Oplan Pagbabalik: DaPulis are back.
by rick olivares
A cursory post of old cassettes and compact discs of DaPulis’ two albums – their debut Parakenrol and Pulis Heart and their live album Soundcheck with bands like Wolfgang, Razorback, and Greyhoundz – on Facebook and Twitter saw close to 20 replies from various people. Like the band, the responses were humorous and laced with good memories.
Now fortunately for those fans, you cannot keep a good song or band down. DaPulis, with all five of the original members… are back after a 16-year hiatus.
We met up with the DaPulis at the Shinsen Sushi Bar in the Ortigas Commercial Center where the band partook in their time-honored ritual of – not necessarily in this order --- eating, hanging out, and having a good time. And the band was still on a high after their online performance.
“Back in 2002 after our last show, it wasn’t a clear decision that -- this is our last gig,” explained lead singer Gabe Mercado. “Naging busy. Nagkatamaran. I developed a respiratory problem because of the yosi in all these places we played.”
“I was in advertising,” chimed in guitarist Bob Guerrero. “I was hungry so I got a job,” admitted bassist Renzo Villalon who has since sheared off his ponytail.
“And that batch of artists who came out in the mid-1990s started to peter out,” summed up Gabe who got into acting and improvisational comedy. “And well, we just went our separate ways.”
DaPulis is one of those bands who were formed by accident. All the members were at one point or another bandmates or classmates through their years in Ateneo high school and college. They wrote songs and Ignacio and their one and only manager to this day, Patrick Pulumbarit, peddled the other bands they managed, Wolfgang and Triaxis, to record labels. Both bands got signed by Sony Music also liked the songs that Ignacio and Mercado wrote. “But we didn’t have a band,” said a nonplussed Ignacio.
Then form a band he was told. Pulling the other members was easy.
They were called “DaPulis” because three of the five members – Mercado, Ignacio, and Guerrero --- were of the heavier set. “It was an inside joke,” revealed Mercado. “Mukha kaming mga pulis. Overweight. Dapat tawagin niyo sarili ninyo ‘the pulis’”.
“We were the chocolate boys,” added Guerrero who has since made a name for himself as a sportswriter and broadcaster.
The band had a sense of humor to their songs such as in “Paa” where the band infamously wrote, "Nakahanap ka na ng iba pero mukhang paa boyfriend mo”, and “Pogi” which is about the pitfalls of being the apple of the eyes of the female of the species.
They even wrote a tribute to Yoyoy Villame titled, “Lu-Li Island” that was complete with “the accent, highfalutin words, Magellan” according to Guerrero who was inspired to write the song when the band performed in Palawan.
Villame, the proclaimed novelty music king, wasn’t the only Filipino pop icon to be associated with DaPulis. Cartoonist and comic creator Pol Medina Jr. drew the iconic cover to Pulis Heart, the second album.
“How it happened was, in college, we said, magbabanda tayo at sisikat tayo at lalabas tayo sa Pugad Baboy,” shared Ignacio. “Teka muna, si Whilce Portacio ginawa yung cover ng Rivermaya. So naisip namin si Pol Medina. Tinawagan ko si Pol and it turned out that he heard of us so we arranged a meeting. We met up over food at Dencio’s and ate bayawak. That is why in the album’s liner notes, meron siyang quote na, ‘Masarap pala bayawak’”.
Medina also drew the band in a couple of his Pugad Baboy comic strips.
“That was fun as we were all Pugad Baboy fans,” bared drummer Rusty Isip.
At the height of their popularity DaPulis performed everywhere from Chatterbox, Club Dredd, Kampo, Mayrics, Pep’s, and even the San Pablo, Laguna town square where they drew a large audience. They played sets alongside bands like Wolfgang, Razorback, Slapshock, Greyhoundz… essentially the kupaw audience. But not once were they booed off stage much less had missiles hurled at them.
“I guess we were amusing to a lot of people,” postulated Ignacio. “How do you have DaPulis in a show like Soundcheck? The Greyhoundz crowd loved us. The Razorback crowd loved us. I guess we were a pleasant addition to whatever line up they had.”
“We simply wanted to be the best front act ever,” proclaimed Mercado.
“We wanted to be number two,” added Villalon as his bandmates guffawed. “Wala kaming illusions about stardom.”
Aside from the band scene habitués and hard rock and metal fans, the band found an unlikely source of patronage and fans in the Philippine National Police.
Recounted Ignacio, “Then Special Action Force Chief Marcel Navarro wanted us to come up with a song that was sympathetic to the good policemen. They wanted to reclaim their reputation na mabuti kaming tao. They brought us to the Philippine National Police Academy to witness the graduation of new policemen. We were even taken to Camp Crame where there was this simulated rescue mission.”
Yet extraneous circumstances forced the collaboration to be shelved.
“Without elaborating too much, we’d are not excited to do that today,” said Mercado.
Today… the germ of a reunion began two Christmases ago over dinner, the first time the band was in one room together since 2002.
“A lot of people would ask us, ‘Nagkaroon ba kayo ng music video or some such. Saan namin maririnig songs niyo? Meron pa ba CD?’” shared guitarist Jay Ignacio. “The plan was to set up one show that we’d record these songs and upload them as music videos. But in the process of rehearsing for that show that we couldn’t figure out when to hold, we ended up with new stuff. Nanganak lang ng bagong material such as the new song, ‘Tito’”.
Right now, there are no hard core plans for a proper reunion tour or album. “We’re just gonna have fun,” said Mercado. “As it is, being in a studio with these guys again, I am embracing the identity of a singer again. We like this pasulpot sulpot. Right now you go to a venue pila ka with several bands. By the time you hit the stage, your friends have gone home early.”
“We are a conscientious band,” agreed Villalon. “We realize our target market sleeps the same time we do.”
“We are all in various mid-life situations,” explained Guerrero. “The last few months, it has been great and I realized how close I was with these people. You went through wars with these people and you grew up with them. Now you’re in a place that is challenging and you find solace in their company. It is therapeutic.”