’s grown close to my heart as Cecille has is called “Entombed”
This is a very mellow, atmospheric and moody song. Chino’s voice sounds like honey as he makes the following declarations to his love:
“From the day you arrived
I’ve remained by your side
In chains, entombed
Placed inside Safe and sound”
“On the day you arrived
I became your device
To name and soothe”
The theme here is fairly obvious, and to me, it echoes the promises I’m making; it’s an expression of caring and devotion, even shackled to those notions, promising safety, definition, and “soothing”.
When I listen to this song I think of the future, of my Cecille arriving here…and beyond the promise of being her future husband, I acknowledge the challenges she’ll face in a new land and a new culture. My love, I will remain by your side, soothe you, and keep you safe from the moment you arrive. I promise.
And last for today, but certainly not least, is probably the most atmospheric and emotional track on the album, “Rosemary”
This was the PERFECT song for me to listen to as I was hurdling 30,000 feet in the air towards Bangkok. Musically, it begins with a slow, building, spacey intro which ultimately becomes a thick, droning, groove based guitar riff, and the song alternates in this manner throughout, analogous with flying, lovemaking, intimacy, travel, and discovering “other planes” through all of the above. I remember leaning back in my airplane seat with my earbuds in, listening to this song with my eyes closed, feeling the throb and hum of the engines as I thrust through the sky:
“There’s no sound
But the engine’s drone
Our minds set free
Time shifting We discover the entry To other planes”
You know those moments when the “soundtrack” to what’s happening in your life is just sublimely perfect? This was definitely one of them.
And then in the very end of the song, which I interpret as the destination (“Just stay with me”):
“Stay with me
As we cross the empty skies
Come sail with me
We play in dreams
As we cross the space and time
Just stay with me”
Yes, in that moment I was still “playing” with a dream, while crossing space and time (it’s true, I crossed the International Date Line) towards that very dream, making it real and extending an invitation to The One I was about to rapidly fall in love with…come sail with me…let’s play in our dreams…just stay with me.
Looking in the mirror that day, the change seemed drastic. Almost a foot of hair, gone. I felt like I had gone from metal to ’92 grunge with just a few snips of my mom’s scissors. Yeah, that’s right – I’m 37 and my mother cuts my hair. It’s a rare occasion, perhaps once every year or two. She’s the only one I trust to do the simplest, most even cut. My fear is that a hairdresser or barber would get scissor-happy at the sight of 15 inches of straight hair on a guy. But this cut was particularly drastic – probably the shortest my hair has been since I was about 17. Typically, I’ll request a healthy length around my shoulder blades, but today was different: I had somebody to impress.
That “somebody”, Cecille, had impressed upon me that my abnormally long hair would really stand out in Thailand. It would attract attention, potentially unwanted. Here in New Paltz, New York, no one really gives me a second look; but I’ve had long hair throughout my life, so I’m well aware of the negative attention that it can garner. Basically, I couldn’t care less; it’s something that I had accepted a long time ago. However I wasn’t sure how that kind of negative attention would translate for a “stranger in a strange land”, as I felt I was about to be. Of course, Bangkok is a metropolitan, international city, full of foreign tourists and western ex-pats. But to me, it was different of course; I’d never been East of France before. So the idea of attracting attention that wasn’t familiar to me, of being a foreigner AND a freak somehow, wasn’t appealing. Even more importantly, the idea of Cecille feeling awkward around me was even less appealing. So there goes most of my hair, and I look unfamiliar to myself.
So I tie my hair back, and then I look just the same as before. No one will even notice. And, I was right about that – since I’ve been back from Thailand about 6 weeks ago, not one of my friends or coworkers noticed my missing foot of hair.
I was restless that night; staying at my parent’s place, because they’d drive me to the airport in the morning. Tomorrow was a big day…my mind was on overdrive. First, what would the trip be like? I’ve never travelled so far and for so long. But mainly, it was my reason for going that kept my mind racing; Cecille. What would meeting her truly be like? Would our chemistry translate to spending actual time together? What would become of us, and what adventures were in store for the next two weeks? Yet even as my mind raced with these questions, there also a sense of calm, resolute empowerment; whatever this turned into, my choices over the next days and weeks amounted to me taking control of my own destiny with my eyes wide open, and in a way I had never attempted before. Come what may, I was ready…and it felt amazing.
After a somewhat restful sleep, and a nice breakfast with my parents, I’m upstairs and in a skype call with Cecille. We’re both really excited, knowing that what we’ve been anticipating is just hours away. I would be a liar if I said that it was easy to get to this point; after all, we were both carrying a lot of hopes and even fears into what we were about to do. ..and there is really no way to predict such results. But we had grown to care for each other over these past months, and both very curious about what the next step could be – so this was enough to keep us happily excited, and very very ready despite how nervous we sometimes felt. Case in point, I show Cecille my new lack of hair. Well, not the reaction I was hoping for. She told me she felt like crying, I had cut too much off. “But I did it for you,” I told her. “I didn’t want you to feel awkward around me – I want you to LIKE being around me!” Her response was to tell me that I had ruined her fantasy about being with a rock star.
I did spend some time attempting to convince her that my hair grows quickly, and that if things go well with us, she’ll see it in all its long rock star glory again eventually. I was at this until my Dad started yelling up the stairway that it was time for us to go if I didn’t want to miss my flight.
Soon after, we left to drive to the airport. My parents were excited for me; I know that they liked to see me so happy and excited to embark on such an adventure. They knew I hadn’t done anything new or fulfilling for myself in a couple of years. A spontaneous voyage to the other side of the world, to be a tourist in an exotic land and spend time with a woman I was getting close to was a positive thing for me and they were certainly more supportive and excited than nervous or worried. But, they are parents, so being nervous and worried was an inevitable part of it. However, aside from the usual “be aware, keep your wits about you” kind of stuff, I didn’t get any lectures – save for my father’s one piece of sage advice: “Don’t get her pregnant.” Ha.
The security procedures at JFK weren’t as bad as I had expected, after reading numerous accounts of TSA’s strictness and even misconduct in news stories online. Finally, I get to my gate and find a place to charge my phone. I also check out the plane through the window: an aging 747. I looked at the hulking thing, imagining its immense weight getting off the ground and carrying me over Canada, the Arctic, and the eventually Siberia and into China. My thoughts were interrupted by a flurry of activity around the gate counter for our flight. What was going on?
As I approached, I noticed a sign, which seemed to be a hastily-typed page affixed to a small sign stand. It hadn’t been there just a few minutes before. Basically, it stated that our plane would need to stop in Anchorage, Alaska due to some “technical issue” and that thus our flight would land in China at least 3 hours late. Shit!!!, I thought, as I snapped a pic of the sign with my phone. I then went to the counter and explained that I have a connecting flight to Bangkok after Beijing. The harried attendant explained to me that I would miss the connecting flight and would need to wait until the next day in China for the next one.
What a mess! I hastily sent the pic to Cecille, but I knew she wouldn’t see it until she woke up some hours later. After a few minutes I just tried to relax and accept it: this was beyond my control, and I will make it there eventually. Nothing will stop me.
Nothing will stop me. -That’s really how it felt to me. I had set the wheels in motion as soon as I felt welcomed by Cecille, and since they began to roll they haven’t stopped. I had to get to the other side of the world to see what would become of this; I wouldn’t be deterred by inconvenience or even fear, and the last thing I would allow myself to do would be to carry around such a big “what if?” with me for the rest of my life. I was going to meet this beautiful and intriguing girl that made me smile (and sometimes drove me crazy) no matter what!
We often hear our fellow Pinoys say things like “Uy, alam mo ba ang balita? Ang kumare nati’ng si Shirley ay American citizen na” (Hey, did you hear about our friend, Shirley? She’s already an American citizen!)” Most often, this news is either squealed in delight or excitement as if it’s that huge a deal or disclosed in hushed tones as if there’s intrigue attached to it. Sometimes, depending on the tone of voice of the news source, you could tell whether she’s genuinely happy for the person or jealous of her new status. I say sometimes, because people are not really transparent all of the time. They could say one thing but mean another. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s their opinion. What would not escape my scrutiny though is the usual end-phrase “Buti pa siya” (Oh, she’s better off!) as if being a citizen of another country (in this case, let’s say, the United States of America) is an upgrade for a Filipino citizen. I find it heartbreaking how some of our kababayans can take more pride in carrying the name of another country than our own Motherland. Sure, there are so many ways that we can complain about Pilipinas, but is that reason enough for one to actually write “American, Canadian, British, etc.” in the space provided for Nationality in their information sheets? A Filipino can acquire citizenship from various countries (and hell he can write whatever he wants in the citizenship section) but can never change his nationality. Is it then a sheer ignorance in identifying the difference between Nationality and Citizenship? Well, one can Wiki everything these days!
Maybe I am being too emotional. Maybe my patriotism is frivolous and getting in the way of logical reasoning. Maybe I have to be more forgiving to people who have less than excellent vocabulary. I can’t help it. It has been deeply ingrained in me since I was a developing fetus. I floated in my mother’s womb to the tune of 70’s and 80’s socio-political tracks from Asin, Noel Cabangon and Freddie Aguilar. The first full-length song I learned at the age of three (3) is Ako ay Pilipino by Kuh Ledesma.
Ako ay Pilipino
Ang dugo’y maharlika
Likas sa aking puso
Adhikaing kay ganda
Sa Pilipinas na aking bayan
Lantay na Perlas ng Silanganan
Wari’y natipon ang kayamanan ng Maykapal
Bigay sa ‘king talino
Sa mabuti lang laan
Sa aki’y katutubo
Ang maging mapagmahal
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Isang bansa isang diwa
Ang minimithi ko
Sa Bayan ko’t Bandila
Laan Buhay ko’t Diwa
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Taas noo kahit kanino
Ang Pilipino ay Ako!
The first stanza alone is enough to stir waves of emotions in me. So yes, maybe I don’t have an unbiased perspective on this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against other countries. I’m not even saying that I don’t want to go and live outside of the Philippines. I love travelling and I certainly dream of a European vacation one day. Besides, right now I am working abroad. I will continue living abroad if and when I have to. Six months ago, I had to leave the Philippines. I had my heart broken, and instead of bringing it with me and attempting to mend it, I left it there. No use in carrying extra baggage. What would I need it for anyway? I was determined to set aside matters of the heart. I would focus on myself and get my ducks in a row: Job, career, graduate school. True, the recent events have caused some setbacks in my timeline but I promised I would get it back in order very soon.
A few days before my flight, my friend Myrell told me over lunch: “Don’t worry. There are so many fishes in the sea. And in a very lively city like Bangkok, who knows? You might even meet a foreign guy and marry him some day!” I remember laughing it off with her but at the back of my mind I really just dismissed it: “I will not go looking for love in Thailand. But if love finds me there, I will welcome it with open arms”, I replied with conviction. Back then, I honestly paid her no mind. With hindsight, wow, was she prophetic!
I met my now fiancé Ian exactly one month after I arrived in Thailand. Six months later, Ian petitioned his government so that he can marry me and be with me forever. Six months from now, I would hopefully be on my way to my future new home-The Land of Milk and Honey, The Land of the Free-The United States of America!
Wow! Younger Cecille would definitely be kicking me in the butt now. A heated confrontation would ensue:
13C (13-year old Cecille): Whoa dude, hold up! What about the things you said in your 9/11 editorial? What about your conspiracy theory?
AC (Adult Cecille): Sure! I still believe that.
18C (Placard-donning, sun-baked, street protesting 18-year old Cecille): “Itigil ang pagtataksil sa sambayanang Pilipino at pagkapapet sa imperyalistang Amerikano! (End the betrayal of the Filipino people and the country’s puppet days from the American imperialist!)
AC: Hmmm…maybe we should leave the politics out of this?!
3C (3-year old tiny songstress Cecille): Ako ay Pilipino, Ako ay Pilipino, Ako Ay Pilipino, Taas-noo kahit kanino, Ang Pilipino ay Ako! (I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino. Head held up high for everyone to see. The Filipino is me)
AC: Of course, I’m a Filipino through and through!
I am tormented by my nationalist conscience. My British colleague Joanna’s voice is ringing loudly in my ears. “How can you say you’re patriotic when you are marrying an American—he who hails from the land of your colonizer!”
And in what could have been my speechless, most shameful moment, I found my voice and managed a reply: “That’s exactly what Ian and I talked about. We don’t see each other as foreigners. I don’t see him as American and he doesn’t see me mainly as Filipina. Those are just names, labels to promulgate division among the human race. We both wish that there weren’t any countries. Right now, this BS bureaucracy is what’s stopping me and Ian from being together. Without it, we would all be free to love whoever we want to love”.
I’m sure I did not say it as eloquently as that. But you see my point and I just want to stress it again: Leaving for the US doesn’t mean I am betraying my country. I promised myself that wherever I may be, I will never lose my identity and strive hard to raise my country’s banner.
Besides, at this point, it doesn’t seem like I have a choice. As I said earlier, when I left for Thailand, I left my heart in the Philippines. Then, Ian came to Thailand to give his heart to me. Now we share one heart. So, I have to be where he is and he has to be where I am. For just as Siamese twins live with one heart, neither of us can survive without the other.
Let me tell you now: This blog is really a chronicle of love. But, it also tells the story of the Filipina woman—her passion, her hunger, her strengths, her weaknesses, her dreams and her heart. Each entry will be filled with her adventures and adversities, her travels and trials, her journey to conquer the world. We will watch her stand up after every fall, and recover from each little stumble: for she is of the noble blood of her ancestors. Dugong Maharlika. She is the Global Filipina. And she is You and Me.