So Long, Kapatid Eduardo

Frame from the documentary ‘The Last of the Philippines. Return to Baler

This obituary was originally published in Spanish on April 5th, 2000 by Jesús Valbuena in

Unique animal, lone ranger, last Mohican, man of the Renaissance, Luis Leonardo, sculptor of songs, painter of poems … Today the total artist has left us. Singer, writer, painter, poet, master of culture with all the letters, his work will transcend the generations that have sung his songs. Luis Eduardo Aute‘s legacy, as a virtuoso, will grow over time.

As a person, Eduardo was even greater than as an artist. This is borne out by those of us who had the immense fortune to share some moments with him. At least, this is a common feeling amongst all those close to him with whom I have been able to talk lately, just a handful of friends, because Eduardo literally leaves hundreds of friends in dozens of countries.

“Where did he get the time to take care of personal relationships so much, to treat so many of us so well?” I asked Miki, his son Miguel, a few months ago. “Sometimes, I also ask myself the same question,” he replied.

I met him in 2006, at the lunch offered by the King of Spain in honor of the then President of the Philippines at the Royal Palace in Madrid. It seemed that he felt, like me, a little out of place around the crème de la crème of the Kingdom. But Eduardo knew how to behave anywhere, observing, learning, absorbing reality with the curiosity that he kept from his earliest childhood days next to the Manila Malecon.

By then I already knew the lyrics of many of his songs and revered him as a songwriter, but I soon understood that Eduardo did not like receiving compliments or talking about himself. He was  ̶ genuinely and consciously ̶  a humble person. He was more interested in others. In any conversation, he made you feel important, demonstrating empathy and an ability to listen as as I have not discovered in anyone else.

“I am editing a documentary on our last stand in the Philippines, but I recorded so much material that it came out too long. I’m about to put it in a drawer,” I said. “It is normal not to get it the first time. Writing is re-writing,” he replied. “OK, I’ll write it again if you are the narrator,” I proposed. He answered in silence, with a calm, penetrating gaze, so full of generosity and kindness. Eduardo was straightforward. He was just as his eyes showed.

Thus arose the opportunity to visit him at home, from time to time. Kumusta ka, kaibigan? (How are you, my friend?), I used to ask him when I arrived. Mabuti, kapatid (well, brother), he would respond with a smile of excitement when he heard any word in Tagalog, the language of his joyful childhood in the devastated Philippine capital of the 1940s.

An afternoon with him was like reading, with no rush, several books at a time. His interest in history, current affairs, politics, the economy and, of course, your family, your work, people, life… was contagious, as were his acid social criticism and his keen sense of humor. He liked to motivate your creativity, encourage you to give the best of yourself. He made you feel like an artist about to debut. Conversations with him never depended on the clock. Upon leaving his house, it seemed as if time had stood still. His company was a parenthesis of freedom and imperturbability amid the Madrid turmoil.

One day some journalism students called him on the phone for an interview that they were not going to publish. He patiently answered their questions for a long time, while he placed some logs in the fireplace. When he hung up, I asked him if he wasn’t tired of doing so many favors. “On the contrary, even less so for these kids, for whom this interview seemed so important.”

“Where did you get so many song lyrics from?” I asked. “From reading, having conversations, observing”, he said, “although painting is really my thing.” “Painting? But if you have written over 400 songs!” I questioned. “That is purely by ear,” he sentenced. “Purely by ear.”

On another occasion I called him because another polymath had come to Madrid, Philippine Senator Edgardo J. Angara, another beloved friend who also recently left us. After showing us his painting studio, Edgardo wondered about some paintings in which divine prints are mixed with explicit female nudes. With a rogue smile, Eduardo explained: When one reaches an orgasm, does not one say: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!?, while Edgardo’s burst of laughter made Eduardo laugh even louder. He had extraordinary people skills and an innate intuition to create a harmonious environment and complicity with others.

Paraphrasing the tale with which he used to delight the audience in his concerts about “the different sunflower that sees things in its own way and decides not to duck when night falls”, los últimos de Filipinas were also moonflowers. That handful of men, isolated in a remote church, demonstrated by far the three virtues that Eduardo valued so much: they never gave up their faith, at no time did they lose their curiosity and, of course, they proved to follow their own criteria.

Although we were definitely going to include his song Al Alba (At down) in the documentary, the day we went to record to the studio, we proposed that he sang the habanera ‘Yo the dire’ (I’ll tell you): “Don’t ask me to play the role of Rizal, too…,” he exclaimed, as he picked up the guitar. He looked at the music sheet, sighed deeply and sang a cappella from the heart, much like he did everything else: I’ll tell you why my song feels incessantly, my blood beating, my life asking that you do not go away anymore. Never leave me behind at dusk, that the moon rises late and I can get lost…

Purely by ear. By talent. By wisdom. Purely by the mirage of trying to be yourself, that journey into nothingness, which consists in the certainty of finding beauty in your gaze.

Only the immense joy of having known him and the immortal legacy of his work can compensate, in a small part, the deep pain and sadness for the earthly loss of this maestro, a humble sage, whom we will always carry in our hearts. Just as he taught us.

The Last of The Philippines. Return to Baler from Musas Producciones on Vimeo.

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