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Da Pulis: the band for the eternal man-child

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THE members of Da Pulis: (L-R) Renzo Villalon (bass guitar), Bob Guerrero (rhythm guitar), Gabe Mercado (lead vocals), Rusty Isip (drums), and Jay Ignacio (lead guitar).

By Gideon Isidro

EVERYONE did some crazy things in their youth: made trouble for laughs, attempted to outdo their peers when it came to dangerous stunts, and went to places forbidden. Then they fondly look back on those days, and sigh, “Man, I wish I could do that again.”

Well, you can go back again — in a way — since the most outrageous man-child band in the Philippines, Da Pulis, is playing at the Pinoy Playlist Festival on Oct. 20, 10 p.m., at the BGC Arts Center.

Composed of Gabe Mercado on lead vocals, Jay Ignacio on lead guitar, Bob Guerrero on rhythm guitar, Renzo Villalon on the bass, and Rusty Isip on drums, this band will help bring listeners back to a time when they had no responsibilities, and just have a good laugh.

CHILDREN OF LAWFUL CHAOS
The music of Da Pulis finds its roots in the universal tendency of man to get into trouble as a child. Mr. Ignacio recounts some of the band members’ misadventures in their ultra conservative school: “We were trying to make trouble, but we were always smart about it. We would always go to the edge of breaking the law, but we never broke the law.”

He described one of their shenanigans, “There was a patch of grass in the center of the school, na as in, bawal ka tumapak (you were not allowed to step on it). We would get around it by creating situations were there were valid reasons to step on it: We would throw the shoes of our classmates into it, so he was forced to step on the grass to get it; or, we would create a commotion like a fake hostaging so that everyone gathered around and trampled the grass.”




They would also go to ridiculous lengths to make sure they got in line in the canteen before everyone else so they could get their favorite dishes before they would run out. “The windows of our school from the second floor was very big: it could fit a whole person. We would let down some abaca rope, and we would rappel down from the windows to the lower floors. We would rush to the canteen to get in line. A third guy would hide the abaca ropes, and we would let him in line after he went down.”

Mr. Mercado continues the narrative, “Tapos, dahil gago lang, magoorder kami ng dalawang karne, para maubusan yung mga Grade 7 (Then, just to fool around, we would order two sets of meat servings, so that there would not be enough meat for the Grade 7 students).”

This writer asks, “So if I were to describe your childhood, it was lawful chaos?” “Yes!” Mr. Mercado said enthusiastically.

MUKHANG PAA
Eventually, this mischievous spirit found its way into Mr. Mercado’s song writing in high school. Mr. Ignacio describes how Mercado conceptualized the song “Paa” (Foot), the song with the very memorable line, “mukhang paa, boyfriend mo” (your boyfriend looks like a foot), “Back then, Gabe (Mercado) had a crush on somebody. His crush then got a boyfriend. He was so broken hearted, he wrote ‘Paa.’”

When asked how he came up with the word “paa,” the habit of lawful chaos arose. “I was looking for the most insulting words that were not obscene. During the time my father worked in the ad agency, their expression for a piece of work that was not well done was that it was pinaa lang (just made by using the feet).”

After “Paa” came out in the mid 1990s, “mukhang paa” (looking like a foot) became a popular expression. So did Mr. Mercado coin the term? He replied, “I think the expression was there before, but yes, maybe so in pop culture.”

MUSIC FOR THE INNER MAN CHILD
Aside from “Paa,” Da Pulis also came up with other humerous songs throughout the years: “Pogi” (Handsome) talks about the “problems” of being a handsome man; “Tae” (Shit), on the other hand, talks about the crass subject candidly in a humorous light. “Remember M” and “Sungit Queen” were their more serious and romantics songs, but they still contain that element of mischievousness that is the band’s trademark.

When asked what kind of music Da Pulis is making, Mr. Mercado replies, “Tito Music, we’ve also been described as NerdCore.” Asked why so, he explained that it’s music for unmarried men, or men who can’t get a girlfriend, as evidenced by the jealous theme of “Paa.” And to true to life, most of the band members don’t have girlfriends or wives, except the drummer, who stereotypically would be the last in a band to get a special someone.

As self deprecating these guys are, revelling in the schadenfreude of their own misery of not having girlfriends, their music is an extension of the rambunctiousness of adolescence, and even men with wives or girlfriends can relate.

Da Pulis’ music can be described as “man-child rock” — deep inside, every man wants to be free from responsibilities from time to time, to eat chicharon or get extra rice, or swear in front of the children. Listening to their music is a great outlet for that.

The Pinoy Playlist Festival — described as a “celebration of Filipino musical talent across all genres and decades” — kicked off last Thursday to Saturday, and continues on Oct. 18 to 20. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Co-curated by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, Moy Ortiz and Noel Ferrer, the festival brings together over a hundred artists. Da Pulis will be playing on its last day, Oct. 20, 10 p.m., at the BGC Arts Center, 26th St. corner 9th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Tickets are available at TicketWorld (891-9999, www.ticketworld.com.ph).

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