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Notes and Reviews
LAST UPDATED: JUNE 20, 2005

The Leyte Dance Theater ……. A Knockout Performance
by Hector Magno
Photos by Nestor Ramirez

Now I believe what other critics are saying about this young, exquisite dance theater from the Leyte province in the Philippines. True to what they say, this artistic group is considered the premiere dance company in the Visayas-Mindanao rim if not in the whole country. After witnessing for the first time their superb performance last Monday, June 6 at the Haft Auditorium of Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, the fusion of classical ballet maneuvers with traditional folk dance steps proved to be a solid masterpiece that any dance connoisseur will give a thumbs-up. Colorful, incredible, exquisite and regal are just a few adjectives that could be said about their costumes especially in the pageantry portion of their "Mindanao Sketches" featuring the Muslim culture of the Southern Philippines. The dances were recreated using acrobatic choreography yet its original context remains intact. The effect is breathtaking and awe-inspiring especially when the ladies used their umbrellas, scarves, fans and other Muslim ornaments as story-telling tools. The audience received the very taxing Singkil, with all the glittery and colorful costumes, difficult and fluid movements with an overwhelming applause and ovation.

An adaptation of the artistic director's performance thesis entitled "Limasawa" or "Five Wives" presented a very powerful interpretation of modern ballet infused with dramatic portrayal of true love against lust wherein forgiveness and reconciliation ruled over physical gratification. The facial expression seen on the lead dancers were so absorbing that only good actors can handle with ease.

Of the five segments in the program, the Recuerdos de Ayer proved to be light in its presentation. Spain's colonization of the Philippines for more than two hundred years had influenced the presence of grace and elegance among the Filipinos as witnessed by the audience and interpreted by the dancers. The Rigodon de Honor did not carry that much dramatic effect because the audience knew what to expect in their basic movements. But it was a nice change in the scenery. It was an emotional trip to the Hispanic era. This portion is lively and the vibrant Spanish music leads the audience to clap their hands.

The last portion is a tearjerker. It showed a stirring interpretation of the struggle of the people for independence and freedom. No patriotic pageantry will be complete without portraying Andres Bonifacio and Dr. Jose Rizal in their pursuit for freedom. The choreography here is so poignant, strong, and yet artistic and the objective of Mr. de Paz to herald nationalistic pursuit and loyalty to motherland were achieved. Dancers were so carried away with their dramatic interpretation as seen by tears flowing on their cheeks. Guess what ….. Part of the audience is crying, too. The highlight of the evening's program was the dancers' tapis being held together to form a national flag while the dramatic Lupang Hinirang is being sung. It was a very moving scene.

Previous reviews were absolutely right. The Leyte Dance Theater was superb in communicating the Philippine history, little bit modified with the infusion of classical ballet. The performance was extremely nostalgic and culturally stimulating. Those young dancers were a package of dynamo, fully charged and very energetic. Kudos to their artistic director, Jess de Paz, whose expansive training at the Joffrey School of Ballet in New York City, Joji Felix-Velarde Dance School, among others benefited the group and made LDT a venue for dance development, artistic excellence and national pride. Indeed, I was (and still am) a very proud Filipino in that moment.

For anyone who missed the two-hour spectacular show and for those who want to keep a copy of what they saw at FIT, you may order a DVD tape by calling 732 563-4554. The show was a Magno PI Production and presented by The Philippine Consulate General of New York and the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc.

Click here for more pics from the Leyte Dance Theater in NY!


Megastar Sharon Cuneta brings her best to Atlantic City!
by Grethel Bolandrina
Photos by Nestor Ramirez

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ: I was there when it happened, Sharon's first U.S. Concert Tour in seven years. My confession is that I have never been to a Sharon Cuneta concert, ever. Though I grew up in Manila, I've not seen any of her TV shows either. I am in awe of this mix of heart, laughs, emotion and beautiful music. The Mark Etess Arena, Trump Taj Mahal, May 22, 2005  3:00 PM, though not filled to a capacity crowd, buzzed with excitement. Fans traveled from all over, even from Boston, Massachusetts.

The Philippines' Sharon Cuneta is recognized all over the world for her recordings, movies, TV shows, quality product endorsements and concerts. Exploring yet another side of her considerable talents including her family life is very Filipino. She indeed brought in a part of herself, her music, her movies, her love and her life. Who could forget "Mr. DJ?" Or "Ikaw" and "Bituing Walang Ningning?" Her performance completely mesmerized the Filipino-American audience, Trump Taj Mahal staff included and this writer, to say the very least. I was completely disarmed by the charm that she brings. I didn't think anyone could be really sweet and coming from the best possible place. She has a quality that goes beyond mere beauty seen by the eyes; she has an ethereal beauty and a luminosity one could feel. She glows when she smiles, looking really happy and in love.

Fresh off having baby Miel December 2004, in a physical challenge, Sharon bravely wages war with the battle of the bulges. Her concert changes were all black but becoming. She jokingly makes references "to get my old figure back!" Adding that she knows the responsibility of being a celebrity, owing it to the people. I doubt that the audience minded the "larger" version of Sharon, for beneath the enlarged size is her enormous cinematic and musical success, and much more, beneath it all, lies a heart, and a character that her fans loyally root for. The audience laughed at her joke of not being a "bomba star," but certainly, every "bomba star" out there would readily trade places to have Sharon's voice.

Sharon's performance zeroed in on the heart, as well as the funny bone. She had a video interactive original number with her movie leading men. She performed a collection of beautiful Filipino love songs! And in good heaping servings, waxing nostalgic about the Philippines, in music. One couldn't help but sing along or dance to the beat. The "Manila, Manila" medley was superb. She performed with The Mega Band, her band in all her concert tours. She did Canseco songs that must have put a smile in Tito George's face in heaven. Her duet with Robert Seña, "The Prayer" gave me goose bumps. Ogie Alcasid had the audience on their feet when he did "Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko." He had the audience in stitches as he posed with his different types of smiles. But the laughs in the concert, including what seemed like an impromptu gig for Fanny Serrano (TF) wasn't all it was about. It wasn't even just about the music or reminiscing. It really was all about Sharon, a girl who found her happiness in her true love Kiko and her daughters (KC, Frankie and Miel) and realizing what's truly important. She even did a plug for her firstborn KC's "Beauty and the Beast" in Manila. At some point during the concert, her little Frankie, probably en route to the little girl's room didn't go unnoticed. As the spotlight was on her, she blew the audience a kiss! Sharon commented "how very showbiz!". Sharon's Mom, Elaine sat proud in the front row and must have enjoyed all the applause too.

It was almost too good to be true. Sharon made people smile, laugh and misty eyed. Her persona's strong message is about seeing inner beauty, when everything in today's society is so focused on the superficial. Though not lithe on the outside, she remains gorgeous. The shell didn't really matter. What's important is her heart, very positive, thankful and hopeful. The concert was indeed a celebration of the enduring love and passion between Sharon and her audience.

The Mega Concert, though "It's all in a day's work" for Sharon, inspired her fans, what with her display of patriotism. Her singing praise to Filipinos excelling in their adopted country. All must have walked away from the Mega Concert feeling good. With the Mega concert, Sharon wanted to entertain and give back to her loyal fans. She made people think and go through a range of emotions, as well as laugh. I think she accomplished more than just entertain. She reminded Filipinos not to lose their traditions and with head held high, proclaimed that she is "darn proud to be Filipino." No doubt about it, she did all her "kababayans" proud.

This Mega Concert Tour was made possible by Star Media Entertainment, Group Ole and Planet Philippines.

Catch the Mega Concert Tour 2005 San Diego show, Starlight Theater, Pala Casino Resort & Spa, June 5, 6 pm; and the Los Angeles show, the Shrine Auditorium, June 11, 8 PM.

Click here for more pics from Sharon's Atlantic City Mega Concert!


Red hot Pops and Regine set Atlantic City ablaze!
by Grethel Bolandrina
Photos by Nestor Ramirez

Pops and Regine have performed many times before, in Japan and Europe. They even performed early this year in the Philippines (February at the ULTRA), at a pre-Valentine offering. This came to be what they took on a US concert Tour: Queens... on Fire. It is not your typical back to back concert where the majority of the show allows both artists to do solo acts. Here, it was really Pops and Regine, together, most of the time. It seemed that they sang 70-percent duets and songs turned into duets. Save for Star In A Million champion Erik Santos, now the Philippines' Prince of Pop. He was the only guest in this show and he held his own. Santos is all praises for both Pops and Regine. It is safe to say that, the entire audience felt the same. Queens... on Fire is indeed a collaboration showing unexpected concepts, new ideas and surprises highlighting the Queens' individual talents.

Pops and Regine are two very different performers. Regine belts out so well, while Pops is more into dance music. A wonder initially, as to how the show would flow. But it is this fact, their very diverse styles that made the show highly interesting. The variety was pleasing to everyone. There was a little bit of everything for everybody. They opened with comedic lines ala Dolphy and Panchito to which Pops was quick to claim she's Dolphy. Onwards to maybe ReyCards duet to which again, Pops maintained she'd have to be Rey! Both settled to some other comparisons like the WEA twins, if the audience could relate or even the Aldeguer sisters. We did see a more dancing-side of Regine, albeit done cornball-style. She was game and a good sport. Both Queens showed genuine onstage rapport. Just like regular friends shooting the breeze or chatting over a cup of tea, they mentioned their similarities: love of shopping, eating and mostly, their availability (that of being loveless at the moment). Both subscribing to the philosophy of constant reinvention, both dared to try new things, in music and clothes. Or the lack thereof, almost like the Kelly sisters (Chicago) in glittery tux complete with hat and a cane, Regine commented on their costumes' lack of pants. They sang "Fever" with grit and passion. Then there was the cabaret style of "Oops I Did It Again" ending with both exposing naked upper bodies a fraction of a second before the lights went out (initially behind heart shaped, high backed chairs).

Regine, as Asia's Songbird effortlessly rendered soaring ballads and show-stopping tunes like Fantasia Barrino’s "I Believe," the Metropop hit "Shine" and South Border’s "Wherever You Are" (rearranged to include a rhythm section). She did justice to "A Little Bit," "Suntok Sa Buwan" and "Wag Na Wag Mong Sasabihin". As for her costumes, one outfit in particular, a tan glittery dress was shorter than Pop's, showed more cleavage and cut lower in the back. One would be apt to ask, this is conservative? Those days must be gone because Regine here is anything but that. She's daring and baring!

Pops, the Concert Queen flawlessly delivered hip-hop hits, the latest dance craze and lavish production numbers. Her Beyonce (Naughty Girl, Lose My Breath and Crazy in Love) and Christina Aguilera/Britney Spears (Dirrty and My Prerogative) medleys makes one want to get up and move to the beat. True to being Concert Queen, Pops did her dance moves so well and looked extremely attractive with her fit and shapely physique emphasized in outfits that almost always showed off cleavage and legs. Her other well applauded numbers were "You take my breath away" and a medley of tunes done originally by male Filipino singers (Hanggang, Di Ko Kaya and Ikaw Nga).

Beyond all the grandeur of Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal Arena, the exciting production numbers, fresh musical arrangements, the fabulous gowns and costumes, the lively dancers, brilliant choreography, the entire show encompassed many music genres: rock, pop, dance and OPM. It was the ultimate showdown witnessed by proud Filipino Americans on this side of the US. This was highlighted by their vocal powers displayed when they did "Sana Maulit Muli" and "Kahit Isang Saglit" separately with Erik Santos only to conclude with all three artists and both songs culminating jointly in the end.

Of note, the show was a celebration of music, friendship and womanhood. Featuring songs about love, sentiments, fantasies and passions, the Queens aimed to empower women through music. "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman" rendered sensual and exotic gives the males in the audience something to ponder. When someone yelled "Marteeeeen!" to Pops, she took it, tongue in cheek. Commented only on the shouter's accent. Said something about moving on. When someone else yelled "I love you" to Regine, she coyly responds "we'll talk later!"

The encore had Pops and Regine, in denims and identical white tank tops with huge red hearts, doing a medley of ’80s favorites "Gloria," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "What Have You Done For Me Lately," "I’m So Excited" and "Telephone". Pops, again was in her element, complete with cute pigtails. All in all, the Queens brought out the best in each other, even with all their personal revelations, no one was cast in bad light, there was no rivalry apparent. Having the audience privy to their shortcomings just made them more endearing. Their entire repertoire lent them most entertaining, hot and most definitely, on fire!

Kudos are in order for the powers that made Queens... on Fire possible in Atlantic City. Congratulations to Ms. Ana Puno, President of Starmedia Entertainment and Drs. Ramon and Ching Legarda of Group Ole Incorporated. Big thanks to Smart Padala, the Law Offices of Michael J. Gurfinkel, Five Star Sea Cargo, Inc., Continental Airlines,and to TFC, Planet Philippines,NY, Perlas ng Silangan, and Diamond Hut Jewelers.

For close-up views of the photos in this article, plus additional photos, Click here


Lynn Sherman: Beyond the swing element

Don’t ask. Just listen.

“It’s difficult to categorize my music,” confesses reluctant jazz chanteuse Lynn Sherman. “I wouldn’t really call myself a jazz singer in the traditional sense. If I had to put a label on it I’d say it’s adult contemporary. It’s easy listening, but not what people would call popular jazz.”

The contradiction becomes all the more evident as soon as the Lynn Sherman trio goes onstage and unleashes its multifaceted sonic palette. It’s an experience akin to getting caught in a crossfire of divergent musical idioms. On one hand, there’s a smattering of catchy pop melodies and R&B-tinged riffs that hint at the group’s early ‘80s influences. ON the other hand, there’s that unmistakable jazz vibe that betrays their affinity for that definitive swing element.

In the hands of jazz virtuosos Edgar Avenir on guitar, Simon Tan on bass and Einar Drilon on percussion, every song is bent, twisted and rehashed as each player puts in deceptively-clever harmonies—all the better to lay down a blues-flavored canvass for Lynn to solo over.

The stark irony is aptly encapsulated in Lynn’s latest effort under the Dyna Music label, a CD 45 featuring her remake of the haunting OPM classic, “Sayang” and “A Beautiful Sky,” composed by music journalist cum jazz artist Pearlsha Abubakar. A bonus track also features an English version of “Sayang” (So Sad), will lyrics by Allan Aique.

“It’s the guys at Dyna who chose ‘Sayang,’” Lynn explains. “For me, it’s always hard to do a remake because people will inevitably compare your version to the original. And Claire (de la Fuente, the song’s original singer) has such a distinct and beautiful voice.”

The remake—a bouncier, more upbeat version of the Marilyn Villapando-Jameson Dy original—was arranged by Rommel Reyes. “It’s contemporary,” Lynn adds. “Hopefully, people can now relate to something written during the ‘70s. I’ve always liked this song, and am doubly honored to be able to sing it in the album.”

The other track, the plaintive ballad “A Beautiful Sky,” was an offshoot of an interview Lynn once did for Pulp magazine. “I met Peach (Pulp associate editor) during the interview,” Lynn explains, and she said, “I’d like you to ear a song I made.” She’s a very good writer, singer and pianist. We heard it and we were blown away by it the first time we heard it. Bond (session arranger and Lynn’s better half) rearranged it with strings.”

The CD 45 marks Lynn’s second solo effort. “My very first one was with Ugoy-Ugoy,” she recalls. “I sang three cuts in that album called ‘Step Into the Rhythm,’ released around 1997 or 1998. It was like a hodge-podge of ‘Latinized’ OPM songs.”

A few years later, she released her independently produced album, ‘Friends,’ which won the Best Jazz Performer and Best Jazz Composer categories in the 2003 Katha Awards.

With her well-attended album launching last November at the Dish, Lynn feels that the six-month-long production process was well worth it. “I’m very happy working with the people at Dyna,” she exclaims. “They were very easy to get along with.”

These days, Lynn is busy at work—this time reprising her theatric talent as she joins the stellar cast of New Voice Company’s grand final for its 2004 season, ‘Cabaret’. “I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the movie,” Lynn quips. “But this version—which is based on the book, The Brilliant Stories, is a darker version which chronicles the decadence of Berlin’s seedy pre-World War II underworld, with its allusions on promiscuity, prostitution, sexuality, oppression and the rise of Nazism.”

“It’s a very strong cast headed by Joy Virata, Leo Rialo, Bonggoy Manahan, Jake Macapagal, Roselyn Perez, Ampy Sietereales, Joel Trinidad and many others,” Lynn rambles on. “I play Fraulein Kost, one of the Kit Kat club dancers.”

Aside from her stage work, Lynn is also looking forward to being part of yet anther TV soap. It wasn’t too long ago when she had the time of her life playing Maritoni Fernandez’s best friend in the top-rating teleserye ‘It Might Be you.’

Looking back, Lynn feels doubly blessed about having been kept busy by her new album and her spate of regular gigs—corporate and otherwise. “I’m very fortunate for having worked with talented people I really like,” she muses. “I can’t ask for anything more.”

But given a chance to dream, she would love to work with Sting. “I like everything he does, “she blurts out. “It’s like a melting pot of jazz, rock, pop and other genres. ‘Ten Summoners’ Tales’ ranks among my all-time favorite albums, along with Diane Schuur’s album with Count Basie and—believe it or not—Olivia Newton Johgn’s ‘Physical.’”

Jazz purists must be gasping in disbelief. But then again, whoever said she was typical?

Article by Tinnie P. Esguerra, reprinted from the Philippine Star, 12/05/04


Society of Seven, Lani Misalucha Continue to Enthrall Audiences

(Jackie Regala-Katigbak, publicist for the Society of Seven and Lani Misalucha show at the Jubilee Theater in Las Vegas shares this wonderful review with our readers written by Arlene Krieger. The latter is a novelist whose books are currently on sale at all mainstream bookstores. One of her current titles is “Freedom Twice Lost.” Another hit in the offing is “Heart of a Designer.” Incidentally,Bally’s Casino Las Vegas has renewed the contract of the Society Of Seven and Lani for another nine months. They perform daily, Wednesday to Sunday at 3 p.m. except Fridays at 8 p.m. Dark days are Monday and Tuesday.)

In the grand buffet of Las Vegas entertainment the Society of Seven featuring Lani Misalucha is truly the stellar selection. The Hawaiian based group entertains the audience with an eclectic revue of musical genres. Captivating for two hours, the group makes us laugh, pulls at our heartstrings, instills the dramatic, and makes us feel pride and euphoria. The audience becomes one with the entertainers as the artists both begin and end the show with a salute to freedom.

Unlike so many Las Vegas shows, the acoustics of the Bally’s mid-sized arena were perfectly matched to the size of the theatre. The varied instrumentation provided a subtle back- up for the voices- every word and every sound could be clearly heard. From the cocktail seats at front stage to the wing seats at the back of the theatre, every note rang clear. The cool temperature combined with the newly refurbished stadium seating provided an unusually comfortable venue. From the perspective of the theatregoer, every need was anticipated, even down to cup holders at each seat.

The show began with a video reflecting the history of the group. Opening with The Ed Sullivan Show, the audience was made aware of the longetivity and the staying power of the talented ensemble. The Society of Seven took hold of the stage with the quintessential American tune of “This Land is Your Land,” which burst of energy. The multi-ethnic group glistened with pride as their voices meshed in a unique and mellow harmony. Costumed in black tuxedo suits, they set the mood for serious musical performance at it’s best. There was a plethora of instruments- trumpet, saxophones, two sets of drums and keyboards, several guitars, electric oboe, and to add luster to the more dramatic songs, and a complete set of strings.

When Lani Misalucha took the stage in a svelte black chiffon dress, the audience held their breath as she sang “I Will Always Love,” in a stylized show-stopping rendition. A songbird able to hit the high notes with the same finesse as the low, Lani’s voice made the hairs of the back of one’s neck stand on edge. This Lani Misalucha, a singer beyond reproach, is lighting up the Las Vegas marquees with her unmatched talent. From the first note to the last, each sound is perfectly formed and each perfectly performed- a talent unmatched by any other singer on the strip. What makes her voice so special is that nothing seems to be pushed, the sounds emulating are fluid and seem effortless. She has enough energy to bring the audience into her soul so we share the music with her- she doesn’t sing at us, but with us. Inspirational, Lani has magic in her voice and passion in her heart. As she finishes the first song, the audience is left captivated and awestruck with emotion.

Ah, but this is a musical revue! From the sublime to the humorous, the Society takes us on a comedic tour of the strip’s legends through impersonations. Commencing with the humor of the Rat Pack, to Chubby Checker’s Twist, to the dramatic parody of Celine, to the uproarious comedy of Sonny and Cher, to Gladys Knight with One Pip, to Wayne Newton, and lastly, to Lani’s flawless version of Barbara’s “Evergreen” sent the audience to its feet with raucous cheering and clapping.

The impersonations continued as Lani parodied Brittany, Shania, and Beyonce. Lani became a quick-change artist by transforming from one diva to the next right on stage. Her ability to change costumes as well as style and songs while interjecting humor is unsurpassed. Lani is a talent in a league of her own.

Yet there was a serious side to the show when Lani Misalucha and Gary Baltista stunned the audience with two operatic numbers. Gary’s robust voice brought a standing ovation while Lani’s love song brought the audience not only to tears but also a standing ovation. Each so intense, and each masterfully accomplished. The mood was dramatically changed as the sounds of a full string orchestra served to enhance the drama of the operatic renditions, as did the elaborate costumes and starlit backdrop. A total transformation had swept the room as the audience sat motionless in total captivation of the artists. At this juncture, the show could have closed on a high note but the revue kept coming.

Animating the crowd with the sounds and choreography from Saturday Night Fever, everyone got up and danced to their favorite disco music as the miraculously quick costume and scene changes flooded the stage.

Disney’s “Lion King” was the next presentation. The harmony by the Society of Seven was a joy to the ear while the costumes were a delight to the eye. The clever puppetry was the most unique spectacle of the show. The performance of “Circle of Life” was the most memorable performance as the harmonies sailed through the air as if on gossamer wings- truly ethereal. The theatric mood continued as the finale included songs from “Phantom of the Opera.”

When all the audience’s emotional energy seemed spent, the show ended as it had begun- with impassioned platitudes of freedom, love and the glory of living in America. The Society of Seven and Lani Misalucha took a back seat as the American flag was unfurled and the gold lame’ the curtains closed. What a show! Memorable and not to be missed.


Rica Peralejo at the San Jose Sheraton: Encore! What you see is what you get, and then some...
by Fai Munoz

It was a wet Friday night, March 18, the rain was continous, traffic everywhere so of course an hour before the show I was nervous. But, at 6:00 PM got so busy I forgot the time, and I would say at about 8:30 it was my third time asking Alex, the hotel manager on duty at the Sheraton, I need more chairs and he said that's it, I can't give you anymore, the place is packed. Well, I would say that by the time Rica got on stage we had people standing in the back of the room. It was a sold out show SRO turnout. I must say this is my 5th time to see Rica perform and everytime she amazes me as to how she is able to please a crowd of any age (I'm talking about the ones that were up past their bedtime). She had the crowd singing, dancing along with her, not a dull moment, the crowd couldn't get enough of her because there was a long line after the show for the autograph signing, and yes she signed all and posed for every single one in line. Rica must have some extra battery stored somewhere because she never runs out of energy, she just keeps going and going... an ultimate performer and a person with a big heart and that's why she is loved by many and is blessed because she truly deserves it. Everyone left with smiles on their faces, asking me when will be the next F2K show, when will Rica be back, praises to the other talents Kriselle Kelsey and F2K's talent Bong Deiparine who gave an amazing performance.

The F2K team headed by yours truly Fai Munoz, and special mentions, my better half Bing Garcia, Anchet Manosca, Lerma de la Cruz and the entire F2K family thank everyone for the support that evening.

Click here for pictures from the show!


Lea and I, under the "Orange Colored Sky"
by Lucy Maurillo
LucyVi@comcast.net

On February 19th, 2005, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 7:00 in the evening, Saturday, hundreds of Filipinos (Fil-Ams, Americans) gathered to celebrate the coming of the Tony Award winning star of Miss Saigon, Lea Salonga. Although the show was not due to start for another hour, the foyer was jam-packed with Pinoys anxiously waiting to take their seats. As soon as the doors opened, I entered the auditorium to a rupture of English, Tagalog, Ilocano, Visayan, and other dialects breaking out in excitement. While the concert-goers patiently waited for the show to begin, the sponsors, Northwest Airlines, Travel Outlet and Network Dish had promotional commercials showing on two wide screens. I found the “Biyahe Tayo” video the most entertaining. It featured various Filipino artists, including the night's star, Ms. Lea Salonga. When Lea showed up on the screen, I noted some Pinoys pointing her out to their Caucasian company in case they didn't know who she was. But whoever didn't know Ms. Lea Salonga before that night, surely would know and remember her after the concert.

The show didn't start exactly at 8:00 PM and some people in the audience were beginning to get restless. Fortunately, a few minutes after, the band came out and everyone knew the show was about to begin. As soon as her name was announced, Lea came out in a beautifully dazzling blue sequined dress. She lit up the stage singing “I was walking along minding my business until love came and hit me in the eye... .” That tune started the show off with a “bang!” Everyone was in awe. I came expecting a mix of show tunes, jazz standards and other popular favorites. This being her first National Concert Tour, I didn't realize it would be an intimate show. It was, as if she was singing directly to me. She introduced her “handsome band” and then broke into her first Filipino song for the night. Throughout the rest of the first act she sang Broadway Classics such as Flower Drum Song’s “Love Look Away” and Chess’s “Someone Else’s Story.” Lea passionately performed Barry Manilow’s “When October Goes” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” She had playful renditions of Mulan’s “Reflection,” Aladdin’s “A Whole New World,” and Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” After a ten minute break, Lea came out wearing a red suit and belted more Broadway hits such as Les Miserables' “On my Own” and her personal favorites from Miss Saigon: “Love is Blind” and “Too Much for One Heart.” Lea ended her performance with Freddie Aguilar’s highly acclaimed and world renowned hit “Anak,” her own “The Journey,” and the theme song of love, “Wonderful.”

Overall, Lea’s performance just goes to prove why she is an Outer Critics Circle Awardee, a Drama Desk Awardee and the Laurence Olivier Awardee. Seeing her perform live is a wonderful experience. Her vast array of theater credits brings her singing into a much deeper light. The whole concert production had a successful turnout. The diverse audience of young and old, first and second generation Pinoys with non-Filipinos had an enjoyable evening. Lea truly is a spectacular entertainer and a good-hearted, down-to-earth person with a wonderful sense of humor. I believe I speak on behalf of everybody who saw her performance in saying that throughout her show there was a little bit of something for everybody and there were absolutely no disappointments.

Congratulations to Ms. Lea Salonga on a job well done! Music truly is a wonderful gift and I am glad that she came to share it with us! Under the orange colored sky in Atlantic City, New Jersey that night, I came to be a full-fledged Lea Salonga fan. I hope to see her again in future productions.

About the author: Lucy Maurillo is a senior at Waltham High School, Waltham, Massachusetts. She is an honor student and is with the "Rizal Class" of Iskwelahang Pilipino (IP), the longest running Cultural School in the US. She played the lead role in IP's 25th Anniversary production, "Alamat ng Ampalaya." She sings, dances and plays the banduria for IP's Rondalla. She is currently the Masachusetts Youth Chair for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).


Fil-Am wins Best Director Award at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival

New York, December 7, 2004. Fil-Am Independent Filmmaker Luis Pedron (with his co- director Mark Levitt ) recently won the Best Director Award for their short film "Party Games" at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival last November 2004. Luis Pedron, together with other recipients, were presented with their awards at a special ceremony on December 17th at the Gallery Lounge of the Gershwin Hotel, NYC.

Other Filipino winners included Califomia-based filmmaker, Eli Africa's "Selling Songs of Leyte," for Best Foreign Short Documentary and Philippine-based filmmaker Gina Marissa Tagasa for Best Drama Feature for her "Heaven's Cradle" (Sa Kandungan Ng).

Other notable winners were: Best Actor -Hugh Jackman for "Making the Grade" and Best Actress -Kristianna Loken for "Worn Like A Tattoo."

http://www.nyfilmvideo.com/2004/ny2004/nyawardsnov04.htm

The New York International Independent Film and Video Festival was founded in 1993 by entertainment impresario Stuart Alson, constant champion of the progress and development of independent filmmaking. Alson says of Pedron, "We are delighted to have Luis' film in the festival. He is a talented filmmaker and a great promoter."

During the festival Luis Pedron 's marketing expertise created a buzz.

Pedron says, "1 had great practice by helping market Filipino Films in their US theatrical release with such features as " American Adobo" and " Crying Ladies" under the tutelage ofMarketing/ Film Distributor expert Vincent Nebrida. I implemented all I learned in promoting my film for the festival." Pedron also gives credit to the support of the Filipino-American community.

"Party Games" was a labor of love from Filipinos who assist each other through creative endeavors. Besides Luis Pedron as Producer/Director and Actor, the Filipinos involved in the film were: Cecilia Abraham, Make-up Artist, Ernest Concepcion, Assistant Director and Production Designer, and Antonio Alvaira, Associate Producer/Crew and Actor. These four worked on a common project for The Filipino Channel lOth Year Anniversary Music Video, Produced by Christina DeHaven shot here in NYC last Spring.

"I want to showcase Filipino talents as much as possible and as my career expands I will definitely continue to collaborate with my fellow Filipino artists," Pedron explains.

Filipino community leaders also appeared in cameo. Luis Pedron's parents Louie and Flor Pedron (stars of the documentary YIP -"Very Important Pinoys"), Radio commentator Carlito Gallardo, Jonathan Chan (Editor-in-Chief of www.fanclubx.com ) and representatives from the Young Professional group -CORE namely Janette Lachica and Nothmar Noriel.

The film, the fourth collaboration from the award winning team of Luis Pedron and Mark Levitt, features three comedic vignettes of events that often occur during New York City parties. The first scene features annoying pseudo~intellectual talk, the second scene is the quirky lover's quarrel, and the third is a mind-boggling visit from God. "Party Games" was shot in the new Panasonic DY format at 24 frames per second, which emulates film and is color-corrected with Sony Magic Bullet software to imitate the cool look of the film "Minority Report."
Luis Pedron is busy preparing for his next films collaborating with Mark Levitt and other writer/producers. But for the meantime during the Holidays he will be launching together with his friend and editor in chief, Fil-Am, Jonathan Chan their entertainment site www.fanclubx.com.

"This is our own way of giving back to the artistic community. We will be featuring numerous up and coming talents, especially Filipino and Minority artists, in both the mainstream and the independent world," Pedron explains.

www.marklevitt.net/partygames.html


Freestyle NYC concert review
by Edmund Silvestre

After over a year of absence in the New York concert scene, Manila-based Freestyle returned with a solid and rocking show that had the packed Webster Hall jumping and grooving for more than two hours Saturday night.

Freestyle, as in its previous gigs, displayed a lot of class and energy. But this time, the lead singers' (Jinky Vidal and Top Suzara) vocal prowess got more impressive as they took the crowd on a wide ranging musical journey of hip-hop, R&B, soul, jazz, and pop.

Jinky, svelte and stunning, has morphed into a superb lead vocalist, able to sing powerfully, while feeding off the crowd's emotional energy. It didn't hurt that she decided to display some skin in a tight mini-skirt that elicited wild cheers as she emerged on stage.

Top, who possesses a distinct voice all his own, could hold a candle to artists like Jay-Z, Usher and R. Kelly. He left the dancing and gyrating to Jinky, but his beautiful and hypnotic voice was more than enough to light up the stage.

Top and Jinky's duet of "Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang" was a crowd pleaser and the band has more than proven it knows what its audience wants.

Guest artists Basil Valdez and Jaya also delivered powerhouse performances.

Although many in the audience were born just when Basil was lording the Manila airwaves in the 70s and 80s, the legendary crooner got a very warm reception.

His first number, "You," was nearly drowned by screaming fans who also sang with him. Basil still got rhythm. His pop duet with Top proved that the legendary singer is here to stay.

The fun was momentarily disrupted when Basil announced that the great composer George Canseco—who named Basil as his most favorite artist—passed away in Manila. The crowd reacted with sadness, but Basil immediately segued into singing a medley of hits composed for him by George, including the immortal "Ngayon at Kailanman" and "Kastilyong Buhangin," and dedicated it to the man who will soon be added to the roster of Philippine national artists.

Jaya, our all-time favorite soul diva, is better than ever. More vocally refined, the voluptuous diva sang in a convincingly warm and sincere pop-soul style.

Her version of "Through the Fire," as well as her medley of her hit songs, was breathtaking that it was so hard to take away your eyes from the gifted performer.

In a memorable number, the soul diva turned rock diva as she belted with great passion Aegis's slow rock hit "Halik," in a duet with equally remarkable Jinky.


Parokya ni Edgar storms into New York City!
By Tony Arcega
Sept. 2004
Manhattan, New York City

With the line twisting around the corner from the Avenue of the Americas (6th Av.) to 20th street in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, the crowd of mostly 20- and 30-something ready to groove Fil-Americans impatiently waited for the doors of the Avalon club to open. They had come to party recently with the hip novelty pop rock group Parokya ni Edgar that had flown in to New York City straight from Chicago for this evening’s jam session.

PNE is known for its pakwela lyrics and antics, and it seemed oddly fitting that their irreverent style would blend in with the storied history of Avalon that was previously a neogothic church from the 1880s-1980s but then converted to Limelight, a wildly popular club that was closed down in the 2002 after highly publicized reports of drug dealing. An NYU reviewer now calls the new Avalon as an ‘in’ place “for Fashion Week models, corporate parties usually good for ogling celebrities as they make their way to the VIP areas.” Ironic indeed that this $7 million renovated nightspot would be PNE’s home tonight.

But home Parokya ni Edgar made it for their energetic fans. But more on that later.

The evening had started out with Jason, the promoter, running around, perhaps a bit ragged, by everyone wanting to talk to him, ask him what to do with this or that, and seemingly never-ending ‘let me introduce you’s….’ At long last, and with the crowd still lazily shuffling in, Maui, a folk/rock singer new to the New York scene and who sings at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village and at Perlas ng Silangan restaurant in Queens, got people’s attention with her plaintive songs and confident folk voice, like Sampaguita’s ‘Nosi Ba Lasi (Sino Ba Sila)?’ And ‘Pagsubok (Wang Kang Sumuko).’ With her simple, straightforward manner and style, she made the most of what may be her biggest break to date and was loudly cheered by the crowd. We expect her to grace other shows in the future.

More were to follow. Swift, a Filipino-American rapper from Lipa and New York City, got the crowd moving with his set, warming them up for the headliner. (Chants of “Chito! Chito! Chito!” were already heard at this point, referring to the vocalist Chito Miranda of PNE.) Two rock bands, including Jason’s Grim Bottle, followed right after, pumping up the volume continuously with metal and grunge rock songs. Jason was transformed from the quiet promoter behind the scenes to the frontman rocker of the band on stage.

Then came THE BAND. You knew it as soon as they came on stage. In a funny scene suggestive of the lighters and candles people would wave at rock concerts in past years, as soon as PNE filled the stage, the fans brought out their camera phones (21st century nga, ‘no?) and started popping pictures of the band …. as if to prove to others, “I was there!”

Unfortunately Vinci Montaner was not with the group on this tour, but the rest of PNE gamely gave the crowd what they came for. After taking over the Philippine pop rock scene post-Eraserhead disbanding, the band that started out as a hobby and interest while they were still at Ateneo high is still going strong after 10 some years of playing together, with MTV awards to boot.

With songs like ‘This Guy’s in Love with You, Pare,’ ‘Trip’ -- that summed up the crowd’s feeling: “…'cause I do belong here” – ‘Silvertoes’ and ‘Please Don’t Touch My Birdie,’ and ‘Chikinini,’ clearly they felt in their element with pakwela, novelty, spoofing and even self-admitted bastos songs, as in “wala lang.”

A welcome change of pace really got the crowd into it with the mellow “Your Song,” sung by Gabe (“I take one step away, and I find myself coming back to you, my one and only...you”). Think Aerosmith with their hit song “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” from the Armageddon soundtrack.

The highlight of the night for most of the fans (maybe not for the band anymore, hehe) was the monster hit … give you folks one guess……… ‘MR. SUAVE’…..! This gorilla of a surprise hit has put them over the top, crossing over into concerts of every Filipino and Fil-Am performer I’ve seen in the last few months, just like ‘Otso-otso.’ It never gets tired, though, whether I see it performed (by nearly everyone) on cable TV or in New Jersey arenas or a Queens restaurant.

Prior to this year’s tour, Parokya ni Edgar last visited the US in 2002. With songs and shows like this, I’m sure their fans can’t wait for their next tour. Click here for some pics from the NYC show and from PNE's Inuman Session in Queens!

© 2004 All rights reserved RP.


The Greatest Hitmakers in NJ: a great reminiscence
by Herbert Y. Magtoto

The sudden cold weather in the South Coast of New Jersey was never a reason to postpone the Summer concert of Filipino Greatest Hitmakers (Rico Puno, Hajji Alejandro, Marco Sison, Nonoy Zuñiga and Rey Valera) last 25 July 2004. Although possible rain was expected that Sunday afternoon, people from the East Coast did not have second thoughts of watching the much awaited concert of the popular crooners and performers of the 80's and 90's. The rain went somewhere else, thanks to Mother nature.

An aspiring 16 year-old Jersey City Talent, Jamie Ciello opened the concert with her R&B music and did a couple of contemporary hits. She knows how to pick songs for her age and sing them deliciously, yet hauntingly.

Hits of the yesteryears were more sentimental, especially those that were popularized by the Greatest Hitmakers. Who could ever forget the trademarks of these great Filipino Artists who touched everyone's heart and soul with their music? From Marco Sison's undying song "MY LOVE WILL SEE YOU THROUGH," Rey Valera's phenomenal "NAAALALA KA," Hajji Alejandro's eternal "KAY GANDA NG ATING MUSIKA." Rico Puno's perpetual "MACHO GUWAPITO," Nonoy Zuniga's timeless "DOON LANG." These were just a few of the many songs they rendered that made everyone in the audience reminisce. Every one of them can still perform with so much energy and passion.

Rico Puno's jokes were tireless and so too the antics of everyone. The original Kilabot ng mga Kolehiyala Hajji performed a number of Motown Hits and a special duet with Alani Velasquez. Rico Puno did his share of duet (I'll Be There) with Ms. Krystine Valdez. The special guests made the audience even more impressed with the Filipino Talents. Not to forget mentioning the fun and enjoyment of seeing the well respected performers doing the Spaghetti Dance. It was a night filled with joy and laughter, and memories and reminiscences. The finale songs "Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika" and "I'll Never Say Goodbye" called it a night and made every Filipino proud.

The Greatest Hitmakers was a production of Odina8888, Inc., in cooperation with Five Star RP Sea Cargo, Inc. and the Law Offices of Michael Gurfinkel. Sponsored by Perlas ng Silangan, Diamond Hut Jewelry Exchange, Hudson Buffet, Southern Star, Eyellusion Vision Center, Filipino Times, and in association with Group Ole (Mon and Ching Legarda).


Been There Done That But Give Us Some More! The APO Strikes Again Spring Concert Tour!
By Jim Paredes
from www.apohikingsociety.com (This article also appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer July 11, 2004.)

It may seem like we’re bragging but we’re not. After 35 years, recordings, concerts, music festivals, TV work, movies (the little we’ve done), etc. can become been-there-done-that affairs! You can even throw in two revolutions! Sometimes, it seems that the nature of showbiz is repetition. While that may be so, one thing that’s still a turn-on is touring abroad! We may have done quite a bit of it but going on a concert tour is almost always a high. Our very first one was in the US and Canada in ’75. In the 80’s and 90’s, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Australia were destinations visited again and again.

When the APO STRIKES AGAIN Spring2004 Concert Tour was first broached to us, we knew it would be different. For one thing, it was not the usual three-weekend, 3 to 4 gig thing but a whopping 13 city tour spanned out to almost three months! It meant crisscrossing the US and Canada a few times to perform on weekends for our kababayans. That would surely be physically challenging! And looking at the itinerary, it also meant that we would be hitting places like Cincinnati, MacAllen, and a lot of cities in Florida—places that Pinoy performers rarely, if at all visit! And lastly, we knew it would be quite hectic.

The APO, being the group that it is, threw all caution to the winds and jumped at the chance to travel (as we almost always do!). And knowing we would be singing before Pinoys who yearned for true OPM entertainment plus the prospect of meeting new people and discovering new places, how could we say no? But little did we suspect that describing the tour as being “quite hectic” would be a gross understatement.

In planning the repertoire, we took into consideration that we would be hitting places we haven’t been to or at least had not visited in years. Then there were the other cities that we’ve just performed for during the past year or so. We therefore had a SET A rep for the “apo virgins” who were going to see us ‘live’ for the first time, and SET B for the regular fans that had followed our careers. Put together, the two sets consisted of some 35 songs, medleys and production numbers that we should be able to pick out of a hat and execute well. Before leaving Manila, we studiously rehearsed with our musicians to make sure we were tight and in the best fighting form!

The core entourage consisted of 11 members—the 3 APOs, the 5 musicians ( Boyet Pigao, Ernie Baladjay, Noel Santiago, JD Villanueva and Colby Dela Calzada), and 3 from our management (Butch and Betta Dans and Sammy Samaniego). On top of that, Boboy’s wife Bong, Danny’s two kids Jobim and Jama, and our managers’ two teens Monica and Kiko would be tagging along part of the trip. It didn’t take long to sink in that due to the nature of the long tour, we would have to behave like a team, a band of brothers not only because we would be sharing rooms, vehicles, meals and breathing spaces but also because we had to take care of our collective luggage, watch out for each other’s health and well-being, and do our work as artists of good reputation, competence and integrity!

The APO STRIKES AGAIN 2004 Spring Tour of North America kicked off in high gear in Toronto. Last April 17, we worked up a sold-out crowd at the 2,900 seater International Center at Misassauga, an outskirt of Toronto. To set the tone, Danny, Boboy and I at the onset promised "to bring the audience home without having to pack a Balikbayan box, buy a plane ticket and go through immigration and customs". And this we did by delivering lots of our OPM hits culled from 26 albums which we interspersed with spiels, jokes and gimmicks spiked with heavy doses of Pinoy flavor. As expected, it was a winning formula that elicited a standing ovation, much to our delight! We were off not only to a good start, but a great strategy for the rest of our tour! And it proved to be quite a successful one since we elicited multiple standing ovations in each of the 13 cities we performed at.

Since shows are always on weekends, weekdays are spent visiting Filipino stores, mini marts, restaurants, dental offices, parties—anywhere Filipinos congregate to drum up interest in the shows. Take note that in each place we visit, as a rule hosts offer food for us to eat. Sometimes we visit 5 to 7 places! You can imagine how many kababayans we meet (and how much we eat!). Sometimes, we pose for 150 pictures (easily) and sign about the same number of autographs each in a day! The number can double on the day of the concert since we always allot time for signing after the gig. I personally enjoy listening to stories people share with us. It is as if we are their link back home. Our being so-called celebrities imbues in us the power to touch people that sometimes, even the little gesture of sitting with them leaves an indelible mark. It can get very exhilarating, but it can leave you bone-tired by the end of the day!

Traveling to each city now requires that we be at the airport two hours before flights. And I suspect that owing to the fact that we carried Philippine passports, we were almost always subjected to complete body searches. Blame the Abu Sayyaf for that! Of the twenty times that we went through security, we were “randomly chosen” 16 times for a complete look-over. The tragedy of 9-11, to my mind has changed America forever. No longer are people as friendly or even as welcoming to visitors. Warnings at airports about making jokes on terrorism, or even actions that can be construed as “airport rage”, as posters warn, are now serious offenses!

In the 74 days of the tour, we took a total of 26 plane rides and stayed in 22 different hotels. We went from east to west and back 2 and ½ times. We even did two consecutive shows in two different cities twice. We accumulated at least 22 pieces of luggage, not counting our hand carries and boxes sent home. One good lesson we learned was to delay shopping as much as possible so that we would not drag stuff all along the trip.

Even if after the routine of travel had set in, there were always surprises in every concert. Cincinnati was special because in the audience was our grade school teacher Ms. Carmen Mesina. Orlando was our first time ever in Florida and so it got our juices going. Chicago saw us do a great concert despite Boboy hardly having a voice due to a bad cold. LA was a blast since the audience was wild and so wanting to enjoy itself! San Diego had a large chunk of old-timers in the audience who had never heard of the APO and so they were fun to wow!

But Reno was a major high! We had the good fortune of being promoted by three casinos and so our pictures were plastered everywhere --- the airport, casino video kiosks, giant streamers, local papers, etc.. We were promoted almost as heavily as Jewel and Sinbad who were to perform two weeks later. It was therefore not surprising to hear from the ushers that we outsold Julio Iglesias and the Chicago Transit Authority who visited there before us!

Miami was truly memorable. Noontime of June 7, I received the heartwarming news I had been waiting for. My daughter Erica had given birth to my first grandchild!! Our rendition of the song Batang-bata Ka Pa that evening took on a somewhat deeper dimension. I had written the song for Erica 25 years ago, and now I was singing it for her daughter, my apo! I was singing it for the 1st time as a lolo!

Tampa was a red-letter show for our band because they had to play for our guest Joey Albert sans her musical charts! But being the pros that they are, Joey and band passed with flying colors!

New York was, as usual, wonderful. Aside from being received ecstatically, we met a fan who showed us pictures of APO in the 70s she had kept and treasured! It may seem like a little gesture but to us, it is testimony that what we do has some meaning to the lives of people who follow us. Jacksonville was hectic since we had just done NYC the night before. With very little sleep, we pulled through quite well!

The last show in MacAllen, Texas was something we would not forget. We expected a little barrio bordering Mexico with a smattering of Filipinos. Instead, we saw a small but vibrant city with the friendliest, most sabik kababayans raring to have a good time! We did a rousing concert that elicited our last two standing ovations before we headed for home!

Every APO show is preceded by a prayer of gratitude. In the prayer, we thank God for giving us the chance to do what we do best, and that is to perform. We also ask God for everything we need to make the coming concert the BEST the audience has ever seen only to be topped by our return in the future! All throughout the tour, we felt that God was watching us and giving us the goods to deliver our promise to our audience. Perhaps He granted all we asked for because God, I suspect always delights seeing the gifts He has given come to life.

And throughout the 13 shows, we delighted in embodying on stage the joy, originality and creativity in our being Filipinos! And together with our audience, we were screaming for more!


Greatest Hitmakers rock San Francisco
by Jacqueline Conclara, Balita.com

SAN FRANCISCO—The resounding applause and constant sounds of laughter with shouts of appreciation encouragements throughout the show by the audience during Saturday’s [6/26/04] Greatest Hitmakers concert of five Filipino Balladeers at San Francisco Nob Hill Auditorium marked the show a big success!

In fact, they went home with aching guts from laughing heartily at the signature green jokes of top biller Rico J. Puno, who has been dubbed as the Philippines’ "Total Entertainer."

The show’s success can be attributed to not only their individual singing prowess but to the exchange of hilarious banter during their spiels on stage.

The five Filipino singers – Rico J. Puno, Hajji Alejandro, Rey Valera, Marco Sison, and Nonoy Zuñiga, each have a huge following in the Philippines. They all gave performances that sated the audience’s longing for sounds of the old country.

The concert took the largely Filipino audience down memory lane when the five singers’ OPMs (original Pilipino Music) ruled the Philippine airwaves.

The show started with a medley of OPMs, who wore different colored jackets over their white long-sleeved shirts, and the inevitable exchange of wordplay, each at the expense of the other – a foreboding of more gut-wrenching laughter throughout the show.

Sison, who has his own share of chart topping romantic songs like "My Love Will See You Through" during the 1980s, was then left alone on stage for his share of three solos. For his own three-song portion, Zuñiga, whose famous song "Never Ever Say Goodbye" is a very popular during weddings, gave a more subdued yet equally impressive performance.

Valera, more popularly known as a very gifted composer of popular movie theme songs like "Pangako sa Iyo" and "Maging Sino Ka Man," gave the most heart-warming (or rather heart-rending) performance when he sang his original (yet unrecorded) "Sa Aking Panahon."

He explained that the song is his way of explaining to his children and today’s generation why the Philippine nation is in such a disarray. "When my children asked me why many Filipinos are leaving our country, I was at a loss for words especially when they said, ‘Dad, why did your generation allowed all these to happen to the Phililppines?’ It got to me thinking and it eventually led me to compose this song," Valera said in the vernacular during the concert.

On the other hand, Valera’s performance also elicited much laughter from the audience when he signed up the help of the band to illustrate how film music scorers, like himself, give an additional character to movies with their music and sound effects.

Meanwhile, Alejandro changed the mood of the night during his solo portion when he gyrated and stomped all over the stage while singing popular 60’s dance music. The audience hooted with laughter when he bent over clutching at his hip and asked for water after the three-song dance medley.

The last to perform, Puno’s solo routine (a mix of his popular OPMs, contemporary US hits, and famous Tagalog soap opera theme songs, and his signature slew of green jokes) was worth the wait for the audience. Many can be seen doubled over while more than a few are stomping their feet and howling with laughter during Puno’s funny antics on stage (he’s the only one I have seen who has the nerve to simulate humping on stage).

As a group, the Rico, Hajji, Rey, Marco and Nonoy were the perfect treat for Filipino-Americans who long for the sounds of Manila. Individually, the performances left no doubt in the audiences’ minds that these five deserved the accolades they get.