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!
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
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Learn more about me on www.trinabelamide.com.