Underground, watch this space

UPDATED (25 September 2016): Overhauled this post.

It was in 2011 when a gig organizer told me in an interview about an organization called the UP Underground Music Community, whose gig series was initially meant to showcase bands from that group. It turns out that I had an encounter with some of their folk even before that, thanks largely to singer/songwriter nights when one or two of their members would play. But I did know a bit about Ang Bandang Shirley, one of their bigger acts.

During what I call the 2012 Research Intensive in Independent Music with music researcher Monika Schoop, I became aware of that generation of UP Underground members who would play a role in my life beyond music. There, I met some people whom I would consider inspirations and friends.

I cannot really claim to be an expert on who the UP Underground Music Community is, or what they are really about. I can only see the effects of the work they’ve fostered on me and on many others. However, I will speak about the three things they value as an organization, and how I have seen them lived out for myself.

The first is respect. It shows in how they acknowledge the diversity of each other’s music, interests, and personalities. It is clear in how they value time and make sure other people’s time is respected, especially in the way they organize their gigs.

As an excursus, I can surmise that the community, or at least some of them, are aware of the roles different people play in the music scene. As the literature notes, these roles are not only those of musicians and audiences. Their Shoot Lo-Fi competition incorporates the work of young filmmakers whose work has become vital in putting local music in newer contexts. And their extensive work as event and gig organizers puts them in another key place in any music scene.

Brotherhood, or to use a French word, fraternite, has to do with how they relate to each other within that community. The ties that form between different generations of members is noticeable. But I have also seen this as being a leaven for fostering camaraderie not only within their circles but also beyond, a force for making connections between people possible.

I placed music last because it is what stands out. Their relative diversity, given the resources to which they have access as musicians, is what has impressed me. From the indie pop sensibilities of Shirley, to the urban electronic work of Arigato, Hato, to the folk and new country-inspired sounds of Ourselves the Elves and The Sun Manager, and to many others I’ve seen or heard, they have been able to express some of their passions and stories, some of which resonate with my own.

As their anniversary approaches, I am grateful to them for being that place where I could see the nexus between art and friendship, as a force drawing people together. I was glad to visit UP Underground Music Community’s anniversary event last Saturday, 24 September 2016, and was once again reminded of how these values were lived out. It is my hope that they will continue to grow and thrive as their fifteenth full year begins.

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A temporary reopening to confess/apologize for something

Christmas is a time where I often pay attention to how I behave and what is going through my head. My worry is that I do think with my heart more than with my head (or the other way around, if what the Pueblo Indians say is true), and for me it is a time when emotions run high and start to crash just as quickly. Infatuation and suspicion come together at this time, and it is a most dangerous mix.

Perhaps I have to be honest, and I have to live with the consequences. I would like to thank everyone whom I have met so far for bearing with me as much as I try to bear with you. I am grateful to my family for their willingness to bear with me. I would like to thank the friends I have had for a very long time for their patience and concern and loyalty. And for those whom I have hurt by whatever I have or have not said or done, I ask for your forgiveness. I don’t know what it is, but only God knows and he is more forgiving than any of us. I forgive those who have held me in suspicion or contempt, or who have been indifferent to me.

And with all this said and done, I ask that you remember me in your prayers as I will do for you. As I continue to struggle with the doubts I have in building relationships and doing what I am doing, I would like to have faith enough to keep me on the calling to which I will devote my life. In the time I have left between now and the hereafter, a time whose exact duration I cannot control, I would like to live my life in hope, the hope that disturbs and frustrates whatever anyone of us can do. And most of all, I would like to love as God has loved me first. That is my deepest desire this Christmas.

That is a post I wish I could have written earlier, and that is what I am really supposed to say.

Killjoy? A reflection on Advent

Any consideration of the season of Advent should acknowledge the fact that its origins were penitential. Especially in the East, when Epiphany, where the Baptism of Christ is one of the “three wonders” that mark this holy day, was another time when baptisms were celebrated, a penitential season parallel to Lent before Easter would be a most appropriate time for preparing those to be baptized. To this day, Orthodox Christians have been observing the Nativity Fast from mid-November, and its vestiges outside the East are still seen in Milan’s six-week Advent.

Its penitential origins are still seen in the fact that the Gloria in Excelsis is not sung during Advent (and its use in the Simbanggabi an exception which I would personally regret, for reasons I will state) and that violet, a traditionally penitential color, is used during this time. There is also the practice, at least among some Anglicans, of having the (Cranmerian) Great Litany sung in procession on Advent Sunday, and the Litany in its traditional form has penitential overtones.

Of course, the notion of this being a penitential time is no longer meaningful for most of us. In fact, I would suggest that such a position would turn Advent into the ultimate “killjoy” season, at least as some people perceive it. The reality is that the Advent season clashes with the anticipatory secular celebration of Christmas even before the liturgical year is over, a celebration that cannot trace its origins earlier than this century. Some rigorists would exclude having Christmas songs on the church menu anytime earlier than Christmas eve, and ideally, this would be the case in churches outside the Philippines. (The Simbanggabi is again an exception here, as far as I know.)

This is why the Church (and by this I mean the Roman Church in the West and those who follow it at least on this matter) emphasizes the notion of Advent being a joyful anticipation and a time of waiting. It urges us to take penitence as one aspect of this waiting for the coming that occurs, not just in the beginning or at the end, but in every occasion. But it asks us to be sober, as Paul’s letter to the Romans puts it. Advent is ultimately counter-cultural, because we are asked to reconsider, especially now, what our own culture teaches us about the celebration of Christmas, and how it has been corrupted (willingly) by the blatant commercialization of the season.

Why do I say “especially now”? There is a sense in which everyone around the world is being called to change their lifestyles, thanks to this crisis that shows up the faults in our free market system. I hear stories of cutbacks in Christmas celebrations in some places because people and companies could no longer afford to do it. And the search for bargains in an economy where gift-giving—and the buying of gifts—is considered a good unto itself has led to one tragic death. The economy of exchange has distorted what should be an economy of the gift. The latter is precisely what Advent anticipates: the mystery, as Jean-Luc Marion and the Radical Orthodox love to celebrate in their writings, of something “given” before we ask.

Part of this reconsideration, I think, lies in reforming certain aspects of the pre-Christmas culture in our country. While the Simbanggabi in the Roman Catholic rite takes on the character of an anticipatory Christmas celebration, with the use of the Gloria and white vestments, I think we should look at how the Episcopal Church decided, while adopting this most Filipino of customs, to keep the Advent mood. My suggestions would be twofold:

1. We should expand the repertory of Advent songs in Filipino, and encourage more Advent songs in English, even the revival of some of the great Advent hymns of the Western tradition both past and present. A good place to begin writing new Advent songs in our language is to adapt texts from the tradition, like “Veni, redemptor gentium” and perhaps that great Advent hymn by John Wesley, “Lo! he comes with clouds descending.” Original material that speaks of anticipation and penitence should be composed as well. I am not up to the task, but I am sure others will take up that challenge.

2. Such hymns would find a place in a reform-of-the-reform Simbanggabi. I would prefer that the Gloria in Excelsis be suppressed, or at least a setting that speaks of a sober mood be used. I would also suggest that the use of rose-colored vestments become customary during this time. I advance two reasons: first, rose is an Advent color and the nine days commonly start after the Third Sunday of Advent when this color is used, and second, it is associated with the Virgin Mary, for the masses of the novena are, as far as I know, considered votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman rite.

I propose reviving the time-honored idea of making the twelve days of Christmas the focus of our celebration of the Incarnation, something which can be helped by a move done this year in our country to declare seven of them a holiday—except for those in the banking system. But I would also ask whether, indeed, it is time for some sobriety even in that. Which will be a topic for a future essay.

Early in the day…

I have not been blogging so often these days. To be honest, if there is anything I would like to write about, I hesitate to write about it. I can only say that I have been keeping a lot to myself lately, and I am satisfied with that.

There is a time to speak, says Qoheleth, and a time to keep silent.

Meanwhile, I note that we really have to think about the culture of consumption that comes with our market economies. Advent is indeed a time to realize that all things will pass, especially whatever we have, and perhaps it is time to realign our priorities.

It is appropriate that the Gospel for last week was Matthew 25:31-46, in the lectionary shared by many Christian churches. It was, and still is, one of my favorite passages from the Bible. Those who are so concerned about abortion, or gay marriages, or questions of authority would do well to realize that often we are missing the point.

And then there is something else to do – weekend reading

As these hopeful days continue, I can only say that… see the title.

Of course, there is nothing to do at some point, but that is another story entirely.

*****

Some things to read and reflect upon this weekend would include the following:

1. William Cavanaugh’s thoughts on the Church and its relationship to the secular order are enough to make you wonder why some churches would fly national flags inside it or outside it. I am reading a shorter book of essays, Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Global Consumerism, which I would recommend as a good introduction to the key thesis of his theological reflections. Of course, for those who are more historically minded, his Torture and Eucharist is still the book to read—it has made me see the parallels between the Chilean and Philippine experience, but also the differences.

2. Derek the Aenglican and Christopher both write this weekend on a question of Anglican liturgical practice, and this reminds me of a point that has to be made: Anglicanism’s greatest liturgical gift to Christianity is the Office, and yet in recent years it has been deemphasized too much. It must be noted that the Office is celebrated publicly on weekdays only in two places: the local Episcopal seminary, and the chapel of Brent School Manila.

*****

Finally, I saw something that reminded me of why one very recent return I made was a very good thing.

Thank God for Martin Luther

Rethinking one’s faith in a positive way, as Michael Tan notes in yet another remarkable column on religion in today’s Inquirer, will lead me to the same conclusion: we need a Reformation. We always do, as a church. Every time we forget what we’re supposed to do, someone like Martin Luther should come along and wake us up.

So thank God for the Reformation. It may have divided the Church, but it allowed us to clarify our respective ecclesial visions and move forward as civilizations. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, I can assure you that we would not even have the Reproductive Health Bill.

Thank God for the Reformation, for it reminds us to take the Bible seriously, the book which Roman Catholics take for granted and Protestants take far too seriously at times.

Thank God for the Reformation, for some of what the Second Vatican Council owes itself to the insights of the Reformers and the Counter-Reformers.

Of course, I must say that the Orthodox have never had to live through that, but then again, would it not be better that they need a Martin Luther to wake them from their complacency and remind them of Jesus Christ?

Site of the month – Lutheranism and liturgy

My friend, Don Jon Alano, gave me this link to try and while it is just starting out, I think it looks promising if the author keeps his eye on the ball.

It may be of interest to note that Luther and Calvin had a strong sacramental and liturgical sense that their followers all but dumped. However, Lutheran liturgy seems to have thrived in the Swedish/Finnish Lutheran tradition—the term hogmesse is still being used for the principal Sunday act of worship.

Indeed, Don notes in a text received a few minutes ago that it is in the interest of ecumenism to read and encourage writers like Pastor Jack Whritenour in their efforts to keep the liturgy a part of our common ecumenical heritage.

*****

Will the bonfire be burning on Bellarmine Field? Abangan. But as I said some months back, I am Christian before I am Filipino, and Filipino before Atenean. And that is all.