The other week I tackled topnotch screenwriter Ricky Lee’s deep passion for music as I delved into the playlist of one master storyteller whose scriptwriting workshops affect writers’ lives, including mine. This time, it’s about his connection to a musician whose career and talent changed the landscape of the local band scene for good.
Back in the day when Lee was teaching film in UP, he encountered a student who would become his assistant and therefore a frequent visitor at his house. The boy’s name: Ely Buendia.
“I think part ng early immersion niya ay sa collection ko ng mga plaka noon,” said the writer of numerous classic screenplays and holder of various trophies. “I have an immense collection of vinyls and laser discs. I think inspired ang pangalang Eraserheads ng pelikula ni David Lynch with the same title, na meron akong laser disc noon.”
That sounds like a detail the chief singer-songwriter of alternative rock pioneer Eraserheads would nod to. Buendia’s association with the scriptwriter behind the Nora Aunor-starrer Himala and other movie gems like Moral and Karnal was best manifested when he drew the illustration for Lee's scriptwriting manual Trip To Quiapo.
“Siya rin ang gumagawa ng mga poster ko noon to announce my free workshops,” Lee added.
The hitmaker behind some of the greatest Filipino songs had been vocal about wanting to lead a career in filmmaking and that it was his original plan before music got in the way. He directed through Bang Bang Alley and Waiting Shed.
The ace film writer himself could vouch for Buendia’s competence as a movie-maker. “Ely is a very good filmmaker, too, aside from being a musician,” he said. “I hope he does more films.”
Eraserheads’ concept album Fruitcake came along with storyline and illustrations. Safe to say Buendia had a big hand on that.
While no popular musical work had been attached to Ricky Lee, music has played a crucial role in the way he does things. He became a novelist with the release of Para kay B (o kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin). That was followed three years later by one titled Si Amapola sa 65 Na Kabanata, a copy of which he gave me with the dedication, “Maraming salamat sa pakikipagkaibigan.”
Asked if he ever thought of retiring, he argued, “I don’t think I will ever retire from writing. I am a writer so if I stop writing, I stop living na rin.”
He argued, “Mahalaga pa rin naman ang awards. Pero mas mahalaga sa akin ang awards na natatanggap ng workshoppers ko. I’m okay kasi bahagi ako noon. Parang part din ng fruits of my labor.”
On his routine, he said, "Sabay-sabay ako kung magsulat. As in, minsan sa isang umaga, I would write the first draft of a script, then the storyline of another script, then some notes on a third script.”
That’s prolific, passionate writing which appears to me like how Buendia wrote all those hits.
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