I remember candles. Lots of them. I remember speakers outside of the AIC Gold Tower from which music and cracking voices flew. I also remember a gathering of all sorts of people – from the stylish to the average ones, the artsy and the punk rockers, the sosyal and the jologs. They converged in the streets – some were standing up, some were seated on the gutter, while some were sitting on the road itself as Emerald Avenue was partially closed that night to give way to the crowd. It was a rather unusual sight. And this was no usual night. It was November 07, 2010 – the last night when NU107, the country’s sole radio station dedicated to rock and alternative music for 23 years, would ever be on air.
It was through my friend that I first heard about the “changes” that would soon happen with NU. She was able to listen to the telecast of the Rock Awards and said that the hosts kept on calling that year’s awarding ceremony as the last one. She said it also had a very nostalgic tone. I did not have a clue as to what was happening with NU anymore because I started listening to another station the year prior, merely tuning into NU the moment I wake up and then eventually transfering to another station after a few hours. Intrigued, I decided to look for some answers. Based on what I had read from some sites, NU would undergo the big “R” – reformatting. From a chiefly rock and alternative station, NU would transform into a pop station. No further details were given. Some days after, there was a clarification, and at the same time, a confirmation. NU would not be reformatted, but it would shut down completely. There would no longer be NU as it would relinquish its frequency to a completely different station. NU107.5 would now be a “masa” station.
The news definitely saddened me. NU was one of the very few decent radio stations remaining in the Philippine local airwaves. It neither bludgeoned listeners with stupid jokes nor with eardrum shattering voices of their DJs, nor with “music” that was uncreative like many did; rather, they played Music that mattered; the kind of Music that was original, imaginative; and the kind that was not afraid to push the envelope. Moreover, it helped mold and uplift, most especially, local and/or underground bands that would have been otherwise ignored by other stations, that heavily supported international artists. Had it not been for the support of NU for Filipino bands and artists, the local music industry would have long gone down the drain.
I did not grow up listening to NU. In fact, my musical influences have their roots in pop, the standards, jazz, and ballads. The rock /alternative Pinoy band explosion of the 90s exposed me to such music, but it did not influence me enough to follow rock. By the time I had reached high school, a handful more of rock bands entered my musical consciousness. I also started listening to NU once in a while (thanks to the influence of my sister), but it would take a tumultuous experience in early college for me to completely support rock music. All of a sudden, I found consolation, support, and respite, from this particular radio station and from the Music it freely dispersed. Overnight, a wave of once unknowned artists and Music suddenly flooded my ears and filled even temporarily the holes in my bones. A day unexpectedly became incomplete without tuning in to NU. I was never the same.
However, just as tragic experiences influenced me to stop listening to the other radio stations I had supported before NU, something also happened that made me listen to NU infrequently. It just so happened that sometime ‘09, I began to get hooked more on foreign indie music. It just so happened that I slowly grew tired of listening to heavy music and decided to explore lighter beats, “happier” melodies. Some of them were even “ dance-able” (no, not the House electronic type. I can never stand that!) Simply put, I just felt I needed a break. A change. Just as NU was also slowly changing its playlists (that’s for another entry.) As soon as I had heard of NU’s impending death though, my mind tumbled into a wormhole and found myself revisiting the past.
Apart from the fact that NU has contributed immensely to my musical experience and collection, I also have other personal reasons as to why NU’s closing had some significant effect on me. First, I once auditioned to be a DJ there! A dream of mine to become a DJ (somehow) came true when I made it into the “semis”. I went on-air twice and was interviewed by Zach Lucero and Francis “Brew” Reyes. Evidently, I did not make it, as Jay Santiago proved to be the worthy one. It was quite an experience still. I had fun even though I did embarrass myself a bit just to get the spot! Now, the whole thing is deposited in my memory bank under the “what the hell was I thinking?!” category. Second, I joined a contest to win some meet and greet passes for the Linkin Park 2004 Manila concert… well, almost, for I did not make it to the cut-off time. Sayang, I was ready to sing ala Chester Bennington pa naman na! (Another “what the hell was I thinking?!” moment). Third, through NU, I met someone who changed my life forever. (Enough said. Next!) Last, I also made friends there. Although the friendship was short-lived, nevertheless, I still enjoyed the company and the whole experience is something I can share with my grandchildren. (The guitar still exists, man! And the sound is still… bright.)
Barely two weeks before November 7, I started listening to NU once again and sadness loomed over me as each day passed. I wanted to drop by the station just to say my goodbye, but my work schedule would not permit me.
November 07 came. It was a Sunday. I was flooded with work and other responsibilities. Inside my head there was a countdown and the more it ticked toward midnight, the more I could not concentrate on what I was doing. I sent my friend a text and told her that I wanted to go to NU for the lasttime. Coincidentally, she and her other friends also wanted to drop by and so despite all the work due the following day, I met my friend and headed over to Ortigas. It was past 10 when we arrived. Only about one and a half hours before NUs final breath.
The vigil in front of the station was quite a sight. I was with a crowd of people who were similarly touched by NU. If there were oblivious people who chanced upon what was happening, they would probably think, “But it’s just a radio station!” And I realized then that only a true music fan would understand why we were there.
We spent our time listening to the final songs and messages of goodbye. My friends and I wondered what the last song could be. I thought that it would have to be something that everybody knew. Possibly OPM. “Salamat” by The Dawn? “Ang Huling El Bimbo” by The Erasherheads? My friend jokingly said that it could probably be “Handog” by Florante or even “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” by Basil Valdez. (‘Nak ng… Puede!!!) We did not have to wait for a long time for the answer.
Alas, it was almost midnight. The inevitable had arrived.
Then El Bimbo played.
After the national anthem, there was just this eerie sound of static and silence.
Monday, and I found myself tuning in to 107.5. It was as if I was trying to find some faint signs of life. Of course, there was none. I turned off the radio. Tuesday, and there was some. I heard a revival. I turned my radio off for good. My radio became silent for a month. Awakening from its deep slumber, I decided to tune in again. Force of habit controlled me as I automatically put the tuner at the extreme right of the dial. I forgot. NU’s dead. I decided to go to the extreme left instead, where it is still positioned until now.
People said that apart from the decrease in advertising support, technology also had something to do in the demise of NU. Internet killed the radio sort of thing. But just as the internet is partly to blame, ironically, it becomes an avenue for NU’s reincarnation as well.
It is only recently that I found out about Dig Radio . It is mainly composed of ex-NU DJs and it plays the same music that the real NU once did… only online. Sometime ago, I read an article of Jim Ayson proposing the exact thing for NU. I guess NU’s ex-DJs have read it too! I have not listened to it yet as I am not very big on online radio streaming. I still prefer to listen to good old radio. Yes, I am old fashioned that way. But in time, I will, definitely!
I remember thanking NU in the acknowledgement page of my college thesis, along with some musicians, who had not only kept me company during the whole time of my thesis writing, but for also “rocking my world”. One year after NU died, I guess the only thing I can say is again, thank you… for keeping me alive all those years.