UPDATE: ‘Spoliarium’ is more than just a drinking song

Here are more details about the song according to the Eraserheads’ former manager Karin Araneta

There‘s no doubt that Original Pinoy Music (OPM) icon Ely Buendia is a brilliant composer who makes songs to tell interesting stories that people can relate to. In the list are “Toyang,” “Ligaya,” “Minsan,” “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” among others. 

The Eraserheads’ former frontman, however, wrote two songs that became controversial: “Alapaap” in 1994 and “Spoliarium” in 1997. The former brought them to face the Senate because Sen. Tito Sotto, arguing that it promotes drug addiction, wanted the song banned. The latter, on the other hand, was connected by fans to the rape case of Pepsi Paloma. Just recently, “Spoliarium” again became talk of the town when Ely finally revealed the true story behind the songi.

Singer songwriter Eleandre ‘Ely’ Buendia

To support Ely’s revelation, we have introduced the real Enteng and Joey mentioned in the song’s lyrics. But we were surprised to find out that there are more interesting details about “Spoliarium.” Through a pitch of an Ehead’s avid fan, Gilbert Labo Obal, we learned about Karin Araneta who then wrote a blog narrating the literal meaning behind the lyrics of “Spoliarium.”

Karin Araneta served as an artist manager for Eraserheads from 1998 to 2000. When the drinking session mentioned in the song happened in 1996, she was the personal manager of Agot Isidro. Currently, Karin is living in New York City, where she works for CNN and is a certified professional dog trainer and behaviorist.

The original blog can’t be accessed anymore but there were fans, including Gilbert, who were able to copy it. We’ve also found a re-post dated 2012 from the Facebook page Pugad ng mga Rakista at Metal.

Asked why Karin wrote it, she tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle that she "found it funny or silly that people were trying to put so much meaning into something so simple.” Few only believed her that time, most are Eheads fanatics. 

But here are some more hidden truths about the song according to Karin. If you read the re-post or her blog, you’ll notice she tried to hide a personality with four uppercase X, which many fans believed was Agot Isidro. Guess what? They were right. The drinking session actually happened at Agot’s 11th-floor condo unit in San Juan. Thus, the mention of “labing isang palapag” and “San Juan” in the lyrics.

To what Vincent “Enteng” Villasanta and Joey “Cowpunk” Navera wrote, Karin said these are different from what she recalls. “I clearly remember that they wrote Ely’s real name Eleandre with their fingers on a foggy glass door in the balcony, which eventually got erased because of the cold mist. I’m 100 percent sure, because if they had written with watercolor and lipstick, we would have had to clean that in the morning, but we ,” Karin says.

Then, Karin also confirmed the rockstar's revelation that they got drunk over Goldschläger, the “gintong alak” from the song. “But, I guess what Ely didn’t really mention is that they were high,” Karin continues. “Except for me and Agot, they—Ely, Marcus, Enteng, Joey, and a friend named Sam—were smoking marijuana the size of a cigar tobacco, that’s why they got so wasted.”

According to the former manager, the reason she thought Ely used “Spoliarium” was because while lying on the chair, wasted, he looked like the fallen gladiator in the Juan Luna painting.

The “Spoliarium” painting by Juan Luna displayed inside the National Museum. The 13.8 ft × 25.18 ft. oil on canvas masterpiece, depicting dying gladiators, garnered the first gold medal at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid, Spain.

But later on when Karin asked Ely why ”Spoliarium,” the vocalist’s answer was that’s how he felt—like dying. “Because I remember that night, when I asked him, ‘Okay ka lang?,’ he was just nodding and not talking, that’s how they’re drunk and high... Ely said that he felt like his heart was being yanked out of his chest,” she recalls.

"Here’s the thing, even if we say the truth, people will still think that it has to do with the myth because people want to believe what they want to believe,” she adds. “That’s probably why Ely didn’t bother... But, really, it’s just a literal thing.”

We have reached out to Ely to verify Karin’s story but we didn’t get a reply. Perhaps he wants to remain mysterious, just like he was before. But, for all we know, whether he denies or confirms this other side of the story, he will always remain and be remembered as, just like Karin would describe him, the genius songwriter who could put human emotions and life experiences poetically in a song.

Indeed, songs people love to sing are not only because of their relatable lyrics but also due to the beautiful melodies. Moreover, Ely wrote poetic songs like “Spoliarium” that can stimulate people’s minds to come up with their own interpretations. For many, that’s how art works.