Eric S. Caruncho
affair for Ely, Diane and
I NEVER thought I'd see the day when I'd be discussing
the wonders of modern infant feeding with head Eraserhead
Ely Buendia, but I guess you never know.
"Mas malapit ang korte ng nipple niya sa nipple ng
nanay (The nipple resembles that of a mother)," he
explains of that indispensable modern convenience,
the disposable bottle, in the same tone in which he
used to explain the relative merits of Fender guitars
"At na-eliminate na rin ang hangin sa loob kaya wala
nang kabag (And you eliminate the air inside so there's
no gas pain)," he adds.
As if to demonstrate, little Eon - now a roly-poly
nine months old - is sucking blissfully on one in
his blue stroller, dreaming baby dreams. Upstairs
his mother Diane, now back to her normal svelteness,
is resting, leaving father and son to spend some quality
We are in the same living room in Ely's UP Village
apartment where, six years before, I first interviewed
the band at the height of Eraserheads mania. The 'Heads
had just released their second album "Circus" to universal
raves, and the apartment was party central. A couple
of bandmates and friends were sharing the place, and
the floor was littered with Nintendo cartridges, cassettes,
guitars and magazines. Then in their flannel-shirted
Pinoy slacker incarnation, the 'Heads still seemed
dazed by their runaway success. They had no inkling
that their peak, which would come with the next album
"Cutterpillow," was still around the bend.
The Beatles posters are still on the wall, but a
measure of domesticity has settled on the Buendia
household. The only sounds are of the yaya - heaven-sent
- puttering around in the kitchen, and Ely, now 30,
has time to reflect on the changes that fatherhood
"Masaya siya," he says. "Siyempre, magko-concentrate
ka na sa responsibility mo-the usual stuff. Imbis
na isipin mo ang sarili mo, iisipin mo na lang na
may isang taong helpless talaga at nasa kamay mo ang
buhay niya (Instead of thinking only of yourself,
you just think that there is one really helpless person
whose life is in your hands)."
Ely and Diane have gone through the rites of passage
all young parents undergo: woozy half-asleep 3 a.m.
feedings, endless diaper changes, teething, the fearfulness
and worry of the first major illness.
"Naapektuhan din ako physically," says Ely. "Nagbubuhat
ka, minsan hindi ka na nakakakain. Medyo mas lean
ako ngayon (I've been affected physically. You lift
things, sometimes you can't eat)."
Buendia has also had time to reflect on his own childhood,
and his relationship with his father.
"Cool naman ang tatay ko, we just didn't agree on
many things," says Ely, who is second in a brood of
four. His father, an accountant, was a strict disciplinarian.
"I'm the same age my father was when I was born,"
he reflects. "Naisip ko: mas responsible nga ba siya
kaysa akin? Na-realize ko na oo nga, mas responsible
siya. At that time may bahay na siyang sarili (he
had his own house), may steady job na siya."
Ely laughs when I ask him if being an Eraserhead
could be considered a steady job.
"No," he says. "Hindi siya steady."
In a sense, it's as if the E'heads' rock-star status
at the height of their popularity allowed them to
postpone adulthood for a prolonged adolescence, and
now that things have quieted down, it is fast catching
up with them. Drummer Raymund Marasigan became a father
five months before Eon was born, and bassist Buddy
Zabala is expecting his first child with long-time
partner Ernest a few months from now. Even lead guitarist
Marcus Adoro, who recently became tabloid fodder with
the threat of a lawsuit by his allegedly underage
girlfriend's mother, has settled down to a measure
of relative stability.
The irony is, pushing 30, the 'Heads are making some
of their best music. Live, the band once legendary
for sloppy playing are now a tight, professional unit.
Too bad the crowds aren't there anymore. But Ely
"Ito ang pinakagusto ko sa mga album namin (I like
this best among our albums)," he says of "Carbonstereoxide."
"Concentrated kasi ang efforts namin. The best elements
of everything we learned, lumabas dito."
Buendia admits that for the past few albums, the
'Heads have lacked focus, with various side projects-Marasigan's
Sandwich, Adoro's Flaming Katols and Zabala's session
and production work for, among others, Asin-drawing
energy away from the band.
"We could have done another 'Cutterpillow' that would
have been even more popular," he says. "But after
I saw 20,000-plus people at the Sunken Garden, naisip
ko, 'Paano pa natin masusundan 'yon?' Obvious na 'yun
ang gusto ng masa, 'yung ganoong tunog. Siyempre,
kung ano ang gusto, 'yun ang hindi namin ginawa (How
do you follow up something like that? Obviously that's
what the masses want, that sound, and of course that's
not what we did)."
The 'Heads instead retreated into the experimentalism
of "Fruitcake" and "Aloha Milkyway," and the crowds
started thinning out. The multi-platinum sales became
a distant memory and the royalty checks started shrinking.
By the turn of the millennium, the 'Heads were just
one of the many local bands who had to perform to
pay the bills. A bit better off than most, admittedly,
but by no means on Easy Street. Last year, Buendia
released his first solo effort, "Wanted Bedspacer,"
which found him experimenting with electronics and
studio effects, but audiences failed to pick up on
"By 'Natin99' medyo na-burnout na ako. Hindi ko na
alam ang direksyon. (I didn't know our direction anymore).
Na cut-off ako sa roots namin, at na-realize ko na
mas gusto ko ang stripped-down sound namin."
In a sense, "Carbonstereoxide" is a back-to-basics
record, a band album. The 'Heads may have finally
paid their dues, at last. The first single, "Maskara,"
is on rotation on radio and MTV, and Buendia thinks
it is the band's most successful single since "Cutterpillow"
days. The video, in fact, was co-produced by Buendia
with young filmmaker Marie Jamora. The experience
of making the video has encouraged him to look at
a possible second career in films. He is reportedly
writing the script to what could be his first feature
"The nice thing is, I don't have to start from the
bottom," he says. "Medyo may clout na ako."
Just then, Eon lets out a wail. Reality check. Mother
and yaya appear in a snap. Ely picks up his son, who
soon starts cooing contentedly.
"Kung minsan bratty siya talaga," he says. "Nakakatuwa
din na kahit ganoon siyang kaliit, may sariling personality
na siya (It's nice that even while he's this small,
he already has a personality)."
Eon likes going to Eraserheads concerts, and was
frequently in the studio while the band was recording
the last album. He responds to beats, which Ely attributes
to the number of raves he and Diane went to when she
was pregnant. When his father is playing the electric
guitar, Eon drops whatever he is doing and rushes
to play with the instrument. The "Blue Danube" waltz
puts him right to sleep. And he has his very own little
red Fender Stratocaster to play with.