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There’s the Rub

Songs of the heart

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Is it a little late in the day? Not at all. Hope springs eternal, and nothing gushes forth hope more than music.

This week, Rock the Vote will hold a series of concerts in four cities, top-billed by some of the best—and politically aware—musicians in the country. Those cities are Dagupan (May 6), Davao (May 7), Batangas (May 8), and Cebu (May 9), and those musicians are Sharon Cuneta, Kris Aquino, Ogie Alcasid, Christian Bautista, Noel Cabangon, Jim Paredes, Parokya ni Edgar, Ebe Dancel, Gloc 9, Dingdong Dantes and Cooky Chua.

I’m rooting for the group. I love music—I’m a frustrated musician myself; unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with the gifts to go with the ambition—and have also put up some concerts to push for a cause. The first time was in 1999 to protest Estrada’s call on advertisers to boycott the Inquirer; and the second in 2006 to protest the mass murder of journalists and activists. The second was followed by a series of smaller performances in various restaurants/bars to try to rouse awareness and indignation against the culture of impunity.

In all those times, I’ve been astonished by the largeness or spirit of the artists, of their willingness—no eagerness—to give of themselves. Not just in playing for free but in pretty much organizing the concerts themselves, I myself being a little helpless, or hopeless, in that department; unfortunately too, as far as organizing goes, I did not get the ability to go with mendacity. I’ve always been astonished too by the response of the public to these things—the youth in particular, and the forever-young, which people who love music and impossible dreams are. Both concerts drew in an overflow crowd—the second remarkably so for being held at the not-easily-fillable UP Sunken Garden—and had their venues, well, rocking.

Rock the Vote 2013 will do so too. Arguably, Rock the Vote has a partisan political interest on the side. It’s there to make one last push for three senatorial candidates—Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros and Jun Magsaysay. The last two obviously need more pushing: They’re now rattling at the gates, or pounding loudly on the door, whichever metaphor you prefer, but haven’t quite been admitted in yet. Who knows? Maybe rocking the gates, or the door, might do the trick. Never underestimate the power of music. Never underestimate the power of youth. Not even on the 11th hour.

I don’t mind that Rock the Vote has this agenda. Aquino, Hontiveros and Magsaysay are three of the brightest, nicest, decent-est people in this country, and it would be a shame for them not to barge into the magic circle. Hell, they shouldn’t just be barging in, by all rights they should be well-ensconced up there right now. They don’t make it and it’s not just they who lose, we do too. The country does too. Imagine all the people, living life in piss, to paraphrase John Lennon.

But it goes beyond the three candidates and their fate, it goes all the way to this one nation and its future. Which is why I’m behind it heart and soul. The inspiration for Rock the Vote came initially from Kiko Pangilinan who ran as an independent in 2007 and banked on some kind of people power to see him through. It did see him through, which was quite a feat in itself, no small thanks to Sharon’s fan base.

But it took on bigger, if not more viral, proportions when Benigno Aquino III ran for president in 2010. Certainly, it took on a better articulation. Rock the Vote was one of the initiatives that arose, anchored on the spirit of voluntarism. It was that spirit of voluntarism to begin with that drew Aquino out of the shadows and made him not just a serious candidate in the presidential elections but the people’s candidate, the candidate to beat. It was that spirit of voluntarism that carried him through the campaign despite his rivals’ more massive funds and organization. It was that spirit of voluntarism that made him win.

Music was part of that spirit of voluntarism, and Rock the Vote was part of that music.

Of course, afterward the politicians would claim the credit for everything, notwithstanding that up to the 11th hour, many of them still thought the tandem should have been Roxas-Aquino and not the other way around. Indeed, notwithstanding that up till the 11th hour most of them could not see the value of Edsa and what it represented, which was quite literally people power, the power of the people and, in the context of the elections, the power of the vote.

In an election that’s back to being resolutely traditional, or  trapo, which catches the spirit of it more potently, it’s good to see attempts—however seemingly belated, however seemingly desperate, however seemingly  suntok  sa  buwan—to at least remind people that they matter, they can change things, they can determine the shape of things to come. They did so with Aquino. The once impossible dream has become today’s very possible aspirations.

I don’t just believe in music, I believe in the people, I believe in the power of the people, I believe in people power. That is what Rock the Vote means to keep alive, that is what Rock the Vote means to reawaken. “Hindi  pa  tapos  ang  laban” is its mantra, and it is worth chanting. The fight is not over, it has barely begun.

I don’t know why Rock the Vote shouldn’t go past the vote, or past elections, to become something of a “Rock the Nation,” aiming to bring the people to bear in daily life, aiming to make the people take part in their own governance, aiming to make the people govern. The voices of the people shouldn’t just be heard in picking their governors, it should be heard in their continuing memos to them to do what is right. They are the Boss after all.

But that’s another story. That’s another column.

That’s another, well, song. Of the heart.


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