TENDER JUICY HOTDOG
By N. Mark Castro
By 9pm, the restless but genteel crowd of Philippine society, represented by all social strata, started clapping their hands, waiting for the Hotdog band to come out.
Then the President of the Republic of the Philippines quietly slipped in, together with the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, and other politicians.
There were no flash pots, no rolling fog-machines, no hype, no endless acknowledgment to VIPs or sponsors.
The HOTDOG band just walked out to the front of the stage and stood at the edge, smiling and looking into the crowd.
The best thing that I can compare it to is like bumping into a long forgotten friend at the mall. “Hey! Wow! How have you been? It’s great to see you again!”
Except they did it with hundreds of people.
Their faces were humble and appreciative, with some attending contrary to doctor’s orders.
They then took their places and rocked the house with “Annie Batungbakal.”
Musical Departments of universities should include a division that specifically study music groups or musicians: the profound implications for fans, followers, embedded myths, and the music industry. They ought to examine the narrative structures that characterize a musician’s journey, and the psychological and social roles that reunions fulfill.
Because if the Hotdog’s reunion concert indicated anything at all, it’s that music strikes a unique chord in a nation’s psyche.
For the price of the ticket, audience should expect something special and even something amazing. And reunion concerts are almost impossible to relight the fire for any musician as you are basically trying to recover the splurge of adrenalin, the excitement, the rush of spontaneity, zeitgeist, ten-fifteen years later, when the effects of high livin’ and hard drinkin’ have taken their toll and the stars of the band have all exorcised their demons and found the real meaning to life or God or both.
But the Hotdog did just that: give a reunion concert that was both special AND amazing.
It seems that most live acts nowadays reach about two hours, if they are lucky, and then usually perform a few encores. Two hours seems to be the breaking point, but not for the Hotdog, where time seems to have been suspended as they played their hearts out, covering the hits, bringing out a lot of the dusty stuff that only the die-hard fans would have even heard, as if they were saying, “Screw the Top 40 – this is about the fans!”
And they had fun with all of it. So much fun, that on more than one occasion, they would be in the middle of one of their own big hits, slightly shift the lyrics in a parody, and it would become some other created in these times (Di ipagpalit kahit ke Angel Locsin).
Yes, their hair was thinner and they were all a little thicker around the middle, but they still did what they do best … play music.
Rene’s voice still connected to be the voice of Filipino males. And Maso’s collegiate shrill gave you vivid images of those girls.
And seeing the President and Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, Cabinet Secretaries Florencio “Butch” Abad and his family, and Ricky Carandang, all singing, grooving, getting jiggy with it as the HOTDOGS sang their songs was phenomenal. Politicians from across the board, CEOs, businessmen, entrepreneurs, socialites, young girls, old men, senior citizens.
I once said that the Hotdogs spoke to an entire generation that now controls the Republic of the Philippines.
I was wrong.
They spoke to the nation.
Ogie Alcasid: the man whose songs are the theme songs to most couples in the country, who has serenaded and won the hearts of beautiful women in the land, who indulged every request of fans to have pictures taken with him, never rejecting a soul, who’s a good looking bastard in print and in person, samamabits, who’s rumoured to have the ears of the president himself, and upon whose able shoulders rest the present and future of the country’s music, was visibly enjoying the evening.
These were the elders of the land, these were the elected officials of the land, these were the appointed people of the land, criticizing one another, outdoing one another, working together, and last night, for one glorious evening, they all danced, they all cheered, they all celebrated to the music of their youth, to the music of their time, to the vocal groove of the nation, of what once was, of what yet could be again.
You could have crippled the government had a terrorist made its way through the tight hotel security and plant the bomb, except, of course, the terrorists would most likely be dancing to the music.
That Dennis Garcia of the Hotdog band has been a vocal critic of the administration, of the President himself, often colliding with the supporters of the President, did not dampen the evening’s spirit. That, despite that, the President would come, shows the kind of drive that music pulls. For this wasn’t about personality or political policies. This was about the music that once represented the nation, that paved the way to be heard against colonial music, that showed how we can, colliding views notwithstanding.
At the end of the day, no one was yellow or green or blue or red. We were brown. We were white. We were skinny. We were fat. We were, we are Filipinos, with Malay blood coursing through our veins, integrated with the blood of visiting guests, seared in time, strengthened by the sacrifice of our forefathers, whose lives were given so that we may live to dance and sing for a night like this.
For that was the kind of pull The Hotdog has: it moves you, it soothes you, it lulls you, it speaks to you.
And I was called onstage, tricky little devil Dennis was, to be able to meet the girl that was the epitome of college girls.
There went the ballgame.
You know those gorgeous films in the 80s when, after recognizing every other actor in the film, we’re left wondering who the hell was that awkward guy doing in that film? Oh, we say to ourselves, probably a producer’s mistress or boytoy. Or nephew of the producer. Or whatever.
That evening, I was exactly just that.
There’s only one word in the English dictionary that explains my sudden transformation from an obscure employee to an awkward presence onstage.
This is it: magical.
Imposed upon the eyes of those that paid a great deal of money to see The Hotdog band and yet had to watch me instead, embarrassing every known relative I have on the planet. One chance I have in life to be in front of the country’s most respected officials, from the President to every other individual whose decision swayed the nation’s direction, and I had to make an ass of myself onstage.
But that was what the entire evening was all about. A magical night that transported you back in time, that excited you to what lay ahead, of a nation united, of a nation dancing, of a nation singing. There were no labels. There were no titles. There were no political affiliations. There was only an audience, having a grand time.
One after the other, the Hotdog delivered. Legendary Rock & Roll pioneer Ramon “RJ” Jacinto came up to perform onstage, former beauty queen and one-time band member, Karen Timbol, and other insanely gifted musicians jamming with the band.
Then the song MANILA was played.
It wasn’t the drums pounding anymore. It was our collective hearts, unified by a song that expressed one’s love for the earth of one’s birth, of a city that lives.
It’s naive to think that this can be so. That with a couple of songs you can drive men to do what’s just and what’s right.
But what is music if not to do just that?
To inspire you, to elevate you, to solidify you, stripped of your ego yet connected to your soul. Every Filipino song that’s ever been written has found its way to someone’s heart, and there it lives.
To the Hotdog band.
Maraming salamat, sa isang panahon, sa isang alaala, sa isang musika …
Isa pa nga.