Karl in the Daytime
by Gang Badoy
(first published, Phil Daily Inquirer. 17 Mar 2012)
The minute I found out that Karl died, like most left-behind friends I had to literally sit down, stare at nothing, and do a replay of the years I’ve known him. Like many in the world of music, most of my memories of Karl would be in the back stage of some gig, chatting up a storm on whatever topic fancies him that month. Like many who’ve known him, I saw the progression of the markings on his body, each representative of something in his life and times. “Some tats less profound than others,” he says with a smile. For a stretch of time, it seemed like Karl had progressively less and less free skin space available for the next tattoo. I’d tease him, “May space pa ba?” Then he’ll say, “Meron pa!” pretending to unzip his pants and show me his tush. We laughed a lot and I liked this about our friendship. Karl can swing friends from conversations that range from the vulgar to the divine, this was his gift. When we’d see each other, I’d always call out to him, “Ubusan!” …then he’d reply, “Sulitin,” then I’d say, “Gamitin,” then he’d scream, “Sagarin!” We were, of course, referring to his tats, our work, the night, and the beer, then we’d break into laughter and say our hellos. That was our secret cheer. Sometimes we won’t remember the script, but most nights we do. It was a salutation I treasure.
One time in 2005, I got a phone call from Karl, he was hysterical. He was screaming at the phone saying, “Africa got debt relief!” Over and over he kept saying that he saw it in the news that the stuff Bono was doing paid off and that Africa got debt relief. He then turned sober and said, “Can we do this for the Philippines?” I said, “Maybe.” Then he said, “Let’s try!” Then the phone went *click.* I may have said, “Okay, let’s,” but he was no longer on the line.
I only clearly remember spending time with Karl in the daytime twice. The first one was in late 2004, a planning meeting of Rock Ed which we set at 2pm in a friend’s house in Makati. He showed up looking like he just woke up but joined the meeting with all the solar powered alertness he could muster. Since our group (Rock Ed Philippines) was fairly new at that time, we needed to plan our first series of campus visits, our main obstacle was the Principal or the Dean feeling comfortable with us holding an event for their students. “Wag niyo ako isama sa meeting na may mga madre o pari,” Karl says, “…hindi tayo papapasukin sa school no’n!” So the steering committee agreed that I’d meet up with the teachers and Principals and when the event day came, Karl would be the one onstage to meet the students. “Hindi na nila tayo mapapa-alis, nasa stage na ako at naka-microphone eh!” At the meeting, he found out that one of the schools we were to visit was Xavier School in San Juan. He laughed out loud and said, “I want to go there! I want to go there!” Now when Karl is overly enthused about something, I am instinctively afraid for that project. Mainly because Karl Roy does not “take on” things – he attacks, chews, swallows up, snorts, and spits ventures out.
His band Kapatid, was the first band to ever say yes to playing inside the Maximum Security Prison in 2007. He said it was better if he started “Rock the Rehas” (Rock Ed’s alternative education project inside prison) because he had more tattoos than some inmates and they will not feel, ‘alienated.’ (his word) “Mukha rin kasi akong inmate,” he says lightly. We laughed again and so it was set. Since Karl’s first performance inside prison, over 50 other bands have followed suit and it doesn’t escape us that Karl was the one who said ‘yes’ first. This is his nature. Scream yes first, figure it out later. Grab life now because he knows it only swings by once. He reminded me of this over and over and I always gratefully nod.
The meeting was over and I walked Karl out to the street and asked him why he wanted to go to Xavier so badly. He told me that he was a student in Xavier until he got expelled. I asked him about it and he said with a smile, “I must’ve been in Grade 4 or 5, I was already on probation for little behavioral stuff but the last straw was I think I tried to set the black board on fire.” Then we both laughed out loud. Then he says, “This is why I like Rock Ed, I think I need to set blackboards on fire again.” I knew what he meant and I said, “Then let’s!” When his cab finally arrived he said to me, “I have a daughter now, Gang, and I need to do this, you know?” I nodded. Then he said, “It’s about her. All about her.” He paused, then said, “Wow, nag usap tayo nang walang beer, I need to go get one now. See you next Tuesday!” And we said our goodbyes.
The second time I saw Karl in the daylight was when one afternoon in April 2006, Rock Ed was asked to help out in the Ortigas Foundation’s volunteer recruitment day. We saw each other in Big Sky Mind the night prior and he asked me when can he help next. I said half-jokingly that there was a seminar the next day in the Ortigas Bldg in Pasig and that we needed someone to make name tags. He said, “I’ll go!” I humored him (but didn’t believe him) and said, “Karl, kailangan mong mag polo, kailangan planchado, at kailangan may dala kang pentel pen para ikaw mag sulat ng mga name tags.” The next day at 3pm, there was Karl in all his tattooed, matted hair glory, standing in the lobby of this stiff office building wearing a beige and olive green polo with a blue pen in his back pocket. I will never forget his grin. It was breath taking. Karl Roy whom I’ve watched onstage, whose growls and spastic moves I’ve screamed and cheered at was there in the lobby, smiling like a school boy. I pretended not to make a big deal out of it, I just promptly assigned him where to sit and what to do, and he did it. He sat by the registration table where the participants will come up to him, tell him their names and he’d write their names down on the name tags. It was a sight to see. Many of the participants were shocked to see Karl writing their name tags, so a lot of them asked for autographs. So there he was printing their names on one side, and signing his name on the other side of the tag. I will never forget the smile on his face that afternoon. He looked at me, raises the blue pentel pen in hand and says, “Bago ‘to ah!” “Bago nga.” I said. We laughed again.
Every other encounter with Karl after that was under the moonlight, being the lunar-powered beasts that we are, most of our conversations, happened in the dead of the night. We’d part when the sun was coming up, making promises to get in touch more often, and making future plans for projects anchored on Karl’s many bizarre theories on ‘how things should be done.’ We wave each other off and say, “Ayan na yung araaaaaw!” Then this wiry, fragile yet strong man and I will pretend to be melting against the first rays of the sun bouncing against the streets of New Manila.
Like I shared earlier, everytime Karl and I would see each other, we’d chime, “Ubusan, sulitin, gamitin, sagarin!” Then we’d break into laughter and say our hellos.
I can’t wait to see Karl again in the sunshine.