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The dawn and twilight of Teddy Diaz

By Tony Maghirang
Inquirer
First Posted 04:55:00 10/28/2007

Filed Under: Customs & Traditions, People

MANILA, Philippines ? Time may dull the pain of losing a friend; but it doesn?t help ease the struggle to understand a senseless death.

Almost two decades since the day they met up at a hospital morgue to identify the body of their lead guitarist, Teddy Diaz, the members of the rising rock band The Dawn and Diaz?s closest friends still haven?t found answers to the questions that tormented them that day in August. How could it be that one moment Diaz was full of life and energy, looking to launch another surefire hit song, and the next he was lying cold and lifeless, his body riddled with stab wounds?

Jett Pangan recalls the day with stark clarity. It was August 21, 1988, just after midnight. They had wrapped up a live peformance on ?Martin After Dark? with their latest radio-ready anthem, ?Love (Will Set Us Free).? The TV show?s musical director, Louie Ocampo, had complimented the band for their tight performance and the normally reserved Teddy appeared unusually happy and sociable.

The band members left the ABS CBN compound after, and went their separate ways. Jett had proceeded to a friend?s house where he planned to spend the rest of the night cramming for an exam. Three hours later, the call came. Teddy was dead. Murdered.

Jett can still see in his mind?s eye the stab wounds. ?The wounds on his left forearm showed that he had tried to parry the stabs. It was the thrust to his throat that killed him,? he recounts. ?A witness said he tried to crawl towards his girlfriend?s house, but he expired in the attempt due to massive bleeding.?

According to accounts, Teddy proceeded to his girlfriend?s house in Tatalon, Quezon City, after the gig on Channel 2. He was walking towards the gate when he was accosted by two drunks, one of them armed with a knife. Teddy offered his wallet, containing P200, his share of the fee from the band?s earlier performance, but after snatching the wallet, the knife-wielder went on to stab him, even as his companion reportedly tried to pacify him.

Drummer J. B. Leonor recalls sketchy police reports that said the assailant had killed an aunt that same afternoon and was in the area to hide from the authorities. He engaged the local toughies in a friendly drinking bout, and when the alcohol ran out, he sought out a partner to help him rob the first person they encountered that early morning.

Leonor rues, ?With his long hair, Teddy might have been mistaken for a woman, an easy prey. Teddy might have resisted at some point, and that?s why they stabbed him. He was really a victim of circumstance. He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.?

Police caught the thrill killer a week after the incident. The local hoods gave him up, refusing to coddle a murderer in their neighborhood. The case was tried in court and the convicted killer spent time at the New Bilibid Prison. There were subsequent rumors that he got shot in the knees while trying to escape from prison, but band members say last they heard, Teddy?s assailant had died in jail.

Former Eraserheads and current Dawn bassist Buddy Zabala describes Teddy?s passing as ?a great loss.? The Dawn led the way, he recalls, and after the band made a success out of creating homegrown music, ? other local bands started writing their own material. But it was Teddy who was the prime mover of The Dawn.?

Leonor concurs that Diaz was the central force behind The Dawn. Jett adds, ?Teddy practically put the band together. He was also a catalyst. He forced us to contribute to songwriting and made us realize that we could write songs. We became songwriters because of him.?

The band members struggled with the loss, not only of an important member of the group but of a friend. But knowing what Teddy would have wanted, they pushed through with a previously booked concert at the Folk Arts Theater. Three guitarists, David Lava of Rage, Resty of Identity Crisis, and Afterimage?s Francis Reyes, replicated parts designed for Teddy to play at the show. The Dawn concert turned into a tribute to their slain guitarist.

No, Teddy has not made his presence felt to any of the band members since then, they say. And yes, they have come to accept that Teddy was a victim of a robbery gone real bad, but whatever the trauma he may have experienced in death, they are certain he has now found peace. He has moved on, and so must they.

When the three surviving members and then-manager Martin Galan met after Teddy?s death, their first decision was to continue with the band. They also agreed that Teddy?s replacement would not have to be his clone. A succession of guitarists came and went until they asked Francis Reyes to try filling in Teddy?s legacy-laden shoes. It took time for Francis to fit in, not due to limited chops but because of demands from fans all over. They still chanted and cheered ?Teddy, Teddy!? in most shows here and abroad and that was a scary, eerie challenge for any presumed pretender to an iconic performer?s throne.

Francis admits, ?People continue to remember Teddy. He had star quality written all over him that registered very well even with those who didn?t know him as a musician. He had a very strong personality that you just can?t ignore!?

In songs that Teddy had composed with The Dawn, Francis improvises on the guitar solos and generally retains the original melody and feel of the songs as a tribute to Teddy?s genius. But he is also aware that his current style may echo traces of Teddy?s influence precisely because he has to imitate the late musician?s playing style.

To celebrate its 20th year in show business, The Dawn released last year ?Tulad Ng Dati,? a compilation of their memorable hits. It carries the weight of Teddy?s legacy even as old anthems, ?Enveloped Ideas,? ?I Stand With You,? and ?Love (Will Set Us Free),? are revitalized with fresh beats and rock licks. The carrier single, ?Ang Iyong Paalam,? may also be taken as a sideways remembrance of the band?s original guitarist.

Last year, the band took time out to star in an independent film, ?Tulad Ng Dati,? which captured major honors at Cine Malaya 2006. As Teddy Diaz, actor Ping Medina played the pivotal role close to the bone. The uncanny resemblance between Teddy and the actor brought tears to the eyes of Teddy?s mom. The band and the Diaz family also had a simple reunion of sorts after the movie?s premiere. The last time they saw each other was during Teddy?s burial.

Almost a decade since Teddy Diaz? death, at about the same time they were last with him, The Dawn hit the stage as headliner in a concert for slain UP fratman Cris Mendez, the most recent victim of another senseless violence?this time, an alleged fraternity hazing.

It was a sparsely attended show, but the four-man band played a tight and inspired set. Wherever he may be, Teddy must surely be proud of the rocking mates he had left behind.



Copyright 2014 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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