Heber Bartolome

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Heber Bartolome August 28, 2007
Heber Bartolome at Conspiracy Garden Café

Biting Lyrics
Way back from my college days, I'd been a fan of Heber and his band, Banyuhay. His music, through the years, remain a brutally honest and incisive reflection of Pinoy culture and value system, to wit:

  • "Ako'y isang Pinoy, ako'y hindi 'Kano, huwag kang mahihiya kung ang ilong mo ay pango" (I'm Filipino, I'm not American, don't be embarassed if you have a flat nose). In a Dr. Belo-crazed facial frenzy, that's as real as it gets.
  • "Mayrong isang aso, daig pa ang ulol, siya'y ngumingiyaw, hindi tumatahol...katulad ng iba, pa-ingles ingles pa, at kung pakikinggan, mali-mali naman...huwag na lang" (there is a crazy dog that meows, it doesn't bark...like others who try too hard in English, but never gets it). Ouch, if that didn't hurt, I don't know what does.

In Search of
Surprisingly, I haven't seen him perform ever. I asked around if anyone still remembers him and where I could catch his act...but no one knew...or remembered. Fortunately, while watching Lester Demetillo and Susan Fernandez perform at Conspiracy Garden Café the week before, I found his name on the gig list - bingo!

Weathering the Times
Until this evening, I haven't seen him nor his picture since my college days. When I arrived at Conspiracy, I didn't recognize him at first. This once-vibrantly nimble hippie now looked every inch my grandfather; all the visual counter-culture affirming trimmings were gone. I wondered....has he mellowed down?

From the moment he uttered his first words on the mic, I knew he was still 'da man'. His music from so many years back remain unchanged. I was thrown back to my long-hair days, packed with all the uncertainties of the time. His down-to-earth demeanor and common touch gave away a man who lived his music in his day-to-day. That's probably saying too much from the 2-hour exposure I had with him....but that's how it came across.

Last Song Syndrome (LSS)
The next few days following the gig, I couldn't shake off his song and I would repeatedly sing, "....sa umaga, pagka gising, wala palang makakain" (waking up in the morning, there's nothing to eat). Unbeknownst to me, my host was taking offense thinking I was insinuating that I wasn't being fed enough. One morning, she calmly said, "there's enough food in the frige". Ha-ha!!!

Postman Paul
There were a few chance-performers that evening. I gather that with Heber, they get a chance to go up on stage and perform. One performance caught my fancy - Postman Paul. He's not a professional singer...just a shy postman who loves his music. On stage, he talked about life as a postman - chased by dogs, bullied by neighborhood toughies, a silent witness to ongoing neighborhood gossip, etc. He internalized all that into his music. When he sang, I was just floored! This dude has a voice, he's got his own unique style and his song-writing ability can butt heads with the pros. This guy has talent. Fortunately, I video-cammed his performance and uploaded it on YouTube (or you can just play the video below). I hope he makes it. I hope he makes a lot of money. I hope to see name in lights someday.

Ending Thoughts
Even before I left the gig, I was already nurturing a newfound delight I had knowing Heber is still around and very far from selling out. His music is as relevant now as it was compelling decades ago. In him, I found an elder who can impart wisdom from where he's been. We are all richer for having Heber in our midst.

--- TheLoneRider

Postman Paul sings his heart out:
P8280234 P8280238 P8280243
P8280245 P8280246 P8280250
P8280255 P8280258 P8280259
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Conspiracy Garden and Cafe