because I know somebody is listening
Listen in Ashrafieh
Listen in Ashrafieh
Sound by Alehandro
Go for a walk in Ashrafieh, Beirut.
Flat access is variable. Alternatively, stay in a space where you can listen closely.
This soundwalk is about music, faith and sexuality, and contains references to homophobia.
The sound of guitar playing a slow, sweet song fades in.
Do you know this song?
Salamat sa iyo…
This one. But, I don’t have the chords. It’s Tagalog.
Aking panginoong Jesus…
You don’t hear this one, when you are there? Every time I sing this one, I cry. This one. Every time I sing, I… I cry.
It go inside.
Silence, followed by a quiet laugh.
It hurts when you hear somebody that lesbians are not acceptable in the Christian community. I feel always that I’m different. I’m different.
I really love the songs of the church. When I hear those, oh, my heart became big! I have the hope that maybe one day, I can!
Somebody speak with me before, inside: what I will choose. I will choose to stay, or I will choose my homosexuality? Why should I take care what they say? They are not the one who sent me in this world! Who sent me in this world? I don’t think that it’s Satan. Because there is two: there is Satan, and there is God. I will not accept that Satan – that I came from Satan!
So I say that I will not listen to anybody. As long as I know what’s inside my heart. I’m not alone. Everywhere there is like this. So every time I hear that homosexuality is like this, like that. I don’t care anymore. Because I’m not alone in this world. And I know what’s inside.
Alehandro plays chords while speaking:
If He will give me the talent to play the guitar, and know where I will put them, all those chords – and He will use my hands, so I will use only for the church.
Because I love music! And, I notice that the more you practice, you will learn. Because you know, when I went to school, I’m not that intelligent. I’m not smart. So, we have only a small radio, a small radio. And in my place, if you don’t have battery, you don’t have radio! Because there is no electricity. And you cannot – you have to put in your ear. And I sing with the radio. But with my songs, it’s not coming right!
It’s not coming right! But I love, really I love music! I study in a Catholic church, so you have every time the prayer; after you have the songs. With the songs there is also guitar – we have instruments also. So I want to play. When the school is finished I have to go home – I have to go walking, it’s very far. So I don’t have the time to practice in the school. But even my uncle have the guitar also. Because we love music in the Philippines. Diba? Nakita mo doon?(Isn’t that right?) We love music. Even in the night, we play music! I tell him, I ask him, I can borrow? I want to make… I just want to play!
But I don’t know, really I don’t know! I tell him, how I will know those? It’s only the one I know, the A. The A is like this, there is three, like this:
Alehandro strums an A chord on the guitar slowly, followed by the other chords.
And there is the D. These are very easy. There is the E. A minor. They are very easy. But because nobody try they teach me, so, nothing happened.
Time flies, when I finish school, my cousin is working here.
Lebanon. She’s already here. So, she take me. I came here 1984. When she take me here, I don’t have yet the day off. Maybe it’s two years I don’t have the day off.
You don’t have any – not one Sunday?
No, you will just go if they tell you to go bring… No. I don’t have. Maybe when I’m two years, I go out. It’s not… it’s not like everybody, but it’s ok! Because what I’m thinking before, it’s important is I can save money. I don’t need to go out, to spend money. I have to earn. I have to earn. Because I…. it’s hard life. It’s not easy.
My birthday – like today! – my birthday, my boss give me money: $100. I am very happy because I can buy!
A guitar! The cheap one! It’s $95 I think. So when I have money, when I have extra, I bought this one. This is mine. And when I use it I’m happy, because I don’t have pain anymore. This one it’s better.
Playing chords higher and higher along the neck of the guitar:
Because there is sound also here. There is sound until here. I use my ear to learn. If you really want to do what you want to do, you have to work.
Playing the opening chords of a church song, and singing:
G… and D. You are beautiful description – ah! Beyond description! Sorry!
It’s not easy to sing and play. Even in the church I just play, I don’t sing. Because if I play and sing, I will lose. But for me now, little by little, my – how you call this? – kaba. Anxiety? Kaba. Because when I play the guitar in the church, especially like these people… I’m not playing, I don’t want to play alone because I have this kaba! You know this one? Laughing. Heartbeat! I have this one.
But now, I have to put in my head that I have to be strong. Because if my friend will go, who will stay? And who will go in the church if there is no music?
We still have to learn. It’s a lot of time, we need a lot of time. Every day. But I cannot play every day in my work. I play only during Sundays. If I don’t have practice, my hands became hard. I have one guitar also in the house. But I cannot use because I have work. So you cannot play, you can play only in the night and you will close everything, when they sleep… You will make slowly. But it’s ok.
Sometimes I have arthritis. You saw this? It’s red. Because I have pain two days ago, it became big. I take it from working. Thirty-five years in service! You know, I finish my contract already. Last month I finished. If He will let me to have some, I can keep some, really, I want to go home. I’m tired. Thirty-five years in service! Every day the same, every day the same. The same, the same, the same. I have to take rest also.
Now I’m very blessed, because all that I dream – but, I’m not dreaming, it happened! My dream to have house, to have gold, to have a big house, to have land, to have animals… all this I have. But the change is, life will change. Because maybe family will change, attitude of family will change. But I never change! Yes. If I have, I will give you. I want to give, I want to give, I want to give, I want to give. It’s because I know how to live without.
I’m making one house, in Tarlac. Near Pampanga, near Clark. I want to make a house there. Before I go home, I want to make a house and I can see a job – with my girl. My girlfriend, is – laughing– you know, she’s still young. She’s still young. And she’s free. I’m open-minded. Because I know life, now. It’s like I see what will happen. So I tell her, if you want to get married, get a boyfriend, whatever… Go. You are free. I will not – I will not itali ba – I will not tie you. You will be free.
It’s very painful, no?
It’s not easy to be a lesbian! That’s why people cannot understand me. It’s not easy! Because girls will get married. We have to accept that maybe one day it will happen, you will get hurt. That’s why it’s better you tell now that you are free. The one that He will send you, really the one for you, it will come in the right time, right moment, right whatever…. If you find a lesbian who truly loves, you will stay safe.
Now I’m fifty-five, how much years more left for me? So I want to do this, that I can leave something memorable. Yalla!(Let’s go!) All I want is – it’s Sunday, it’s my birthday… But you know, when I’m speaking with somebody, it open, it became light. It became light. It became lighter, it became lighter. Because I know somebody is listening to my story. And I hope that you believe – because this is my story.
But now I’m happy! Because now I have what I want. I have my guitar, I play the guitar, I’m happy.
I think you know these songs?
I don’t know this one.
Alehandro strums the chords of a verse, and begins to sing, then stops abruptly.
You have to start with the intro.
Alehandro plays the chords while calling out their names:
D minor, G, C, A minor, A minor, E, C, F…
Alehandro continues to play the song. As the intro ends, the guitar is joined by the sound of an organ, and finally a choir of women singing: the church community.
Glory to God in the highest,
And peace to His people on Earth.
Glory to God in the highest,
And peace to His people on Earth.
The song ends on a slow Amen, and fades out.