It’s five hours into an 11 hour drive to Manila. Rose and I are packed into a van with seven other travelers who, like us, had their flight cancelled from Legazpi, and in a bid to make it to Manila that night, pooled money to hire a driver to get us there.
Our driver is 5foot5, weighs at least 215 pounds, and, like many other Filipinos I’ve met, has a confident demeanour that seems way too old for his young age – he’s street savvy in a way that, in my view, is borne from hustling for income at the same age that I was pleading my parents for sugary cereal.
He’s probably 28. And, from meeting other guys his age in Legazpi, likely has 3 kids, bets on cockfights for entertainment on the weekend, and, in his case, looks like he’d be the sure bet, if he were to get in a fight.
He’s hurtling us to Manila on a road that, to my driving know-how, has so many hazards, I’d be in a constant state of alarm: small child coming out of a house on the right, stray dog crossing the road, tricycle making a u turn, woman carrying a bag of rice but can’t see behind her, jeepney broken down around the bend, rice drying on the road.
To him, it seems any old day, as he passes through each hazard breezily, each one punctuated by his massive fists pounding on the steering wheel in rhythm to the radio
BANG. BA-DA. BA-DA. BANG. BA-DA. BA-DA.
While the force of his blows are powerful enough to catch anyone’s attention, it’s what comes next that draws me in.
After a flurry of left and right punches on the wheel, his hands come to a stop, he turns his head upwards and belts:
“It’s the GLOORY OF LOVE!”, right on time with the chorus on the radio.
It’s the fifth time a Peter Cetera song has come on the radio. Our driver’s participated on each one. And we’re only halfway to Manila.
There’s no smirk. No “Ohhhh gawd. Do you remember this one? Watch this” ironic rendition. This one in question – Peter Cetera’s Glory of Love is not a thing of the past. It’s here and now, front and centre in the present, and our driver has zero self-consciousness bringing it to life.
While in North America, if you profess genuine love for Peter Cetera, and your friends are into current music, you’ll probably suffer merciless judgment unless you’ve coated it with thick layers of sarcasm, or it’s your go-to karaoke choice.
However, in the Philippines, Peter Cetera is the love that dares speak its name, which also includes: Shania Twain, 80s George Michael, and any song that was ever played on the AM dial.
It’s all out in the open. Rose’s family and I got on a jeepney – a version of local transport that packs people in for a small fee – and a big guy jumped on, turned on his phone to a Shania Twain song, and started singing “Still the One”. (the guy in the middle with the yellow phone. Rose’s grandfather in the foreground, and her sister, next to him)
No one in the jeepney batted an eye.
While you could argue it was because he was a big guy and would take it out on you if you were to smirk. It happens again and again: a taxi driver belts out Linda Ronsdadt, a hotel concierge sings early Michael Jackson, and boat operators put their fist in the air to emphasize how: “You give love a bad name”.
It’s everywhere and, so it’s really, not altogether, a surprise that Journey’s lead singer was replaced by a Filipino – Arnel Pineda – who was in a Journey cover band and used YouTube to ferry out his resume.
I think the same could go for any late 70s, or 80s group that’s run out of steam. Need a boost of enthusiasm to get your band up again? Have a lead singer that’s drunk and smoked his vocal cords into sign language? Or did your lead singer die just after everyone in the band signed on for a reunion tour?
Call the Philippines.
And, if you happen to be in the band, Chicago and you’re thinking reunion while Peter’s thinking divorce – I may have found a replacement that could do the job and, considering that he zipped us to Manila in speedy time, as a side gig, might also be able to drive the rest of the band to venues on time.
I won’t charge a finder’s fee. I’ll do it purely for…….the GLORY OF LOVE!.