May 4, 1996 was a day I will never forget. It was Mr. C's 42nd birthday. It was also the Finals Night of the Metropop Song Festival and it was a much-anticipated event because this prestigious contest was back after 10 years. Mr. C was also given a special award by the Metropop Foundation that evening. A few days prior to the event, I was a panicking finalist because my singer Ima Castro could not make it back from Japan due to visa problems. It was Mr. C and Bob Serrano who came to my rescue by recommending Sweet Plantado as instant replacement. I spoke to Mr. C on the phone, he gave me Sweet's number, I auditioned her, got her to sing for Finals Night, and "Shine" won 2nd prize that night.
I was going to have a win-or-lose party at home (which fortunately turned out to be a win party) and invited Mr. C to come. He was merely an acquaintance at this point. My invitation was sincere, but I didn't think he'd actually take it because, well, he was the famous and in-demand, that-evening's-sepcial-awardee Ryan Cayabyab. And so I was over-the-moon delighted when he and Emmy came to the house to join our little celebration. Imagine, THE Mr. C celebrated his birthday at my house!!
And so Mr. C went from being an acquaintance to more of a colleague. A few years later I became President of KATHA, the Organization of Filipino Composers, which Mr. C was one of the founders of. I had organized a number of songwriting seminars for our members and one of the most exciting ones we had was when I managed to gather 3 "heavyweight" mentors for this one seminar: Jim Paredes, Joey Ayala and Mr. C. It was quite remarkable to have successfully invited such busy people to our event and what a treat it certainly was for those those who attended. I remember my friend Moy Ortiz (musical director of The CompanY) telling me, "Napag-sama-sama mo sila? Grabe - ang lakas mo kay Mr.C!" Lovely thought, but the truth was that Mr.C was always supportive of the organization and its activities so inviting him was no problem.
As head of KATHA, I got invited (along with these 3 guys) to be one of the participants of the First Philippine Forum in 2000, a gathering of leaders in various fields (the arts, the academe, government, business, media, etc.) and that gathering resulted in the forming of a group called Pagbabago@Pilipinas which I was part of. One of its projects was a CD which I produced of values-oriented songs, and I got to collaborate with both Jim and Mr. C on a song called "Magbabago Ako." Mr. C did not hesitate at all in contributing his talent and lending his name to this cause.
A few years later, KATHA died on my watch. This fact weighs heavy on my heart to this day. Only 2 things allow me to live with myself knowing this. The first is that I did everything I could to save it: I dipped into my own finances to try to keep it going when I couldn't gather enough support from the membership; I sought advice from people I looked up to like John Lesaca and Bert de Leon who knew how hard I was working and told me everything was pointless if there wasn't enough support from our members.
The second one is Mr. C. I felt like I had failed the organization's founders, and I made it a point to write Mr. C to tell him what had happened and apologize. I don't remember now if it was a private message to him, or perhaps a message to our entire membership to announce KATHA's closure. It always brings me to tears (oh boy...here they come...) remembering how Mr. C replied to my message. Instead of holding me responsible for the demise of a good thing he had started, he said "Bravo, Trina" (Dang... I'm glad I'm alone in this room... no one to see my ugly cry...haaaayyy....) - and he said I had done very well and that it was time for me to move on to other things and he thanked me for all my efforts. It felt like a pat on the back and a warm hug of consolation and appreciation that I sorely needed, and it meant everything to me.
I'd like to think that Mr.C's continued faith in me has proven to be beneficial to him somehow. In 2010, he invited me to a lunch meeting to discuss a project and I chose Chef's Quarter in Megamall. I think that was the first time I realized how much he loved to eat and how appreciative he was of good food. It was his first time there and he loved the food, and said he'd come back and bring Emmy.
He met with me to tell me about this songwriting camp he was organizing with Jun Sy of TAO Corporation and Twinky Lagdameo. He was enlisting my help in recommending other songwriters to bring in as mentors and to audition campers nationwide. Aside from suggesting and providing contact information for the likes of Gary Granada and other colleagues, I also brought in my pals Jungee Marcelo (multi-awarded gospel and pop songwriter) and Jonathan Manalo (also an award-winning songwriter, record producer and A&R for Star) for the screening of applicants.
Mr. C asked Jungee and me to emcee the Manila press conference launching the Elements Songwriting Camp. I remember my turn came to give some kind of intro about Mr. C before calling him to take the stage. As I spoke about some of his achievements, I was looking at him and he was unmoved if not almost embarrassed by all the build-up. But when I said "he's also my friend," that's when he smiled and nodded. Ever the humble Mr.C. I will never forget that moment.
If there was any "official" start to our friendship, that must have been it. Jungee, Jonathan and I screened applicants for him, sat through auditions here and traveled with him to Dumaguete and Cagayan De Oro for this purpose.
The short trip was such a blast! Mr. C, Twinky, Jungee, Jonathan and I stayed in Jun Sy's house in Dumaguete...
... and in some hotel in CDO where we had an instant pajama party at the hotel room. The boys had joined Twinky and me in our room for some late-night chit-chat and we thought Mr. C had gone to sleep. We texted him anyway to tell him where we were and a few minutes later, he was knocking on our door. So cute!!!
And then came the Songwriting Camp. Mr. C was in his element as teacher and mentor. I was amazed at his energy, enthusiasm, generosity with his time and talent and his determination to give as much as he could to our campers and to everyone present. Grabe siya. When our campers - who were all in their teens, 20s or early 30's - refused to go to sleep despite having to wake up early the next day and wanted to bond with their mentors to learn more, Mr. C was there giving them late night lessons. He truly is the heart and soul of the Elements Songwriting Camp (which is now on its 4th year).
The Elements Music Camp is his way of trying to equip new songwriters with skills. He has another advocacy aimed at expanding OPM and encouraging the creation of new Filipino songs, and that is the Philippine Popular Music Festival or PhilPop. He is the PhilPop Music Foundation's Executive Director and works tirelessly every year to bring people together for this cause.
I joined this contest when it was launched in 2012. As a result, I got to go to Davao and Baguio with him post-contest to promote it for the following year and it was a great and fun experience. Below are some pics of that two-day trip.
I remember how about a decade ago, Mr. C came very close to leaving the country for good and take his career elsewhere. He changed his mind and chose to stay. I think it was the San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts, which offered him a great opportunity to do something meaningful for Filipino music, that made him stay. What a blessing that decision has been for our country and for every individual whose life has has touched. And he has touched and inspired so many.
My friend Mickey Muñoz, whose idea it was to hold yesterday's tribute concert in celebration of Mr. C's 60th birthday today, had read my Part 1 blog about Mr.C and thanked me and said "nakakaiyak." At yesterday's matinee show, Gerard Salonga spoke about Mr. C's place in his life and he, too, got all choked up doing so. And when Mr. C gave his closing spiel at the end of the concert and sang to us these words from one of his most memorable songs:
"Ang lingap mo ay hahanap-hanapin
sa entabladong minsan ay sa akin
At kung ako ay malimutan, kahit sa awit ko man lamang
Iyo sanang matandaan bago tuluyang lumisan
na minsan ang minahal ay ako"
...those of us waiting to enter the stage from the wings had to hold back our own tears (many of us in vain). That's just the effect Mr. C has on us.
Each of us has our own experiences of and with Mr. C, and however varied they may be, one thing is clear: that we have fallen in love with this man - with his music and with the person he is. He is a gem, he is our hero, and I don't know why the heck he doesn't hold the title National Artist yet but I believe he deserves it and I hope he gets the title someday very soon.
Our conductor Jonathan Velasco and Mr. C go back a long ways and I remember him saying, "Si Mr. C, isa 'yan sa mga taong palagi kong pinagdarasal." I must say that I, too, have become one of his prayer warriors. I pray for many more blessings for this great man, and that our country may continue to be blessed as well with his talent and generosity for many, many more years to come.
Mr. C, mahal na mahal ka namin at hinding-hinding mangyayari na ikaw ay aming malimutan. Maraming salamat sa lahat ng binigay at patuloy mong binibigay sa amin.
HAPPY HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY, MR.C!!! WE LOVE YOU!!!!
P.S. "The Music of Ryan Cayabyab" - an AWESOME show -will air on ABS-CBN some time in June. Watch out for it!
If you are a music-loving Filipino and you hear the word "maestro," in all likelihood only one name enters your mind: Ryan Cayabyab. His music has moved us for decades and it comes as no surprise that the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra has chosen to pay tribute to him on his 60th birthday as part of their Spotlight Series.
"The Music of Ryan Cayabyab" has 2 shows at the CCP Main Theater tomorrow, May 3: a matinee show at 3pm and a gala show at 8pm. Some of our country's best performers like Martin Nievera, Noel Cabangon, Ogie Alcasid, Celeste Legaspi, Mitch Valdes, Piolo Pascual and many more will perform some of his most notable works. Musical direction is by no less than Gerard Salonga.
My participation in this show is as one of its choristers. A 60-piece choir made up of two groups - the Ateneo Chamber Singers and Mass Appeal - was assembled by Philippine Choral Directors Association (PCDA) President Jonathan Velasco, who is Mr.C's longtime friend, especially for this occasion. These 2 choirs sang together in "Do You Hear The People Sing" (a Yolanda fundraiser produced by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg with the help of siblings Lea and Gerard Salonga). Apparently our presence and performance didn't go unnoticed. ABS-CBN wanted "the wonderful choir" from that fundraiser to sing again for this Mr. C tribute, and so this is our second time to work with Gerard and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. (We now jokingly call ourselves TWC a.k.a. The Wonderful Choir. LOL!)
It has been a joy for me through the years to have sung and to continue to sing many of Mr.C's choral works. I must say my love affair with Ryan Cayabyab's music began when my dad bought a cassette tape of his "One" album. It was probably my first exposure to a capella music.
As a member of the Ateneo College Glee Club from 1986 to 1990, I got to sing the songs from this album. Limang Dipang Tao is one of them.
We also got to sing other compositions of his that perhaps only choristers really have an appreciation for: pieces like "Buligi" which I think was a competition piece at NAMCYA (National Music Competitions for Young Artists) and his "Gloria" which we sang in Europe in 1989. The piece impressed foreign audiences and had them asking for copies of it.
Perhaps most Filipinos only started getting to know Mr.C's choral and orchestral works when he became the Executive and Artistic Director of the San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts, which gave us the San Miguel Master Chorale and the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra. Although the SMMC and SMPO existed for just a few years, I think it was fortunate that they were able to record a few albums we Filipinos can most certainly be proud of.
If you've never heard a single cut from Pasko I and Pasko II, this video will give you a different appreciation of our very own Christmas songs given this kind of an arrangement by Mr.C.
Of course, everyone knows Mr. C wasn't just an arranger but a brilliant songwriter as well. One of his songs that didn't become as big a hit as say, "Paraiso" and "Kailan" by Smokey Mountain is this ballad "Iniibig Kita" originally recorded by James Coronel. According to Jonathan Velasco (who was one of the SMMC's conductors), during the first rehearsal of this song, as the tenors and basses read through the piece, all the SMMC girls were so moved that they started crying. And I do agree that this is one of his best love songs. See if this moves you, too.
Another one of his works that I've sung since college is his "Aba Po Santa Mariang Reyna" (Hail Holy Queen). This one and many others he's written are compositions meant to be performed by choirs (as opposed to existing songs given a choral arrangement). When I joined the Ateneo Chamber Singers in 2008, we sang this on our US Tour. Here's one of our performances of this beautiful piece, which we'll also be singing in July when we compete in Europe.
The Ateneo Chamber Singers has also sung Mr.C's works at the Three Festival (a biennial concert performed with Japan's Gaia Philharmonic Choir and Singapore's SYC Ensemble Singers). "Anima Christi," which we performed in Tokyo in 2009, is another one of my favorites.
As a member of Mass Appeal (a choir based in La Salle Greenhills which sings there every fourth Sunday of the month), I get to sing songs from Mr.C's Mass For Peace, which has always been part of our repertoire.
And so it all comes full circle for me as far as the music of Ryan Cayabyab goes to be part of this tribute as a member of this show's chorus. I've been singing his songs since I started out as a chorister in college and and I continue to do so to this very day. To sing with the 2 choirs I am currently active with is the best way I can give back to a musician and friend who means so much to me on the occasion of his 60th birthday.
Don't miss this show tomorrow. Tickets are (still hopefully) available at TicketWorld 891-9999 or you can try booking online by clicking HERE.
TO BE CONTINUED
I don’t remember when or how Bituin and I met and became friends. I do remember when I first saw her perform: it was the musicale Rent showing in Music Museum, and she blew everyone away with her solo part in “Seasons Of Love.”
In 2000 my friend Arnold Reyes became a Metropop finalist and looked to me for some help recording his entry “Paano Na.” My “suki” arranger Arnold Buena worked on the instrumental arrangement, and I helped out with the vocals by giving Bituin some directions so that the song would start out mellow, build up and fly at the end. A bit of "contest formula" that had worked for me in the past. "Paano Na" won 2nd Prize that year.
I didn’t get to see much of Bituin after that, but we’ve been in touch the past few years thanks to wonders of social media.
Last Easter was the 10th year anniversary of Mass Appeal, a choir I’m a member of that sings every fourth Sunday of the month at the La Salle Greenhills Chapel. To give this special anniversary mass a bit of “sindak” power, I invited Bituin to do the solo of “Joyful Joyful” (that famous Sister Act version) for our recessional song. The whole choir was over the moon with excitement when she agreed to do it. With her family and 2 babies in tow, she arrived middle of the mass and was apologetic about not being able to come earlier, but the absence of an opportunity for us to rehearse with her didn’t faze us one bit. We knew she would be awesome and she was, and the whole number was truly a joyful one for us all. You can watch that performance right here.
A few days after that, Bituin invited us to her upcoming gig at Balete@Kamias where she would perform Cole Porter and Gershwin songs. I watched the show with my parents who came all the way to Manila from Silang, Cavite (this cool couple found out about the gig through posts on Facebook – yes they’re both on FB – and gave me a call when they read about the show to ask me to get tickets) and a bunch of Mass Appeal choristers (including our musical director Inday Echevarria, choir founder and Route 70 vocalist Ding-Dong Eduque, Tux members Popo Suanes and Manny Aquino and a few others).
I found myself hanging on to every note and word Bituin sang. I was so caught up in her music that I forgot to order a drink! Ding-Dong and I talked about her on the ride home after the show. "Ang sexy ni Bituin kumanta no?" I remarked. Ding-Dong went, "Hindi na nga sexy eh...bastos na!" We meant it in the best way possible. I found the right expression later on and told Bituin through a thread on Facebook what we thought of her singing: "Ang libog mo kumanta!" It was the best compliment I could give her and I think she knew it.
What sets Bituin apart from many other artists is this: you have many great singers who aren't good actors, and many great actors who aren't good singers. Bituin is both an excellent singer and a trained theater actor. She combines her skill in stylizing and belting out notes with the ability to express what a song is really all about because you know that she understands her material. She's an intelligent and expressive storyteller with an awesome set of pipes. That's what makes her different. And THAT is what real singing is all about. Right now, I can't think of any other local performer who can do it the way she does. Certainly not at the level Bituin does it.
She performs again at 7th High's Apex Lounge on April 30. You can find details of that show HERE. Do yourself a favor: watch Bituin perform and treat yourself to some REAL singing.
And finally, one of the best things I got out of PhilPop was my very first big band song. How many people get to hear their song performed live by a big band? Then again, come to think of it, I guess it's not something every songwriter dreams of. Not a lot of people are exposed to the big band sound after all.
Well, I wouldn't consider myself a fan of jazz, and I didn't grow up listening to this genre, but there were a few Barry Manilow songs that stuck with me: Cloudburst, Bandstand Boogie and Avenue C. I loved the sound of the big swing drums, the rhythm and feel, the bright tones of the instruments.
Two years ago, I got to listen to AMP Big Band for the first time. AMP is the Asosasyon ng Musikong Pilipino (Association of Filipino Musicians) and one of its members, renowned musical director Mel Villena is now the band's leader and main arranger. The venue, then called Ten-02 and now known as Skarlet's (located along Scout Ybardolaza near the corner of Timog), was packed with people - a quarter of which was the band itself, since there were about 18 musicians. When they started to play, it was all goosebumps for me. Glorious, rich, soul-penetrating, amazing. How could it not be? You had an 18-piece band made up of the best musicians in the country, all of whom were there to play not for the money but to feed their souls and the audience's too. And that they certainly did.
I was an instant fan. Upon finding out they didn't have a website or Facebook Fan Page, I opened one for them (visit it by clicking HERE) and brought Mel in to be administrator as well. I feel proud to be part of this group's history somehow, if only in this tiny way.
And so when PhilPop came along and I was trying to think out of the box for a song to submit, AMP Big Band came to mind. And I was so restless with excitement I kept pacing my little condo hallway and came up with the chorus right there and then.
The overall groove was the first thing to come to mind. That intro of Avenue C and Sing Sing Sing, and what Mel later on explained to me was like a "call to the dance floor", that was my main inspiration of my song "Bigtime," a song I now describe as a cross between "Candyman" and "Beh Buti Nga." I wrote the song in Tagalog, which was more difficult for me, but I felt it would work better as a PhilPop entry this way.
I went all out on this song. I asked Mel how much it would cost to record the song with the least number of musicians that would create that big band sound. It would require 10 musicians, a big studio, plus Mel's arrangement. Pricey, as anyone would guess, but a price I was willing to pay and a risk I was willing to take. I wanted an entry that would blow away the screening committee, and a song which, in case it never made it to PhilPop, would be something I would still cherish and be proud of. I told Mel I had a good feeling about the song, so I just went for it. And part of my excitement was seeing that Mel was excited about the project, too!
Taking the risk paid off - bigtime! The day of the recording alone, I was giddy with excitement. I even brought my parents along, since they had become friends with Mel and wife Nori, too, plus my dad loved the big band sound even more than I did. This was something they just had to be part of.
I couldn't get over it! I had the best musicians in the country playing on MY song! Click on the video below (or click HERE to watch on youtube) for a short behind-the-scenes video and to hear part of the song.
I must say Mel did an excellent job of arranging the song. I purposely gave him a rough demo that was very "loose" and "open" that would allow him to work his magic. I knew he would do a great job, and yet he exceeded my expectations.
I would hear much later on various accounts of how "Bigtime" made a mark on the judges because it was so different from all the other entries (not to mention those with trained ears were wondering who in the world would be crazy enough to spend on live musicians for their demo without any assurance of making it to the finals!) and how they were so surprised when the composers of the Top14 songs were finally revealed that the song was written by me. Exactly the way I had wanted things to go.
I do hope this isn't the last time I get to work with Mel and his fabulous group. Maybe I'll have the privilege of writing more songs for them in the future.
Only a contest like PhilPop could push me beyond my comfort zone and come up with this piece of work I so love. Thanks for this, PhilPop, and for all the other blessings that have come with my participating. What a ride! I do hope this contest becomes a yearly thing so that more and more songwriters get the chance to be showered with blessings as well.
Another thing I am thankful to PhilPop for is the experience of working with this awesome female trio. It's hard not to become an admirer once you've seen and heard them sing live.
You'll get an idea of just how good they are by just watching their numerous videos on youtube. No fancy microphones or effects, just an ordinary video camera and awesome live performances. You can tell these girls really have a passion for what they do by the number of videos they've uploaded showcasing their growing repertoire. Here's one of my favorites. You'll be impressed at how tight the vocals are, and it also shows their fun and "kuwela" side.
Krina Cayabyab (center) is the group's musical director, vocal arranger and sings Soprano 1. I can't imagine the kind of pressure that may come with being maestro Ryan Cayabyab's daughter, but Krina has definitely showed us that not only has she inherited her father's musical genes, but she's made a name for herself and can definitely hold her own.
Artista-pretty Anna Achacoso-Graham (right) sings Soprano 2, and the group's soulful and sexy Alto is Mel Torre (left). The group recently won Best Jazz Band in the Boy Katindig Jazz Competition held last month. Krina also won Best Instrumentalist in the competition.
Months before this all happened, I was thinking of what kind of entry to submit to PhilPop. I wanted to come up with something very different, and when the idea of writing a song for a big band, Baihana immediately came to mind. Since Krina was disqualified from joining the contest, I didn't have to worry about her submitting her own entry performed by Baihana and having to compete against that, so it was perfect. I was so excited about the idea of an Andrews Sisters-kind of vocals to go with a big band arrangement. I sent Krina a message, telling her what kind of song I wanted to do and to ask if Baihana would record the song for me, and I was thrilled to see they were just as excited, without even having heard the song!
When my composition "Bigtime" was done, I sent both Mel Villena and Krina a copy of my rough demo, in which I decided to sing all 3 parts so that the instrumental arrangement could be built around it. As the recording date was approaching, I told Krina I'd write the notes down so they could already start rehearsing the vocals. Before I could finish the piece, Krina sent me an email with an attached Sibelius file, asking me to check if she had correctly written down the notes. My jaw dropped. I was so amazed not only by her skill but also with her enthusiasm and hard work. She could have just sat back and waited for me to provide them with the piece, as I said I would. Instead, she listened to my pathetic rough demo and wrote down every note she heard. I was slightly embarrassed that she actually went through all the trouble, but at the same time I found it so endearing that she and her group mates were just as excited as I was for the project.
Recording day came and I wasn't sure how to record them, since it was my frist time to work with them. Would they record their individual tracks separately or together? After some deliberation, I told them we'd first do a guide track using just one mic where all three of them would sing so that the feel of the vocals would be there, and then each of them would sing along to this guide track one at a time. That way I could adjust the levels of each voice as needed.
Well, the recording process turned out to be much simpler. They sounded SO good using just one mic that there was no need to record them individually. Their vocals were so tight, it was actually like recording one person who had 3 separate voices. Amazing! They saved me time and money. Yahoo!! I couldn't be happier! The vocals went perfectly with the big band arrangement. I was so happy!
And then I got to see them perform live for the first time at 70s Bistro in Anonas one evening. After having worked with them and seen them perform live in front of an audience, I can't help but be a fan. I watched their concert at the Music Museum last Friday and had a blast.
More power to you, ladies! I do hope I get to work with you again in the future.
TO BE CONTINUED...
My friend and fellow finalist Mike Villegas hit the nail right on the head when he said "I didn't place but boy, did I win!" I feel exactly the same way about PhilPop. So many good things have come out of it despite not coming home with that beautiful Orlina trophy.
I've already named two of them the past couple of days: making new friends and the honor of having a song of mine become part of a great collection of new songs.
Reconnecting with some of my peers has also been one of my many PhilPop blessings. Lord knows there are many of these guys I hardly get to see (except on Facebook!) so it's always great spending time with them when I get the chance.
On the day of the Press Conference, I walked into that resto at Resorts World not knowing who else I would see there. I wondered who else made it to the Top 14. I was engaged in conversation with Karl (if I remember correctly) when I heard a loud voice behind me go "TRINA BELAMIDE!!!" I turned and saw it was my dear friend Mike Villegas. I jumped up from my seat and he and I screamed at each other and hugged and jumped for joy. Boy, this was bigger than our individual reactions finding out we had made it to the Top 14! Mike was with twin brother Angelo, also a great songwriter. So happy to see my favorite twins!
Mike and I first met when we both made it into the Top 12 of Metropop 1996. My song was "Shine" (it won 2nd Prize that year) and his was "Bagong Umaga," which coincidentally was the very first song performed and opened that whole Metropop season, just as his "Negastar" was also the very first song performed for PhilPop. We've been good friends since, and that's what we've been telling the newbies in this contest, that the friends you make at contests like these become not just your business contacts but sometimes, too, your friends for life. We were together again in Metropop 2003. This time Mike's song "Pretend That I Don't Love You" won 2nd Prize and his wife Bayang won the Grand Prize with "Malayo Man, Malapit Din" (what a night for that couple!).
Soc is one such friend, too. We were fellow finalists in Metropop 1997 where he won 3rd Prize with "Delicado, Delicadeza." He's become sort of a family friend because we ended up buying his Starex when he moved to Perth, Australia, which is now where my brother also lives and where I was able to spend a day with Soc and his wife Arleen the first time I went to visit my brother.
Gary Granada was my fellow finalist in Metropop 1998 (wait a minute... sunod-sunod ko palang naging kalaban at kaibigan ang mga ito! Realized it just now!) and he won the Grand Prize with "Mabuti Pa Sila" - a song that was technically overtime, so the organizers actually consulted with all of us finalists one meeting to ask if we would require Gary to shorten his song to fit the time limit, to be fair to everyone. All of us felt his song was too beautiful to touch so we opted for him to leave it the way it was. Ayun, nanalo tuloy. But that gives you an idea of how supportive songwriters can be towards competitors. We have so much respect and empathy for one another, so the friendships formed are at some other level that we don't necessarily have with other people.
People ask us what keeps us contest "veterans" coming back when we've already had our share of the limelight. Well, a P1M prize is certainly attractive, but it's also all the camaraderie and the opportunity for us to connect and reconnect with kindred spirits. PhilPop has given me the opportunity to make new friends and hang out with colleagues with whom I have a shared history.
More on my PhilPop blessings in blog entries to come.
TO BE CONTINUED...
I bought mine the day it came out, which was the day of our technical rehearsals at PICC, one day before Finals Night. I couldn't wait to hear what songs I was up against. I'll admit I felt my chances of winning slipping away. LOL! All the songs were well written and well produced. I was so impressed with my competition! 14 good songs and only 3 winners. Having had the experience of screening songs and judging in other contests, I can be really objective and not be influenced by knowing who wrote the songs. And there were at least 6 songs other than mine that I would pick out to fill those 3 winning slots. Not a good feeling to have the day before the competition! But boy did I feel proud to be part of such a collection of new songs.
Let me say a little something about each song in the album.
3am by Keiko Necesario. 1 of only 2 English songs in the album, written by the only other female composer in the competition. Fresh, radio-friendly, current, easy on the ears and very honest.
Bawa't Hakbang by Karl Villuga. Beautiful message coming from a sincere place, simple but effective arrangement by Arnold Buena, it soared at the right moment. Early on I told Karl "Afraid ako sa kanta mo." I thought it could win and I was right.
Bigtime by me! Mel Villena did a fabulous job arranging this for me and I had the best vocalists (Baihana) and cream of the crop jazz musicians from the AMP Big Band record for me. A dream come true to have this under my belt now.
Brown by James Leyte. Loved that it had a story/scenario that was painted clearly. Great vocals by the composer himself and wonderful reggae performance by Brownman Revival.
Dulo Ng Dila by Noah Zuñiga. Well-written song that I love singing along to, and vocalists Jay R and Deejay Poblete sang so well without oversinging, I loved the stylizing they did. Clear message, great lines, one of my faves in the album.
Himig Ng Panahon by Thyro Alfaro. Thyro's the youngest contestant at age 20. I thought the lyrics were very skillfully written, lots of internal rhyming, which is hard to do. Catchy melody too, great singing and harmonies. This was another song I thought could win.
Kesa by Edwin Marollano. Definitely a favorite of mine from the collection. Loved the feel and groove of the song, and this Daniel Gorospe guy can really sing and put in all sorts of emotions. I love the song's positive message (and I find myself singing it to myself when having a bad day), love the production, love it, love it! If I had been one of the judges, this would have been one of my winners.
Kontrabida by Soc Villanueva. Listening to the first couple of minutes of the song for the first time, I thought the song was nice at best. Well crafted, as Soc's songs always are, but so-so in appeal because I couldn't see yet where the song was going. And then I heard the bridge. "Ako ang dating bida sa puso mo/ Dahil sa pesteng bagong bida, ako ngayon ang kontrabida." Oh. My. God. "Walanghiya ka, Soc!" I told him shortly before the announcement of winners. Brilliant twist there. He deserved to win.
Minsa'y Isang Bansa by Gary Granada. Well, it's Gary Granada so how can you go wrong? The guy is a genius! I must say there are other Gary G works I like better ("Saranggola Sa Ulan" is my favorite), but I love the chord progression of this song and of course the words were well-written - another Gary G masterpiece.
Negastar by Mike Villegas. The first time I heard the song in full was at band rehearsals and I just had to applaud. Loved Cathy Go's raspy vocals and told Mike I loved the song's modulation. "Huwag kang Negastar" - definitely a line we'd all find ourselves telling certain people we know. Right?
Piso by Krist Melecio. One of the songs with the strongest hooks. I was already singing the chorus after our Press Conference in June! I love the heavy world music drums. Joey Ayala was perfect for the song - you would think he might have written it himself.
Slowdancing by Kennard Faraon. Perhaps rather simple sounding to a not-so-trained ear but I actually loved the chord progression used. It's not the usual 4 chords people pick out to loop for a song like this.
Takusa by Byron Ricamara. First time I heard just the chorus at the presscon it made me laugh. And then I listened to the song in full for the first time when I bought the CD and found myself laughing again.
Tayo-Tayo Lang by Toto Sorioso. I first met Toto about 12 years ago. He was a fellow finalist for Himig Handog Sa Bayaning Pilipino in 2000. Toto was a newbie then, but since that time he's won the Grand Prize in the FILSCAP songwriting contest and now 2nd Prize for PhilPop. Don't let his shy and can't-hurt-a-fly demeanor fool you. He's a force to reckon with! A great performer too! And what a song. Inspired by his experience of lonely gigs where practically everyone has already left. Beautiful song, heartfelt singing by Ebe Dancel, wonderful arrangement and production.
Listen to a sampler of the whole album here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4044938434233
The album is available in Odyssey and Astro stores. You can also purchase online here: http://www.mymusicstore.com.ph/album/baihana/1019833/Philippine_Popular_Music_Festival_2012:_The_Fourteen_Finalists.html
Buy a copy now and please help support OPM. This album's worth your money, I promise.
Today, a month and one day after the Philippine Popular Music Festival Finals Night, my new friend Karl Villuga, who has so far won the biggest prize in Filipino songwriting contest history, flies to Singapore to start a new life there. This has long been his plan, even before joining Philpop, so not even this victory, which has given his group the Akafellas a welcome boost, can keep him from leaving.
I had met Karl before Philpop but never got to know him or spend time with him before. It was my friend Jhett Baroma, also a member of Akafellas, who told me Karl had also made it to the Finals. Jhett had pestered Karl to submit his song, which Karl reluctantly did on the deadline of submission. I guess Karl had suffered so many rejections before and didn't really believe his song had much of a chance.
So he was just beside himself at the Press Conference to present the Top 14 selected out of almost 3,000. Which is not to say he was the only one who was excited. All of us were and very much so. But a big part of my excitement was for Karl. I'd turn to him every so often with wide eyes and smile and go "Eeeeee!!!" and he would close his eyes and have this silently giddy oh-my-god look. He would shake his head often in disbelief. You could tell he meant it when he said this was it for him, being chosen for once as one of the country's best, and that anything else good that would happen would be a bonus. Sobra akong natuwa sa kanya.
Karl had performed a cover version of my song "You've Made Me Stronger" a couple of years ago and posted on YouTube. I was glad to see that in spite of this kind of admiration for my work, he was comfortable enough around me to not call me "Ma'am Trina" or say "po" - thank God!
His humility, humor and comfort around an "old-timer" like me (parang ang tanda!) made us instant besties. Backstage, I asked him to keep my cellphone and pressed powder in his pocket (ginawang alalay, LOL!) Minutes before the announcement of winners, we sat together. Aware that this could be the last time we were hanging out, he made the most of the moment by "interviewing" me and asking for songwriting tips, comparing notes when it came to working on songs. When we talked about the problem of writing songs on the piano and I saw that he could relate to the problem of having one's hands fall into the same chord progressions, I told him "Eh alam mo na 'to eh!" In other words, who was I to be giving him tips? This guy already knew how to write songs! He had the talent and just needed a break.
Minutes later, he got the biggest break any Filipino songwriter could ask for.
Driving to Cavite the next day and listening to the PhilPop album in my car, I found myself crying when "Bawa't Hakbang" came on - and I do mean crying to the point where I had to remove my shades, dab my eyes with tissue and blow my nose. Knowing about Karl's struggles to succeed in music, his frustrations in life that inspired him to write this wonderful song that now, by some twist of fate and by God's will, made him win the Grand Prize, all the happiness I felt for him and the sadness of knowing he would be leaving for Singapore for good...wow, I'm getting teary-eyed again just thinking of it all.
PhilPop could not have picked a more deserving winner. We'll miss you, Karl! Keep those good songs coming, okay?
I don't know how long Jungee Marcelo has been my friend. Definitely more than a decade. We've competed against each other in songwriting contests and helped each other through them; we've played the role of judges in singing and songwriting contests, too; I sought his advice when it was my turn to represent the country in the Asia Song Festival a year after he did; I've seen him dance and he's seen me try (LOL!)...and I've told him - as I'm sure many others have - that someone like him who's made my belly ache from laughter countless times could be a great TV show host.
I'm so happy to see his dream has come true. This Is My Story, This Is My Song is a 30 minute show that airs on Light TV 33 every Wednesday evening at 8pm. It's a show about songwriters, hosted by a songwriter. What a wonderful concept! Needless to say, it's something all of us songwriters are excited about. When he told me about plans for the show and for me to appear, of course I said yes!
I hope a lot of people get to watch this show week after week. I think even for non-songwriters, it provides an interesting look into what goes into songwriting and stories behind songs we already know. Do watch whenever you can. (This Is My Story, This Is My Song has its own Facebook page, search for it and clilck on 'like'.)
Jungee, my friend, I wish you all the best for the show. Sana tumuloy-tuloy. Alam mong andito lang ako sa tabi-tabi (literally) for you. Congratulations!
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
GreatSongsToSing is my online store and I thank you for dropping by! Do comment on my blog posts. I'd love to hear from you!
Learn more about me on www.trinabelamide.com.