Ely Buendia blogs: Los Kilometricos—Road trip to Baguio, the playlist

I find that the best way to counter any vacation-related stress is to mix business with pleasure. Let’s face it, even the most road-loving traveler will admit vacations are 99% perspiration and 1% fun. Not worth it in my opinion. Which is partly why I sought a career where I could mix playing and earning.

There are times, however, when going on an all-business trip cannot be avoided. Take for example, my trip last weekend to Baguio to scout for locations for a short film. It was tempting to stay at the country’s summer capital for a few days, but alas, everyone’s schedules permitted only one day to do everything and go back to the madness of the city.

It wasn’t really the work I was dreading, but the drive. The reason why I elected to drive was twofold: it would save time and money, and I get to pick the soundtrack for the trip. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but do indulge me for a minute here. Contrary to popular belief I am a very giving person. I’d rather listen to someone else’s playlist than oppress them with mine. So by driving, this time I had a good reason to be dictatorial, thus turning a potentially mind-numbing trip into an acceptably pleasurable one.

Rock & roll always perfect for driving

Me and the film’s cinematographer, Alfred (who hails from Cavite) met up around 2 p.m. in Paranaque and made our way to Makati to pick up Bob, our producer. My car tuner is dialed to DZRJ all the time. I guess I turned into my dad. But nowhere else will you find classic rock & roll on the radio.

Rock & roll is always perfect for driving. The palpable sense of freedom, purity, and endless possibilities in these songs is still unmatched today. And I have to admit RJ’s self-voiced ads never fail to amuse me.

I had to wade through two hours of Edsa traffic just to get to Ortigas and pick up the last of the expeditionists, Darius, co-producer and also my driving reliever if need be. It was 6 o’clock when we finally headed North. The road was long, but music would make us fly.

First up: Bob Dylan live

I was too busy with the steering wheel so I let Bob handle the playlist first. He has excellent taste in music (check out his show with Jesse Grinter called “Lost in Translation” on Jam 88 every Saturday) and I wasn’t at all surprised when he put on Bob Dylan’s 1975 live “The Rolling Thunder Review” album.  I was struck by how passionate Dylan sounded on this record. He was really singing.

We decided to have early dinner at the black hole they call Shell station at NLEX, where we went over our very tight schedule for the nth time because it made us all feel very professional. In fact, when the time came to head out once again, I decided to finish the script for the short film during the trip (I bought a nifty scriptwriting app). This would enable me to DJ and write at the same time while Darius, a far more competent driver than I am, took the wheel.

What’s on Ely’s playlist: from The Cure to VST & Co.

Like I said, business and pleasure can mix. Nobody thought about prepping an actual playlist for the trip so I had to make do with what was on my iPad. Luckily, two years ago I filled it with a well-rounded collection of music.

The Cure’s “The Top,” The Ramones’ debut, two albums from Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Redd Kross’s “Phaseshifter” all made appearances. The Rolling Stones were a big hit with my small audience, as were Steely Dan, White Stripes, and Hendrix.

By the time we got to Tarlac, classic rock was the unanimous favorite so I played some more of Zeppelin, and to appease Alfred who was a hip hop fan, I played the Danger Mouse Beatles/Jay-Z mashup, “The Grey Album.” Of course I did not forget to indoctrinate our American friend and played him some VST and Co. as well.

Power, eruption and Beethoven

It was at Urdaneta when I noticed that the two men at the back were already asleep. This meant I could finally put the music on auto pilot. I put together a playlist for the ascent to Baguio which consisted of some Kraftwerk and a little bit of Roxy Music and some Beethoven for good measure.

When we reached the foot of Kennon Road I switched seats with Darius once again so I could drive up and enter the city gates triumphantly on my chariot.

I now see the lure of spinning. It was power. Immortality. It’s really no different from playing an instrument or driving for that matter. You have to be on your toes, you have to know your audience, you have to be judicious and ready to improvise, you have to have flair. You have to know when to put the pedal to the metal. Or the petal to the medal. I get confused sometimes.

Ely Buendia has written for The Manila Bulletin and Esquire. He is the frontman of the rock band Pupil and co-author of "Against the Light: A Pupil Tour Diary," available now. His blog appears regularly on Yahoo! OMG!

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