Three rock stars participated in a round-table discussion on Song-writing in the Philippines and OPM: Ely Buendia, Ebe Dancel and Lourd de Veyra on April 20, 2016, at the UST Faculty of Civil Law Auditorium.
They faced a packed hall, to answer questions, first from moderator Joselito Delos Reyes, (Resident Fellow of the Ust Ccwls and himself a kind of rock star of Philippine literature, with several best-selling books), and then from the audience.
The SRO audience—which included, not only students and faculty members of UST, but also students from other universities, and fans not connected with academe—were exceptionally attentive and appreciative, often breaking into applause and cheers when they liked some of the answers.
The questions covered a wide range of topics, including their reasons for writing songs, the “rituals” which they practice before sitting down to Write, the audience they have in mind when they write, people who might have influenced the way they write, and awareness of how big their influence on their listeners might be.
Describing the stages all song writers and musicians must go through, De Veyra said there are three stages: “Imitate, integrate, innovate.”
Asked to comment on the often-heard claim that OPM is dead, all three vehemently disagreed. “There was no reason for pessimism,” Dancel said. “Marami nang pumatay diyan. Pero buhay pa rin.”
After declaring that OPM is very much alive, they proceeded to describe the enthusiasm that prevails in the different venues where people gather to make music and listen to it, naming specific bars. “They’re all over the place,” Buendia said, adding that he personally was very impressed with the quality of young Filipino musicians. And de Veyra and Dancel agreed with him.
After the discussion, the three guests posed for the obligatory photo ops with the Resident Fellows of the UST Ccwls, and special guests like Allan Popa, director of the Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices, Renato Lucas, one of the country’s top cellists and a Professor in the UST Conservatory of Music, and Popi Laudico, prominent architect, member of the Likhaan Foundation, and OPM fan. They were then deluged by fans wanting to be photographed with them or to take selfies with them, who followed them to the UST CCWLS offices, where a small reception was held.
In the course of the merienda, UST CCWLS director Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo inquired of Buendia if he had any idea of the reason behind the unprecedented fame of the Eraserheads, and the awe with which the band continue to be regarded today. Buendia took a few minutes to think, and then replied, “I’m not sure. But, you know, my roots are provincial. I grew up listening to folk songs, kundiman, and other types of native music. I tried to incorporate those into my own songs. Maybe it was that.”
“Ah, like Elvis!” Hidalgo said. Buendia nodded. “Oo. Hindi ba he was a country boy, and used to listen to listen to gospel songs and country?” Buendia added that he hoped someone – maybe a music lover in academe would write the history of OPM and all the artists who have contributed to it.