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Homegrown music

By: Cris Evert B. Lato-Ruffolo October 05,2018 - 10:00 PM


I was born on the wrong year.

While my classmates were memorizing the lyrics of Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, I was singing Top of the World of The Carpenters.

It was not like I was forbidden to listen to modern music. My father was a huge Backstreet Boys’ fan and I had been singing Get Down in 1997 and Shape of My Heart in 2000 and more BSB songs in between those years.

But we did not have cable TV or at least a satellite antennae that allows the community we were in to have a variety of local channels to choose from. My mother believes it was a waste of time and money — and a distraction from school work.

The alternative she came up with was renting movies recorded on VHS tapes. My father, when he was home from abroad, brought with him VHS tapes of George of the Jungle, Babe and Babe 2. A neighbor had a movie rental business and we became her loyal customers. I could not remember how many times my brother Hendrix and I watched the 1996 film Matilda and wished we earn special powers like her to defeat bad people like Miss Trunchbull.

Renting a VHS tapes for one week costs between 40 to 60. But on days when renting a movie was too pricey for our mother, we played the CDs that my father left at home.

So in the late 90s — while teenagers of my time listened to Matchbox 20, Linkin Park, Westlife and Christina Aguilera — my childhood music was dominated by England Dan and John Ford Coley, Air Supply, Styx, Bread and Abba. I listened to The Platters’ Only You, You’ve Got the Magic Touch and The Great Pretender as my maternal grandfather, Lolo Dado, played them on Sundays.

We had a copy of the Best of England Dan & John Ford Coley album and I memorized all 12 songs from I’d Really Love to See You Tonight down to Why is it Me before I even celebrated my 10th birthday.

In high school, I remember feeling different from my classmates because I listened to “old music” at home. I wanted to have a copy of Britney Spears’ second album Oops!…I Did It Again but I knew I could not just ask my mother to buy me something out of sheer pleasure. So I lied and told her it was for our P.E. class because I will perform a Britney song. She brought me to Gaisano Ormoc and got me the cassette tape. I guess she never suspected. She only learned of my trick in college when I told her I sang Top of the World in a song performance activity for a Humanities class.

Last Tuesday night, I was seated by the front left side facing the stage during the 12th anniversary celebration of Golden Prince Hotel as the Cebuano group, The Wonggoys, made their way on the stage.

The band is composed of three brothers: Gabe, Blake and Kyle. The band’s name is a play on their surname “Wong” and the word ”unggoys” (Visayan word for monkeys), which their Mother fondly called them when they were children.

I have been listening to them since the released of the album I’m Not Sure What To Say But I’ll Say It Anyway in 2010, the only local group whose album I listened to other than Missing Filemon, Max Surban and Yoyoy Villame. My affinity for the last two artists was influenced by my Lolo Dado’s Sunday playlist.

There were audio issues last Tuesday but I was a happy kid seated on my chair in that side of the room swaying my shoulders and bopping my head. When you have good tunes like that, rhythm and blues mixed with jazz, pop and folk rock, you cannot go wrong.

It was easy to think that it was Friday night instead of Tuesday.

Since the release of Way Blema early this year, it has become my anthem when motherhood duties and professional responsibilities overwhelm me. It reminds me of long bus rides from Cebu City to Liloan, Santander and the fast craft heading to Sibulan in Negros Oriental in my early 20s when Dumaguete was a refuge from Cebu stress.

There is a carefully selected names of artists in 22 Tango Records who make really good music. I’ve been listening to Cattski Espina and her rendition of Usa Ka Libo Ug Usa Ka Panamilit (A Thousand And One Farewells by songwriter Jude Gitamondoc, based on the poetry of Cindy Velasquez), which she sang at the 33rd Cebu Pop Music Festival. It’s a personal favorite.

To be clear, I do not despise Britney Spears. But I am a loyalist of the music that I was exposed to as a child. Thanks to them — England Dan and John Ford Coley, Air Supply, Styx, The Carpenters, The Platters, Bread, Abba — I learned to appreciate great music produced by fellow Cebuanos.

My children are done learning Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon. We’re off to learn more Wonggoys songs.

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