By Limuel S. Celebria
Our good friend former Iloilo Provincial Board Member Rodolfo “Boy” Cabado – lawyer, playwright, poet, teacher, artist, singer, musician, creative genius – has just passed away. May his soul rest in peace.
While we have been friends for around four decades, I’m not surprised to find that we have no pictures together. None on my personal file, at least, although I know some friend could provide us with a snapshot in a gathering, most likely in a drinking congress in any of our favorite watering holes in the city. But like another fellow writer – Rex Hidalgo, who recently passed away, our friendship was forged way before social media. It came at a time when moments were captured in the heart and mind, not on TikTok or Instagram.
Soon after the EDSA revolution, Boy would be among those appointed as Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Board Member. Later on, he would earn the seat in a regular election. He was a brilliant legislator.
I came to visit his office one morning at the second floor of the old Capitol Building. He looked happy to see me, smiling from ear to ear. It turned out he spent the night writing a poem and he was glad to have found someone to share the just concluded masterpiece.
The poem – a free verse narrative – depicted a fictitious episode in the election campaign when a native of Leon’s boondocks visited the town market. Boy delighted in reading a section where the poem’s principal character, while waiting for a ride, espied a candidate’s poster tacked on an electric post. He spat on it. The manner in which the poem described, meticulously and mellifluously, how the saliva hit the forehead with a splat, spread and slowly dribbled down the candidate’s face told me the poem wasn’t really fictitious (it was about a real candidate in the second district) and writing about it gave Boy some deep sense of moral satisfaction.
Boy’s office at the Provincial Capitol was a treasure trove. It contained the poems and plays he had written, sculptures, sketches and studies for musical compositions, paintings, vinyl records including a complete set of The Beatles albums, a couple of bonsais (one at least four decades old). Alas, all these were lost when fire gutted the provincial capitol in the early evening of November 4, 1998.
The Day the Music Died
As writers, Boy and I had a common admiration for another writer, the late Conrad de Quiros, who wrote a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. One evening, deep into our reveries after several bottles of SMB at one of our favorite hangouts – Third Spot across UP – Boy reminisced about a CDQ column which he described as “masakit na manamit. (Painful but pleasant). ”
Entitled “The Day the Music Died,” it was about the death of Cesar “Saro” Banares, iconic leader of the popular Pinoy folk rock band Asin. Saro was shot dead in a drunken melee at a karaoke joint in Koronadal, South Cotabato one night in March 1993. Boy was there when it happened. In fact, he was in a table with the some of the accused, three of whom were convicted after a long legal battle that reached all the way to the Supreme Court. Boy didn’t elaborate but he said some of the allegations that were admitted as facts by the court were wrong. Boy rued some of the claims laid by CDQ in his column but he salivated over the way CDQ wrote about it. In this instance, Boy allowed eloquence to offset error.
Boy and CDQ would meet once when the latter visited Iloilo. I think I was out of town when it happened but one could only guess what two intellectual giants talked about for an entire evening of camaraderie.
Send in the Clowns
Before Third Spot, Barbecue Park, and a few other hang outs where Boy and I and a few other friends in media hied to after the sun had set, there was one Boy and I and few other non-media friends frequented. It was a piano bar at the Tree House. It was here where Boy would often be cajoled into singing (or sometimes he would simply stand up and grab the mike). Inevitably, he would regale us with his high baritone belting out “Send in the Clowns.” He would dedicate the Grammy Award winning song to fellow politicians. Such was his healthy disdain for the lot. “Incompetent fools,” one might as well hear him say.
At The Tree House our usual company were from left of the spectrum – street parliamentarians, human rights advocates, even former cadres. Imagine my surprise one evening when I found myself the third wheel in what may be considered a date between Boy and a lady lawyer who would later on become a city councilor and, I hesitate to say for fear of identifying her, a judge. It was fun watching the two fuck each other intellectually.
Silencing Silence, some poems and a play
Several years ago, on September 23, 2018, a collection of Boy’s poems and a play was published in a book entitled “Silencing Silence some poems and a play.” It is a 302 pages, 6” x 9” paperback with a painting of “The Scream”(1893) by Edward Munch on the cover. (https://www.amazon.com/SILENCING-SILENCE-some-poems-play/dp/1674042000)
The book was in two parts. Part I on the book under the following headings: Vernal Verses – poems written before martial law; Prison Poems – those written in prison and smuggled out; Outside Prison, Imprisoned – those written after his release and his realization why others like him found confinement more comforting than freedom; Bending the Bars of Language – poems written as he navigated his way through life as a lawyer, a teacher, and an artist who realized that his old friend – language – can also be a prison; and Vesper Verses – the sunset poems that came in their own good time – sparse and far in-between. If “Vernal Verses” (the open parenthesis of this collection) gathered the surviving poems of youth, “Vesper Verses” (the close parenthesis) gathers whatever comes at dusk and, hopefully, deep into the night before sleep finally comes.
Part II of the book is given to the script of “Orphans and Orchids”. The segue from the poems to the play is neither strange nor strained. In the bridge between Parts I and II of the book – the “Intermezzo” – the author says that “the play itself is a poem. A long poem.”
The formal launching of the book at Festive Walk included an enactment of scenes of the play “Orphans and Orchids.” Later, we – Boy’s special guests, siblings, and friends – transferred to a restaurant for more drinks while we took turns reading aloud the poems until the wee hours of the morning.
Aside from sharing the love for beer, music, the arts and the written word, Boy and I were born on the same month and day (April 17) three years apart. Farewell my friend. You are missed already. But surely, we shall see each other again.