A Video Dies, Kthxbai
I reported my first YouTube video the other day. It only took a few hours before it disappeared from the Internet forever. But, it finally happened: Mission accomplished.
I've been trying to take this video down for years. I must clarify, that the video itself was nothing noteworthy or scandalous. What it became was an inside joke that my close friends enjoyed bringing up at our gatherings to laugh at my bad melted makeup. It was a music video made for my band as part of someone's final year project for their film class.
It was not a bad video. It was simply that the whimsical and Amelie-like treatment we tried to capture, set against the very real and poverty-stricken streets of Manila, didn't feel truthful. It didn't belong; it needed to die.
I managed to track down the director (the video was posted on her YouTube page). At first, I said that I was "cleaning up our image" because at the time, this was true. I was still figuring out how to handle band things. She understood and confessed that she lost access to the account so she couldn't delete it when I asked. She even tried to report it too, but nothing happened. Time passed. I revisited this whole deletion last week and swore to commit to it: This video. Had. To go.
I hadn't realised that it would be so easy. Swift and seamless. It took less than five minutes to fill up a form and once sent, a few hours later when I woke up, the video was gone.
I didn't even get to say goodbye.
Its sudden disappearance forced me to think about my band and our music—and all the things I hadn't thought about in a long time with greater awareness. Because I had let the band and our music float on without much reflection, a lot of what happened still hovers like a rain cloud, drifting in and out of the present, without context or destination. Without an end. But all things must end. Everything expires.
I've been wondering for a while now how I can look at this part of my life and let it be.
I don't know what it looked like from the outside, but from the inside it was a universe of connections and coincidence.
My demos, written on a borrowed midi-keyboard that I learned to play through trial-and-error were re-imagined and co-written by many talented musicians. Eventually, we became a five-piece band with Ayon, Joe, Martin and Mikey. We gigged in all sorts of dives, bars and venues in Manila. We recorded an EP with Fran and got to perform in Singapore soon after. And the reason why we have younger listeners? In 2016, while the band remained dormant, a director friend asked to have our songs in their indie film.
I take comfort in the family I found with my band mates. With them, I found love and belonging, in spite of the internal excavation I was still making a sense of at the time. The support from Manila's indie music community. Being a part of the Meiday! family. Collaborations with musicians across the globe. The possibilities that were laid out before us: deals with labels, pressing our songs on a vinyl, etc. So many people believed in us. As I sit here, 13 years later, I feel waves and waves of love for what we made. The trust. All that collective hope.
I recently watched Station Eleven so I can articulate it now: Survival is insufficient.
I needed to write those songs. I needed my band not for anything else, but to be more than a surviving human. First came the people who heard my early demos, and then musicians who chose to be my band mates. Then, my friends. Catcor has a band? I can remember many surprised faces when it was all happening. Even my own family. No one expected to find me on a stage singing songs I had written, eyes closed, sometimes with a phone in hand because I had a habit of forgetting my own lyrics. I had not expected it either. From the musician on MySpace whom I fell in love with and the many Internet friends I made. We were heard. Someone was listening.
As a traumatized child, I had struggled with loneliness, so it feels like a hug when I receive an e-mail informing me that we still have people listening. This has been a gift to that child inside me who once felt abandoned, silenced and violated—when one listener would have been enough.
I haven't written anything new—and it's not that I wouldn't, but these had a specific purpose. They were a part of my survival.
Our band is called Arigato, Hato! which means "Thanks, dove!" (or "Thanks, pigeon" sources differ). I learned today that if I had spelled hato with a double a—i.e. haato... it could have actually translated to "Thanks, love!" which would have matched what it meant to me: A testament of love and gratitude.
My band, our music, my songs—set me towards this path. Through it, I learned to trust again. I had yet to come to terms with my trauma. I had a different vocabulary for it in those days. I was still a little disconnected from my feelings and my body, and not quite as body-aware as I am now. And I needed to feel connected to the world. My brain was coming to terms with what my body had experienced up to that point. The choices I made led to our songs, and so they were sung and once with a sweaty melted makeup face on a music video set—I emerged.
So goodbye now to the video that had to die and a big thank you to love.