Weekend for culture-A A +A
Sunday, September 29, 2013
THEY were veterans, all 11 of them, and listening to them sing Saturday night at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino makes one appreciate Filipino talent once more.
The former members of the New Minstrels and Circus Band have gotten older, and it showed in skin starting to sag and the slow gait. But there’s no denying their voices still have the power, although mature and tempered now.
My wife and I arrived at the concert venue when Chad Borja was singing. He later introduced someone he described as his idol, who grew up in Mambaling, Cebu City. So Ray-an Fuentes is Cebuano, my wife said. Like Chad Borja, I was tempted to add, though I knew she knew that already.
We were obviously fans of the bigger names like Basil Valdez, Hajji Alejandro and Joey Albert. We ended up loving, too, Borja, Fuentes, Tillie Moreno, Pat Castillo, Louie Reyes, Jacqui Magno, Eugene Villaluz and Ding Mercado.
The big-name singers didn’t sing much of their hits. The concert, after all, was a reunion for some members of the two show bands that became popular in the Manila entertainment circuit in the ‘80s.
So the audience was treated to sumptuous servings of ‘70s and ‘80s music like “Never Can Say Goodbye, “The Harder I Try” and many others.
It looked like all of Cebu’s “seniors” or almost “seniors” turned up for the concert.
They swayed, waved their hands, sang with the singers and, I would like to believe, recalled their youthful frolic.
That’s what music usually evokes: nostalgia.
The path that talented Cebuanos take to the top differs. Chad Borja and Ray-an Fuentes, together with legends like Pilita Corrales and Diomedes Maturan and many other great Cebuano singers, made it by way of Manila. Yet they retained their Cebuano sensitivity.
Others persevered in the local arena and in the process raised the bar as far as Cebuano music is concerned. It was but fitting, therefore, for Jose R. “Dodong” Gullas and his wife Nena to come up with a tribute for the late Cebuano topnotch musician Emilio “Mil” Villareal and the late “Queen of Visayan Songs” Susan Fuentes.
For this, I made my way back to the former office of The Freeman where I started my career as a journalist. Sir Dodong has transformed the place into a Cebuano music-themed museum, the only one of its kind in the Philippines, he said, called the Jose R. Gullas Halad Museum.
It was the first time I visited the place since my transfer to Sun.Star Cebu in 1997.
It was also the first time I met Sir Dodong again also since that transfer. The memories? But that’s for another column.
Girlie Lapinid, accompanied by the Mutya Band, and the University of the Visayas Chorale sang Fuentes songs composed by Maestro Mil to an appreciative audience that included relatives of Fuentes and Villareal, Mayor Michael Rama (who sang Allan Jayme Rabaya’s “Kausa Nabasa ang Tubig”) and Vice Mayor Edgar Labella.
When I hear songs like “Hain Na” and “Bisan sa Damgo Lang,” the emotions pour and the sentiments flood. Those classics are a mix of poetic Cebuano and haunting music.
Interpreted by Lapinid and the UV Chorale, those songs became magical.
Mayor Mike was right, we need more Dodong Gullases if we want to preserve and promote Cebuano Music. The mayor has picked up the challenge hurled by Gullas, which is to institutionalize what he has started. The ball is now in the hands of Vice Mayor Labella and the City Council.
Gullas, who set up the museum in 2010, originally called it, “Tipiganan sa mga Awit ug Kinaiyang Sugbuanon.”
I like the word “tipiganan” from the Cebuano word “tipig” or to store. It evokes the word “timgas” or pure, something I can use to describe the Gullas intention to honor talented Cebuanos like Villareal and Fuentes, and more importantly, their music.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 30, 2013.