Sunday, April 24, 2011

Behind-The-Scenes with Yeng Constantino

(Posted March 26, 2011)

To be honest after Yeng Constantino recently won a whopping 5 MYX
Awards I was tempted to write something to celebrate her artistry. The
outcome of the said awards (which were based on text and online votes
plus votes by music industry peers) further solidified her title as
the country's reigning rock princess. True enough she is an artist to
reckon with: An amazing composer who has a penchant for bringing to
life catchy songs. An emerging fashion icon who is becoming known for
her fresh, edgy looks. A powerful songstress whose voice echoes
youthful fierceness minus the negativity.

Yet I'm drawn to write about the girl behind the rockstar.
So far I've only worked with Yeng for I think less than a year but I
would have to say I loved every moment of it.

I would like to share with you some of my personal behind-the-scenes
moments with Yeng:

*After a show I remember Yeng luring us to join her in the room to
have chitchat only to find out we're going to watch "Ang Dating Daan".
I suspect she was sneakily trying to convert us so I foiled her
plan. She became the butt of our jokes that night yet ironically we
still ended up watching almost a full episode of the said show. Hahaha

* At a bus before a concert, we played tic-tac-toe in her iPad. I
remember being good at this game when I was in grade school so I know
I have a good chance of beating her. But of course to test the
competition I showed false humility... "Yeng Hindi ako Magaling dito
ha" to which she replied "ako din kuya". Game after game she kept on
winning and her usual script was "Hindi kuya chamba Lang". Lo and
behold, After probably ten games... She won Nine. Behind the humble
front was a deceiving tic-tac-toe expert.

* Yeng had a gig at Sta.Rosa, Laguna that would start at 10am. Coming from a live shoot of ABSCBN's Music Uplate she won't have time to sleep in
between gigs (by the way, lack of sleep before a performance to some
singers can be synonymous to "vocal suicide". For some, It can also be
used as a valid excuse to pull out the infamous "Diva" card). Yet she
did not put up an attitude. On the contrary, by the time the she got
on stage she turned the crowd upside down. She went to the far end of
the street even climbed on top of an Innova just to connect with her
audience. The mayor and all the organizers were surprised at her raw
energy and sheer vocal strength. Honest to goodness, it was one of the
best live performances I've ever seen in my life. Yet surprisingly after the show she was positively concerned about how coarse her voice sounded like. I was like "huh? we didn't even noticed". Interestingly, the sound of
the roaring and approving crowd didn't even register in her head.

Afterwards, we impulsively decided to visit a nearby park where she
rode the bicycle, fed the fishes and enjoyed a boat ride. The smile on
her face that day was priceless. It's amazing to see this woman- who just hours ago held the multitudes at the palm of her hand- find greater joy in the simplest of things. Beneath the rockstar was a kid.

* We were at our Cornerstone Party. It was a fun night. Yet deep
inside I was in a difficult place. I was questioning the faith that I
grew up in. My view of life at that time wasn't particularly rosy.
I was only watching all the others enjoy the night until Yeng came to
my side. We started talking which eventually lasted for hours. She didn't give any prolific advice . There were no deep insights. We just shared our
questions and frustrations. She just stayed with me and we vented
together- and vented we did. It was fun and very much comforting but most importantly it was liberating.

I guess this is where her magic lies- be it in life or with her music.
Her songs (Jeepney Lovestory, Salamat, Hawak Kamay, among many others) talk about people's heartaches and aspirations captured in
lyrics and images taken from a uniquely Filipino point of view. As such (in much the same way as how she affected me at the party) Her music allows its listeners to be true to who they are, where they are... and at the same time inspires them to be more.

To be honest, dealing with high profile artists can be a tricky thing.
Because of the nature of their work, sometimes it's hard to
differentiate what's real and what's just PR. With Yeng, it was never
an issue. Her honesty- which appears to be the core value affecting
her every work of art- is simply a breath of fresh air.

It is indeed a pleasure being part of Yeng's management team but more
so to be her fan. And in the sea of rising and falling stars, for me- and I say this with all bias possible- Siya Ang mananatiling "Reyna ng Gabi".

Slater Young's House at Cebu

(Posted Feb 11, 2011 at 11:10pm)

After the very successful concert of Jovit Baldovino (where our very own pop classical balladeer Markki Stroem was a guest) at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu we went to visit the house of one of our new talents Slater Young. Although I already had an idea how his house looks like via FB pics but seeing it first hand was a totally different experience altogether.
The wooden mansion was on top of the hill overlooking Cebu. Legend says they had to demolish Ten stories of hardened rock to flatten and build the house' foundation. The walls of the house if not wood were made of glasses making the breathtaking view outside accessible from within. The furniture were "only" care of Kenneth Cobonpue and other local luminaries. The size of the rooms were of Goliath proportion and the closets... yes the closets made me feel poor as hell. A family of 5 can actually fit in Slaters closet not to mention his shower which recreates an indoor rainfall where as one takes his bath he can gaze at the beauty of the metropolis.
Even the lizard squatting in their house happens to be a gigantic gecko- the type usually seen in zoos here in Manila.
Oh yes going to such houses makes you awe and at the same time makes you curse- haha ;) But it was a fun trip nonetheless.
As such, as consolation to this life of poverty in the light of such great earthly wealth, Erickson reminded us of our surefire hope which is a mansion in HEAVEN. Ayos!!!! ;)

Thanks Jan Slater Young for being such a humble, wonderful host. Ton Lao for the great company. Marks Straw for making concert trips wickedly enjoyable. And Erickson Raymundo for being such living and talking entertainment almanac- He's the only person I know who knows every lyric of Sonia Singson's "Isang Dakot" and remembers Misty Blue of That's Entertainment... And yes, He also never fails to remind us he remembers them all ;)

Hongkong with Richard Poon

(Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:11am)

June 13 In the midst of the worldwide pandemic of the A (H1N1) Disease, off we go to Hongkong braving life and limb (of course I'm exaggerating)...
Richard Poon was invited to sing for the Independence day Celebration of the Philippine Association of Hongkong. And I- as his booking and road manager was given the pleasure of joining him for the event.

Of course, we don't want to left behind with the current fashion trend so we arrived at the Hongkong International Airport in style... Or so we thought.

Here's our pic...

We were escorted at the airport by a young Hongkong airport officer. He told us its not necessary to use the mask cause most people in HK are not into it. So our N95 masks (which were only available in 1 out of 5 Mercury Drugs I went to) officially ended up just for props.

We immediately went to the Mariott Hotel. I would have to admit that was one of the best hotels we ever stayed not only because of the comforts and the service but more so because of the view in the room.

Richard then told me to take pictures of him with the window view as backdrop. So I tried my best to capture the grandeur of the backdrop. Well Richard, being the artist that he is (and as he keeps on reminding me as well... haha) was very meticulous with the pictures that I took... always instructing this angle and that angle etcetera...

Here are some of the shots:

SIDENOTE: I tried my best to rotate the last two pics but unfortunately my knowledge in Macbook did not suffice so please kindly bend your head to the left to enjoy a better view. It should serve as good exercise as well ;)

Now when it was his turn to take my picture, I was actually expecting a lot from his royal "artistness" since he apparently knows a lot in the world of photography... And here's how his shot looked like:

Hmm.. Well look at the headroom... I asked... "Are you taking a picture of the ceiling or what?"
Hehehe time for sweet revenge...

Being a sport that he was he proceeded to take this next picture (in his mind saying "ganun ha"")

The picture was such a travesty. Full of malice and petty revenge... hehehe. And we just laughed it all out.


On the night of the event. The crowd at the Grand Ballroom, Conrad Hotel was full upper class Filipinos ad Foreign businessmen and dignitaries. They seemed to be a very difficult crowd to please because earlier in the program they kept on instructing the tech guy to lower the volume when the other artists were performing. But when Richard started his set, I conspired with the tech guy to increase the volume and to only adjust it until someone complains. Good thing, when the guests heard Richard singing the standards, not only did they started to listen intently, some of them even started to dance with it. Be it slow music or fast music, the people steadily flowed to the front of the stage. Couples and friends dancing the night away as if there's no tomorrow. It was a beautiful sight.

Since we were bound to leave Hong Kong early morning the next day- giving us no time to go around... We made the most of our trip by going around the Conrad Hotel and the Pacific Place Mall.. As they say, when there's a will there's a way.

To all the Filipinos we've met in Hong Kong its amazing- in spite of the fact that even if most of them lived there for almost a decade (in fact even more for some)- how they managed to stay as warm, friendly and caring as they are as if we just saw each other yesterday in Manila. They left their homes to provide a better life for their families and their struggle goes on.

On my end, I'm fortunate to belong in such an industry where an artist that we handle like Richard can make them happy and in such a small way make them connected- even for a brief moment- with the country they left behind.

As trivial as "Showbiz" may sound... yet singers... actors... entertainers have the power to vicariously transport our people overseas to that place where they yearn to be... Back at Home.

Commentary on Richard Poon's First Platinum Record Award at ASAP '09

(Posted on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 4:38pm)

March 29 Sunday Richard Poon's first solo album "I'll Take Care of You" was awarded a Platinum Record by MCA Head, Ricky Ilacad (Trivia: he's the first local artist of MCA music to reach Platinum) at ASAP '09. We intended it as a surprise to Richard but knowing him, I know he already had an inkling to what will happen.I decided to include this segment in my Roadman's Adventures because although the actual awarding was held only at an ABS-CBN studio nevertheless the road leading to that Platinum Award was in itself an adventure. It took a year before RP's solo album reached this milestone. I was a witness of his rise to "fame" (I define fame as name recall because now everywhere we go people know him by name. For someone like me who has known him prior to this, this is really mind boggling). When I started in Cornerstone more than a year ago, Richard's career was just about to take off. He was already getting recognition during his days at U-Turn but it was when he went solo and when he immersed himself with the "standards" that his talent and potential really peaked. In the past year we have toured the country and I saw right before my eyes how he gradually endeared the whole nation with his music. From the mothers who cried when he sang, "If I Could"... To stories of cancer patients who for some reason got renewed strength as they listened to his album containing timeless classics... Its amazing how music can open doors of the heart. I know one woman whose husband died a year ago who was touched when she listened to RP's version of "I'll Take Care Of You". That song somehow helped her grieve through that difficult season in her life. She is now one of our staunch supporters and also a dear friend.
I believe this is what separates an amateur from an artist... In fact its not just a platinum award or a sold-out concert... its when your music brings people to another place above the one they are now living, when your song brings out treasured memories from the dusted compartments of the mind, when your voice stirs the feeling of loving and losing and sometimes both at the same time. That's the time you have arrived. And in that aspect, based from the response I saw from the people, Richard indeed has arrived.

As millions of Filipinos watched Mr. Ilacad hand that Platinum Award to Richard, for most of them, it may look just as any other award. But for us who supported, loved, encouraged and watched him from the beginning it was a fitting way to end such a remarkable year... and also to begin another promising one.

Now speaking from the shadows, from someone who saw Richard's life onstage and offstage, I cannot discount the fact that the success that came his way was really the hand of God at work. He prepared him for such a time as this. He may not be overtly professing his faith to the multitudes but as he performs his music in excellence... God is glorified. And with that, I know the Platinum award came way before it was even awarded.

With RP's Cornerstone Family

With MCA Music

Acel in Bukidnon & CDO Part II

(Posted Friday, March 27, 2009 at 10:25pm)

March 20 We started the day early (as in 230 am early) because our drummer has to be in the airport by 4am. Since we still have time left, we slept in the van for around an hour and a half before going white water rafting. This is what CDO is known for and Alexis, our producer, will not let us leave unless we experience this ourselves. In fact Alexis and my super great, adorable, generous, thoughtful, influential friend Nikka Sotelo (o ayan, quits na tayo) has already planned this beforehand (in fact what they have prepared for us was over and beyond their call of duty, we can't be more thankful) and we are all looking forward to this experience... all of us except Acel :)

We had our start on the Great White Water Tours Office where we transferred to a jeepney which will bring us to Cagayan River, the rafting site. On our way, Acel said she won't be joining us because she has back problems. It was a truly valid excuse so I told the rest that she will be left behind and will be in charge of guarding our possessions and taking our pictures (haha). Nevertheless since she will be staying near the river, we told her to dress accordingly as she might get wet.

Here's our picture on the Great White Water Tours Headquarters before we went off to Uguiaban- the starting point of our river trek:

When we arrived near Uguiaban, we were given life jackets, helmets and paddles to use during trip. We were convincing Acel to join us since were only going to take the easy route in the river but since she cannot be convinced we told her just to wear the life jacket, helmet and paddles for picture-taking purposes.

Off we walk to the river like children going to their first day at school. We were laughing on our way because Acel is still wearing all the gears (helmet, life vest and all) when she has no plans to join the rafting. When we got to the river, we saw a local washing clothes on the rocks. We told Acel she can do the same and use the paddle to squeeze the dirt out of the clothes.. Haha...

At long last, afloat is the boat that will bring us to adventure land. And after numerous tries and failures, the team finally, at the last minute, convinced Acel to join the trip. With one foot on the raft and another on eternal goodness, Acel once again dedicated her life to our Creator as she dared to brace the rapids of Cagayan... And the rest was history.

The trip started from Uguiaban to Cabula and lasted around 3-4 hours. We passed 21 rapids with different sizes and difficulties. It was exhilirating, refreshing and exciting, not only because the view was breath taking and the rapids challenging but also because our trip was marked with laughter from one end to another. Here are some snippets of the action.

Here are some of the fun shots:

As we neared the end of our trip, Acel came to the realization of how much she would have missed had she not joined. Thank goodness for "B.I." friends. Here's her Titanic shot ala "I'm the queen of the world". Its an image of the triumph of the human spirit.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alexis Valdivia, Nikka Sotelo (who was with us in the spirit), Richard (our driver and tour guide) and the staff and crew of Great White Water Tours for giving us this wonderful opportunity to scare ourselves to death.. haha. Seriously, it was "Great White Waters" indeed!

The next day we're headed back to Manila for Acel's next gig. Another chapter has ended and were now off to our next adventure.

Acel in Bukidnon & CDO Part I

(Posted Monday, March 23, 2009 at 8:30pm)

March 19 Thursday
Cebu Pacific Flight to CDO is 4:30am. I did not sleep the night before for fear I won't wake up on time. So I left the house at 2am and went straight to the airport where I was joined by Acel and her band (Mel, Nathan and Sandy). At that time, I was in Zombie Mode.
I slept throughout out the two hour flight to CDO. From CDO, its a two hour ride to Bukidnon. She was slated to perform at the 11th Charter Day celebrations of Malaybalay City. We got our invitation from Alexis Valdivia (Chief of Staff of Senator Zubiri and also great friend). We were excited but at the same time groggy because of lack of sleep.

Alexis brought us to Bukidnon Wildlife and Rescue Center. Its a sanctuary owned by Sen. Miguel Zubiri to protect and shelter endangered species. It also serves as a rest house for the senator. The place is not yet open to the public but hopefully it will be later this year. If you're a nature-lover, then this place is a must see. The greens, the animals, the landscape were breathtaking.

We were received at the main lobby. The lobby had glass walls where you can have a glimpse of the paradise that surrounds it. It was adorned by furniture made of indigenous materials. In fact the sofas -made of rattan- using minimalistic design are typical of those done in Cebu (similar designs of which are known internationally- even used in Hollywood sets). Upon arrival we were immediately treated with the power combo meal of Banana-Q and Coke (sarap).

As for the animals, they were exotic. From bear cats to mouse dears to parrots of different sizes and colors. I just can't help but praise God for creating such beauty in motion. Here are some of the pics.

Single-wattled Cassowary. It took me almost 8 shots just to get a decent picture of this bird. The bird's constant lightning speed head movements made it difficult for my camera to capture a good shot. Nevertheless, it was all worth it. I did not even imagined such a bird ever existed.

Umbrella Cuckatoo also known as Cacatua Alba. With a Life Span of 80 years. It lives in primary and secondary forests; mangrove forest, plantation and agricultural lands. Now if your going to ask me where I got the infos... I took a picture of the label below the cage and copied the infos there so I would look intelligent. haha :)

African Ostrich. These guys are taller than me and can strut the runway with a peculiar walk that can give Tyra Banks a run for her money.

Golden Pheasant. He treads the wood as if he just came from a bank robbery.

Long Tailed Macaque. And please.. the Long-Tailed Macaque is not the one with the brown t-shirt ok? haha

As for the greens and the landscape... the place reminds me of Jurassic Park minus the electric cars and the dinosaurs...

Later in the Evening.

The 11th Charter Day was held in the covered court
near the City Hall of Malaybalay City. The event started
at around 8pm and Acel's set was preceded by three very good
comedians- Tia Belita, Iane and Ate Gay. The comedians ended
at around 11pm which posed a problem for us who followed. Acel opened with "Sulat"
(a song she popularized with previous band, Moonstar 88).
And as she started to sing almost half of the crowd started to go home, majority of them
parents and the elderly who are not used to late night performances.
As groves of people started to leave the venue, Acel had to make
quick judgment calls regarding the line up. She sang classic songs
that some in barrios can relate with (like "bato sa buhanging" and "first love").
She also interacted with the crowd more, at times leaving her guitar onstage, mixing with
the people listening below, handing them the mic occasionally for them to sing some parts (particularly during "Time After Time" part). The young people stayed with her until the end of the set. I got positive feedback from the organizers
most specially from Vice Mayor Ignacio Zubiri who was more than glad to hear the songs he grew up in.

Acel Backstage

Acel singing her hits

We went home, exhausted and thrilled. Thinking a great challenge has now passed before us...
How wrong we were...
Acel's greatest performance has yet to be...
Not with a microphone nor guitar... not onstage nor backstage...
But some place else...