Punk & the Pandemic

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Punk & the Pandemic

Story & photos by Bernard Testa Theirs was...

In the name of the father

On the wide expanse of the Marcos Highway along the boundaries of Barangays Dela Paz and Bagong Nayon in Cogeo, Antipolo, DPWH personnel are constructing a rip-rap to prevent soil erosion beneath a high-voltage transmission line. Gravel, sand and other construction material aside from 26 culverts can be seen next to the construction area. And a family lives there. This is the ballad of Artemio and Armida.

Story & photos by Bernard Testa

Theirs was the underground concert scene, dark and loud, steaming with smoke and tattooed girls, band wannabes with colored hair and spiked mohawks, and Dr. Martens-clad punk poseurs—all spouting anti-establishment views and aggressively snarling about individual freedoms.

Musicians Gene Lorenzo and Chad Fang trace their musical roots to the world of Pinoy punk rock that had its christening 38 years ago, in a concert series held at Philtrade along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City.

Started in the mid-’70s in New York City and London, punk emerged in the Philippines in December 1982, when guitarist Tommy Tanchangco of the Chaos band organized and produced the Brave New World (BNW) concert series.

Inspired by a novel of the same title, written by celebrated English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, BNW catapulted to the hearts and minds of the youth of that time four bands— Zoo, Chaos, College, and the Jerks.

It heralded the start of the country’s own Pinoy Punk revolution, spawning a host of other bands coupling and uncoupling, morphing into later bands led by The Lost Boys and Betrayed.


Around that time, Gene Lorenzo pooled his classmates from the University of Santo Tomas and started their own garage band called ‘Mannix.’

Lorenzo recounted that they were inspired after seeing on the UST campus grounds the Strange Brew rock band perform the Sex Pistols version of “My Way.” Lost Boys singer Rhany Torres led the Strange Brew band.

Mannix morphed into the Collision band and, in the succeeding months in 1984, joined Channel 4’s then noontime show “Ito yun, ang galing!” Punk contest. They won the daily elimination round but unfortunately, failed to make it in the finals.

Collision morphed again into T.R.A.S.H. or Total Rebellion Against Society’s Hypocrites. T.R.A.S.H. band was included in the Twisted Red Cross Brave New World Live album that was recorded live during the Brave New World concert in Philtrade.

Lorenzo left T.R.A.S.H. joined the hardcore band R.D.A. or Rapid Deployment and Antidote. They produced their first album, ‘Brave United in Trust’ and changed again the meaning of their band to Reformed Destruction for Action.

A bassist for R.D.A., Lorenzo would don an all-black attire, completing his punk ensemble with a pair of Dr. Martens. The dress and lifestyle has stayed with him. Even after getting married and finding work, he remained a true-blooded punk hardcore.

Clubs, Sport Complexes

Over at the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez School of Technology in Sta. Mesa, Manila (EARIST), another student found himself gravitating toward the punk rock sound.

Chad Fang got initiated after receiving a “RUSH 2112” cassette tape from his long-haired neighbor and vocalist Jun Atad of Horoscope Band. Atad’s band had a history of performing that went back to the late 70’s, when they entertained American servicemen in Olongapo City.

Horoscope is best known for their song ‘Tondo,” inspired by “Diamonds and Rust,” penned and performed by Joan Baez for Bod Dylan.

Fang’s musical journey started with the folk rock group, The Point. In 1986, just a few months after EDSA, Fang started Sometimes Cynical, a punk and new wave band. They played for their alma mater, EARIST as part of the school’s Christmas and Graduation programs.

Like Lorenzo’s bands, Fang’s rock band morphed continuously from The Imaginary Boys to Caress of Steel and later, Mad Scientist.

They performed everywhere, in basketball courts, sports complexes, and clubs beloved by punk rock habitués—Club Dredd (1992), Mayrics Club (1994), Paete, Laguna (1994), Yosh Café (1995), CCP Bar (1997), Kolumn Bar (2001), Purple Haze Bar (2002), Selda Dos Bar (2013), Darkside Bar (2015), Bhizar Bar (2015).

Fang’s fascination with extra-terrestrials led him to connect his music with the group of paranormal and Philippine mysticism expert Jaime T. Licauco. His signature song, “The Visiting Hour” is testament to this involvement.

Bosom buddies

It didn’t take long before the paths of the two budding punk artists crossed, when Lorenzo and Fang found themselves neighbors, and later bosom buddies in Pepin, Sampaloc, Manila.

Lorenzo and Fang became staples in the underground punk scene. Through the years, they went through gig after gig, writing their own songs and starting their own revolution; sometimes going to the extent of taking over the band chores of a member, whenever that member was late or had to attend to an emergency.

But like all rockers, time and family demands toned down the noise, the music, and the lifestyle of Lorenzo and Fang.

Lorenzo found himself selling cars in 1993. By 2009, he had already made the rounds, working for eight different car dealers. He opened his own car garage service and auto supply shop in Calamba, Laguna, between 2009-2012.

Lorenzo calls himself an “old school salesman,” adding that his punk style helped him sell cars.

“When I started in the ’90s, I’d dress in boots and a jacket. I’d go to every building and office armed with a brochure. There was no internet then.  My look helped. They could relate to me because they liked the way I looked. Everybody in sales looked the same. I was the only one who looked different.”

The effort landed Lorenzo on the top 10 sales list of whatever company he worked for. Selling cars gave him a better life, he said.

And in all those years of selling cars, Lorenzo never stopped playing with his band. They even performed during Christmas parties in all the eight car showrooms he was employed in, he said.

One time, he played bass guitar for Pinoy rock legend Mike Hanopol, an esteemed musician in the Pinoy rock world. “I not only played bass, I played with Mike Hanopol,” adding that he considered the stint one of the highlights of his career as an underground musician.

Lorenzo sold cars at the Mitsubishi showroom of Best Southern Genesis Motors Inc., in Calamba, Laguna, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.  All work stopped. The only job left for him to do was to drive the vehicle that would take his son to work as frontliner in a bank.

Punk at Heart

Fang worked for a good 10 years in the offshore oil rigs of Korea, Russia, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Malaysia, and Malampaya.

He said his stint as a punk artist toughened him up and helped him survive the demands of the job.

“You need to be brave, otherwise, the work will eat you alive. You are like in a prison with so many other nationalities as your opponents. But because I am a musician, I get to have a lot of supporters, too.”

The year 2019 was a good year for Fang who worked as a helper in an online shopping and delivery portal. His wife Annie worked in a music store in Manila’s busy Raon Street in the Quiapo area.

But 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, became a different story. “Our orders and deliveries dwindled. We used to have six days of deliveries. Then it dropped to three, then one, until one day, our boss no longer called. All the offices and stores in Binondo, where we used to deliver our online products, were closed.”

A month into the quarantine, Fang said things eased up a bit. He went to the Blumentritt market area and sold his old shoes, donated clothes, bicycle parts, and other stuff to make a living.

He said he is not ashamed to be a vendor because he is more afraid of not being able to put food on his family’s table.  He prays to God to give him the strength to make both ends meet.

“I walk three kilometers a day for two hours so I can bring home food for my family. Life may be harder now on the sidewalks. I face the danger of contracting the virus, pero, bahala na [but what will be, will be]” Fang said.

He added that he is thankful to his brothers Sonny and Penn, and friends who donated goods for his mobile ukay-ukay sa bangketa [second-hand items by the roadside].

Fang is still a punk musician at heart. He is now working on a new song, “Salestalk,” while waiting for things to normalize.

Image credits: Bernard Testa

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