by Gang Badoy
(first published, Philippines Free Press – Dec 2008)
Celebrated as the songwriter of a generation, my friend Ely does not feign nonchalance about his popularity nor does he trip over it. He has gotten used to fame, it is part of his equation. It is no longer his need, it is now his norm. Brown eyes: check. Black hair: check. Ten fingers and toes: check. Famous: check. That’s the mic test line before he walked out of Diliman over a decade ago. His every gesture is lined with a mantra that seems to say, “This is how it’s been and this is how it is, pour me some wine.” clap*clap*
Buendia is an extra-ordinary song writer who seems to know the plight of everyday people who worried about ordinary things. He wrote songs that made people say, “Oo nga no.” and “Ako rin ganiyan.” Primo musician, Raymund Marasigan said, “his songs came out in buckets.” And, I suppose, a generation is all the better for it. What Buendia doesn’t seem to know is that he has the makings of a perfect politician. His songs have rhetoric that can touch life decisions, he can inspire industry, he is clear and enigmatic at the same time. These are traits a Senate-hopeful will kill for or would like to believe he or she bears. Buendia has a self-possession that stems from gift. His songwriting stance is generous, his works have given and continue to give comfort, solace, guidance, relief, hope to this day. The clamor to see or hear him live has not waned one bit; a scenario drool-worthy for any Presidential aspirant. He doesn’t need to force cursing onstage to look cool. He doesn’t need to strain a neck vein to prove to his audience that he has passion. He has no ghost writer, no lawyer executive assistant to make him “look better.” He doesn’t need spin-doctor-spun monikers like “Men in Black,” “Spice Boys,” or “Ely-Obama-rama.” He really just wears sunglasses at night to spare him headaches from too much klieg lights. Not much to change in him just to win the vote of the younger political watcher, he has them eating off the palm of his hand. No need, no effort. That’s just how it is.
One can also conclude that he is the perfect political animal mainly because he doesn’t want to be one. He’s not interested in public office. It is the Catch-22 of our time, those who can win elections or those who are truly capable of administration– will never run. Those who want to be in office oftentimes don’t deserve it or can’t do it. Those who have the suitably famous last names win though. Politicians always include the re-naming of streets after themselves as part of their exit-agendas when their terms end. They almost make a public declaration of their motives, saying that ego and immortality are part and parcel of their focus—and service was a nice-to-have. Isn’t it interesting how, without effort, Ely has a main thoroughfare with his family name on it? (No, the larger population still don’t refer to that stretch as Gil Puyat Ave.) Any public official can name it after themselves but it will still be called Buendia. Imagine, even that ace is handed to him by the dealers of Philippine history.
I can name, at least, ten politicians who wished they were Ely Buendia. I know they do, considering the extent of his fame and slam-dunk influence on the daily lives of this voting population. I don’t think it’s presumptuous to think that. I also believe that the opposite is truly the opposite – I don’t think Buendia would want to be any of them.
So what can a politician learn from Ely Buendia?
Simple: If you’ve got it, produce it. If you can produce it, share it. If people benefit from the work, do it again. Write it yourself. Create one more time. One more song. One more project. Improve one more life and be honest while you’re at it. Fight with colleagues if you have to. Make amends, then reunite for one big gig. Face mortality squarely and carry on. Lead. Follow. Admit. Start. End. Start again. But ultimately —PERFORM.