Elvis performs at Nonoy Zuniga concert

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

The 'S' Factor

Saturday, April 5, 2014


“ELVIS Presley” will be a featured performer at balladeer Nonoy Zuniga’s “Kumusta Ka” concert at Charlotte, North Carolina on April 19.

I said that with some quotation marks because the “Elvis” I referred to is this Fil-American singer named Rene Escarcha, a singer par excellence whose life story is as colorful as his songs and the way he covers them.

He's well known not only within the Filipino-American community because his music crosses boundaries. The best part of him is his being a father to a 29-year-old autistic daughter. But that's another story to tell.

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In the meantime, let me tell you about Rene as a singer. He was born and raised in Masbate province, Philippines.

Rene said his town in Masbate is populated by Visayan speaking Filipinos. He can be described as a jack of all trades -- a performer, composer, teacher, designer (Rene designs his own jumpsuits!), carpenter, sculptor, painter, singer, song writer and overall musician who can play guitar, flute and keyboards.

In high school, Rene was a barber and his teachers were his customers. “I used to be the 'Barber of the year' in the seminary,” the ex-seminarian said.

Rene formed a band called the Esquire's Blue in high school and another group called the Rendaljun Trio in college. Like any provinciano or native of the province, Rene went to Manila to try his luck.

His cousin Buddy Castillo was at the height of his popularity as an Elvis impersonator and composter. Rene's cousin started collaborating in writing original songs.

“We wrote a rock opera called Buhay Estudyante,” he said. Rene said he and Buddy were able to present it twice at the Makati Polytechnic Community College (MPCC) where he used to teach in.

Rene began writing music and performing in high school and performed on radio, TV, and live stage. He graduated with a degree in Economics and Philosophy and taught music in high school.

Interestingly, one of his former students in Aquinas School is now Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, son of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

Since arriving in the States in 1978, Rene continued to write and compose music and worked as a substitute music teacher at local elementary here in Charlotte area.

His first recorded song “Lisa- I’ll Always Wanna Be With you” back in 1988 was originally a poem he wrote for his pen pal. “The poem used to be Amy,” he said.

When he was in Manila Rene met a lady disc jockey named Lina Grecia who asked him if his song “Amy” can be sung by his friend Edgar Opida, also an Elvis impersonator.

“The song became Lina,” he said. On arriving in the US, he met a co-worker named Lisa and it was during that time that Elvis's daughter Lisa Marie was born.

“So it became Lisa,” he said.

Did I mention that Rene has a special daughter whom his fans called Lisa? Rene said she's actually named Mary Josephine and she's afflicted with Down syndrome. So the song “Lisa” also has a special meaning to Rene.

As a guest performer at the Nonoy Zuñiga concert, Rene said he's still thinking about the two songs he will perform though his followers and those who know him expect two Elvis numbers.

Rene may also do his own version of Zuñiga's song “Never Say Goodbye.”

By the way, Nonoy Zuñiga's “Kamusta Ka” concert at the UNCC McKnight Hall (Cone Center) at the University Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina 28223 is presented by Core Visions Productions.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 05, 2014.

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