The Eraserheads held a well-attended reunion concert Dec. 22, bringing to mind my own memories of the band and their songs. More specifically, one song.
I know of the Eraserheads and listen to their music because my children do, and not because I’m a fan. Let’s just say I’m a listener whose taste in music could be eclectic. But there’s this one particular song of theirs that’s sort of seared into my memory.
I was producing a newscast sometime in the mid 1990s. It was the height of the Eraserheads popularity. Suddenly we received a story from the Senate that Senator Vicente (Tito) Sotto wanted one of the group’s songs, Alapaap (Cloud), banned. We’re not talking here of digital storage devices or computing services which wouldn’t appear till decades later but of those white things floating above us in the atmosphere.
Sotto said the lyrics reminded him of drugs and their hallucinatory effect, or maybe writing while high. I don’t remember the details but he was spinning the song as a danger to the youth and that he was sounding the alarm bells and pointing the accusing finger at the Eraserheads. Talk about a politician’s penchant for riding on whatever is trending at the moment.
If I remember correctly, our newscast did run the story and there may have been a statement in response from the Eraserheads thrown in. But we also decided that before we would end with the show’s closing credits, we would run part of the song over generic video of clouds and post the lyrics as though people were watching karaoke. That way, we would let the audience decide for themselves if the lyrics had anything to do with getting stoned or if the composer was himself tripping or something.
The problem was, I didn’t know the lyrics. And at that time, 1995, there was no searching the internet for lyrics like we routinely do now, we seem to assume it’s always been there. There was no such feature yet. So the solution was to call home and ask my kids—who had memorized the words to all the Eraserheads songs—to send me the lyrics as pager messages (no such things as cellphones or smartphones either, but we did have pagers). And since pager messages had a limit of 200 or so characters, if I’m not mistaken, the lyrics of the song had to be sent to me line by line by pager.
At the end of the newscast, my colleagues and I patted ourselves on the back for what we did, and truth be told got neither commendation nor notice of any kind because ours was a minor newscast with a small audience. But I would like to think that the production crew thought they did a good deed because really, there’s such a thing as freedom of expression and we believed that we helped uphold it that day, to whoever was watching.
Sotto milked more media mileage out of that story. He met with the band which of course meant more publicity for him. Decades later he would become Senate President but unsuccessfully run for Vice President of the Philippines.
As for the Eraserheads, they eventually disbanded but maintained a loyal, almost cultish, following from people of a certain age and school (band members first gained popularity doing gigs as students of the University of the Philippines). But the band is immensely popular all over the country, and their reunions are a most longed-for wish. In fact, the last time anyone made such a wish was around October 2021, when opposition leader Leni Robredo was contemplating whether or not to run for president.
Asked when the next Eraserheads reunion would be, its lead singer and composer Ely Buendia replied, “Pag tumakbo si Leni (When Leni runs).” Well that day has come and gone, and the reunion became the promise fulfilled. It was not a joke after all.