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July 29, 2011


Sometimes, a writer’s hand is moved by a person that is very close to his/her heart. There are other times that a writer’s fingers are stimulated by the greenery of vegetation or the vastness of the azure that surrounds him. Oftentimes, a writer’s hand is prompted by his experiences whether it’d be distressing, pleasing, heartbreaking, or frightening. But for the award-winning screenplay writer, Ricardo “Ricky” Lee, it is neither of the three that motivates his hands to move. It’s the invigorating beat and the soothing rhythm of the music that moves him to produce great works of literature.

During the wee hours of the morning, when silence is at par with the darkness and the clock strikes at three or four o’ clock in the morning, Lee wakes up and starts his day. He walks straight to computer, sits in his chair, and plays the music that he deems fit to be played.

This is what Lee is like whenever he is writing. He believes that his creative juices are more productive during the morning rather than at night. He said, “Morning person ako, hindi ako gaanong ka-creative na person sa gabi. (I am a morning person. I am more creative during the morning compared to when I write during the evening.)”

Lee also loves listening to different kinds of music. He does not have a preference on a specific genre rather he listens to all kinds. Whether it’d be ballad, broadway, jazz, or hard rock, he listens to it. Some of the artists that he favors are The Who, the Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen.

Music has become a big part of Lee’s life as a person, as a teacher, and as a writer. It has not only served as his motivation in writing. It has also been his life.

Lee remembers that he spent his first earned salary for music. He jubilantly states, “[Ang] unang pera ko na na-earn [ay] napunta sa music. Noon, cassettes, CDs, at plaka iyong uso. Lagi akong pumupunta sa tindahan ng plaka at inaamoy ko iyon. Masarap kasi ang amoy niya. Meroon siyang feeling na tanggap ka. Nagpapagod ako para mahanap iyon. (The first salary I earned was spent for music. Back then, cassettes, CDs, and records were popular. I always go to music stores, find the records, and smell them. Its scent is exhilarating. It gives off a feeling of acceptance. I really try to find them even if it is tiring.)”

Music also influenced his life as a university professor. When he was still a mentor in Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU), he commits to memory the time when he was teaching poetry. He integrated the song of rapper, Eminem, in his teachings to help the class in dealing easily with poetry and to encourage the students to read and unlock the myriad meanings in the poems. He said, “Noong nagtuturo pa ako sa Ateneo, sinimulan ko ang poetry class namin sa pagtuturo kay Eminem. Noon, iyong ‘Stan’ ang ni-ra-rap niya. May kuwento pa noon ang rap niya. (Back when I was still teaching in Ateneo, I started teaching poetry to my class by integrating Eminem. His songs, back then, were Stan. It had a story to it.)”

Besides teaching for five years in ADMU and in University of the Philippines Diliman (UP) alternately, Lee also spent a year of mentoring students in different universities in Manila like University of The East (UE), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), and New Era University (NEU). It was in NEU where he treated his students to Bon Jovi’s concert. “After one semester ng pagtuturo sa NEU, nilibre ko ang mga estudyante ko sa concert ni Bon Jovi. (After one semester of teaching in NEU, I treated my students to Bon Jovi’s concert.)”
Music was also part of the success of Mr. Lee’s “Para Kay B,” which gained praises and applause from various personalities such as Boy Abunda, Ms. Joyce Bernal, and Ms. Marilou Diaz Abaya. “Noong ‘Para Kay B,’ The Killers o Viva La Vida iyong pinapakinggan ko sa player. (Back when I was writing ‘Para Kay B,’ I listen to The Killers or Viva La Vida in the player.),” he said.

Today, as he is close to finishing his long-awaited second novel entitled “Aswang,” Mr. Lee has shifted from The Killers to Kings of Leon as his inspiration. Lee said, “Ngayon, ‘Use Somebody’ ng Kings of Leon ang pinapakinggan ko; paulit-ulit iyon. (Today, I listen to Kings of Leon’s ‘Use Somebody’ while writing ‘Aswang.’ It’s on repeat.)” 
Mr. Lee’s “Aswang” focuses on the political state of the country. Its story revolves around the point of view of amanananggal, a half-bodied female with the wings of a bat that is believed to eat the internal organs of an infant, on the country’s affairs during the 2010 elections of the Philippines. Besides its political content, the story also has comedy, love, and drama. It is about being a Filipino, and being part of the Pearl of the Orient Philippines.

Among all his works, Lee has only one objective in mind: to encourage the youth to read. Mr. Lee says, “Ang purpose ko talaga… ay sana ma-encourage iyong mga kabataan na mag-basa. Hindi lamang ang manood sila ng pelikula ang importante, importante rin ang mag-basa sila. (My real purpose in writing is to encourage the youth to read. Watching movies is not the only important thing. It is also important to read.)”    

Some people might think that listening to music might become a hindrance in writing. But for Mr. Lee, music serves as a force that pushes him to write. It puts him in a world filled with comfort and pleasure. Lee says, “Kapag may music sa paligid, may feeling ako na parang nasa comfort zone ako. Maraming sumasalo sa akin at maganda ang mundo. Ikalawa, iyong beat ng music natutulak ako na mag-sulat. (When I listen to music, I feel like I’m in my comfort zone. I feel like someone is catching me and the world is beautiful. Also, the music’s beat pushes me to write.)”

It is indeed true that music does not only give a person who listens to it unfathomable pleasure. As in Ricky Lee’s case, music engages and challenges him to write stories that not only reflect the present state of the society, but also life. Out of it, he produces worthy things–things that teach, inform, and enlighten the readers.


Ricky Lee was one of the guests of honor for the “Pelikulay 2” exhibit by UE students from the College of Fine Arts, Architecture and Design last July 20, 2011 at the NCCA Gallery.