I opened my cellphone to read a forwarded msn message:
Message: Hey everyone! Itís Kahayagís last night. Letís pay tribute to a place that is a huge part of us. Tip some beer and just hang out, just like old times. Gina doesnít know, Iím not sure even if itís still open. Hope you guys can be a part of it. 9pm Kahayag. Ė Doogie
Kahayag Cafť was closing to make way for a new building to be put up. Victim to another increment in the skyward charge of Cebuís developing skyline of concrete silhouettes. The cityís current real estate boom was exacting such a steep price on the local music scene, costing a venue that birthed many bands and nurtured such an assortment of talents.
One band that was born there was Aggressive Audio, famous as one of the frontrunners of Bisrock, and they played their set in what would be the last time we would see the venue open. I was there. For one last time. For the music and to be with friends. Plus to eat my favorite teriyaki rice bowl with chopsticks washed down with ice cold beer.
The vibe was and always had been different in Kahayag for me. This I instantly sensed the first time I stepped inside years ago when it was still newly opened. Back then it occupied but a mere fraction of the floor space it eventually expanded to, yet even for its diminutive dimensions then, the feeling impressed on me was more cathartic than claustrophobic. I will not task myself with describing the interior design. Why bother? Those who know Kahayag can surely picture in vivid detail their own impressions of the place better than any attempt on my part to string adjectives. Those who donít, well, canít relate and ought not to read on. Continuing, it should suffice to say, that like many others I knew, I felt right at home.
There have been many local venues for bands in the past. One way of looking at our bandís history is by tracing the string of venues where we had regularly played gigs. Places that have come and gone. Places like Morrissey, Artist Dais, Rib-oís Party Central, Marina, and others.
Ahh the memories all those names evoked. All those those great gigs and great bands we had the chance to play with, the fans, the amped music and all the attention. Those places treated us like rockstars. But Handuraw was different. Handuraw treated us like guests. No, more like family.
The differences went further and it wasnít just the absence of stinging cigarette smoke indoors. Gigging in those old places was all about sharing a performance while gigging in Handuraw was all about sharing music. In the former, the audience was mostly fans, in the latter it was mostly friends.
Another thing that made Kahayag different was that it didnít just draw musicians together. It was a haven of sorts for poets, writers, artists, academics, expats, even families. Couples spent Valentineís there. Artists exhibited works there. Every so often, there were even poetry readings, performance art exhibitions, comedy shows, and open mic nights. Everybody was welcome to take the stage and share their talent and, like it was the most natural thing in the world, just about everybody did.
True to its name, and like a flame attracts moth, Kahayag, a Cebuano word which means radiance, truly was a beacon for many. Yet unlike the flame where the insects that are drawn to it burn, those who came to Kahayag shone.
That night as I enjoyed the music and my share of the last batch of beer from the bar that would not be restocked ever again, I learned that the placeís furniture would be sold. I decided to reserve one table and a set of chairs for me to buy. My small apartment needed a new dining set anyway. The price, P2,000 for a Gemelina wood table and a matching set of chairs, for me is a bargain. But more, because I think of it as owning for myself a piece of history. Too bad the dining set wonít include a lifetime supply of teriyaki rice bowls.
Those who never chanced visiting Kahayag surely canít know what they missed. But for those of us who called Kahayag a second home surely do know that we will miss it dearly.