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elmer gozun cato
elmer g cato I GAVE way to a teenager when he boarded the F Train at the Lexington Avenue subway stop one early evening in July. The train was full but was not packed like it would be during the late afternoon rush when Midtown Manhattan becomes an ocean of white collars.

He found a spot in front of where I stood near the door. He must be in high school, judging by the blonde kid's shirt, denims, worn out sneakers and backpack. Trying to balance himself before the train was swallowed by the East River, he took out something from his Jansport and pieced together what turned out to be a clarinet.

Ah, one of them subway musicians, I told myself. Unlike the others before him who I have rode with to Queens a countless times on the F or the V, this kid seemed better dressed and did not seem to be poor or in need. I would actually rather have him on my train than the malodorous homeless or jobless who terrorize subway riders from time to time. Somehow musicians like this kid entertain the commuting folk as they make their home after a hard day's work.

This kid who just boarded fidgeted with his instrument before starting off with something familiar. It was the love theme from the 1971 film The Summer of '42  which I have not heard in a long time. The first several notes brought me back to my childhood days in Magalang, thousands of miles away, where I first heard Michel Legrand's Oscar Award-winning "Summer Knows" from the music cassette tapes my Auntie Lita's pioneering OFW suitor, Andy, sent all the way from faraway Nigeria.

This was followed by two fast tunes that sounded familiar but whose titles escaped me. Then he played the love theme from The Godfather : "Speak softly love and hold me warm against your heart. I feel your words the tender trembling moments start." How can I forget one of the songs I used to play on the piano as I was growing up in Villa Angela. There is a chance that I can still play it. But then of course, the fingers are now more at home with my PC keyboard than with the old ivory keys.

I was hoping our teenage artist would continue leading me down memory lane, but after the Roosevelt Island Station, he stopped. As was the ritual, when he finished, he pulled out a New York Yankees cap and held it out for the other passengers to throw in their change. All throughout I had my hand in my pocket. While listening to his performance, I quietly crinkled a dollar bill and when the time came, I smiled and handed it to him.

Somehow, he reminded me of Eyron, my 10- year-old, and his clarinet and the fact that I would be picking him up from his music lessons when I reached home. I just wish that when he grows up, Eyron, who, aside from the clarinet, is also learning to play the keyboard and the drums, will not end up on the F train like the kid who just finished a fine performance before me.


[About the author. Elmer Gozun Cato is a Kapampangan journalist turned diplomat known for his advocacy of responsible and responsive journalism in a media career that spans more than 15 years. He first made a name for himself in 1983 when as a 16-year old college freshman became a cub reporter for the crusading newspaper Ang Pahayagang Malaya during the martial law regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos. At 21, he became one of the youngest newspaper publishers in the Philippines when he founded the Angeles Sun in 1988. His journalist experience included stints as correspondent and desk editor in various local, national, regional, and international news organizations, including the Manila Chronicle, the Philippine Daily Globe, Reuters, and GMA News. In 1991, he became one of the first Kapampangan journalists to go overseas when he became a reporter for the Saudi Gazette in Jeddah. In 1997, he became Executive Editor of the Indonesian Observer in Jakarta. He later published K, the Kapampangan Magazine. In 1998, he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after placing eighth in the Foreign Service Officers Examination. He served in various capacities most prominent of which were as special assistant to two former Secretaries of Foreign Affairs—Domingo L. Siazon Jr. and Vice President Teofisto T. Guingona Jr.; as spokesman and later officer in charge of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement; and later as head of the Regional Consular Office of the DFA in Clark Field. He has been based in New York since 2003 where he serves as Second Secretary with the Philippine Mission to the United Nations.]

-Posted: 1:16 PM 10/8/07 | More of this author on eK!
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