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J O U R N A L : 1999

anong ligaya sa tuwing ika'y mamasdan! Sa piling mo ang gabi tila araw....

February 1, 1999


I was in high school then--- a mere lad struggling through the onset of hormones and the apparent uselessness of algebra--- when I first heard Zsa Zsa Padilla.

Zsa Zsa PadillaShe was a singer, well, more of a crooner and if I remember correctly, I fell in love with her because of "Ikaw Lamang". She had already been in the entertainment business for some time, having hit it big with the bagets-era pop of "The Point of No Return" and the timeless early-80s ballad "Kahit Na", not to mention her forays into movies and TV hosting.

But it was really the third album (also entitled Ikaw Lamang) that sealed my fate. You see, at the time, I was discovering an aspect of music that my parentally-decreed weekly piano lessons never exposed: the passion involved in composing. I had just started to learn the guitar and took to it with a manic intensity that betrayed my need to excel at something that my genius-level honors classmates had not yet conquered.

And at the same time, I was rediscovering the piano. Except this time, instead of playing Clementi and Hanon drills, I was playing arpeggiated chords--- the very same ones I was strumming on my borrowed guitar. Much to my family's disdain I was forsaking the sacred path of classical music for something I could relate to: pop, new wave, opm ballads, and liturgical songs.

Zsa Zsa Padilla was then the muse of my blossoming musicality. She was singing songs of intensity, and had acquired fame and loyal listeners by doing so. She was adored by fans, respected by colleagues, and she was beautiful, too. I wanted that fame, that acceptance, I wanted to hear my songs on the radio. I wanted to be her!

Well, not exactly in the drag queen sense, but you get my point. Simultaneously, she was my stalwart (even if imaginary) lover and companion. I was constantly playing her albums, especially during exam weeks so she could accompany me into the wee hours of night as I studied Shakespeare and quadratic formulas. I was totally, irrevocably in love with her songs, with her smile, with her vitality. Not to mention the fact that her legs were awesome.

Zsa Zsa on ASAPAnd that's where the story takes off on a different tangent. My aunt, who records a lot of commercial jingles and sings back-up for a host of pop stars,would regularly sing for Zsa Zsa's concerts. The minute she got wind of my obsession, she sent me complimentary tickets to the shows. And I was eternally thankful.

I remember the first Zsa Zsa concert I attended in the Meralco Theater (I still have the program somewhere in my baul). After her encore numbers, I was stunned out of my wits. I literally sat in silence as the audience poured out of the doors, having wanted this more than anything in the world.

I remember another concert at a hotel ballroom, where my aunt took me to visit Zsa Zsa in her dressing room (actually, a room at the hotel) after the show. I couldn't speak. But she understood when I held out a snapshot (of her performing in an Ateneo variety show) and a pen. You can imagine how proudly I displayed her autograph to my classmates.

It was about this same time that Zsa Zsa got her own show on TV. It was a pre-taped musical show, with sets, costumes, and lots of guests ---each show's numbers revolving around a theme. Thus there was the Motown night, the Latin show, the Movies night, etcetera.

Our Betamax (ugh, how 80s) was not dependable for recording, so I would continuously pester my classmate and neighbor Paolo to tape the weekly shows for me. (If you're out there, Paolo, know that I am forever indebted to your generosity.) Whenever her show would air, I would loudly proclaim that the TV set was MINE FOR AN HOUR! I'd even get cranky if anyone so much as suggested looking at what the other channels had to offer.

Anyway, I was able to tape every single one of her episodes. Yes, I know that sounds obsessive, but excuse me...the show only lasted thereabouts of 12 weeks (anyone care to help me out here?). I remember the day I was to hear of her show's cancellation. Our family had just been to the sports club and yet I was glum, keeping to myself, feeling depressed for some unknown reason. That night, I tuned in to Zsa Zsa's show and heard her say it herself: her show was being cancelled. CRACK!

My heart broke for her. And for myself. I mean, by this time, I was a certified Zsa Zsa Junkie. But really, I could feel her sadness reaching out to me through the TV screen. I felt like crying. No, I am not making this up. Right after that I wrote to the channel demanding Zsa Zsa's show be retained. Guess what happened? Nothing.

Zsa Zsa on ASAPThen suddenly, I was about to graduate from high school. I had completely mastered the guitar and was acclaimed as the master of the six-string in my class (small consolation for having flunked both 2nd year Algebra and 3rd year Geometry), and infamous for my passionate outbursts during my days as the director of our class' dramatic presentations. And I was slowly growing apart from Zsa Zsa. Her fourth album was to arrive in my sophomore college year, and her fifth right after getting my Humanities degree. Plus there was the news that she had gone off to live with Dolphy, and semi-retired from the industry.

She had forsaken me.

She had not waited for me to grow up, so that I could offer her one of my compositions in person and not be laughed at. All these years of fidelity to her, and she would never know. I was saddened, but realized I had to go on.

Just the other day I was throwing out all the junk that had collected in my baul of memories the past 12 years. (You can't imagine the amount of letters that collect over a decade, unless you're a packrat like myself. You keep thinking it would be nice to reread these letters once in a while but never do ...and yet you never throw them.)

Well, I had decided it was time to discard with all my old, sentimental junk. So there I was at 5:30 a.m. stuffing old love letters, birthday cards and whatnot into trash bags when I came upon my Zsa Zsa folder.

Magazine covers, souvenir programs, newspaper clippings, snapshots with autographs... I thought, "Keep it or throw it?"

The answer came to me in two seconds. I had fallen in imaginary love with her, I had been inspired by her, she had served her purpose in my life, right?

I put the folder back into my baul.

pictures courtesy of & Viva Music


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