Kuwentong Kule: Cinemalaya and the memoirs of vinyl records

When my father was still alive, our house on weekends were normally filled with soothing sounds emanating from the phonograph playing LP vinyl records.

Vinyl records became the subject of the short film “Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert,” which is one of the 10 short films finalists of this year’s 16th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

The film featured a closeted gay man in his 60s (Dido de la Paz) who has been living with HIV for 10 years. His monotonous life takes a sudden turn when he receives an old vinyl record from his dead ex-lover and his fixation with the owner of a store selling old vinyl records (Soliman Cruz).

I have been watching Cinemalaya since it started in 2004, or 16 years ago. It is held annually during the month August at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex and various cinemas.

The festival aims to encourage the creation of new cinematic works by Filipino filmmakers – works that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity. It also aims to invigorate the Philippine filmmaking by developing a new breed of Filipino filmmakers.

However, the event this year became an online festival for 10 short films only and without the usual 10 full length films due to the pandemic. There are also some exhibition films.

The film Gasgas na Plaka focused on vinyl records, sometimes called LPs, which stands for  “long playing” or “long play”. It is an analog sound storage medium, a phonograph record format characterized by a speed ​in rpm and use of the “microgroove” groove specification.

Rpm stands for revolutions per minute, sometimes called rotational speed or how many times the record turns completely, in a period of one minute. Essentially, the higher the Rpm, the more length of vinyl that can be picked up by the needle. This results in better sound reproduction.

The groove is what gives a record its sound.

I remember the discipline and dedication of my father in cleaning the vinyl records using a microfiber towel or specific soft bristle brush, perhaps to ensure they last for several years to come.

My father explained that vinyl records should be religiously wiped off each time they are played because these are vulnerable to dust, heat warping, scuffs, and scratches.

Dust in the groove is usually heard as noise and may be ground into the vinyl by the passing stylus (needle) causing lasting damage.

A scratch will create an audible tick or pop once each revolution when the stylus encounters it.

This may result for the needle to skip over a series of grooves, or worse yet, to skip backwards, creating a “locked groove” that repeats over and over.Thus, the monicker “broken record” or “sirang plaka” refers to a malfunctionwhereby the same sounds are repeatedly played.

The popularity of vinyl records dwindled starting in the 1980s due to its gradual replacement, first by compact discs and then by streaming media.

As to a record’s value, collectors are looking for those in the best possible condition, with little to no wear and tear, aside from its age, artist, rarity, and label.

People wonder why we have several stuff in our house which Papa did not want to dispose, including vinyl records and shoes, which were mostly bought  from the thrift shops along Evangelista St. in Bangkal, Makati where we used to live.

Bangkal is Makati’s answer to Parisian flea markets where items usually come from affluent homeowners, who are either redecorating or moving houses.

Some of the pieces look like they belong in a “bahay na bato.” Collectors consider Bangkal as a haven for lifelong treasure hunt as they’re always on the lookout for rare additions to their collection.

Papa justified providing us with second hand shoes by saying that he never had the luxury of owning new ones while he was growing up since both he and mama came from a family with very modest means.

Long before ukay-ukay became famous, we were already wearing secondhand clothes and shoes, sleeping on beds, sitting on chairs and sofas that Papa bought from the Bangkal thrift shops.

Seldom did we wear brand-new clothes, except maybe during Christmases when our Titas bought us clothing on an installment basis—one Tita would buy us pants while another took care of the shirts. We became the walking models for ukay-ukay.

The vinyl records served their purpose, preserving the works of the musicians of the past.

These records kept their music alive, spanning great distances and defying time, touching people’s lives regardless of religion, nationality, and culture.

As my father’s vinyl records are still kept in a shelf, his memoirs will also linger.

(Kule is the monicker of Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman). Atty. Dennis Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.


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