play those drums

10/1/04 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’d like to share this essay my wife Ellen wrote about her brother Eric. This was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Youngblood section on September 16, 2000.

I had no idea back then that I would one day edit the Youngblood online edition, and in fact I had no idea she submitted this essay. That’s actually one of my regrets as a writer, that I never attempted to send anything to Youngblood.

I have always been a big fan of my wife’s writing, even before we ended up with each other, but she’s too humble to believe me whenever I tell her how great she is. I don’t even have to say anything. Her words speak for themselves.


Play those drums
By Ellen Quijano-Alarilla

DEAREST baby brother,

Watching you play the drums last night, I couldn’t help but think, “Where did this kid come from?”

That’s how magical it was, for me, your ever-loyal stage sister, avid supporter and rabid fan. I was looking at a baby brother who had grown up, banging drums and making music, and I realized that what you were doing all along, all of these 24 years, was what you did best: living.

You gifted, special, wonderful child, are the only one among us who truly knows how to live life with passion, to pursue your own interests without thinking of the cost or what you will get in return.

I think it is appropriate that you play the drums now, because you’ve always followed the beat inside of your own head. (You were a good guitar player, too, but drums suit you better. And you’re right: You don’t have to carry tons of stuff, just two drumsticks stuffed neatly into your back pocket. Besides, drummers get all the girls!)

And there’s more. While Mom and I were waiting for your band to come onstage, she handed me the latest issue of the magazine you are writing for, and I was amazed by how well you write, too.

Now I must apologize. We underestimated you, baby brother. We thought you were being a slacker, but now I understand you were being fiercely independent–not just from your family, but also from conventional thinking, the straight and narrow path that Anna Quindlen says leads to absolutely nowhere.

We thought you were a spoiled brat, an incorrigible baby. But watching you play last night, and watching you with the other band members, I could see how wrong we were. What could be more difficult than living like a clone of every other person on this planet, working at the same job and following the same routine? How spoiled would you become if the world kept sending you slips of paper with the words “last song please” written on it? (I didn’t find out who wrote it, I would have slugged him or her.)

We worried about you, gossiped about you (all right, I admit it), prayed for you, sometimes quarreled about you. Most of the quarrels had me defending you against Mom. I gave her all kinds of reasons to justify your actions, from the time you wrote graffiti on the walls of our house (“self-expression”) to the time you didn’t want to wash dishes (“he’s too small to reach the sink”).

Now I know we needn’t have worried, because it’s clear that you’re made of better stuff than we are, and that you have more guts in your system than we do. I know, I know, it could be a big sister talking proudly, but seeing you up there, quite literally in a different light, I saw a marvelous creature, totally talented, totally unique, who taught himself to make music, who can write and draw, paint and sketch, make endless Tamiya models, take care of fishes in 75-gallon aquariums and live with four cats (even if one of them is dumber than dumb).

The man you have become is far better than what we hoped you would be, because it is your true self that you have chosen to honor.

So keep on playing those drums and those guitars, and keep on singing your songs. I’ll be in the audience, clapping, screaming, giving the evil eye to hecklers. I’ll request the songs I know you have in your repertoire and smile at you when I get the chance. I’ll tell everyone in the world that you’re my brother. I’ll hold out the Gatorade, lend you money when you’re broke, visit your fishes when they grow a little bit longer and contribute Whiskas to your cat food fund when you need it.

Go, Eric, go! I’ll be your ground crew. I’ll be in the pit stop. I’ll watch from the wings and lead the applause.

Ellen Quijano-Alarilla, 28, works for the marketing communications department of a multinational company in Makati.



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  1. Ohmigod, this is so lovely! Looks like you’re not the only essayist in the family…

  2. hi nikki, thanks! ellen says thanks too 🙂 have a safe trip!

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