You hear the gentle notes making their way past the strings of the old guitar. They seem to be oh so light, playing with the rays of sunlight that stream from the windows. You are taken away by the silence between notes, and the feeling of flying.
Suddenly, the beast comes pouring in. Angry, raging, staccato. The melody changes, it is intense. Your former state is nowhere to be found. You rage, rage, rage. There is nothing but a building passion – angry, dark, taunting. You strike through the beat like a madman.
… That is, until the tempo slows, and you remember what you’re here for. Tame the beast. Play the music. Soothe the soul.
This is a book with rhythm and rhyme, flow and fugue, melody and music. It talks about prodigies and musical talent, while remaining rather reminiscent of Manila’s glories. It’s not perfect, being independently published, but it is an interesting page-turner, and something I thought that was unique, especially among the local Filipiniana books.
This is the kind of book wherein you rather need to be familiar with the songs to get the context. It’s fine without that knowledge, but with Leyenda or Por Una Cabeza in the background, the text gains a different light, a different flow. With my headphones on and the music making its way through, I somehow believe that I can better feel the characters, that I can better see the sights, and that I can better hear the cadence. (So yes, do yourself a favor and listen to the music as it plays in the book. The author has links to the music he used on his website.)
The story is centered on a prodigy with a gift for the guitar. Note, however, that this isn’t the typical singer-songwriter or guitarist we can find in bands, but the classical guitarist, the gitarista of old. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that such pieces and talents still exist today, especially in this world of pop, rock, jazz, techno, and what-have-you. I was swayed by Alejandro’s dizzying journey into the homes of maestros, into the gigs and smoky bars, and into the competitions for success. I can only hope that this kind of genius is still cultivated, even if it’s just in the darkened soundproof rooms of a crumbling university.
It was also a journey into the city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and the home of many cultural and historic icons. I rode the jeepney past the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I strode the night grass in Fort Santiago, and I braved the busy streets of Quiapo. There is also talk of Dumaguete, Spain, and the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, but its heart seems to have been left in that old, beautiful city.
This book may still use some work with little details, but I believe that this is already quite the masterpiece. The journey is unforgettable, the cameos are fun, the story is interesting, and the music is sublime. Come, take a chance, and do a tango amidst these pages. There’s still music to be played on the old guitar.