HALF LIFE HALF DEATH aka. HLHD was a FILIPINO NEW WAVE BAND which was officially formed back in 1988 by five highschool students of Sta. Clara Parish School in Pasay City composed of Alfie Vera Mella (vocals), Jonathan Mejino (drums), Edmund Villafuerte (keyboards), Rainald Paggao (guitar), and Joel Reyes (bass). Carol Pobre (female vocals) and Pet de Jesus (rhythm guitars) joined the line-up soon after. I'm fortunate that I was able to contact HALF LIFE HALF DEATH's lead vocalist ALFIE MELLA and asked him If I could feature the band here in my little blog "The Doctor Is In" and he was glad about it. There were already a couple of write-ups about HALF LIFE HALF DEATH in the net mostly written by Alfie himself so I tried my very best to make this blogpost of mine very different in a way. Well, It's "The Dr. Stirring Rhod Way" again of making a blogpost tribute to this great Filipino Band called HALF LIFE HALF DEATH. Although the band debuted as Half Life Half Death in August 1988, the yet-to-be-named band actually was formed earlier back in December 1987. According to Alfie aka."ELF", who incidentally was the brainchild of the band, HLHD in between the "nameless" period moonlighted playing birthday gigs with names like Fancy Weredoes, Strikingly Out of the Ordinary, The Ashtrays, and finally plain Half Life. Wheeew!! Nice names don't you think? The band's very first gig took place back in March 1988 at the birthday party of Alfie's Aunt Eliza which was held at Better Living Subdivision in Bicutan, Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines. They played stuff from Modern English, X-mal Deutschland, The Dead Milkmen, Ramones, The Adventures, A Flock of Seagulls, WUDS, The Cure, and The Clash. Definitely these guys were WXB102 fanatic I may say!!

A few days before HLHD's first ever official "underground scene" gig entitled "Seed of Paranoia" back in August 1988 at the Makati Sports Club, the event organizer contacted the band to inform them that they were about to make the gig poster and that they found the band name "Half Life", to be plain and not catchy so the organizers suggested that if It's possible to change the name of the band. That was when the guys contemplated into reverting into any of the various names that they used already because the name "Half Life" had been relatively popular in the band's circle due to the numerous birthday and fiesta gigs that they have performed at using the name. Alfie then suggested to his fellow bandmates to keep "Half Life" then just add the "counterbalance" term "Half Death" through Alfie's direct inspiration which was the name Half Man Half Biscuit with whom he got fascinated with mainly because of their name. Thus, the band "Half Life" became "HALF LIFE HALF DEATH"!! There were a lot of line-up changes through the years of the band's existence and everyone in the group had their own contribution during those times one way or the other. Definitely, one PINOY band that's worth remembering again.

Here are the other questions I asked Alfie and his replies are very well indicated.

Why do people call you "ELF"?

ALFIE: The '70s-produced Lord of the Rings animated film was one of the very first movies that I watched in life, courtesy of my dad who used to tell us his children fantasy stories. When my dad took me and my sisters to the theater sometime in the late '70s to watch the movie, the memory stuck with me. I remembered how my dad always called me his little elf because I have big ears and thin, oval-shaped face like Tolkien's Elves. So even as a child my dad already called me little elf.I also grew up loving books--particularly the Fantasy Fiction genre--so I began to make researches about Elves, and I started to love their character.When I started writing articles and short Fantasy stories sometime in early '90s, I decided to start distributing a newsletter amongst my friends and officemates. I called the newsletter eLf ideas. Since then I have been using eLf ideas to sort of "brandname" all the articles and works that I've been making.Some people think that I got the Elf moniker from the recent LOTR movies. I always tell them that even before the popularity of Orlando Bloom's Legolas character in the recent film trilogy, I was already referring to myself as eLf.Also, when I researched the etymology of my name--Alfie--it has an origin related to the name Elf--which came from Norse, Old German, and Scandinavian literature. Why "eLf," not simply Elf? Well, that's just for effect and originality--as influenced by how many people refer to Cummings as e.e. cummings. Besides, my maternal grandfather's middle name is Lanuza, my dad's is Lorenzana, so setting the "L" in my name in capital is a sort of a tribute to both my lolo and daddy--who have been great influences to me in terms of my love for stories, writing, and books. Both have instilled in me the love for literature at a very early age. I was five when my dad gave me my first book--a picture dictionary. Lolo loved to tell me his personal stories during WW2 and his own childhood--so my love for storytelling partially came from him. Ang haba na naman! Hahaha! Anyway, mas maganda na yan para talagang definitive.

What can you say about the band scene in the 80s comparing to the 90s?

'80s: I love the '80s because it was my musical awakening. I was like a child discovering something new and marvelous. Even back in the very early '80s I already had an ear for non-commercial music--those that I used to hear from my uncles and older cousins. So when I was introduced to Punk Rock and New Wave proper, I was hooked at once. In the '80s, band music was not yet accepted by the masses, so when you were among the few who were into it, you felt really special and much cooler than others. I remember back in 1986, I was about 15 y/o and I was sporting the Jeremy Kelly / Lotus Eaters, and I was the coolest kid in the neigborhood. Getting a gig at concerts was very difficult, so when we finally got gigs, we felt lucky and special.

The '90s: I liked it because it was the time when HLHD was finally given the chance to shine. It was the decade when we finally realized that our band had something different to offer, and that there were actually lots of people---including members of more popular bands--who admire us--like Paco Arespacochaga of Introvoys, Jett Pangan of The Dawn, Ely Buendia of Eraserheads (he once told me at a gig that he loved our "Butterflies," Noel Mendez of Hayp, Mike Villegas of Rizal Underground, Dodong Reyes of The Youth, and a whole lot more. However, being in a band in the '90s became more commercialized...like, almost every kid who loved music was forming his/her own band--this took way the mystery and mysticism of being in a band. On the other hand, the '90s showed the world that Rock bands were not always druggies, good-for-nothing kids, and no-brain out-of-school-youth...that even the smartest kid in class could be in a band and remain smart.Lastly, it was in the '90s when we finally released an album and when we had the chance to guest on radios, TVs, and play at various concerts and clubs including the legendary and important clubs such as Club Dredd (Timog) and Mayric's.

What were your fondest memories of HLHD of the 80s?

ALFIE: Seed of Paranoia and Creepy Night concerts.

What were your fondest memories of HLHD of the 90s?

ALFIE: Our first gig at Club Dredd Timog (actually, this was our first ever gig at a club), in April 1990. We realized that HLHD had really what it took for a band, because the performance was a blast. You can ask Patrick Reidenbach and Jing Garcia, who were there of course. Jing was the soundtech of Club Dredd during that time. He said we were awesome. He liked especially our performance of "The Pan Within" (The Waterboys) and "Tania" (Camper van Beethoven). Patrick booked us at once for more gigs at his club. Other songs we performed were "In Your Eyes" (The Reivers), "High Enough" (Damn Yankees), and our own transcription of the classical piece Beethoven's Symphony no. 5, First Movement.

What inspired you to form a band during those times?

ALFIE: My love for music. As I said I started as a member of a NewWave mobile, then began sporting hairstyles and attires by the Likes of DM's Dave Gahan, The Cure's Robert Smith, and TLE's Jem Kelly. Then my friends kept on telling me I could pass as a rockstar, so that gave me the initial inspiration. We at school formed a band and performed at a Teachers' Recognition Day. We began to get invited to birthday parties. Then a friend, Jacob Gonzales hooked me up with Dante of Mobile One, who gave us our first real gig (Seed of Paranoia).We just played cover songs but we were already composing and playing our original version of "High Scool (Life)." I said original version because we were the first one to devirginize that George Canseco / Sharon Cuneta song. Then I heard The Dawn on WXB, "Enveloped Ideas." That was it! I said that recording our songs and getting these played on the radio was possible, as proven by The Dawn.

I've read somewhere in your blog regarding an unreleased Twisted Red Cross materials back then, so what did really happened?

ALFIE: Actually, we recorded some originals + our version of "HS Life" (using only a cassette tape recorder) and then submitted the demotape to TRC office at Marina Bldg somewhere on Roxas Blvd. The A&R back then said that he was interested in our music but the problem was, TRC was already closing business. So, that was just it. We could have been the last TRC release. I was able to keep a copy of the contents of the TRC demotape. Of course, it was rough but still, I regard it as a treasure. These were only direct cassette-tape recordings; like we played live altogether in our practice room while the cassette tape recorder was on.

Do you still remember your very first composition as a band?

ALFIE: "A Wish," "Bike Ride," "Chores," "Lorain," and "We Are the Saints." Rough versions of all these songs are included in the said TRC demotape. Only "We Are the Saints" found its way into getting arranged and included in our only album, Pymyth Prahn. Ex-HLHD bassist Ramil Aznar is now the frontman of another band, Dream Kitchen. They recorded their version of "Bike Ride."

What's your Most Memorable gig?

ALFIE: In January 1989, Creepy Night, Ali Mall Skatetown, Cubao. This was the gig when we realized that HLHD was something different and had the potential to be a crowd favorite. We went to the concert--the band and many of our friends--wearing our full New Wave regalia, and the crowd there really gawked at us, curious as to who we were. When the organizer Duke of Charlez introduced us and we entered the stage, the crowd stood up and cheered at us. Songs we played included "Damaged Goods," "The Beach Song," "A Wish," "Lorain," Christmas original "Happy Night," and "High School (Life)." Even drummer Brutus of Tropical Depression remembered what we were wearing during that gig. He told me that he was there.

Worst gig if there was any?

ALFIE: Sometime in 1995, school PUP, we were supposed to play before Wolfgang; then when we were about to go to the stage, our lead guitarist realized his guitar effect gears were missing. No one wanted to lend theirs. We couldn't play without those, so we ended up backing out. There were lots of people waiting for us that night, so we felt really bad and disappointed.

What can you say about the NEW WAVE/PUNK scene here in the PHILIPPINES during those times?

ALFIE: In the '80s, the scene was still pure, in the sense that only those who were really into New Wave and Punk Rock had the courage to attend gigs in full makeup and attire. Not many poseurs yet. In the '90s, the scene was becoming more diluted. Poseurs proliferated.

Well, I guess we have learn a lot from HALF LIFE HALF DEATH's humble beginnings so let's move on to their one and only album. YUP!! Finally, after seven years of struggling on and off, HLHD was signed by VIVA RECORDS and the band recorded and released their 1995 only album entitled "PYMYTH PRAHN". Before the release of this much anticipated HLHD album, Alfie and the rest of guys were featured in a lot of PINOY ALTERNATIVE COMPILATIONS like "A DOZEN ALTERNATIVES", "MGA HIMIG NATIN Volume Two", "OKAY SI MA'AM(Original MovieSoundtrack)", and a Pinoy Alternative Christmas CD that I have featured here in my little blog last CHRISTMAS 2008 Season entitled "CHRISTMAS ON THE ROCKS". Just check out my Labels Section to read my "Christmas On The Rocks" blogpost. I love the songs "BUTTERFLIES" and "ALIMANGO" in this "PYMYTH PRAHN" album which had massive airplays on both LA105 and DM95.5 back in the 90s. The album contains also great songs like "KAPIT TUKO", "BROTHER's PEN", "WE ARE THE SAINTS" and their Classic Rendition of a George Canseco/Sharon Cuneta hit "HIGH SCHOOL LIFE". THE MEGASTAR Miss Sharon Cuneta actually commented that the band did a mockery of the song. Although, the songs in the album are quite good, it only made an impact in the underground people and didn't really got into PopRock status on the FM airwaves. According to Alfie, the guys never really pursued their band career, the album faded into seeming oblivion and have long since been deleted in the market and many of his friends have long been urging him to reproduce the album. Half Life Half Death reformed and resumed activity back in 2000 especially at Mayric's, a long-running club which served as a breeding ground for many important PINOY ROCK BANDS. HALF LIFE HALF DEATH also began arranging new materials for a possible second album, but the plans were shelved when Alfie went to CANADA in 2003 and have been residing there up to now. In 2007, Alfie repackaged the band's studio recordings and had them professionally replicated and named it "THE HALVEN PACKAGE" wherein he shouldered all the cost with just a little budget from his own pocket. It was called The Halven Package and It was composed of 5 CDs that contained not only the studio recordings of Half Life Half Death but also those recorded by the splinter groups haLf man haLf eLf (Alfie's project band in Canada), The Rain (duo of HLHD guitarist Rain Paggao and his brother, Jb Paggao), and Dream Kitchen (HLHD bassist Ramil Aznar with other HLHD alumni Aldrin Cardona and Gilbert Tiongson). Well, Alfie was glad that the 50 sets he have repackaged were all sold out. I asked Alfie if It's okay to make "PYMYTH PRAHN" CD available here in my blog for downloading and sharing purposes and he gladly will like to share it to you guys. Maybe some of you have already downloaded this CD in other website but just in case to those who still don't have a copy then feel free to download it here. I also included for sharing purposes the Lost HLHD Tape for TWISTED RED CROSS Label which didn't push through back in 1989 and their L.A.105 Radio sessions back in the Mid-90s when the Pinoy Alternative Rock Scene was still at It's peak here in MANILA. Btw, I have already featured "TWISTED RED CROSS" here in my blog before just check out my Labels for those who haven't read it yet. THANKS ALFIE for sharing these stuffs and of course for giving me the opportunity to feature HALF LIFE HALF DEATH here in "The Doctor Is In". I also requested Alfie if he could take a photo of the CDs of HLHD just to spice up this blogpost of mine which he readily did.

I also asked Alfie how was it to finally have an album released and here is his reply.

ALFIE: A relief. We were already tired of the scene. Besides, each of us was busy with his professional career. So, we were glad that, despite our careers, we were still able to pull it off-releasing an album without the meddling of other people. Even our album's record producers Jett Pangan and Francis Reyes didn't meddle in the musical concept of the album.

Here's a photos of Alfie's HALF LIFE HALF DEATH music materials:


1) A Feast in Pastel Castle
2) Alimango
3) Butterflies
4) Kapalarang K'wago
5) If All Sleep Tonight
6) Brother's Pen (with Summer's Rain)
7) Radio Madness
8) Sarimanok
9) We Are the Saints
10)Nosi Ba Lasi (Lala's mix)
12)Unfated Love

I've uploaded two songs from the album so that you could listen to and made available the entire album for download If you still don't have a copy of it. THANKS ALFIE for sharing the album

LISTEN TO "Butterflies" HERE:

LISTEN TO "We Are The Saints" HERE:

WATCH HLHD lipsynched their rendition of the song "Nosi Ba Lasi?" by the Filipino singer Sampaguita. "Nosi Ba Lasi (Lala Mix)" on RPN 9 Noontime Show "CHIBUGAN NA" wayback 1995 HERE:


PASSWORD: http://docmuzic.blogspot.com/

Since, this is my little blogpost tribute to HLHD, I decided to include the list of all band members that have been a part of this great Filipino New Wave Band through the years of their existence in the Philippine Music Scene.

Original members
aLfie vera mella (vocals, sound effects), 1988–2003
Rainald "Rain" C. Paggao (lead guitars, keyboards), 1988–2003
Joel Padilla Reyes (bass), 1988–1990

Nestor Edmund "Doods" G. Villafuerte (keyboards), 1988–1990, 2000
Jonathan "Jon" Villaraza Mejino (drums), 1988–1991

Caroline "Carol" O. Pobre (female vocals), 1988–1990

Ensuing members
Ruperto "Pet" Pura de Jesus (guitars, backing vocals), 1989–2000
Ramil Cruz Aznar (bass), 1990–2003

Lamberto "Ambet" Taylo (violins, keyboards), 1990–1991, 2000
Rozylyn Limtuaco Torres (female vocals), 1990–1992
Robert "Bimbo" Ballesteros (drums), 1991–2001

Juan "Johnny" Miranda (drums), 1991–1992
Aldrin Cardona (guitars), 2002–2003
Gilbert "Bebet" Tiongson (drums), 2002–2003

Rodel Gremar Bernil (guitars), 2002

I also uploaded HALF LIFE HALF DEATH's Demos which they submitted to Legendary 80s Pinoy Underground Label TWISTED RED CROSS which the band made back in the late 80s but unfortunately was not released.


A Wish
If All Sleep Tonight
Mosh Dance
Play Wild (Six Little Jerks)
Rhapsody Opus 69
Unfated Love
A Place
Happy Night
High School (Life)


PASSWORD: http://docmuzic.blogspot.com/

Listen to three songs from this selection which I uploaded for you guys.

LISTEN TO "High School (Life)" HERE:



LA ROCK 105.9 was responsible in making the PINOY ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene boom back in the 90s and we are also fortunate that we have also the HLHD LA Radio Sessions here in my blog for Downloading courtesy again of Alfie.

A Feast in Pastel Castle
Butterflies [single edit]
Butterflies [unedited]

LISTEN TO "Alimango" HERE:


PASSWORD: http://docmuzic.blogspot.com/

While doing this HLHD blogpost I remembered my very own ROCK & RHYTHM Music Magazine back in the 90s wherein the band was featured. I started digging up my vaults and finally I was able to find my ROCK & RHYTHM 1994 Issue having the HLHD article. Wheew!! I can't believe it!! This magazine is almost 16 years old. It was a Four-Page feature which was entitled "HALF LIFE HALF DEATH Talk about resurrection... talk bout resurrection..." with a little bit of information regarding the band and of course some lyrics and chords of their songs on their one and only album PYMYTH PRAHN. YUP!! Another "The Doctor Is In" exclusive for my very special HLHD tribute blogpost. CLASSIC INDEED!!

Even though HLHD didn't really took off if you're talking about popularity or even Pop status on the Pinoy Rock Scene, I consider these guys as cream of their crop back on those days since they know their stuffs. Although I saw them performed live only once back in 1995, I have to say that HALF LIFE HALF DEATH is indeed one great Pinoy New Wave Band!! The guys were having other priorities aside from being in the band scene. According to Alfie, if not for these priorities of studies and finding good first jobs then the band would have been more successful.

I hope you guys have enjoyed my very special blogpost about HALF LIFE HALF DEATH and for the finale here's what Alfie has to say.


I'm really thankful for the Internet because through this technology I was able to make people rediscover our band, music, and who we truly are. I also thank that I have always been a writer and a camera-freak, for because of this, I am able to document into photographs and put into writing many of my experiences especially those concerning my being a member of a band. Now I can share all those lovely memories--many happy, some sad--to people who I didn't even know admired us and continue to appreciate our music.Thank you to many people. Thank you especially to Dr. Stirring Rhod, for taking the time to interview me with his questions. Your interest in Half Life Half Death is a warm feeling in my heart (and for the hearts of my bandmates too, for sure).It took me a long while to finish this so-called Half Life Half Death story, not simply because I lacked the time and I was busy with my job and family but more so because I always find it hard to write all the stories because there were so many stories to tell that when I begin to write them I just don't know where to start. All I can say is, Half Life Half Death is very apart from many of our contemporaries and even from many of the current bands because of these...-- when New wave music was out in the shadows and was not the "in" thing back in the '90s, HLHD soldiered on and we remained the carrier of the New Wave flag-- we never denied that we also covered songs by many Metal and Glam bands like GnR, Metallica, Poison, Van Halen, and Damn Yankees. I don't deny that, on behalf of my bandmates, we also love this kind of music.-- when Identity Crisis stopped wearing the New Wave attire, HLHD remained gigging in full regalia--being the frontman and the usual instigators of our musical and image concepts, I remain the same New Wave-loving guy the way I was about 25 years ago.


Since CHRISTMAS 2009 is only few days away I'll leave you with another Video Performance of HALF LIFE HALF DEATH on the Legendary GMA SUPERSHOW back in 1994 singing their version of a Classic Philippine Christmas Carol entitled "Sa Paskong Darating" which was featured on the 1994 PINOY ALTERNATIVE Christmas Compilation " CHRISTMAS ON THE ROCKS" which I have also featured before. The HLHD Videos I included here are all uploaded by HLHD guitarist RAIN PAGGAO on You Tube. I guess Alfie aka "ELF" will have to report to SANTA CLAUS in a few days. He He He!! What do you think guys? Btw, ALFIE's current band haLf man haLf eLf has begun recording its debut album, planned to be released next year 2010. Alfie entitled the album "Stories Unearthed from a Half Fortgotten Era". This will include another version of "High School (Life)", which he have called 'Turca mode' in tribute to one of Alfie's favorite Classical composer, W.A. Mozart, and a version of Lea Salonga's "I Am but (a Small Voice)," which he retitled into "I Am Not a Small Voice." The influences that Alfie will showcase on this CD will be The Waterboys, The Pale Fountains, The Lotus Eaters, China Crisis, Belle & Sebastian, and Classical music. THANKS for dropping by!! THANKS also ALFE of HALF LIFE HALF DEATH for helping me out on this blogpost of mine.


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The Pope said...

I love that "Alimango" song, it reminds me of our infamous Pinoy trait... I hope people change as we await the coming of Infant Jesus.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas.

StickySweetSounds said...

kudos to "eLF" and to you doc, nice comprehensive piece indeed. holiday cheers:-)

DrStirringRhod said...

THANKS Pope for the comment!! YUP!! That infamous Crab Mentality thing. Merry Christmas din sayo!!


DrStirringRhod said...

THANKS bong!! Holiday cheers to you too. Next time yung band mo naman.:-)


eLf ideas said...

Thanks to all of you, especially of course to Dr. Stirring Rhod for featuring Half Life Half Death on his very widely read blogspot.

Even though, some parts of this blogpost were my reply to Doc's questions, I still took the time to read and re-read everything. That's how I love my band, my bandmates, and music itself.

To this day, remembering stories and experiences I had with my band Half Life Half Death can still make me feel happy and sad at the same time--simply because we had a really wonderful time, but also we had sad moments that perhaps every great band experience especially during their younger and earlier days.

But, HLHD was indeed a great rollercoaster ride--which gave us lots of memories and experiences, lots of friends and acquaintances, self-confidence, and the chance to rub shoulders with the so-called stars both of showbusiness and the band scene.

Up to this day, even here in Canada, I would still bump into someone who would surprise me by saying that he recognized me as the vocalist of HLHD.

Thanks, bandmates. Thanks, music. Thanks, Punk Rock & New Wave.

Again, thanks, Doc.


eLf ideas said...

The Pope:
Thanks for the appreciation. By the way, I just want to tell everyone that the so-called crab mentality is not strictly Filipino. This human tendency can be observed even from people of non-Filipino descent. One friend of mine--a professor of Sociology--told me that this human trait is more apparent in third-world societies.

eLf ideas said...

Thanks as always. And, I'm glad that your Multiply site is back!

DrStirringRhod said...

You're very WELCOME Alfie!! More Power To you!! :-) Keep on Rockin'!!


StickySweetSounds said...

@ doc, but my band? did u read my latest interview with giselle? i made a lot of enemies doing that! im kidding,hahaha.
@ eLF, multiply cant keep a bad perv down,lol.and its graet that you released yer back catalog, its one legacy surely as a musician you can always be proud of and that no one can take away.way better than a monument indeed,hehe:-)
here's wishin u all the best indeed.
cheers m8

DrStirringRhod said...

Nope, Haven't read it bong. Glad you like my HLHD blogpost.

Holiday CHEERS to all of us!!