Why This Show Must Go On
|Posted by Manila Mail under Playing it by ear|
By Rod Garcia
Upon seeing me enter the restaurant and limp toward their table, a friend asked “Bakit ka pipilay-pilay diyan?” (What are you limping for?)
I told her that the stroke I had nine weeks before continued to give me a slight limp.
My cousin died of a stroke a few years ago, after months in a coma. An uncle was struck at work, collapsed and languished in a vegetative state for years, until finally expiring.
In my case, struggling down to the kitchen one morning, I realized I couldn’t move my left arm, while I dragged my left leg, and slurred when I tried to speak.
This so-called “mild” stroke had enough power to zap me with a profound physical weakness – deep in the cellular level it seems —requiring a supreme effort to do anything normal — stepping out of the car, getting off the bed, bending over to look for a pen that fell from a desk, reaching for a cup in the shelve. I couldn’t even do something that was second nature to me —- pluck a guitar.
Months before the stroke, I had planned a concert in Manila Cafe for Gawad Kalinga (GK) and Feed The Hungry. Two weeks after coming back from the hospital, I foolishly let out that “the show must go on- I’ll push through with the concert.”
Most friends tried to talk me out of it. But fellow musicians converged on Manila Cafe come concert day last May to help me. One of them had been particularly irritated with me: Badette Ortanez of Agos phoned me a week before the concert day saying, “Bakit hindi mo ako tinawagan? (Why haven’t you called upon me to help you?) If you think you’re going to do this on your own, you’re crazy.”
Illness (and death) of a fellow musician was not foreign to her. She lost her husband Rico Ortanez some months before — to cancer. Rico and I go back a long way. Our friendship started more than 25 years ago when he stepped into a pub where I was performing each night after law classes at George Washington University. I noticed a skinny bespectacled Filipino fellow saunter in and sit at a corner table, smiling. During my break, I said hello and he introduced himself as a musician too. He wanted to know if there were ways we could team up to help the poor in the Philippines with our music. Out of that meeting was born Angkan—- a charity group which sent books for schools all over the Philippines, money for career training programs and scholarships in Negros, Catanduanes, Naga and Davao, on and on —- so much so that eventually we got a letter from Cardinal Sin himself, congratulating Angkan and giving a citation for meritorious service by the youth. Much of the funding came from shows Angkan put up.
Fast forward 25 years or so to 2008 and here’s Rico with his cancer phoning me at the office asking that I come over his house. In all the time I’ve known him, he had never asked me to come over his house in the middle of a work day-so I knew he had something important to say. I was in his house immediately and he started talking of the concert we were going to do at Harmony Hall for GK and Feed The Hungry. He was happy and excited that he was already helping GK put up Agos Village with the money he raised singing with Badette in towns all over the U.S. He also said in passing that he was no longer undergoing chemotherapy. The treatment somehow made Rico’s fingers hurt when he played guitar. Rico walked me to my car and put his thumbs up smiling said ‘Kaya natin ito, Rod!” (“We can do this, Rod!”) – ever so joyful that again we had an opportunity to help the needy in the Philippines with our music.
Within the month, a fellow musician, George Brooks, phoned me and said to me choking in the words, “Rod, Rico is gone.” Because it’s what Rico would have wanted me to do, I went ahead with that concert —— with Badette, George and Agos, and with The Speaks, Alfa, and Lucky 28.
With help from very good people in PAFC and the Embassy, we raised close to $12,000 for GK villages and Feed The Hungry’s relief and educational programs.
There was a beautiful symmetry i n my friendship with Rico: Our first ever conversation at that pub more than 25 years ago was how to help the poor in the Philippines; and the very last discussion with him before he died last year was about the same thing-how to help the poor he cared for so much.
So I entered the recent meeting with a noticeable limp that elicited the query — “Bakit ka pipilapilay diyan? (What are you limping for?) The subject of this meeting was the fourth annual Alay concert-which was to raise money for Philippine charities – the concert Rico and I had been doing these past years.
My limp is not quite gone at this time, but there are still many Filipinos in the Philippines hobbled from worst things than a mild stroke: Poverty, lack of education, lack of shelter and lack of medicine and nutrition.
That’s why the show will go on.
Please find the time: Oct. 25, 2009, Sunday, Harmony Hall, Oxon Hill 6 p.m.
My musician friends and I are converging once again.