Of Michaels and lyrics

>> Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ramon S. Dacawi 

Those privileged to have known Michael Jackson  up close and personal remember a kind, gentle soul aching for a childhood denied by early celebrity status. The whole world saw in him a fellow caring human who, at the height of stardom, wrote and composed (with Lionel Richie) “We Are The World” as theme for that fund-raiser for famine-stricken Africa .
                Following his death, media poured in details and anecdotes on the life of the entertainment and musical genius – reminding us of our own mortality , They   triggered flashes of our own encounters in life, however remote and far-fetched these may be to those of the King of Pop. So did the music of those celebrities assembled for “ USA for Africa ”.
Memory ricochets to our own far more quiet seasons in the sun with fellow lesser mortals who had since gone ahead, and to our moments with fellow ordinary people still with us.. We discovered their own, ordinary lives were and are as lyrical as those of luminous starts above us, whose music expresses what we can only feel.
Like most up here in these mountains, I’m hooked on folk and country. My mind bounces to the lines of “The Fields of Athenry, a ballad set during the Great Irish Famine of 1945-50. It tells of a fictional Michael, a young man about to board a prison ship for Australia :
“Down on her knees outside a prison wall, Michael’s wife laments: “Michael, they’re taking you away/ For you stole Trevelyan’s corn/ So the young might see the morn/ Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay.” Michael replies: “Nothing matters, Mary, when you’re free/ Against the famine and the crown/ I rebelled, they cut me down/ Now you must raise our child with dignity.”
It’s one of Pete St. John’s notable contributions to the long list of traditional Irish musical jewels, topped by the famous dirge “Londonderry Air” we know as “Danny Boy” . Ireland ’s national soccer and rugby teams saw fit to adopt “The Fields…” for their anthem. The piece, after all, relates to the patriotism and rebellion of Irish resistance figures the likes of Michael Collins against England ’s centuries of dominion over the Emerald Isle.
The song refers to the Irish Potato Famine in the 19th century. Charles Edward Trevelyan, then the treasury official in charge of famine relief, believed that the famine was a “mechanism for reducing surplus population”. Most of the Irish lands then were owned by absentee and profit-oriented  British landlords who had the wheat and farm produce exported while Irish tenants were starving.
Pete St. John wrote his other hit – “The Rare Old Times” – after this Irish rover returned home to Dublin .. In it, he mourns “as the grey unyielding concrete makes a city of my town”. We, the soon-to-be feeble (to borrow from Maggie, another Irish folk), can swear he could have written that lament for Baguio , a beautiful mountain city reeling from commercial progress and urban sprawl.
Soon, we might have our own breed of folk and country musicians the likes of Bubut Olarte, March Fianza and Alfred Dizon perform it as the anthem for that effort to save what remains. Years back, I was particular about that tiny patch of balled pine beside the Baguio Convention Center. The Government Service Insurance System, which acquired the lot by presidential fiat, appeared  determined  in the not-so-distant past to sell it to Shoemart which, in turn, would clear and turn it into a four-building,13-storey condotel complex ironically dubbed “Baguio Air Residences”.
We prayed out of sheer gratitude when city mayor Mauricio Domogan and the city council saw fit to save the pine patch, with the city buying the lot, thereby saving one of the remaining patches of pine, fittingly as a gift on Baguio’s centennial in 2009. To them we dedicate “If It Hadn’t Been You”, a popular country piece of gratitude by Billy Dean.
The late Philippine Star columnist Art Borjal fell for the song the moment he heard it. His copy was a gift, from Nino Joshua Molintas, then an 11-year old Baguio boy whose deliverance from a congenital heart defect Borjal had arranged. Unable to speak his gratitude because of a voice catch, the kid delivered his gratitude through a copy of the song. :
Borjal printed in full the lyrics, in turn his own way of thanking those who contributed to the boy’s healing, among them pedia-cardiologist Emerenciana Collado and U.S.-based surgeon Serafin de Leon.
“A man filled with doubt, down and out and so alone,” the lines begin. “A ship tossed and turned, lost and yearning for a home/ A survivor barely surviving, not really sure of his next move/ All of this I would have been if there hadn’t been you.”
                Wanting to pass on Billy Dean’s  lyrics and melody to the boy’s Samaritans, Borjal entered a music shop for all the copies to send. A salesgirl, thinking she heard it right, pulled out from the shelves an album and handed it to Borjal. It was “Thriller”, containing “Billie Jean”, one of Jackson ’s platinum singles.
Nino, so christened for his uncanny resemblance to the Infant Jesus, was the youngest of four boys of the late Michael (Miguel) Molintas, a pony boy at Wright Park ,  and Maria Paz “Datsu” Infante, a Spanish mestiza and scion of a sugar hacienda clan of Bacolod .

Nino Joshua is now about 30. He lives because there are Samaritans out there, many of whom he never met until they sang for him in country music concerts or bought tickets for these fund raisers or simply delivered their support for him to survive. The kid and his mother have now repaired to an agricultural lot in Tubao, La Union where they raise pigs and several heads of cattle. (e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments.)


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