The first thing that people always say about Saguijo is that it's a house. Yes, an average-size house circa the '60s, located in a residential area in Guijo St., Makati (as in "mama, sa Guijo tayo." Gets?) I've read accounts of people thinking that they were lost upon reaching the area, because obviously it's not Jupiter Street or Makati Av.
Saguijo feels very bohemian, similar to Cynthia Alexander, et al's Conspiracy Bar in QC (smoking is also prohibited inside), but smaller and noisier. Bahay talaga. The sala area is the performance space. The dining area is the bar. There's one toilet shared by everybody, like in a house. The walls are covered with interesting paintings. Even the graffiti in the toilet looks like art. The second floor was converted into a gallery, and there's also a small shop that sells vintage clothing (mostly women's), tees, accessories, and independent CDs.
I went there to catch Pinikpikan, who, just a few days earlier, rocked a hundred or so faces at the 3rd Backdoor Ventures Arts and Music Festival held in Megamall. After that event, I became a convert of not just Pinikpikan, but the whole world music / ethnic subgenre of Philippine rock. I keep asking myself why I haven't gotten into them earlier. I mean I've been listening to Joey Ayala since high school, but the new breed of ethnic musicians spearheaded by Pinikpikan sound different. They don't just sing about rivers and lakes and Philippine eagles and how we are all connected, but they also absolutely rock. As in balls out rock. Pinikpix released their first CD in 1999. What have I been listening to all these years? Seriously I couldn't remember, aside from the occasional Strokes or White Stripes and good old pop.
There were three bands set to perform. Aside from Pinikpikan, there were The Virgin Hunters then the Rinka Collective.
Despite the name, The Virgin Hunters didn't look like extras from Cannibal Holocaust. They all looked like they have day jobs in a bank somewhere in Makati. Their music is hard rock, a la Pearl Jam or Soundgarden circa 1994. The guy's voice even sounded like Eddie Vedder's (hey that's a compliment). The band made me realize how lucky I am that I do not live on this street. I kept looking outside the window, half expecting to see people in their dusters and pajamas with torches, brooms, and itaks demanding for the owner's head because of the noise. Wala. Another thing about Saguijo is that it has really low ceilings, so I felt as if insects were burrowing their bodies into my ears as the music blared (could that also be the reason why the paint on the ceiling is peeling?)
The second band was Rinka Colective. Okay, for some reason, I could not remember their music. I only remember that it was world music-ish. I zeroed in on the percs though, because after the Festival, I've developed a thing for the djembe.
In between the two bands' sets, I had a chat with Pinikpikan singer/banshee Carol Bello at the bar over tequila (hers) and jasmine tea (mine). Carol currently teaches journalism subjects in UP. I learned from her that we graduated from the State U only a year apart, though she spent a longer time getting acquainted with the campus facilities than I did. Carol was in the news last summer. I was with Namfrel in La Salle giving love to my country when news of a pollwatcher, "a professor from UP," being harassed in a small town somewhere in the north came on TV. I only learned that it was actually her two months after the polls. "Sinong Carol?" I asked my colleague. "Yung dating lead singer ng Carol Affection." "Ah, yung Carol na yun." Carol was shocked when I brought up her old band, especially when I told her that I still own a copy of their only album. I told her that some of the songs were really good, and that I once saw them perform live at an NU Christmas concert (this was around 1997). She remembered that, as that band, according to her, lasted only less than a year. Just before their set, she said bye and repeated my name.
Pinikpikan's set was hot. Suddenly the place was packed, with both Caucasians and Orientals, to use their scientific names. "Una una kaya kaya!" Ahh! Couldn't help bobbing my head and dancing with myself in a corner. The place became one big dance freak-out, as people, fueled by San Mig and tequila, started grooving to the reverberating percussions, bass, guitars, and Carol's distinctive wails. When the group brought out the gangsas, all hell broke loose, with people shouting, flailing their arms to the beat of the third world. To hell with the fucking neighbors! It was the best house party ever.
I went out of Saguijo at around 2am to an empty street. I was literally walking alone in Nowhere City, Manila. No passing cars, not even the sound of a balut vendor. The only thing missing was the askal defecating in the middle of the road, and it could be any street in Manila at that time of the night. But I know this particular street has something special. I would love to come back.