My father got me an acoustic guitar when I was 12. He wanted me to learn it so I could jam with my banduria-playing sister who was a soloist in her elementary school band. He got his barber to sit with me every Saturday morning to teach me the basic chord patterns to songs my sister practiced at home like "Malagueña" and "O Sole Mio."
Two Christmases later, my parents gave me a copy of Jingle Chordbook, a magazine that featured the lyrics of hit songs with accompanying guitar chords. It was supposed to expand my repertoire but to this day, I have memorized only the basic chords to The Beatles' "Let It Be" and the Dave Clark Five's "Hurtin' Inside."
My first Jingle magazine eventually made the rounds of our neighborhood in San Pablo City and my teen buddies ended up playing the guitar better than me while singing the latest hits of the day.
I was not alone. A new documentary titled "Jingle Lang ang Pahina" pays tribute to a generation of youth, especially musicians, who has been influenced by Jingle Chordbook magazine, which first came out in 1970. The film features interviews with the family that ran the magazine, selected editors, staff and contributors, and Pinoy musicians like The Jerks' Chicoy Pura and Sampaguita guitarist Gary Perez.
Music at the dawn of OPM
The film's director Chuck Escasa said that he conceptualized the Jingle interviews to form pieces of a puzzle that when put together would provide a profile of the Pinoy youth during the 1970s, the Martial Law years. He wanted the present generation to understand better the music and culture of the youth at the dawn of OPM.
In between the interviews, shots of a woman NPA guerilla going about her daily chore, a labor strike in a factory and a street demonstration provided context.
The docu opens with the Juan de la Cruz Band's "Langit," sounding now like proto-doom metal. It closes, just before the credits roll, with "Betamax," Sandwich's homage to '70s Pinoy pop culture with a refrain that goes: "Sa Jingle magazine natutong mag-gitara/ Sinifra ang mga kanta sa cassette at plaka."
How Jingle influenced musicians
Musicians talked about how Jingle magazine became a resource that fueled their ambitions. Raimund Marasigan of Sandwich remembered taking a 30-minute ride to San Pablo City or to Lucena to buy his copy of the magazine.
The editors reflected on the significance of Jingle being a pocket of rebellion amidst the widespread repression during the martial law years—predating the "mosquito press" that emerged after Ninoy Aquino's assassination in the 1980s.
The cartoons of Rox Lee, Romy Buen, Dengcoy Miel and Ludwig Ilio captured in three panels the temper of the times, if not the irreverent flip on Ferdinand Marcos's New Society.
I knew these things first-hand because I was part of the magazine between November 1978 to mid-1985.
Scoops and rumored lawsuits
My first assignment was a concert review of Banyuhay ni Heber and Coritha in Lucena. I braved a brewing storm to go to the concert and stood inside the bus all the way home to San Pablo City.
Over the years, I wrote the first stories about the Jerks, Urban Bandits, Deep Purple's Ian Gillan, and Scoprions, among others.
I heard rumors of a lawsuit because something I wrote allegedly impugned the integrity of an artist I had spent a Sunday afternoon with.
Jingle Magazine gave me the chance to write and I quote from the film, "napakalaya (unrestricted), without boundaries." Honestly, I didn't feel that way then. I just wrote how I felt.
I also had good editors and shared bylines with celebrated poets Ricky de Ungria and Eric Gamalinda. I felt challenged (intuitively) to live up to a certain standard.
People liked my writing. But I had my detractors, one of whom turned out to be a super young and super pissed Francis Brew, now a fellow-Yahoo! Philippines OMG! blogger and noted musician. He or another kindred spirit advised me, in a letter that was published, to "clean my ears with hydrochloric acid" after I had slammed the album "Moving Pictures" by the prog rock band Rush.
Nerd by day, rock journalist at night
Like many of those who wrote for Jingle, I began as a fan. I was a technical writer with a degree in engineering at my day job, and hanging out in unlikely places with rock and roll types in my off-hours.
Joey de Leon wrote a humor column, even back then. Songwriter Joey Ayala was notorious for his masturbation poem. Celebrated indie filmmaker Lav Diaz contributed to the Poetry page. Advertising hotshot David Guerrero ("It's more fun in the Philippines" campaign for the Tourism department) wrote snarky record reviews. And Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Romy Gacad submitted dramatic rock concert photos of Joey Smith, Sampaguita, and others.
Even today, what began in Jingle all those years ago lives on in this blog.
'Jingle Lang ang Pahina,' funded by the Film Development Council of the Philippines, competed at the first Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival in Davao City. It will be shown in selected SM cinemas nationwide.