Lyrics to Amuse

Sta. Ana coordinates Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the January 24, 2011 edition of the BusinessWorld, pages S1/4 to S1/5.

There’s one dinner or lunch that I do not want to miss.  Its pull is not the food but the company. The dining cast is made up of Mon, the street-smart executive of the leading telecom company, Noel, the erudite economics professor, Sol, the genius and the most honorable in the group for being a judge, myself, and our attractive, intelligent wives.

We rarely meet as a group, but we make it a point to get together yearly to catch up with one another. Neither can we be compared to ladies who lunch nor to men who enjoy power lunches. We content ourselves with gossip, trivia, and facetious remarks even as a discussion of controversies close to home cannot be avoided.

In our recent dinner, the talk was about our friends in the P-Noy government, our friends in the Left, the sorry state of infrastructure of a municipal circuit trial court in Camarines Sur, honor and excellence in the university, the difference in the corporate culture of Smart and Globe, Mario Miclat’s Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions, R. Kwan Laurel’s Philippine Cultural Disasters, etc.

The topics looked serious and heavy, but mind you, the conversation was animated and humorous.  The trick to transform heavy stuff into light matter was to be self-deprecating and to make fun of ourselves as well as our friends.

The long and winding conversation would unsurprisingly return to matters related to writing.  This is perhaps unavoidable because one thing that binds us is that for most of our life, we have been writing.  The men in the dining group were at one time propagandistas. We were products of the student activism of the early 1970s, which Jose Maria Sison described as the “Second Propaganda Movement.”

And so, how can we talk about Miclat’s explosive Secret Mansions without being profound and stiff?  Well, treat the work as a novel; anyhow the author claims it’s but a novel.  Anyhow, Miclat’s title is catchy in different senses.  We thought that if anyone of us would write a novel, we should get inspiration from Miclat’s title.  Sol, in fact, has suggested a title for the anticipated publication of the memoirs of a friend outside our  dining circle—another propagandista and known by comrades for being a Casanova.  The alluring title: Secrets of the Eighteen Virgins.

Sol is a witty writer.  He injects humor into the heavy stuff that he writes. He wants each work he writes to have the beauty of prose.  As a judge in a municipal circuit trial court, he has on his desk 200 cases that he must decide upon. It’s not easy to engage in creative writing for judicial decisions.  For example, one decision he penned—about a vehicular accident—stretched to 20 pages, using legal paper with single spacing and a size of 14 points.

Noel remarked that judges and lawyers should be trained to write short, straightforward, and uncomplicated documents. That will help clear the decks, and help prevent justice being delayed.  Noel’s suggestion will make judges and lawyers less prone to committing plagiarism, for they no longer have to pretend to be scholarly and learned.

But Sol is not the average writer.  As I said, he is a genius; excelling in writing is in his blood.

To assure Noel that doing creative writing does not eat up time that could have been used to pen more decisions. Sol said he has a kodigo or a list of attractive quotations, especially from famous singers, that he oftentimes uses to write his cases.

Take this line from Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”:

It’s sad, so sad

It’s a sad, sad situation

And it’s getting more and more absurd

It’s sad, so sad

Why can’t we talk it over

Oh it seems to me

That sorry seems to be the hardest word

Or from the Beatles:

Life is very short

And there’s no time –

For fussing and fighting, my friend.

x x x

We can work it out,

We can work it out.

That Sol, the lawyer, has become adept at using popular lyrics to embellish his writings led Noel, the economist, to think whether he could pull off an essay using Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”

One economist who is good at quoting the Beatles for scholarly papers is Butch Montes.  A paper on taxation?  Butch quotes “Taxman.”  Noel also recalls how Butch introduced econometrics to students by using the Beatles’ lyrics:

I say high, you say low

You say why and I say I don’t know

Being a fan of the Beatles, I’m familiar with the their lyrics.  I have found a Fab Four passage that I can use to comment about a current event.  It also comes from “Hello Goodbye,” from which Butch picked a line to describe econometrics.

For this opinion piece, the original topic that I would have written about concerns the decision of the Commission on Elections to open a new investigation on the 2004 election fraud, also known as “Hello Garci.”

What more can I say about it, apart from saying yes to the investigation?  But thanks to the suggestion of friends that cropped up over dinner, I opt to sing and quote the Beatles:

You say stop and I say go, go, go

Oh, no

You say goodbye and I say hello

Hello, Garci (and GMA). Hello goodbye. Bilibid will welcome you soon.

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