Bob Aves died yesterday.
Perhaps one of the greatest artists Bacolod has ever produced, Bob went home to Our Father as quietly as he had lived. There was neither drama nor public fuss surrounding his death and dying days which he chose to spend in Bacolod. That is typical of Bob. After all, in life, he had always fled from the celebrity that could have been his for the taking,
But his towering figure will forever cast a shadow on Philippine music and its role in our search for our national identity. Bob left an immense contribution to our country’s rich musical heritage: he is acknowledged as a leading proponent of Philippine jazz. Another important contribution is his extensive collection of Philippine indigenous sounds and music from all over the country.
Although I wasn’t close to him, I am grieving over Bob’s passing, as some of our artists do. The artists are grieving as his comrades-in-arms. I am grieving for selfish reasons.
In December last year, while talking to his sister Ditas about the LCC centennial, our conversation naturally turned to Bob who did the 2017 MassKara music. Ditas told us his condition was deteriorating and we started asking how his work and legacy can be preserved and most importantly, how the future can continue to have access to them. Ditas thought it would serve his memory good if a group like ours could keep his works and manage their continued use. This way, people will be able to continue listening to his music.
I thought maybe we could keep them until the Bacolod Museum opens; it should have the right facilities for this.
But we were excited. We started talking to some friends in Manila about the needed logistics. One of them said he would help us find the resources to acquire the needed equipment like dehumidifiers and controlled air conditioning for the preservation of Bob’s materials.
Ditas later told us she already talked to Bob about it and he liked the idea. Maybe, we should meet him soon.
Now, Bob is gone. Forever. Sadly, we did not get to meet. I hope though that we can still pursue what I now can only name as The Bob Project. Without him, however, I know its going to be more difficult.
This isn’t the first time we had the chance to keep the works of a Bacolod artist. Pancho Uytiepo, who was also a musician and who captured the soul of the Bacolod of his time in his music, had offered us not just custody of his works but also the copyrights to them. He thought we could use them and keep them for the next generations. I chickened out. I told him I’ll just ask when I need them but I did not want the responsibility of keeping them.
I continue to regret not taking up Pancho’s offer. There have been a few times I wanted to use some of his works for events I’ve handled, but was not able to. I can never forgive myself for this.
Just how many other artists will Bacolod lose forever?
Forgive me if I am wrong, but it seems like our local artists really die when they die. When we shut their caskets close, it would also seem like we are closing as well the door to their works.
This is sad. The works of our artists are a repository of our collective memory, the cask that holds bits and pieces that together make up who we are. This is not some exotic idea. Knowing who we are is the key to building the future. Let’s put that in simpler terms. Knowing who we are is the foundation upon which our economic development can accelerate. It is a requisite to appreciating and loving what we are and what we have. Then, we will be able to finally sell our culture to the world. The most obvious example of course is tourism: only when we start to appreciate the things that we have – our natural resources, our traditions, our food and culinary culture—can we truly successfully sell the Philippines
And artists, like Bob, are the ones who are first to love what we have and point them out to us and to the world.*