Apparently, only Ian fails to realize that Sinulog was less than 2 weeks away. Cebu's biggest festival, the most colorful and the best attended is a weeklong celebration with the culminating parade on the third Sunday of January. And with the traditional festivities come lots of events and, yes, gigs. So instead of arranging our new songs, we agree to review our set instead. Rightly so, we all agree, if we were to put up strong performances. Sinulog shows are traditionally the grandest, so there.
For now, we've been booked for three gigs on the 15th, which is the eve of the Sinulog. The first is a short set at the Baseline Complex where we do a gig for "Amped", the local TV show. The second is an outdoor concert at the Ayala-FGU grounds with River Maya. And the last is a set at the "Veranda" which is, for the moment, the "in" hangout in Cebu. A small but cozy place that is always packed on weekends. Should be fun.
This will be the first Sinulog for the band with the new lineup. Which brings me to recall with some amusement the last gig of the old Sheila and the Insects.
This time last year, Ian and I finally got around to agreeing between ourselves that we had to quit our band and build a new one. We had gotten tired of playing the same old covers. Who wouldn't? Okay, half the band didn't but there's more to it than that. But lets not go into the painful details. Anyway, Ian and I got around to realizing that we both wanted to play and promote our own songs primarily instead of just throwing in one or two every set. Sometimes, none at all. How could we build a name for the band that way?
Okay, arguably, things were different for us here in Cebu. In Manila, we did all original sets, practically all the time. Cebu, it could be argued, had a different crowd. We had fallen into the trap of thinking that's just how things were, forgetting in the long run that if things were to change, it had to start with the us and not with the crowd.
It wasn't all for lack of conviction though. In fairness, we had started out and built our band from obscurity up to our current status by playing covers. Our own songs had to take the backseat. The conditions back then when we had started just weren’t right.
Anyway, after long talks between beer sessions, Ian and I discovered we both wanted to end it all and start anew. This was last year. Secretly, we agreed to just stay on with the band only until the Sinulog, quit, and then just take it from there. We played our very last set at the Fuente Osmeña, Cebu's most popular converging point and a landmark in itself. It was a huge crowd and packed tightly towards the stage. The thrill of playing for a huge crowd is totally indescribable. You get such a kick out of it; I'll admit that much. But walking away from the big stage with my guitar slung on my back with Ian was the biggest thrill for me that night. After all the pent up frustration, we were finally walking away from it all and into a, then, unknown future. But a much more exciting future however uncertain it had been.
This year, things will be decidedly different. Our last scheduled show this coming Sinulog weekend is the one at "Veranda" which is a very small place. One that, I estimate, can only pack in less than 50 people at any one time. A far cry from the thousands that had watched our last gig at the Fuente Osmeña. We'll be playing our own songs, and maybe throw in a cover or two just for kicks. The complete exact opposite of our 'final' set last year.
I will be playing my own songs to a packed room instead of old, tiring covers to thousands in a packed oval. Yet for all the disparity, this is exactly what I chose. And I’m completely thrilled.