Half Life Half Death

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Half Life Half Death
Half Life Half Death in 1995, Pet, Bimbo, Rain, Ramil, aLfie
Background information
Origin Pasay, Philippines
Genres Alternative rock
Years active 1988–1992
Labels Viva Records, Vicor Records

Half Life Half Death, or "The Halves," was an obscure Filipino alternative rock band that existed from 1988 to 2003.


Half Life Half Death was originally formed in 1988 by five High school students of Sta. Clara Parish School in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines.


Half Life Half Death inevitably derived its musical style from its main influences, mostly new wave and post-punk British bands which became popular in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila, during the members' highschool days, in the 1980s; bands that included The Cure, Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Lotus Eaters, The Smiths, and The Wild Swans. Although, there was also a subtle influence of Progressive Rock (Rush, Yes, ELP) in the structures and instrumentation of their music, heard best on the song "Radio Madness"; as well as of many Alternative Rock bands that included Violent Femmes, The Dead Milkmen, The Lemonheads, Dinosaur Jr., Radiohead, and even Filipino bands particularly The Dawn, Identity Crisis, and Eraserheads. These influences may be heard in the style of the songs in their lone album.

Many Filipino Alternative-music enthusiasts fondly remember Half Life Half Death for its quirky remake of "High School (Life)," an '80s Pop song written by the Filipino composer George Canseco for the Filipina actress/singer Sharon Cuneta. Half Life Half Death's version of the song was a concert favorite among the underground-music crowd of the late 1980s. It eventually achieved commercial popularity when the band recorded it for a compilation album released in 1995 by Vicor Records. The song enjoyed heavy airplay on various FM radio stations, further helping Half Life Half Death gain some more following and land a record deal with Viva Records.

Half Life Half Death attained commercial popularity among Filipino Alternative Rock enthusiasts when their independently recorded single "Alimango" became #1, in 1994, on the now-defunct FM radio station DWLA 105.9, which promoted unsigned Filipino Rock bands. This achievement paved the way to the band's inclusion in four compilation albums: "Kapit-Tukô" for A Dozen Alternatives (1994, Viva Records), "Sa Paskong Darating" for Christmas on the Rocks (1994, Viva Records), "High School (Life)" for Mga Himig Natin Volume 2 (1994, Vicor Records), and "Nosi Ba Lasi? (Lala's mix)" for the original soundtrack of the movie Okey si Ma'am (1995, Viva Records).

In 1995, Half Life Half Death finally recorded and released its debut album, Pymyth Prahn, under Viva Records. Despite the commercial quality and the lush concept of the album, the band failed to achieve commercial status and soon disbanded; with the members concentrating on each of their actual professions. The album spawned a few cult favorites that included "Butterflies," "Brother's Pen," and "We Are the Saints"; but "High School (Life)" remained their most popular song.

Half Life Half Death reformed and resumed activity in 2000 especially at Mayric's, a long-running club which served as a breeding ground for many important Filipino Rock bands which include Alamid, Sugar Hiccup, and The Youth. The band also began arranging new materials for a possible second album; but the plans were shelved when its vocalist went to Canada in 2003. However, before finally wrapping up a 15-year obscure career, Half Life Half Death released an independently produced double-CD compilation of all recorded materials plus a few demos, entitled The Halven Trilogy, the third part of which the band intends to finish and release on their vocalist's return to the Philippines.

Fans of the band regard Half Life Half Death as "The Cure of the Philippines," chiefly because of their strong and honest reference to their new wave roots and certainly for the uncompromising Curesque style of their vocalist, whose sense of fashion virtually never changed from day one through the band's demise in 2003.

Recent Updates[edit]

Late 2005 saw interesting musically related developments concerning Half Life Half Death key members Alfie Vera Mella, Rainald Paggao and Ramil Aznar, each of whom has embarked on a new musical project of his own.

In 2012, bandleader Mella's plan to visit the Philippines pushed through after nearly nine years, finally reuniting the key members of the band to perform a number of successful gigs at some of the old venues where the band used to play at during their heyday in the 1990s, culminating with a grand reunion show held at Club Phi, in Pasig City, Metro Manila.

haLf man haLf eLf / Half Endangered Species / The Half Gifts[edit]

aLfie vera mella, now based in Canada, formed a performing band aptly named haLf man haLf eLf. In December 2006, mella in collaboration with fellow Winnipeg-based Filipino musician Abelardo "Ardie" Sarao" released an EP entitled The Woes of Emong Payaso (independent label: eLf ideas / Kalabasa Records). This carried the single "Parang karnabal--ganyan ang buhay ng tao." During live performances, haLf man haLf eLf was initially comprised by mella and a backup of friend musicians who included Roy Gutierrez (guitars), Jason Paredes (bass), Roberto "Abet" Carino (bass), Cris Pangan (bass), Joshua Bernardo (drums), Paul "Ten-ten" Labao (drums), Edward Daquina (drums), and Jimmy Tan (lead guitars). A few of the group's significant performances included serving as one of the front acts for Philippine-based Rock bands doing a Canadian tour, like Siakol (in May 2006) and Mike Hanopol (in 2007).

In July 2007, mella, again in collaboration with Sarao, begins recording a new song, entitled "Like Fireflies (You Are My Only Hope)." In October 2008, the duo along with musicians Joseph David (drummer), Nicco Gilbang (bassist), and Danny Omana (keyboardist) formed Half Endangered Species and performed as one of the front acts of the Filipino Nu Metal band Slapshock in the Winnipeg leg of their 2008 Canadian tour.

In February 2009, mella and David form a new band with friends Aldo Caziani (guitars), Sherwin Ylagan (bass), and Benjo Mendoza (keyboards), calling themselves The Half Gifts. They immediately begin arranging songs for a planned three-song CD that they hope to release within the next few months. The planned EP, entitled A Melange of..., which would have contained "Vanilla Float," "Chocolate Mousse," and "Cotton Candy Carnival," has been shelved. Due to conflict in schedules and priorities of members, The Half Gifts dissolved in the middle of 2009.

Mella reverts to using the name haLf man haLf eLf, as he is joined by mostly new members. The band was one of the front acts to the Winnipeg concert of the Filipino Alternative Rock band Pupil. The reinvigorated haLf man haLf eLf began to perform in venues outside the Filipino community such as Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano, Paragon Lounge & Restaurant, Ozzy's Bar at Osborne Village Motor Inn, Dylan O'Connor's Irish Pub on Portage Avenue, and Curtis Hotel Henderson Drafthouse on Henderson Highway.

The band's lineup in the early 2010s were aLfie vera mella (vocals, keyboards, bellkit, percussion), Christine Mazur (violin, cello, acoustic guitar, vocals), Robert Nicanor Jr. (drumkit, percussion), Dave Labovich (mandolin, banjo), and Janice Bamsworth (cajon). Previous members included Robert "Jun" Villanueva Jr. (12-string acoustic guitar, percussion), Tyler Holmes (keyboards), Johnny Holmes (bass), Jan Castillo (ukulele), Pol Chua (acoustic bass), and Dante Gomez (electric guitar). haLf man haLf eLf brands its style of music as Classical New Wave—a mix of the melodious sensibilities of New Wave and Postpunk and the intricate instrumentation and arrangement of Classical.

Mella as haLf man haLf eLf remains loyal to the style for which his erstwhile band Half Life Half Death was known—New Wave with a touch of the technical instrumentation of Classical music and Progressive rock and the "fist-raised" attitude of old-school Punk Rock. Songs that haLf man haLf eLf had covered during gigs included "Just like Heaven" (The Cure); "I Melt with You" (Modern English); "The One I Love" (R.E.M.); "Today" (The Smashing Pumpkins); "More to Lose" (Seona Dancing); "High School (Life)," "Butterflies," and "Brother's Pen" (Half Life Half Death); "Susi" (The Dawn); "Nagpapapansin, Pansinin" (Urban Bandits), and "Canto de Maria Clara" (The Camerawalls).

Currently comprised by the core of mella, Mazur, Labovich, Xaq Freeman (acoustic guitar), and Jeremy Rusu (12-string acoustic guitar, accordion, acoustic bass), haLf man haLf eLf is yet to finish recording its debut album to be titled Tales from a Half Forgotten Era.

The Rain / Half Moon Half Rain[edit]

Based in the Philippines, Rainald Paggao collaborated with his brother, JB, and formed The Rain, releasing its first album, entitled Girl in Mind (2006, independent label). The two cover songs featured in the album, The Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost in You" and Seona Dancing's "More to Lose," are a reference to the duo's New Wave roots.[original research?] The Rain's music is reminiscent of classic '80s Alternative Rock / New Wave bands the likes of The Cutting Crew, The Railway Children, and Flesh for Lulu. Prior to involving himself on this project, Paggao also became the lead guitarist of Dream Kitchen, another Filipino Alternative Rock band. He is also currently the lead guitarist of Dead Popstars, a Filipino New Wave band which many Alternative-music enthusiasts regard as "the ultimate The Smiths tribute band of the Philippines."

In October 2007, Paggao and his brother begin working on their second album, entitled The Emperor's New Songs. In the same year, mella and Paggao pursue a long-distance collaboration. Using the project name Half Moon Half Rain, the two was able to finish two songs: "My Brilliant Friend," a reworking of an old unreleased original song written by mella when he was still with Dream Kitchen; and a version of Seona Dancing's "More to Lose."

Dream Kitchen (Mark II)[edit]

Also based in the Philippines, Ramil Aznar is now the front person (vocalist/guitarist) of Dream Kitchen's reincarnation, whose current members include Dream Kitchen originators Aldrin Cardona (guitars), Gilbert "Bebet" Tiongson (drummer), and Vincent "Bong" Torres (bass), the first two of whom also became members of Half Life Half Death during its final days. Dream Kitchen's first commercial release, "16 Hours," can be found in the compilation album entitled 8 Track (2005). The band's music takes on the sound of Alternative rock / Britpop bands such as Radiohead, This Perfect Day, and Weezer. Dream Kitchen's professionally produced music video of "16 Hours" was nominated for the "Music Video of the Year" category in the 2006 MTV Philippines Music Awards. Dream Kitchen has recently finished recording a 10-song demo album and is currently scouting for a record label that would sign them.

In the late '90s, during Dream Kitchen's early days and Half Life Half Death's inactivity, mella served as Dream Kitchen's vocalist and occasional keyboardist. Significant songs covered by the band during this period included "Say Something" (James), "Blushing Girl, Nervous Smile" (The Wallflowers), "Bring On the Dancing Horses" (Echo & the Bunnymen), "Leave Me Alone" (New Order), "Waterfall" (Riverside), "True Fools Fall" (Died Pretty), "The Worst Year of My Life" (The Wild Swans), "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (Band-aid), "Falling" (Under Blue Skies), and "Sumigaw, Umawit Ka" (Identity Crisis). Original songs composed by Dream Kitchen at the time, but which did not see the light of being released commercially, included "Vanilla Float," "The Neverending Why," "Silver Spoon on My Mouth," "For Her Brilliance," "My Chocolate Mousse," and "Buhay-Karnabal," which reincarnated as haLf man haLf eLf's "Parang karnabal--ganyan ang buhay ng tao."

Before their eventual disbandment in 1999, Dream Kitchen with mella recorded five original songs at Purple Studios in Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines. In 2004, this set of compositions was compiled by mella into an EP entitled half baked delicacies ("Vanilla Float," "The Neverending Why," "Silver Spoon on My Mouth," "For Her Brilliance," and "Buhay-Karnabal").

The Halven Story[edit]

Vocalist aLfie vera mella released a 4-CD epic package in December 2006, in conjunction with the culmination of his debut album as haLf man haLf eLf. The package included a newly enhanced and redesigned The Halven Trilogy music of Half Life Half Death (commercially released songs and previously unreleased studio recordings) and a redesigned Girl in Mind of The Rain (retitled as Songs for Moonlit Nights, which included a version of Seona Dancing's "More to Lose," showcasing a long-distance collaboration of Paggao [who rendered the guitar tracks in the Philippines] and mella [who recorded the vocal and keyboard tracks in Canada]). Part Three of the trilogy, half buried treasures, is yet to be finished; this will feature previously unreleased studio recordings of Half Life Half Death, remixes of studio-recorded songs of Dream Kitchen, remixes of some songs from The Rain album, and alternate versions of haLf man haLf eLf's "Parang karnabal--ganyan ang buhay ng tao."

The Halves[edit]

Original members[edit]

  • aLfie vera mella (vocals, sound effects, bellkit, percussion), 1988–2003, 2012
  • Rainald "Rain" C. Paggao (lead guitars, keyboards), 1988–2003, 2012
  • Joel Padilla Reyes (bass, acoustic guitar), 1988–1990, 2012
  • Nestor Edmund "Doods" G. Villafuerte (keyboards), 1988–1990, 2000
  • Jonathan "Jon" Villaraza Mejino (drums), 1988–1991
  • Caroline "Carol" O. Pobre (female vocals), 1988–1990, 2012

Ensuing members[edit]

  • Ruperto "Pwet" Pura de Jesus (guitars, backing vocals), 1989–2000, 2012
  • Ramil Cruz Aznar (bass), 1989–2003, 2012
  • Edgar Villafuerte (backing vocals), 1989
  • Lamberto "Ambet" Taylo (violins, keyboards), 1990–1991, 2000
  • Rozylyn Limjoco Torres (female vocals), 1990–1992
  • Robert "Bimbo" Ballesteros (drums), 1991–2001
  • Juan "hubo" Miranda (drums), 1991–1992
  • Aldrin Cardona (guitars), 2002–2003, 2012
  • Gilbert "Bebet" Tiongson (drums), 2002–2003, 2012
  • Rodel Gremar Bernil (guitars), 2002
  • Christine Mazur (violin), 2012
  • Jesus "Jonjon" Santos (percussion), 2012


Pymyth Prahn, (Viva Records / Neo Label, 1995)

  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)
  11. Aligue
  12. Unfated Love
  13. Engkanto
  14. Cariñosa
  15. Kapit-Tukô

The Halven Trilogy Part One: half forgotten songs (eLf ideas, 2003/2007)

  1. Tsanel Tsek
  2. Alimango
  3. Kapit-Tukô
  4. Kapalarang Kuwago
  5. Sarimanok
  6. Nosi Ba Lasi [Lala's mix]
  7. Aligue (taba ng alimango)
  8. High School (Life)
  9. Engkanto
  10. Cariñosa
  11. Sa Paskong Darating
  12. Halina sa Peryà

The Halven Trilogy Part Two: half remembered dreams (eLf ideas, 2003/2007)

  1. Channel Check
  2. A Feast in Pastel Castle
  3. If All Sleep Tonight
  4. We Are the Saints
  5. Butterflies
  6. Brother's Pen
  7. Summer's Rain
  8. Radio Madness
  9. Unfated Love
  10. A Night like This [live]
  11. Butterflies [live]
  12. Brother's Pen [eLven mix]

The Halven Trilogy Part Three: half buried treasures (eLf ideas, 2007)

  • Track listing still in the making

The Woes of Emong Payaso by haLf man haLf eLf (eLf ideas / Kalabasa Records, 2007)

  1. Mahiwagang sapatos ni Emong Payaso
  2. Parang karnabal—ganyan ang buhay ng tao
  3. Walang tigil ang palabas sa entablado
  4. Sa likod ng bawat tagumpay ay kalbaryo

Songs for Moonlit Nights by The Rain (2007)

  1. Ben's Magic
  2. Girl in Mind
  3. Singing My Pain Away
  4. The Ghost in You [originally by The Psychedelic Furs]
  5. I, Sisyphus
  6. Pourin' Rain
  7. Cold Rooms
  8. Perfect Moment
  9. Shouldn't Spoil the Day
  10. More to Lose [originally by Seona Dancing]
  11. Games

A Dozen Alternatives (a compilation) (Viva Records / Neo Label, 1994)

  1. Kapit-Tuko

Christmas on the Rocks (a compilation) (Viva Records / Neo Label, 1994)

  1. Sa Paskong Darating

Mga Himig Natin Volume 2 (a compilation) (Vicor Records, 1995)

  1. High School (Life)

Okey si Ma'am (Original Movie Soundtrack) (Viva Records, 1995)

  1. Nosi Ba Lasi? (Lala's mix)

External links[edit]