The ramblings of a Third World guitar player

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Guitar talk with Kitchie Nadal

Kitchie (born Anna Katrina) Nadal doesn’t grab you as your usual alt-rock or pop princess. On the night I and a few other Davao City reporters interviewed her (that would be May 2), she was garbed in a plaid long-sleeved shirt (the blue-collar kind, something Bruce Springsteen would be comfortable in), jeans, wearing minimal bling (save for something shiny in her belt which isn’t readily visible anyway), and with what looked like just a brush of makeup. She looked like she was more ready to jam with the E Street Band (of the aforementioned Bruce Springsteen) than sing the theme song to a Korean telenovela. Kitchie, of course, would do well in both settings, and it is her versatility that sets her apart from other guitar-slinging female singers. This is one Kitchie with no kitsch.

Kitchie was in Davao City to launch the new TV ad of Caltex, the one that features her with a group of hip-looking musicians (they were just models, she would tell us, not musicians) driving to a gig in a van running on Techron. To be honest I was expecting her to act like a princess: I’ve had a few run-ins with celebrities who look down on other people just because they’re regular folk, and it didn’t help that it took Kitchie some time before she could sit down with us for the interview (many celebs arrive late on purpose just to show how important they are – I’ve been known to walk out of such press cons). Also, she was a little quiet when she first joined us at our table, looking behind her shoulder to see if her people were still with her. I guess it was this hint of insecurity that told me she was just a regular person who was just as apprehensive as we were, and I began asking her questions to hopefully put her at ease.

I had already decided before the interview that, being a guitar player myself, I would focus on guitars when I talked to Kitchie, so that’s what I did. First off, I asked her if she was aware that in one scene in the Techron commercial, the guitar she was using (a Gibson hollow-body electric) was shot in reverse, that is, it was a mirror image. She was surprised at that and told her manager, who said she also wasn’t aware of it. “You’re very observant,” Kitchie said. That’s because I play guitar also, I replied, and that worked to warm her up to our group. I guess it helped that a lot of the questions were about guitars and music and little of the showbiz stereotypes, with which I think she was a little uncomfortable.

I found out that Kitchie has relatively few guitars for a singer-songwriter-guitarist: a Parker Fly (which she bought from fellow singer-songwriter-guitarist Barbie Almalbis), a Taylor (or two), and a classical guitar (which she used in the show). “I’m not a guitar freak like a lot of musicians,” she said, and she doesn’t obsess on the instruments like her male colleagues. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like fussing with guitars, and it certainly also doesn’t mean she’s a lightweight when it comes to playing them. In fact, she began her show with some cool slapping and tapping on her classical guitar, nothing fancy but not beginner stuff either.

She was actually more excited about an effects box she had bought that doubles her voice and gives her on-the-fly harmony in a “live” show. When she sang her first song that night there was a “second voice” singing with her, and at first I was disappointed because I thought she was singing to a “minus one” (even though she had a band with her). It turned out she was using this vocal gadget, and it did a lot to fatten up her sound, especially since her bandmates played instruments and did not sing backup.

What impressed me most about Kitchie was that she was not afraid to say that she was a Christian, and that a lot of her music, while not explicitly Christian, comes out of a deep faith in the Lord. The carrier single of her new album, Love Letters, is “Highway,” and while it is the theme music to the Caltex ad campaign, it also obviously talks about Jesus: “You are the highway/Apart from you are roads downhill/You are the only way, the truth, and the life/There’s no other road for me.” That’s clearly taken from Jesus’ words in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” That night, Kitchie won herself another fan in me.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

'S' is for sushi

“C is for cookie
That’s good enough for me…” – Cookie Monster

I don’t hide my love for Japanese food, particularly sushi and sashimi. In fact I call myself “Sushi Monster,” and my version of Cookie Monster’s song is, “S is for sushi, that’s good enough for me.” In a recent trip to Manila I literally badgered our hosts to take our group to a Japanese restaurant. Finally they brought us to Sakae Sushi at the Mall of Asia, and this is what greeted us:

As you can imagine, I felt I was in heaven right there at MOA as plate after plate of deliciously varied sushi rolled past me. It was, quite simply, one of the best meals I have ever had.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I never met her, and the only time I heard about her was when she was declared missing last April 8, but there is a deep and profound sadness inside me at the passing of Julia Campbell, a Peace Corps volunteer who was found dead in Banaue on April 18, apparently the victim of yet another violent crime (read the Peace Corps statement on her death here). Her being a foreigner and a volunteer make her death all the more tragic: she did not have to be in the Philippines, but she chose to live among us to make our lives a little better. Her blog (from where I got the pictures in this entry) has now become a memorial, with more than a hundred people (and counting) leaving messages to her -- even though she will never be able to read them. I left this one, the lyrics of the song "Julia" credited to Lennon/McCartney but actually written by John Lennon for his late mother. There are no words to express our collective sorrow, and half of what we say will be meaningless...


Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia

Julia, Julia, oceanchild, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering
In the sun

Julia, Julia, morning moon, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind, Julia

Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

So I sing a song of love for Julia, Julia, Julia

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Arnel's 44th

My oldest brother Arnel celebrated his 44th birthday last April 3 at his home in LA. Let me share with you something he wrote to us, his brothers and sisters, regarding this milestone and how important it is to not get caught in the trap of failing to enjoy the moment:

Dear all,

I'm 44. I've always looked forward to the time when all the kids are
grown up, and to my retirement which I imagined would be playing all kinds
of sports and what have you. Recent events changed the way I think about
this now. I've injured my left knee in November '06, playing basketball,
and my knee is about 70% recovered. I am not sure if I can recover to
100%, but right now I can walk normally, but not run, jump or dance the
way I used to.

Now, I really live life by the minute. I appreciate every second of
2-year old Leandro's precious hug, because in 5 days he is going to be 3.

I will prepare for the future, but I will enjoy every minute of that
preparation. Time goes by quickly if you always look forward to the
future and forget to appreciate the present.

Let us always remind each other not to fall into this trap.


And here's a video taken during his birthday bash:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Apdedey ayu!

My mother celebrated her 71st birthday on March 20 in my brother's home in LA. Here's a video of the Joaquin brood greeting her as she and her sister, Tiyang Amor, are cooking pansit palabok, kare-kare, and hipon (shrimp).

If you're wondering about the title to this post, it was how our youngest brother Allan used to sing "Happy birthday" when he was small...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


The first baby I babied was Julianne, eldest child of my discipler Philip Tarroja who was the campus director of Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) in UP Diliman. She was about two or three years old when I first saw her around 1984, and I, along with other CCC movers, were immediately smitten by her cuteness and intelligence. Being an only child then (her brothers Christopher [my inaanak] and Immanuel would be born a few years later) Julianne was a little spoiled, and at first she was a little masungit towards me and didn’t even want me to carry her. I remember the exact moment when that changed: one time I was trying to take her from her mom Ate Rica and she wouldn’t come to me, and so I made with the sad face and said, “You don’t like me.” Realizing I was really feeling bad, Julianne quickly changed her mood, smiled, and said, “I like you naman e.” Then she reached out her arms and let me carry her.

I’d like to think that over the next years we were quite close because I spent a lot of time with her family. Her dad and mom are really second parents to me, and when Kuya Philip decided to leave CCC and develop a student church I went along with him. When I joined the ministry in 1988 it was with this same campus ministry, and in April 1990 we (the Tarrojas and four of us campus missionaries) went to Davao City to help in a summer youth camp here. That was actually the last time I spent any real time with Julianne and her family because I moved to Davao the following July.

I never saw Julianne grow up, and now she is 24 years old (she celebrated her birthday last February 1, a date I never forget because my own birthday is at the end of the same month) and is fast becoming a star in the music world. That would make her the first celebrity I genuinely know personally, and I am mighty proud of that! I can only wish I can see her perform live, but that will have to wait until she either comes to Davao to do a show or I go to Manila to watch her in any one of her gigs.

Check out Julianne’s space on myspace and this interview on speed-mag.com, and also click on the video below for a taste of her music. Julie, I’m so proud of you!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The next American Idol (well, maybe in ten years!)

Ladies and gents, I present the 2017 American Idol, my wife’s sister’s son, Miguel Lanzanas! (Take it away Migs…)