Unknown (a short memoir)
It’s February 14, 2013. valentine’s day.Julie Anne San Jose stands in front of me. We’re staring at each other. Well, I, at least, am staring at her. She has her eyes darting back and forth to me and around – her arms and palms flexed and stretched in a way that crunches up her shoulders, making her look just a little too tense. She has just come off stage after performing some Rhianna song and entered the tent that acts as the “backstage.” One of my bandmates has asked for a picture with her, and she probably wants to take a seat now; but here I am, blocking her path. And all she can do is sprinkle her deep breaths with forced, or rather embarrassed snickers.
I haven’t performed yet. But a friend of mine has just taken a video of me for a bus music series (the name of the show I’ve ashamedly forgotten). So I was roaming around the tent as Julie entered and I took the chance to stop her for the picture. I’m not gawking or anything. I’m not a Japs fan, admittedly, and needless to say, I don’t think I ever will be. On my face must be a smile, plain and pursed. And I do admit that I am indeed staring at her. Perhaps contemplating on her talent in vocals but lack of prolificacy in producing outstanding musical compositions, or how one of my uncles thinks her chin protrudes too much (and I guess I would agree), though Julie is undoubtedly a pretty young woman – (her skin unnaturally glowing as soft porcelain). Yeah, perhaps I am thinking of either.
Julie finally forces one more smile, which punches me back to reality. I’m probably making it extremely awkward for her. (How hard could it be for a popular actress to have an unknown female artist gaze at her at a gig?) I step to the side and she promptly scampers towards the part of the tent where her friends are nested and nestled together: Barbie Forteza, and some other couple o’ dudes I don’t care remembering the names of. Oh. I believe one is named “Josh,” because Barbie joshed around earlier saying, “Oh, you’re Jash? He’s Josh – ” pointing to and facing a white-ish guy with small eye-slits, “ – Josh,” pointing back to and facing me, “ – Jash.”
I sit back with my band. We’re sweating because not a single fan is blowing our way. (The celebs have the fans, y’know. Get it? Fans?) My funny lead guitar player is picking on my bassist (as he always does), and we’re indiscreetly sprinkling loud laughter on the noise outside, just trying to have a good time, dismissing the fact that the organizers have failed to provide a drum set for our slot (spoiling our “pop rock” act) and a clear schedule (sometimes, being unknown and punctual don’t come in handy).
It’s almost 9PM. Time for the Yakapalooza countdown. More people are bustling about in the tent as the pop club are being called back to the stage. Julie and Barbie, struggling in their Burj Khalifa heels, are held at the sides by assistants as they climb back up the stage. The audience outside roars at the reappearances of the actresses and actors. Someone inside the tent is shouting. It must be a Unisilver representative, explaining that these four paper-bags she’s holding contains personalized silver watches. “Sila Julie pa lang ang unang makakakuha nito,” – Julie and her fellow endorsers are the first ones to receive this watch design.
I think Unisilver is bestowing their gifts now. I don’t remember the rest much. I’m not bored. But I’m not that excited either. I don’t know what to think. It’s a blur. Oh, yeah. I and my band are watching whatever commotion can be seen from the tent, mainly the crowd growing crazy. We’re probably allowed to crash onstage, but we’re not explicitly invited so we don’t bother. We don’t care anyway. The other acts, of course, take the chance of further exposure. This gig is being aired live on television. I even glimpse one of the rappers’ girlfriends whose ends of lips wouldn’t curve up for the last five hours, but is now all smiles for the camera. She squeals with delight as she readies herself to hug her lover.
It’s time for the countdown. The hosts (a couple of radio DJs) lead the people. It’s like New Year’s Eve.
My band-mates are poking each other, teasing each other about not having any girl to hug.
I think of the song I wrote last night. It was for him.
Only my best-friend would know. She’s the only one who asks if I’ve written a new song.
I hug and smile sadly to myself.
The “stars” returned backstage. I won’t forget how the fans outside went wild and started pushing the side of the tent. It was a pretty scary experience. If there ever was a stampede (which I constantly prayed wouldn’t happen), I and my band would be innocent victims – war casualties. More guards had to be summoned to calm the people down and fix the torn canvases. Eventually, unbeknownst to the crowd outside, the GMA entertainers were led secretly to the back, and taken to a different route to disappear from the event.
“Miss Jash,” a young woman beckons, “malapit na po kayo.” I smile and nod. I’m still two, three acts away, but I appreciate her respectful demeanor. The organizer’s team are nice when talked to, at least. I will give her a CD.
It’s almost 10PM. I am tired when I finally hit the stage. I haven’t entirely recovered from my cough and cold, so I still don’t have my falsetto. It must have been the hardest performance I had to endure yet. One of my song choices had been more or less awful – an English rap, which was barely appreciated by a Filipino crowd. Good thing my last song, “Tamang Pag-ibig” redeemed me.
I still had a blast, though. My band did a great job doing acoustic despite the lack of practice, and I’m just grateful. For everything. For the musical abilities my God has bestowed upon me. For my Mom and Dad’s support. For my friend who remembered to put me in tonight’s programme. For my whole band, a few friends who were available to attend and show support. For the nice food the event organizer has prepared for us. For the very fine weather. For having to pay to use the comfort room. For being put at the end of the show when more than half of the crowd had gone home because the “main show” is over.
For being unknown.
I know I’ll miss these experiences. These times when people walk past me without a second glance. When hitch-girls are snobs because they are being authentic. When people are unobsequiously nice to you, and you want to remember their faces for being so. When organizers tell you they’re blown away by your performance and most likely will hire you again, but you know they’re just trying to be nice and will probably forget you the next day. I swear I’ll miss this. This is where it all starts.
After my grueling act and receiving a paycheck that wouldn’t cover what I’d already spent for the preparations solely for this gig (it’s hilariously true: most musicians are underpaid), a couple approaches me. The boy hands me an ID. “Birthday po niya ngayon,” he says, nodding towards the girl, smiling.
I laugh, remembering that I promised any birthday celebrant a free copy of my music. I fumble inside my guitar case. Giving the girl the CD, I say, “Here.”
The girl accepts my CD and asks for me to sign it. I execute the request with pleasure as the guy pulls out a camera and tells me to stand beside the girl. I call my band and we pose. The girl holds up the CD. I’m all teeth for the camera, wondering if she would forget about me so soon. After the flash, I shake the guy’s hand and kiss the girl. They leave me and my band-mates grinning. We all agree ’twas a tiring night. But fun. So fun.
I tell you: I’ll miss these moments.