Interview: Mr. Bones

Mr. Bones

Mr. Bones is the lead vocalist of Mr. Bones and the Boneyard circus, a band that’s been making waves not just because of their talent, but also because they’re fun to watch, and they’re songs and lyrics tend to be dark, but, ah, happy. They’re one of my favorite local bands (I currently have three).
Here’s something from their MySpace page that will give you an idea of the kind of music they play:

“Loud and definitely in your face! Dark and twisty lyrics, set to raw and raucous, yet masterful music. Deliciously infectious grooves. Theatrical, with more than a hint of macabre drama. Welcome to Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus’ unique brand of musical madness and merry mayhem!

“Formed in mid-2009, the band belies and defies being the “new bones in the cemetery lot”. With their sheer musical talent, dedication, and creative edge, the band is destined to rock the tombstones off your graves. They cite Wednesday 13, Zombie Ghost Train, The Misfits, Korn, REPO! The Genetic Opera, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Alice Cooper, Sigur Ros, The Doors, Nirvana, Metallica, and Iron Maiden among their many loud and proud musical influences. Their sound is a fusion of ska, punk, and hard rock, with undertones of classic rock. The end-result of which can only be described as ‘PSYCHO-BILLY!’”
Listen to them here.

Do you believe in ghosts/ elementals? If yes, have you seen one (or more)? Can you tell us about it?

Yes I do! I saw an ORB and I shat my pants! Enough said!!

What’s the scariest place you’ve been to? Why was it scary? Did you end up experiencing anything supernatural there? Do you plan to go back?

My place. Why my place? I was playing hide and seek with my little sister. Weird thing was for some reason I had a video camera with me and I decided to record stuff! I caught a ghost. This ghost was following my little sister around, and we only saw this when we played it back. it looked like a figure lit from above with a flashlight. it wasnt scary but it was eerie. we ended up destroying the tape!!! please don’t haunt me, ghost, this is only an interview!!!
What’s the scariest ghost story you’ve heard?

Hmm.. don’t have any… There is a story about how my cousin had a wart on his toe, and how he kept pickin it with his teeth!!!!

How has your supernatural experiences (even if they come in the form of secondhand stories) influenced your work?

The fun of it! Love it! Thats what excites me, and I put that excitement into my work! I use it.. It scares me and that scare factor becomes my muse. The supernatural affects my work a lot. Most of my songs are about the undead. ALL of my songs actually.

What advice would you give someone who comes face to face with a ghost/elemental?

Life’s a grave, you gotta dig it! Ten four!

Interview: Annicka Dolonius

Annicka Dolonius

If you’ve seen Pisay, Aureus Solito’s fun and poignant film about being a Philippine Science High School student in the 80′s, then you’ll remember Annicka Dolonius as Wena, the confused, soft-spoken tisay. She is also one of the most stylish, fun people I’ve met. She’s also been included in Preview’s 2009 Creative It List. More recently, you can catch her in director Jason Tan’s awesome Drip music video for “Bloodletting.” I hope to see more of her in different projects soon.

Do you believe in ghosts/ elementals? If yes, have you seen one (or more)? Can you tell us about it?

Absolutely! I haven’t come face to face with one, but encounters definitely! I have little ghostly children in my room in Ortigas (my mother and sisters will back me up on this!!).. You can hear their feet running around the room at night, and sometimes they like to play tricks! Like they’ll turn on lights when you’re not looking or open cupboards and stuff. Its kind of creepy now that I think about it haha one time one of my hats went flying across the room, I think cause they weren’t comfortable with people who were with me at the time haha i dont know, who knows?? Kids these days!!!

What’s the scariest place you’ve been to? Why was it scary? Did you end up experiencing anything supernatural there? Do you plan to go back?

Hospitals. The smell of dying and disinfectant is just eerie, man. Another place that gives me the creepin’ willies is the hallways of the Manila Peninsula (Bones: heehee TWINS) haha I don’t think it has ANYTHING to do with the Shining, its just really creepy. But then again, I find lots of things creepy.. The open sea, modern art, double jointedness.. but not the supernatural! I think I find comfort in that stuff.

What’s the scariest ghost story you’ve heard?

Probably the one that (Mr.) Bones (vocalist of psychobilly band Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus) just told me hahaha no ghost stories haven’t freaked me out since i was a ki–Oh waiiit!!! my sisters boyfriend recently told me about the ghost they have on their farm.

I can’t remember how it goes exactly but one of their friends was driving to the farm one night and saw this figure in the window of the farm office. It was a girl with dark hair, and she was just standing there with her back towards him, cause she was facing the wall. so he drove past thinking “thats odd!” and a couple of hours later he drives out AND SHE WAS STILL STANDING THERE!!! the next day he asked around and the guards were like “oh! so you’ve met the farm girl!”

WWAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! apparently this farm is located near a japanese cemetery or some kind of japanese burial grounds.. THIS IS ALL TRUE!! haha it sounds like something out of a movie.

How has your supernatural experiences (even if they come in the form of secondhand stories) influenced your work?

I don’t know hehe I know they influence my everyday behavior but I guess I don’t really think about it hehe i just love it!! I love the creeps you get from it!! Its like a psychological rollercoaster!!

What advice would you give someone who comes face to face with a ghost/elemental?

I have no idea!! Haha I guess just be cool and don’t freak out! Don’t forget your please and thank-yous! Stop, look, and listen! Flush after use! This side up! haha I have no CLUE.

Interview: Carlo Vergara

For the second installment in my interview series, I am fortunate to have Visconde Carlo Vergara, one of the country’s most talented writer/ illustrators and author of One Night in Purgatory and Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, the latter one of my favorite graphic novels. Just just Filipino graphic novels, graphic novels, period.

Carlo’s sketch of Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah

Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah is about a gay man who comes a cross a mysterious stone that, when swallowed, turns him into a female superhero of Amazonian proportions.  She then sets out to rid her town of various monsters, which include, among other things, a giant frog, an alien queen and zombies. I particularly liked how Carlo married Philippine gay culture and the annihilation of the undead. The graphic novel has been turned into a successful musical and a not so successful movie. And Carlo, if you’re reading this, I can’t wait for the sequel.

Here are his answers:

Do you believe in ghosts/ elementals? If yes, have you seen one (or more)? Can you tell us about it?

Allow me to share two.
1) It happened the night before the funeral of my first cousin, who passed away because of a brain tumor. (I was in elementary school then.) I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a veiled shadow standing beside my bed. The room was dark, and the shadowy figure was backlit by a faint light streaming through the window. But I knew it was my cousin. Then Murphy’s Law kicked in: The moment you need a blanket to cover yourself is the same moment no blanket can be found. So I closed my eyes instead, hoping I was just imagining things. But no, she was still there. I repeated this process about twice or thrice, only to confirm that there was, indeed, someone beside my bed. Later, while my eyes were closed, I heard the door open and the light click on. It was my mom, telling me to get up and get ready for the funeral.

2) Another elementary school encounter, though this is the audio kind. I woke up in the middle of the night, dark room and all. I heard music being played right outside the bedroom window, and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. It had a tinkly, flutey quality, and even at a young age, I knew that it was the kind of music that only duwendes (dwarves – ed.) could play. I wasn’t afraid–the music was so soothing that I couldn’t find it in me to be afraid. But I was prudent enough not to look outside the window. A couple of minutes later, the music stopped. I went back to sleep after trying to remember how it sounded. I couldn’t–it was as if it never happened. Until now, I wish I could hear it again.

What’s the scariest place you’ve been to? Why was it scary? Did you end up experiencing anything supernatural there? Do you plan to go back?

I generally feel anxious in places that have a “heavy” vibe, especially when I get the feeling that someone’s watching and not just passing by. Usually large, old houses. When I was working for Real Living magazine, I’ve had a share of goosebumps in a few of the houses we’ve shot.

What’s the scariest ghost story you’ve heard?

I forgot the details of the story, but it involved “something shaking the front gate, as if trying to get in.”

How has your supernatural experiences (even if they come in the form of secondhand stories) influenced your work?

If anything, supernatural experiences influence the way I explore possibilities in storycrafting. There are simply some things that happen, coming in from left field, that may or may not figure prominently in the plot, but happen nonetheless. But whether or not they affect the plot, they affect the story experience. Also, the supernatural experiences I’ve had opened me up more to the interconnectedness of things, or the causality that runs between the past and the present.

What advice would you give someone who comes face to face with a ghost/elemental?

Hmmm… welcome the fear. But be fascinated by the experience. Unless, well, said ghost/elemental is one nasty bugger, in which case you’re more than welcome to shriek and run.

Rock Ed: A day in Bilibid Prison

As posted on my GMA column:

Last Wednesday, I tagged along with Erwin Romulo to New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. This was part of Rock Ed’s weekly visitation to the maximum security prison.

RockEd is a movement that aims to encourage reading and education through music. They have held several projects and produced several events. They also have a weekly radio show every Sunday at 8pm on NU 107, hosted by Gang Badoy, who founded Rock Ed, and Lourd de Veryra of the RadioActiveSago Project, with music by Terno Recordings.

We met up with Gang and two other volunteers, Leslie and Mike along the SLEX and together, we went to Bilibid.

You hear all sorts of things about folks in prison. It doesn’t help that movies paint prison as being a dark, soulless place where people are kept behind bars and given scarps of food to eat.

The security inside Bilibid is unbelievably tight (and rightly so). No cellphones or cameras allowed. We had to empty out the contents of our bags, surrender an ID and get frisked. The guys had to get stamped as proof that they don’t belong inside. After all that, we were finally in.

The inside of Bilibid is like a little barangay. There is a hospital, a basketball court, a canteen, numerous sari-sari stores. People walk around, some in their orange uniforms, others in casual attire. It looked like you were in a men-only commune and not one of the biggest prisons in the country. People called out to Gang as she passed, all of which she greeted with a cheerful ‘hello’ back. We could see groups of prisoners walking around — probably gang leaders and their ‘bodyguards.’ We passed some joggers who waved happily at us. The tiny road was smooth and well-paved, a far cry from some of the streets you see in Metro Manila.

Gang teaches a creative writing class in Bilibid every Wednesday. She sometimes brings in guests to talk about what they do. It’s one way of getting the inmates to meet new people, something they cannot do on their own because of their current situation. Examples of people she’s brought include writers, filmmakers and musicians. RockEd even organized a concert of the inmates recently of three of today’s most popular bands — The Itchyworms, Pedicab and Hale.

We were led deep inside the prison, into a small, well-lit activity room that also housed the prison library. This is where Gang’s students regularly gathered for class. I was asked to introduce myself. I told them that I was a horror writer, and that immediately got their attention. It seemed that everyone had a question to ask or a scary story to tell.

“Did you feel anything on your way here?” someone ask.

“Thank goodness I didn’t!” I replied.

I was told about haunted cells, haunted bathrooms, given tips on how to go about researching in the morgue. A guy told us about how he had encountered a talking goat when he was a child while another regaled us with a story of how he picked a fight with a ghost. They were all very smart. We discussed stuff like clairvoyance, near death experiences and Christian belief about the nature of spirits. I learned from them that fiction is kathang-isip in Tagalog.

They also asked about how I researched my stories, and whether I did it alone.

“Not if I can help it!” I answered.

Afterwards, Gang gave them a lesson on ownership and imagination. “Your story or poem belongs to you,” she said, “and only you have the right to dictate what happens in it. It can be based on events or it could be something purely from your imagination. You can exaggerate if you want, because it is yours. What is important is that you are happy with what you have written.”

Gang is a very good teacher. I found myself relearning things I had forgotten and discovering others that I didn’t realize about the writing process. Her class listened attentively, drinking in her every word. I realized that this was probably the most interested, well-behaved class I had ever seen. She then gave them an assignment. They were to each write a horror story that they were to let someone else read, one person per story. The only criteria for this exercise was that they scare their groupmate. They would then report on the stories they read.

Gang’s students wanted to see some of my work, so I’m supposed to give Gang photocopies of one of my stories.

Afterwards, we milled around for a bit. One of the prisoners showed me and Erwin the scars from where he was shot in the early 90′s. He described the sensation of being shot, and the pain of the wound healing. I asked to touch it and he let me. Now I know what a healed gunshot wound feels like. He also told me that he’s been starving for horror and suspense books, since most of what circulates within the prison walls are Tagalog romance novels. Imagine that!

We were joined by fashion designer Puey Quinones, who also holds once a week classes in Bilibid, but for painting and fashion design. Everyone sat down to a dinner of white rice, steamed crab, and probably the best tinolang manok I have ever tasted. We sat around some more then it was time to go home. what looked like the whole class escorted us to the prison gates, where we shook hands and said goodbye.

Later, I asked Gang when the class would be reporting on their groupmates’ stories. She said they could wait for me if I wanted. I really want to hear what horror stories her students come up with. I’ll let you know if anything stands out.

Find out more about Rock Ed on http://www.rockedphilippines.org/

Happy Halloween, everyone!

On the phone with Cirio Santiago

I did a short phone interview with director Cirio Santiago today (I wasn’t able to catch him at the photoshoot, where I interviewed director Eddie Romero) for Rogue. It’s amazing how, in just a five minute conversation with this man, I learned more about the Philippines during the American era than I did in four years of high school.

He and Eddie Romero were cinematic pioneers, even though the Philippines was too insular to notice. The duo thought that the local film industry was too stifling, and that there were creative opportunities available elsewhere, if they knew where to find it. And find it they did, both of them working and making names for themselves on Hollywood B movies.

I was very fascinated by Mr. Santiago’s approach to moviemaking, which he tackles from an economic point of view. I was saddened by his statement that the movies that he really wanted to make were ones that the (Filipino) public would not want to watch. It drove home how, even after more than a century of freedom, most of us still live our lives in accordance to what we think would appeal to our colonizers. I have friends who will not read, listen or watch anything that was not a best seller, blockbuster hit or platinum-charting, and who let their in-the-loop friends dictate their tastes. It’s sort of like that. Mr. Santiago mentioned something to the effect of “I’m not well known in this town.” But with Hollywood filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Jonathan Demme (and this is the important part) telling Filipinos about Mr. Santiago’s influence on their filmmaking, maybe that might change.